Stuck here in West-End Bahamas, I might as well post something hopefully useful. With satellite phones still being out of financial reach, I decided to get a Delorme inReach satellite communicator. The Spot was another option, but the inReach has better global coverage and allows texting. Mine is the SE model, without the navigation features, bought for $300. The expedition plan offers unlimited texting for $65 a month.
The inReach charges very quickly and the battery lasts a very long time, at least twenty four hours with tracking set at one hour interval. I also had the neoprene case, a must-have on a boat. Forget trying to read the screen on a sunny day. It does however pair with your phone or tablet for easier message typing.
I first thought Delorme would provide me with a phone number attached to the device for texting. Unfortunately it wasn’t so. When texting contacts, the number they see as the inReach sender isn’t always the same. The only way to keep a conversation going is to keep the thread open and keep replying to it. This in itself isn’t a problem, but it is for those wanting to message me first. They must go to my map page and click on the message icon. It would be fine if it wasn’t the only way to do so. Your map can be set to private, which sets your device to private by default. The problem is when you want your map to be public and prevent strangers from texting you at the same time. Delorme should have a separate messaging page from the map, which could be set to private or public. The best solution of course would be a dedicated phone number.
Another issue I have encountered is the unreliability of the GPS. When it works, it works great. Sometimes however it seems to fail to initialize, and you could be thinking that you are sending position reports when you are not. One better check that the GPS has started before heading out. I hope a future firmware update will fix the problem. They probably used the cheapest GPS chip they could get their hands on. A Spot user mentioned the same issue, once almost triggering a Coast Guards search because a concerned friend did not see position reports for a while.
Fortunately I did not have to trigger an emergency as I lay on my bunk for three days on the Little Bahama Bank, sick as a dog. It was comforting to know I had the option. Few ships sailed by, and contacting any of them via VHF wasn’t guaranteed.
I wish the inReach had been on board when Dagny drifted off. While the device isn’t meant for tracking assets, it can be used in such a way. I would never again leave a boat unattended without some sort of tracking device or AIS transmitter. Unfortunately I had taken the inReach with me to recharge it.
All in all, the Delorme SE gets my thumbs up.