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Even though we were several hundred miles south of the center of Tropical Storm Erika, we, and everyone else in Grenada, still felt her effects yesterday. We went from zero wind and glasslike water on Wednesday afternoon to 20-25 knots of wind and very choppy conditions all day yesterday. Of course, it was nothing close to what those north of us would have to deal with (some areas like Dominica were hit extremely hard). It was, however, bad enough that we opted to stay nearby the boat for most of the day, making it a good time to complete some more paperwork.

Now that we have a properly registered boat, I began the process of obtaining a new Radio Station License and new MMSI number for it. These are things that I have already done once before for ZTC but it was so long ago that I had to look up the process all over again.

Thinking about communication also prompted me to create a Facebook post about Satellite Phones. Carrying a Sat. phone was something that we considered long ago but given our intended cruising area, we opted against it. In hindsight, I think that was a perfectly reasonable decision as we have had no trouble with communication, either by Wi-Fi or cellular, up and down the island chain. Given that we plan to travel a bit farther off the beaten path though, I’m revisiting the idea. I would also hope that this technology has improved and/or lowered in price since we first set off cruising.

What’s being recommended? The Iridium GO! system being sold by Predict Wind seems to be popular. Anyone reading this have this system, or recommend a different one?

18 Comments

  1. We’re using an Iridium 9575 (the rugged water proof one). It works fairly well but needs an external antenna for data transfer speeds to be reasonable. Without an antenna pulling down a handful of short, text-only emails from Chris Parker/NOAA took 5-10 minutes. Photos weren’t an option but others say they can handle them with an external antenna (ours isn’t installed yet). It’s not hard to set up to work with a Mac, there are a few steps to get it going on a Windows machine. You can find the manual online if you’re curious.

    It works but we wouldn’t use it unless we had no other options. On the trip from Hampton to the BVIs we didn’t bother with it if we could pick up Chris Parker’s broadcasts on an SSB receiver (about $100). The receiver + iPad also allows us to get weatherfaxes but we rarely resort to that.

    We bought it from roadpost.ca but the prices for the phone and minutes are pretty consistent everywhere.

    I’ve heard that the Iridium Go is much better and easier to work with. We went with the phone because it was just being released when we bought the phone and we didn’t want to depend on a smart phone pairing up with it if we had to make calls from a liferaft.

  2. I have a global star and have it for emergency use. It also interfaces with my computer and allows downloads.
    Since Globalstar has their satellites in place, service and clarity is excellent, for Sat phones. Upper atmosphere disturbances can and do affect reception. Much the same as SSBs.
    I do like the simplicity and use say in a liferaft. Easier than getting the SSB rig in there…lol

    Fred

  3. We love our Iridium Go and it works fine with or without the external antenna, we do have five devices paired up to it, Apple, Android and Windows all work just fine, we use it for weather routing, phone calls, sms, emails and keeping our blog and facebook pages up to date. It is also portable to take in the life raft if you have to. I have a spare battery pack to recharge if we need to.
    It really depends on what floats your boat, we love our “Go”

  4. Carefully check Globalstar’s coverage map before getting one. I believe that SPOT uses the same satellites and there are huge areas not covered. Our SPOT hasn’t worked since the Galápagos.

    We’ve got the Iridium Extreme 9575 also as I wanted something to take in the liferaft if needed. We’ve got it linked to a RedPort Optimizer with service through GMN. I just use the puck antenna and it works 90% of the time behind the window of the hard dodger. I’ve got it set up on the iPad and two computer (one Mac, one PC) as backups, but use the iPad 95% of the time. We use it primarily underway for position updates to family and friends, weather & GRIB’s, and as an emergency method of contact to us from family. We generally only check it once or twice a day underway and use wifi or cell when we’re in the islands. Even with this, we’re using in excess of $750/yr in minutes.

    It’s been good, but the add-on USB/external antenna connector on the bottom of the phone seems a bit fragile to me though and I think I’d save some money and get the regular Iridium phone with a waterproof phone bag. It’s got the antenna mount right on the body and seems a bit more robust.

    All that said though, next time I’d seriously look at the Iridium GO. Everyone we know with one likes theirs. The data packages are pretty competitive and a lot cheaper than buying minutes for the phone particularly if you’re doing a lot of email and weather downloading. The data packages they’ve got available for the GO for unlimited email and a small amount of voice per month might make more sense for someone using a lot of email (or FB updates) and running a business where you’re expected to be more available.

    Finally, we have the SSB (no Pactor modem) that we use for keeping in touch with other boats underway at scheduled times.

    Mark

  5. Sailing Totem has been using it in the Indian Ocean, seems like great technology, especially for weather. Much easier that SSB. http://www.sailfeed.com/2015/02/iridium-go-predictwind-for-totems-indian-ocean-debut/

  6. Oops, just realized you linked Totem review. here is another one I found to make up for not paying attention http://svcrystalblues.blogspot.com/2015/04/iridium-go-game-changing-satellite.html

  7. Mike,
    We purchased the Iridium Go! for our Caribbean and Bahamas trip but frankly we really have not needed it as we really did not have any long passages. Hopping the islands along with the local SIM cards were perfect for us but would recommend it for longer offshore passages. We are selling ours – not sure the price if you are interested.

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