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Not surprisingly, the story about Dove II that I posted the other day drew a lot of interest, both here and on our Facebook page. The post was shared a number of times, and I can only hope that this will help the family involved to recover from the incident. Fortunately, we received not a single “They should have done this…” comment in either place, no doubt at least partially due to my warning to refrain from armchair quarterbacking. One comment did get me thinking though. Based upon the fact that the vessel’s AIS and EPIRB are no longer transmitting position reports, someone made the comment that this might be a strong case for a YellowBrick satellite device. Initially, I discounted that suggestion, wondering how a Yellowbrick could be any better than a purpose-built marine EPIRB. Some research on the product has got me thinking that, while not an alternative to an EPIRB, perhaps Simon, the gentleman who made the comment, was correct!

We’ve had a tiny bit of experience with the Yellowbrick as our friends on TwoFish have one on their catamaran. The boats in the World ARC use the Yellowbrick devices to post position reports, and we used it to update our Twitter feed, and thus our Facebook and blog, while we were in the Pacific, crossing from Las Perlas to the Galapagos. To be honest though, I really just considered it as a competitor to the DeLorme InReach devices, nothing more. The hour or so that I spent researching the devices yesterday has, however, changed my thinking.

Both the Yellowbrick and the InReach devices use the Iridium satellite network.

One very significant Yellowbrick benefit that I can see, and why the original poster suggested that it could help in situations like this, is the incredible battery life of the devices. From what I’ve read, the unit will wake itself up on a previously-set schedule, send a position report, and then go back to sleep. If set to send a position report once every 12 hours, presumably enough to help a search crew zero in on a drifting boat, the Yellowbrick’s battery is specced to last an incredible three months. The reporting frequency can, of course, be altered, and that will affect battery life, but 3 months sounds to me like it should do it!

I searched quite a while yesterday to see if I could find a direct comparison between the Yellowbrick and the InReach devices. Unfortunately, I never found one. I found numerous reviews where people spoke glowingly of the respective devices, but I have to imagine that no one has forked over the cash to buy both, nor have the manufacturers provided units to a writer for a side by side comparison. If you know of such a review, please let me know.

With Garmin’s recent acquisition of Delorme, my guess, and it’s only a guess, is that the InReach units will take on even more of the mapping features that Garmin is known for. I also have to assume that this will negatively affect battery life, not help it. So, for someone looking for a satellite device that is reportedly robust and has amazing battery life, to be used primarily to give position reports, and/or to send and receive messages, I think the Yellowbrick is worth serious consideration.

20 Comments

  1. I was thinking a SPOT would be the hot ticket, but it looks like battery life is only about 6 days.
    http://www.outdoorgearlab.com/Personal-Locator-Beacon-Reviews

  2. I have the $100 Spot Trace for solo motorcycle trips – in fact my son is currently carrying it on his own land adventure. It can be set to update between 5 minutes and 60 minutes and by limiting updates and turning on ” dock mode” (this ignores wave movements) battery life can reportedly be extended for a couple of months with just the built in AAA batteries or it can also be hard wired into the boat with a waterproof USB cable. Users in cars report about 2 months average battery life. I would imagine that a big marine battery would power it for a very long time. It does depend on how long the trace “rests” between updates. We are only 10 days into this current use but have not received a low battery warning yet.

  3. This seems to explain the battery life variables pretty well. https://faq.findmespot.com/index.php?action=showEntry&data=1547

  4. I think it’s Global Star.

  5. Mike,

    I’ve been using a Spot Hug for the last 3 years. It it wired directly into the house batteries, so battery life is a non-issue. I get a daily email with a position report.

    http://www.findmespot.com/hug/

    • Thanks, Eric. I wonder how long a ship’s house bank would maintain the proper voltage to run the unit with no charging going on. I guess that depends on what the draw on the batteries would be. Presumably the Spot would be negligible.

      • Hi Mike,

        As long as you’ve got solar panels, as you said the spot draw is negligible. We haven’t been hooked up to shore power in over a year and we keep the refrigerator on (mooring in Newport Harbor). The spot usage is down in the noise.

        • I don’t expect you to answer this, nor am I going to invest any time trying to figure it out either, but what if you don’t have solar panels (no charging, as I said)? My guess is that the unit doesn’t require 12V to operate, so it would probably run for ages anyway, even if the battery voltage dropped significantly. Just guessing though.

          • here’s a swag:
            assume (danger! danger!) it draws 100 mA
            in 10 hours it will draw 1 Amp Hour
            I have a 900 AH bank, in a perfect world that would be 9000 hours of run time, 9000/24 = 375 days, so almost a year. If you only drew down to 50% of the battery capacity that would last for about 6 months.

      • By the same token, we got a delorme InReach because it is mobile and you don’t have to turn the tracking on/off. Great for hiking, as well as on the boat. It essentially has limitless batteries too, as long as you hook it up to the house batteries via the USB cable (which is what we do when we are underway).

  6. Do you know why they did not try to attach the boat and tow it behind? What kind of dangers would that present?

  7. Spot doesn’t work in some locations, to 99% of readers that isn’t an issue. Webb Chiles is circumnavigating and had his Yellow Brick mounted on the stern pulpit. He had water issues (repaired free) and moved it into the cabin. Again to 99% of readers this isn’t an issue, his 24′ boat is part submarine. The tracking software seems awesome, I believe he has the minimum email option that he reports works well.

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