CAN-DO VHF

Uniden’s MHS335BT is the first hand­held VHF ra­dio that lets users send SMS mes­sages — via a paired wire­less de­vice — over VHF fre­quen­cies.

Yachting - - INSIGHTS -

Bernard moitessier was in the South­ern Ocean, en route to win­ning the 1968-69 Sun­day Times Golden Globe Race — the first non­stop, sin­gle-handed, around-the-world sail­boat race — aboard Joshua, his 39-foot steel-hulled ketch, when he ex­pe­ri­enced a lifeal­ter­ing epiphany. The trou­ble in shar­ing it was that Moitessier, ever the purist, had no VHF ra­dio. He fa­vored a sling­shot and cans that he filled with writ­ten dis­patches and un­de­vel­oped film and fired onto the decks of the oc­ca­sional pass­ing ship. ¶ His shot that was to be heard around the world, once the crew trans­mit­ted his now fa­mous words ashore: “I am con­tin­u­ing non­stop be­cause I am happy at sea, and per­haps be­cause I want to save my soul.” ¶ Had Moitessier been alive to­day, he might have con­sid­ered tot­ing a satel­lite-hotspot de­vice that would have let him send SMS up­dates to friends, fam­ily and race of­fi­cials, sans fear of a med­i­ta­tion-dis­rupt­ing voice call. ¶ Garmin’s in­Reach Mini of­fers a loud (elec­tronic) voice for its tidy, fly­weight pack­ag­ing. Like its big­ger broth­ers, the Mini ($349 plus satel­lite-sub­scrip­tion ser­vice) sends and re­ceives Short Burst Data us­ing Irid­ium’s global satel­lite-com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work. It also al­lows users to send SMS com­mu­ni­ca­tions, down­load weather fore­casts, and con­tact the GEOS emer­gency-mon­i­tor­ing cen­ter for res­cue ser­vices. ¶ “Safety is ob­vi­ously the most im­por­tant [el­e­ment], but be­ing able to com­mu­ni­cate [glob­ally] is quite amaz­ing as well,” says Chip Noble, Garmin’s se­nior prod­uct man­ager for in­Reach de­vices. “From a safety stand­point, the in­Reach Mini is dif­fer­ent from an EPIRB be­cause it al­lows you to com­mu­ni­cate with GEOS dur­ing [an emer­gency], and that crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion of­ten gives first re­spon­ders an added ad­van­tage.” ¶ The in­Reach Mini also al­lows friends to track a boater’s ad­ven­ture via Garmin’s MapShare track­ing Web page, which in­Reach Mini up­dates in user-se­lectable in­ter­vals. ¶ The in­Reach Mini is engi­neered to IPX7 and MIL 810F en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards and has Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity. Users can down­load NOAA charts and aerial pho­to­graphs for U.S. wa­ters to their

wire­less de­vice via Garmin’s Earth­mate app us­ing cel­lu­lar or Wi-Fi con­nec­tiv­ity, and can nav­i­gate on a mo­bile de­vice’s screen us­ing the Mini’s GPS data. ¶ Crit­i­cally, in­Reach Mini users can send and re­ceive SMS mes­sages via wire­less de­vices us­ing the Mini as a Sat-Fi hotspot, or use the Mini’s vir­tual key­board on its sun­light-read­able mono­chrome screen to com­pose com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Users also can ac­cess ba­sic or pre­mium ($1 per down­load) weather fore­casts via an in­Reach Mini. ¶ An­other op­tion for por­ta­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tions is Somewear Labs’ Global Hotspot. It was still in its pre­order phase at the time of this writ­ing and pur­port­edly will al­low users to stay in touch ir­re­spec­tive of lat­i­tude or lon­gi­tude. The Somewear Global Hotspot ($319 plus re­quired data plan) op­er­ates on Irid­ium’s global satel­lite-com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work us­ing Short Burst Data, and it can con­nect to an An­droid or iOS wire­less de­vice via Blue­tooth. ¶ Users can send SMS mes­sages to any phone, email ad­dress or other Somewear Global Hotspot via the Somewear mo­bile app while re­ceiv­ing mes­sages. Each out­go­ing mes­sage in­cludes the Hotspot’s lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude, giv­ing fam­ily and friends a trail of elec­tronic bread­crumbs. Ad­di­tion­ally, Somewear Global Hotspots are equipped with an emer­gency but­ton that ini­ti­ates com­mu­ni­ca­tions with GEOS. ¶ The Global Hotspot re­quires a clear sky to de­liver op­ti­mum per­for­mance. It’s IPX7 and MIL 800-rated, mean­ing that it’s pre­pared for rough seas. And, at 3.6 inches long by 3 inches wide, it’s the light­est satel­lite hotspot afloat. ¶ Aside from its SOS and power but­tons, the Global Hotspot is con­trolled via the app. Somewear Labs ex­pects the de­vice’s in­ter­nal bat­tery to send or re­ceive 1,000-plus SMS mes­sages per charge. ¶ The Global Hotspot sup­ports in­ter­val track­ing and lo­ca­tion shar­ing, how­ever, its down­load­able li­brary doesn’t in­clude of­fi­cial car­tog­ra­phy from the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion. ¶ “We haven’t en­abled down­load­ing of NOAA nau­ti­cal charts, but the sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of han­dling that in the fu­ture,” says James Ku­bik, CEO of Somewear Labs. “At launch, we’re re­leas­ing the core fea­tures . ... This also lays the frame­work for fu­ture fea­tures. For ex­am­ple, our weather fea­ture in­volves

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