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Old 28-10-2020, 03:53   #1
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How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

Many threads on HF and Pactor. We all know they are imperfect.


Iridium (and the InReach devices that use the Iridium constellation) are held up by many as being superior and more cost effective when the considerable upfront costs of a good marine SSB are considered.


I would like to hear from people who have been using these satellite services for routine communications:
  • Overall, are these services practical for routine communications in remote coastal areas that lack cellular coverage?
  • Do you find that the handsets are reasonable to use on a boat -- battery life, can be used while wet, display visible in full sun and at night? Are there problems with them overheating and shutting down as cell phones can do on a hot, sunny day?
  • Do you find that the billing practices are fair and the rates as advertised? Have you been surprised by unexpected charges or surcharges?
  • Have you found that other boats cruising with you are willing to share #s and use these services to stay in touch while outside of VHF range?
  • Have you found that vendors and service providers are willing to speak with you using Iridium given the call quality and other peculiarities of the service? Or are your conversations limited to friends and family who know what to expect?
  • Have you found the satellite services sufficient for getting the weather data that you need while in coastal areas? What service do you use? Are you downloading files or just reading short summaries?
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Old 28-10-2020, 04:03   #2
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

Weíve got an inreach, itís mounted in het cabin on a cradle so we use it paired with a phone via Bluetooth. Never gotten weather from it, use it mainly for tracking and text conversations with friends. For these purposes itís great. The text lag is bearable.
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Old 28-10-2020, 04:45   #3
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

I have done a few articles on these and use both on deliveries, so here is my real world experience.

Both have good coverage- the inReach is better for tracking (web page and optional box to allow visitors to text) and the texts are almost as fast as cell phones. As a result, I can have a 'text conversation' with my wife- great for the relationship. Especially south of about 32 degrees latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, a gap develops between the polar orbiting Iridium satellites. Unless you have an antenna at the top of the mast, there are dead zones. Instinctively, as you get further south, I doubt that height will cover the gaps. There are several websites that show the coverage, they are worth a look. To compensate for this I use an app called iWatchSat. The app has a moving model of the Iridium satellite network and shows your position. By waiting 2-3 minutes until coverage 'starts' you can download almost anything you need during a good coverage period.

Power and usability- On a delivery, the inReach is mounted to a handhold, or other location close to the cabin roof- inside. It is then plugged into a 12vDC source and left alone. This works on every boat I have moved, except for a Hallberg-Rassy. HRs have glass that is so thick, the inReach cannot get out. For them, I place it behind the hard dodger.

The GO is only powered up twice a day for weather downloads and email checks. I have a 5" stubby antenna with a magnetic baser and a separate magnet I purchased. The antenna is placed on top of the Bimini and held in place by the magnet. Simple and effective! If you were only using a GO, it would need to be inside, and an antenna run outside.

Both are connected to my I-devices. The inReach is blue-toothed to my iPhone so I can see texts, and check status of tracking. The GO is connected to my iPad and on longer runs, I bring a MacBook. Since the GO uses wifi- I can connect to multiple devices.

Sharing- can't help

Billing- I just get the unlimited plan. To me the worst thing would be needing to text, call, or download weather and be out of data.

Quality of Voice coverage- candidly on the stubby antenna the call quality is MEH. But I have arranged support via texts and email. Do NOT underestimate the power of being able to send an e-mail from the vessel. I have seen on more than one occasion it carries almost as much weight as a phone call.

Your last bullet question- I use the GO on deliveries to download GRIBs. Transatlantic aside- before leaving the dock I download a GRIB of the currents. At the dock I download an 'all option' 16 day GFS model. After the routing software does its magic, and we depart, I download 5 day wind only updates for the area we will be sailing. I then re-run the routing model using our updated location and new GRIB. On a FtLaud to BVI run, I will stop downloading the weather data for the area behind me, thereby reducing file size. To see the big picture, separately, I download a 10-15 day pressure only GRIB of the US from 37N 99W to 10N 60W. I will play with the number of days to keep the size of the file reasonable.

While Predict Wind is a great product, and is still on my computer- I find myself using Luck GRIB more and more.

As a delivery 'captain' who people trust with their boats, I want to best data available, so I have the GO. Likewise, if you are doing long passages, you should invest in the GO.

If all you want is summaries for coastal cruising, save your money and use an inReach.
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Old 28-10-2020, 05:48   #4
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

We had an Iridium Go for our summer in the Arctic and loved it.


The voice was not really good but the low bandwidth data was simply brilliant for text email and weather data. And unlimited text messages.


For $139 a month for unlimited data and texts and 150 minutes of voice -- can't beat it.
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Old 28-10-2020, 07:06   #5
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

We have an InReach.


Easy to use and works as advertised. Inexpensive too.


I would buy again.
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Old 28-10-2020, 07:51   #6
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

I have an In Reach that I used for several years in the Sea of Cortez. The texting and tracking features were really good. However, the weather was very unreliable, and that was what I bought the device for. Many times I would get weather much stronger or weaker than what the In Reach showed. So, somewhat usable for weather, but more of a guess.

