I remember a trip I took several years ago to the British Virgin Islands. I was “playing” Captain of a boat we chartered out of St. Thomas. The couple and their daughter, who chartered the boat, were very dynamic business people and simply had to stay in touch with the real world, even on their “vacation.”
We rented a satellite phone which came in an orange, water-proof, floating box that was about the size of the largest allowed aircraft carry-on. The phone itself was heavy, had a funky looking antenna and was about the size of the WWII field radios seen in almost every war flick on the big screen or TV. The service was spotty, if existent at all, and the clarity of the signal back to the US sounded pretty much like two cans connected by a string.
Alas, things have changed! An inexpensive satellite communicator that isn’t even on the market yet is earning awards and turning heads in the USA and will soon be available online. The Iridium-based inReach, a small unit that will send and receive text messages has just won major awards from both Outside Magazine and GearJunkie.com. Aimed at the trekking market, it could be very applicable for any sailor going out of reach of mobile phone coverage. Receiving is the big breakthrough.
inReach is compact, lightweight, waterproof, floatable, and impact-resistant, and it can maintain satellite signal lock even in difficult GPS environments. It will be available from October on in the USA, but will be available anywhere in the world by purchase online. The unit is about the size of a typical computer mouse and weighs less than 8 ounces.
The inReach offers users a number of unique advantages compared to other satellite communicators. Because it relies on the market-leading Iridium satellite network, inReach can deliver two-way text messaging with full-pole-to-pole global coverage and message delivery confirmation. It also provides remote tracking.
When paired with either an Android smart phone or a DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w handheld GPS, the inReach lets users send and receive 160-character messages to and from family and friends. Messages can also be posted to Facebook and Twitter. In case of emergency, inReach users can send messages describing their situation so that responders can come prepared.
The inReach can also be used as a solo device to send pre-loaded text messages or SOS alerts with delivery confirmation. Solo users can also enable remote tracking.
inReach models will be widely available at retail in the U.S. and Canada and from online resellers beginning in October 2011, with a recommended retail price of $249.95, with annual subscription plans starting at $9.95 per month. For more information, visit www.delorme.com/inreach.