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Old 15-09-2016, 15:15   #1
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What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

As a diver, I've long considered getting a Nautilus Lifeline GPS unit that can be used as a VHF to call another boat up to 12 NM away. The newest units, which are DSC capable, are coming out soon at $179. I am wondering if anyone has used one and what do you think about it as a replacement for the handheld GPS that I keep attached to my PFD for coastal sailing? It could function for both diving and sailing, except it has no MMSI, which the VHF does have. Is that such a bad thing? Would also have to remember to switch it from the BCD to the PFD.
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Old 15-09-2016, 17:03   #2
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gamayun View Post
As a diver, I've long considered getting a Nautilus Lifeline GPS unit that can be used as a VHF to call another boat up to 12 NM away. The newest units, which are DSC capable, are coming out soon at $179. I am wondering if anyone has used one and what do you think about it as a replacement for the handheld GPS that I keep attached to my PFD for coastal sailing? It could function for both diving and sailing, except it has no MMSI, which the VHF does have. Is that such a bad thing? Would also have to remember to switch it from the BCD to the PFD.
Howdy GAMAYUN!

An interesting topic for me, as I have been evaluating which devices to carry on future offshore voyages. I do not have one of these, but almost bought one and the newest unit was of interest because it is smaller, newer, and $120 less expensive.

I also once went SCUBA diving off a reef off Belize, and due to the current surfaced some distance from the dive boat (panga) which did not see us waving and yelling, despite looking in our general direction etc. the waves were up from the wind, so we were not very easy to see, and with the current we were getting further away. This convinced me a safety sausage or signal device is a good thing to have on your BCD.

As for the Nautilus. I think the Original ($299) model is innovative and practical. Impressive device. I considered buying one, primarily for MOB or simply to have clipped on my PFD.

The new 2016 model is also impressive in a way too, because it is half the size (usually that is preferred) and only costs $179.

But, in doing my research I communicated with the Nautilus company and discovered the NEW 2016 model has some limitations.

1. It does NOT have a VHF radio capability (no voice calls) and so it cannot be used to call by radio your dive buddy or boat.

2. It does NOT display to the user any GPS coordinates, so it cannot help you if you wanted to use it with a separate VHF radio to tell someone your location.

3. It is ONLY to be used for emergency distress beacon or signal, like competing products that signal using a DSC and AIS signal.

Also, they have stopped production of the original unit. Why? Unknown or not public knowledge.

For these reasons, I think a "submersible or floating" handheld VHF with GPS (and DSC) such as the Standard Horizon HX870 ($204) is a better choice to wear while sailing and more versatile. I would add an AIS beacon too if the concern is with MOB.

For diving I would like the Original Nautilus Lifeline ($299), because it can go deeper and is designed for diving. I do like the VHF feature so one does not have to declare an emergency to get picked up by the dive boat, etc.

I hope this helps.
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Old 15-09-2016, 18:30   #3
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

I'd be curious to know how they rated the actual transmission distance, since you'll be using it from sea level, actual. With zero real elevation. Though some is obviously better than none. That, & I'm curious to know about it's seals, & their testing. Ditto on anything which needs pressing/depressing in order to use or activate. Since Neptune will be pressing on them too.
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Old 15-09-2016, 19:03   #4
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

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Originally Posted by UNCIVILIZED View Post
I'd be curious to know how they rated the actual transmission distance, since you'll be using it from sea level, actual. With zero real elevation. Though some is obviously better than none. That, & I'm curious to know about it's seals, & their testing. Ditto on anything which needs pressing/depressing in order to use or activate. Since Neptune will be pressing on them too.
Good question. I was curious about that distance or range too, but after hearing their answers to my other questions, I decided the new unit was not for me.

Here are the specs, I glad copied them to my notes prior to contacting them.

Specifications
Transmits GPS Position To Boats Up To 34 miles
AIS Transmit Power 1 Watt
AIS Frequency
161.975 and 162.025 MHz
DSC Transmit Power
0.5 Watt
DSC Frequency
156.525 MHz
Messages
Individual Distress Relay, Distress Alert
Environmental Temperature Range
-25C - +55C
Waterproof Depth 425 feet (130 meter) sea water
Demensions
2.9 x 3.8 x 1.5 inch (75 x 97 x 39 mm)
Weight
4.6 Oz (131g) including batteries
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Old 15-09-2016, 19:23   #5
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
Good question. I was curious about that distance or range too, but after hearing their answers to my other questions, I decided the new unit was not for me.

Here are the specs, I glad copied them to my notes prior to contacting them.