Cheers, Bill
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Old 28-10-2020, 08:18   #7
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

For me my inReach unit has worked out great!
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Old 28-10-2020, 08:18   #8
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

I have both. Go for weather and the occasional call. Been very useful when engine broke down at sea discussion options with service department (didn't get it fixed but made feel good it wasn't pilot error). InReach for tracking. You use your cell phone or tablet with the Go so no issue there. Had SSB in an earlier life. Fun for chatting with strangers. While the services are expensive it is very easy to suspend service with the InReach and fairly easy with Go (buy multiple sim cards at $10 a piece) when you aren't offshore. I've found cell service in pretty remote places, too.
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Old 28-10-2020, 08:38   #9
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

I have an in reach. Works great offshore. I have it set to track every hour so my wife could follow along. Texting via my android cell phone was perfect. I use WRI for weather touring, and they would send me forecasts and routing info via the In- Reach. We could communicate back and forth. No real delays in sending and receiving.
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Old 28-10-2020, 09:54   #10
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

Another satisfied inReach user. I've had ours since before it became Garmin. So must be at least eight years now.

I use it for tracking, text communication and very occasionally to access weather forecasts when none others are available. I've been very satisfied with all three tools, although I always pair the device with my iThing to type any text messages. Viewing weather is also easier via the iThing.

Prices have risen over they years, especially after Garmin took over. But so has functionality. The price-for-value still feels good. They have various plans to accommodate different usage patterns. And you can put your account into hiatus for a minimal monthly cost, and reactivate it when needed.
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Old 28-10-2020, 10:18   #11
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by montenido View Post
I have an In Reach that I used for several years in the Sea of Cortez. The texting and tracking features were really good. However, the weather was very unreliable, and that was what I bought the device for. Many times I would get weather much stronger or weaker than what the In Reach showed. So, somewhat usable for weather, but more of a guess.

Cheers, Bill

+1!


Yes. We found this too. Wx accuracy not quite there (passages from Caribbean to Europe). Perhaps due to us having only the very base plan.


I know wx on InReach is much better (not saying more accurate or not though) on the higher plans.


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Old 28-10-2020, 10:21   #12
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

I will preface this by stating that I'm a dedicated HF user, for ham uses only however.
Cost of marine HF is way out of hand, and requires specialized knowledge, much time to set up, practice, waiting for useable band conditions, slow data rates in noisy weak signal conditions, no private access to phone land lines. Very poor band conditions make the marine SSB nets nearly worthless these days. It's all working against HF.

Sat phones cost 1/3 of a marine SSB and tuner. You already have the PC. My Iridium 9855 even works below decks with no external antenna. Get weather in seconds over internet. Monthly service can be canceled and renewed as you need it. Most cruisiers are only crossing oceans one or two times a year, and the rest of the time can be in range of cell phone service for their weather info.

The marine SSB manufacturers, well, ICOM at least, have shot themselves in the foot by pricing that is just outrageous.
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Old 28-10-2020, 10:39   #13
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pirate Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
Many threads on HF and Pactor. We all know they are imperfect.


Iridium (and the InReach devices that use the Iridium constellation) are held up by many as being superior and more cost effective when the considerable upfront costs of a good marine SSB are considered.


I would like to hear from people who have been using these satellite services for routine communications:
  • Overall, are these services practical for routine communications in remote coastal areas that lack cellular coverage?
  • Do you find that the handsets are reasonable to use on a boat -- battery life, can be used while wet, display visible in full sun and at night? Are there problems with them overheating and shutting down as cell phones can do on a hot, sunny day?
  • Do you find that the billing practices are fair and the rates as advertised? Have you been surprised by unexpected charges or surcharges?
  • Have you found that other boats cruising with you are willing to share #s and use these services to stay in touch while outside of VHF range?
  • Have you found that vendors and service providers are willing to speak with you using Iridium given the call quality and other peculiarities of the service? Or are your conversations limited to friends and family who know what to expect?
  • Have you found the satellite services sufficient for getting the weather data that you need while in coastal areas? What service do you use? Are you downloading files or just reading short summaries?
Crossing last May from St Croix to Key West utilized InReach and iridium for emails phone calls etc. Iím happy to tell you that not having this level of communication makes a long crossing perilous if things get rough out there.
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Old 28-10-2020, 10:45   #14
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

Just remember that radio is broadcast - anyone who hears it can respond so in critical situations you can do an 'all ships' transmission or request for help. You cannot do this on any of the data or voice phone devices. SSB also still has the best and most comprehensive weather data, way better than any GRIB files. That is why the worlds navies still broadcast and use it. I use Spot for logging and updates to shore but looking to upgrade to one of the 2 way text devices. There are now several options to In-reach that are cheaper so you may want to take a look at alternatives.
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Old 28-10-2020, 10:57   #15
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Re: How is your InReach or Iridium service working out for you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snore View Post
I have done a few articles on these and use both on deliveries, so here is my real world experience.

Both have good coverage- the inReach is better for tracking (web page and optional box to allow visitors to text) and the texts are almost as fast as cell phones. As a result, I can have a 'text conversation' with my wife- great for the relationship. Especially south of about 32 degrees latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, a gap develops between the polar orbiting Iridium satellites. Unless you have an antenna at the top of the mast, there are dead zones. Instinctively, as you get further south, I doubt that height will cover the gaps. There are several websites that show the coverage, they are worth a look. To compensate for this I use an app called iWatchSat. The app has a moving model of the Iridium satellite network and shows your position. By waiting 2-3 minutes until coverage 'starts' you can download almost anything you need during a good coverage period.

snip
There is no coverage gap with Iridium. I have sailed 30,000 miles offshore, from 40N to 35S. I've spent months at a time below 32N, almost right on the equator. I've never lost service or needed to time my connections. A number of friends that are also world cruisers share my good experience with it.

https://www.roadpost.com/iridium-satellite-network
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