Saturday, July 6, 2013

Where Are We?

With my back acting up a bit this week (lack of yoga) :-) I thought it would be a good time to write about a little device that Robyn and I have been using the past couple of months. 

When we first started kayaking our family and friends wanted to know if we were safe as we started to expand our time on the water and  venture on open water crossings. I carry a VHF radio which is a great tool to put out a distress call, make contact with other mariners or monitor weather conditions but it doesn't work as a means to contact those at home to tell them that we are safe. The same goes with our iPhone's which only work if you have cell coverage and we have been finding out lately that can be an issue as we expand our paddling expeditions into remote areas.

After doing a little research we decided to purchase a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger to keep in contact with our family members. The SPOT unit cost us only $99.95 (GPS City) and with an annual communication subscription cost of $99.99 we felt it was the perfect tool to add to our kayaking gear.

Height: 9.4 cm
Width: 6.6 cm
Thickness: 2.5 cm
Weight: 5.2 oz (147.4g)
Waterproof to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes
Operating Temp: -30C to 60C (-22F to 140F)
Operating Altitude: -100m to +6,500m (-328ft to +21,320ft)
 Battery Type: 3 AAA Lithium 8x - Energizer

What is the battery life of the SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger? Based upon the table below and our experience this is pretty accurate.

Extreme cold or trying to send messages under extreme tree canopies need to be considered to extend battery life. If you have ever used a GPS device before in a forest like we have when Geocaching there are times when the GPS signal isn't very strong due to the tree coverage.

How does it work? Simply by accessing global positioning satellites (GPS), user predetermined messages are sent to either an internet email address, cell phone network or in the event of an emergency to the GEOS Rescue Coordination Center. After turning the SPOT on we wait until the GPS LED indicator is flashing and press the OK button to transmit our message. Once the message has been sent the little Envelope LED starts to flash. Currently we have our iPhone's as a contact too and sure enough the message reaches them within seconds of being sent.

The user creates a Check In / OK message that can be sent to up to 10 contacts. Below is an example from our recent D'arcy Island trip that let our contacts know that we are "Just checking in to let you know where we are. All is well". The contact also receives the Lat / Long coordinates which can be viewed either on the SPOT website or in Google Maps by the links provided in the message.

This is the function that we use a lot when launching, arriving at a rest or lunch stop or at the end of the day when we either arrive back at the put in location or at a destination location. Our families are grateful for this information and look forward to our messages. It simply takes the worry out of our kayaking adventures for them.

We also have a predetermined Help / SPOT Assist message that go to a number of selected contacts which simply tell them that we are OK but we need assistance in getting home. This is not an emergency rescue message but one that we would use in the case of an equipment failure such as a severely damaged kayak or possibly a non life threatening injury.

And then there is the SOS message for life-threatening or other critical situations to alert the GEOS International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center (IERCC). GEOS notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on your location and personal information – which may include local police, highway patrol, the Coast Guard, your country’s embassy or consulate, other emergency response centers, or search & rescue teams. 

This one we hope to never have to access. :-)

There are other options that we decided not to activate such as the ability to send out Track Progress points every 10 minutes. This feature was an additional $50 and we thought that although cool it isn't something that we would use. Where can it be used?? I think the map below will cover off all the areas we want to paddle in our lifetime.

We absolutely love the SPOT and wouldn't leave home without it. If you are a serious "Gear Head" like me (us) this is something that you might want to add to your essential safety equipment in the future.

Happy Paddling!

1 comment:

  1. I too have used the SPOT device - and despite the fact that I hear a lot of people complain about them - I have had literally zero problems!