Specifications
Transmits GPS Position To Boats Up To 34 miles
AIS Transmit Power 1 Watt
AIS Frequency
161.975 and 162.025 MHz
DSC Transmit Power
0.5 Watt
DSC Frequency
156.525 MHz
Messages
Individual Distress Relay, Distress Alert
Environmental Temperature Range
-25C - +55C
Waterproof Depth 425 feet (130 meter) sea water
Demensions
2.9 x 3.8 x 1.5 inch (75 x 97 x 39 mm)
Weight
4.6 Oz (131g) including batteries
Now, with the above spec's, I'd really be interested in how they get their numbers. What with the quoted 34nm range, & at that low power output. As I've seen the VHF on mother ships not get that kind of range, with a full sized radio, & from a masthead antenna.
Has someone reinvented the laws of Physics, or is their gear really that good?
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Old 15-09-2016, 22:37   #6
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

Thanks, guys! Steady - you just saved me a few hours of research

As to propagation distance, I was thinking 12 NM might be the optimum IF you lift it as high as you can, it's a calm sea state and maybe on a cool day. I hadn't seen these specs. How can they say they can get 34 NM with these devices? Standing in the cockpit of my boat about 4 feet above the water with 5 watts, I can't typically hail the race committee boat at 5 NM!!

I'll see if the diving community has more to insight. It seems like a brilliant device, but if this is teetering on false advertising, it's really too bad - and potentially dangerous.
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Old 15-09-2016, 23:27   #7
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

Yes, it (VHF range) is called line of sight for a reason. Though usually you get a good percentage more. But no where near what they're saying. Well, unless you count that one day every few years where SF can hear Cleveland. That's always wild.

It'd be handy to have VHF if you were in the water, so that you can guide folks to you. Since humans are so tough to see when in the water. And a radio is standard issue for all Military Pilots in their survival gear. That being one of the reasons.
This was long commented on at Safety At Sea Seminars for many decades by pilots & those who'd done SAR, before the current radio & electronic gear was hatched.
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Old 16-09-2016, 05:50   #8
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

This is a good illustration of VHF range, showing antennae height as determining range due to line of sight.

When floating in a PFD or in a BCD, I think the antennae height of the user may only be 12" -18" at most when speaking into it, and at most 18-24" and that is only while holding the device overhead, which negates speaking into it.

So, I suspect LESS than three miles would be more common. Many dive operators use small boats like pangas and RIBs to take divers out, so they probably would not have a tall antennae either.

As I recall, the Nautilus company claimed 17,000 units of the original design had been sold. That alone impressed me too, as it indicates a large market of buyers wanting this kind of gadget. I read a few of the testimonials of how other divers felt it "saved my life" after they were not seen by their dive boat when they surfaced (similar to my own experience and so I can understand their relief of having a radio).

What I found surprising was that they have stopped producing more of the original model that has the radio, which their original promotional videos use as the key feature or why to buy the product.
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Old 16-09-2016, 06:04   #9
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

In comparison, the Ocean Signal MOB1 ($209) which is a dedicated AIS+DSC signal device says this about its range:
"The MOB1 communicates with the vessel you have been separated from and other vessels in the vicinity (up to 5 miles range dependent on conditions). Once activated your MOB1 will transmit an alert to all AIS receivers and AIS enabled plotters in the vicinity. The integrated GPS ensures precise location is sent to your vessel and any others that may be assisting.

An additional feature of the MOB1, is its ability to activate the DSC alarm on your vessels VHF, alerting your crew to the situation."

MOB1 - Ocean Signal

The MOB1 looks to me like a very well designed product and is on my wish list. It is not intended for SCUBA diving though.

---------
But what if there is no visible boat or ship or you suspect you are more than 5 miles from any ship with an AIS receiver or DSC radio?

That is where a PLB (EPIRB) comes in.
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Old 16-09-2016, 10:08   #10
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
In comparison, the Ocean Signal MOB1 ($209) which is a dedicated AIS+DSC signal device says this about its range:
"The MOB1 communicates with the vessel you have been separated from and other vessels in the vicinity (up to 5 miles range dependent on conditions). Once activated your MOB1 will transmit an alert to all AIS receivers and AIS enabled plotters in the vicinity. The integrated GPS ensures precise location is sent to your vessel and any others that may be assisting.

An additional feature of the MOB1, is its ability to activate the DSC alarm on your vessels VHF, alerting your crew to the situation."

MOB1 - Ocean Signal

The MOB1 looks to me like a very well designed product and is on my wish list. It is not intended for SCUBA diving though.

---------
But what if there is no visible boat or ship or you suspect you are more than 5 miles from any ship with an AIS receiver or DSC radio?

That is where a PLB (EPIRB) comes in.
Seems a lot more realistic. Given normal advertising 5km may be optimistic.
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Old 16-09-2016, 11:29   #11
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

On the range, maybe what they meant to say was a 34 mile range to the search plane looking for you? 😀

As an engineer at heart, I understand the trap of getting carried away with the specifications and what works on paper and forgetting to take into account some of those pesky real world physics like curvature on the earth and such. Not excusing them, just understanding how it could happen.

