I’m new to satellite messaging and if you’re reading this you probably are too. I bought a DeLorme inReach Satellite Communicator and am trying to use it to help keep friends and family ashore informed about how things are going out at sea. When I’m sailing offshore with friends I try to have the “unlimited message” plan so everybody can reach out to their people ashore.
This post is to help our people ashore understand how we use the inReach, how communication from sea generally goes and make you aware of some limitations of the inReach.
I’m not friends with a lot of people who use twitter regularly. So while I’m at sea, if I remember, I link that twitter account to the SavvySalt Facebook account. This way Facebook friends can follow along with our adventures more easily. SavvySalt is a public Facebook page so you can follow along using Facebook as well:
Be aware: the inReach has no facility to read the Twitter or Facebook pages. This means we won’t see your posts to Facebook or Twitter until we reconnect to the internet ashore. Feel free to post or share, especially to wish us luck on a successful adventure, but don’t get alarmed if we don’t respond to Twitter or Facebook.
The inReach can also send text messages. It works a little oddly though because the inReach will seem to have a different phone number for every other phone it communicates with. When someone aboard uses the inReach to send you a text message it will come from a seemingly random phone number:
Once the initial message has been received the number won’t change; every message you receive from the inReach will come from the same number. I suggest you save the number in your contacts. One obvious consequence is if you’re using the inReach to send a message, especially the first message, you want to indicate whom the message is from.
Also be aware that, even if you delete a message from the device, the inReach web portal keeps a copy of every message sent and received. Think of it like VHF: you never know who is listening… #sextatyourownrisk
If you receive a text message from the inReach you can respond to it; which brings me to:
Reaching Us at Sea
You can only send a text message to the inReach if somebody has already sent you a text message from the inReach. Once you’ve received a message from the inReach you can send us a message by replying to that text message, but only from the phone that received it.
You can’t share the inReach number; it will only work from the phone number that the inReach initiated the conversation with.
Once you reply to the inReach we’ll eventually get your response. That “eventually” is important. The inReach isn’t a cellphone and it doesn’t receive messages instantly; it only checks for new messages every once in a while. Sometimes it doesn’t transmit or receive messages from below deck. The inReach seems temperamental when it’s cloudy. And it gets turned off to conserve battery. This means we might not receive or respond to your message for a while. Don’t freak out. I’m talking to you, mom…
The additional lag makes lengthy conversations difficult to sustain. Which is a good thing because:
I bought the inReach as a redundant emergency satellite messenger and will ensure it’s ready to be used as such. I’m not very familiar with how quickly it consumes its battery but if the drain is excessive we’ll revert to only periodic Twitter updates or perhaps no updates (with a warning; I’m gonna try not to freak people out by suddenly going radio silent). That way we conserve the battery for potential emergency use.
Hopefully the addition of a satellite communicator will enhance the experience of being away at sea instead of detracting from it. Hopefully, now that I’ve spelled out how it can and will be used, the inReach will be reassuring to our people ashore.
To our friends ashore: we hope to hear from you soon!