I did however learn long ago to take all such claims with a dash of salt. Those two way walkie talkies in the toy aisle back in the 70's were lucky to make it across the yard despite their grand claims. 😛
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Old 16-09-2016, 11:46   #12
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

do any of you ever read the posts?

STEADY HAND gave the GPS range in bold as GPS RANGE UP TO 32 NM!

from what the comments have been you are responding to "line of site VHF RANGE"!

GPS
uses satellites so the signal goes up to the sky - not horizontal over the water.

the rest of the specs all look within practical real world capabilities.
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Old 16-09-2016, 12:09   #13
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jenta View Post
On the range, maybe what they meant to say was a 34 mile range to the search plane looking for you? 😀

As an engineer at heart, I understand the trap of getting carried away with the specifications and what works on paper and forgetting to take into account some of those pesky real world physics like curvature on the earth and such. Not excusing them, just understanding how it could happen.

I did however learn long ago to take all such claims with a dash of salt. Those two way walkie talkies in the toy aisle back in the 70's were lucky to make it across the yard despite their grand claims. 😛

About the aircraft searching for you (at altitude) I thought the same thing and almost posted that too. We think alike (in humor on this).
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Old 16-09-2016, 12:17   #14
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

Here are the Specifications for the ORIGINAL design, the one WITH VHF radio.
Notice the range of the VHF, which seems to match other published ranges for handheld VHF units. I am including a link to this information, so you can see the units and read about them on the official site if you wish.

ORIGINAL Nautilus Lifeline (with VHF radio)
SOURCE: What is a Nautilus LifeLine

Size & Weight
Weight 9.88 Oz (280 g)
Dimensions
2.6"W x 5.72"H x 1.8"D (67x145 x46 mm)
Power & Battery
Battery
1850mAh Li-on Rechargeable
Battery Capacity
24 Hrs +
Maximum RF Power
1.85 Watts + 0dB / -3.5dB
Depth Rating & Communication Range
Depth Rating
425 Feet (130 Meters) with Cap Closed
Voice Communication Range 2-6 Miles (3-10 Km) depending on antenna height

Distress Range (Red Button)
Transmits DSC alerts/ GPS to boats up to a demonstrated range of 34 miles (55 km)

Frequency Range
All Marine Channels
GPS Stores up to 30 Waypoints
Channel Spacing
25 KHz
Exterior
Material Polycarbonate, 316 L Stainless Steel
Floating
YES with Cap Closed
Display Type
LCD
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Old 16-09-2016, 12:52   #15
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Re: What do you think about the Nautilus Lifeline for both diving and sailing?

I did read the posts, though to be fair I may have missed something.

As I understand it the discussion came up because of a new product that on one hand has some nice features, but on the other hand a previous product had more capability and the thread was started to ask about other peoples experiences. One of the things that came up during the discussion was that the stated range on a device seemed longer than realistically possible. I was just making a comment about that part of thread that I thought might be somewhat humorous because, well, that's me.

However, at the risk of making more of a fool of myself I will chip in that I don't believe there is any such thing as GPS range. GPS works by your device receiving time and position signals from around 30 different satellites orbiting Earth. By calculating the delay of the time signals from different satellites, your device can then calculate the distance to each and triangulate your position. More visible satellites and better timing precision, better accuracy. But the GPS system is one way. You don't transmit anything the other direction. Even if you could, it would be a 12,500 mile conversation one way at a minimum.

I think the distance thing is just trying to explain that your GPS coordinates can be transmitted to a boat up to 34 miles away. I take that to mean that your GPS coordinates are calculated on the device and relayed to a boat. If it's done using normal VHF communications band I would think the line of site issue is valid. If it's some other way or using a specialized ability for that then I have no idea since I only know enough to know I don't know everything.

For the original post though, I think about that kind of dilemma for a lot of things. As a diver myself, I've spent plenty of time looking at the latest this and that and drool over the tech that is available these days. I'd love to have a single device that does everything I need, but also see the benefit of a specialized device for different tasks. Plus it may also add to redundancy. Of course on the other side of the equation there is complexity that comes up when you have 3 different devices to keep track of and maintain. I believe this to be true of anything. Though I know the mantra KISS, I often get starry eyed when it comes to electronics.

We don't yet have our sailboat let alone all of our electronic doo-dads. As the boat purchase approaches hopefully in the next year or so - it's time to start looking at what is currently available and what is needed versus 'nice to have' and how they can all work together.
So logically thinking, I would probably choose to do two devices with maybe some overlap in capability. But then again, shiny...

Maybe instead of moving the devices back and forth you can use your BCD for a PFD? Now THERE is an idea! I think I am a genius.
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