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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
About three years ago, I purchased a Spot Satellite Personal Tracker, and I purchased it from the Sailnet Store, a special deal that I took advantage of. All of the writeups I found using a Google Search revealed that it was the best safety device on the market and with a single push of a button you could let a number of folks know exactly where you were, and that you were OK.

Neat! At least I thought it was neat until I actually had to use it. I was on my way up the ICW, near the southern end of Biscane Bay on the Atlantic side in Hawk Channel. I figured on cutting through to the bay side because the winds had beefed up a lot since that morning, far more than predicted, and the 10 to 15 knots predicted were actually hitting about 35 knots. Time to sneak inside and find a comfortable place to spend the night. Well, just before sundown I tied to the pier of a state park, which I later found out did not allow overnight mooring. The park ranger, a nasty SOB at best, came out and said we would have to move. He pointed to the backside of a small island situated about 500 yards southwest of the pier and said "there's plenty of water there and you'll be out of the wind." At this point the sun was just about on the horizon, making it nearly impossible to see. Lo and behold the screaming tide caught the boat and within a fraction of a second I was hard aground.

At best VHF communication was poor from my position, but I was able to get some very weak cellular telephone reception. I called Towboard U.S., they asked my position and I said I would hit my Spot Satellite Tracker button that would send the position directly to them, which I did. Within a few minutes a lady from the towing service called back and said, "there seems to be something wrong with your device. If you have a GPS, please give me your current position from it." I looked at the GPS, gave her the information and she said someone will be there in an hour or less. Thirty five minutes later I saw a spot light on the horizon, called the on the VHF and within another 20 minutes we were dragged into deep water where we spent the night.

I also heard from a friend, a fellow sailor, who was tracking me home via the Spot information I was sending him several times a day. He said that the only way he could find me was using the Google Earth information because the Lat/Lon information put me 25 miles inland and well north of my actual position.

I called Spot's customer service when I reached Miami and anchored in Marine Stadium. Their customer service folks said there was noting wrong with the device and that I must have miscalculated or something. Well, that ain't the case sports fans.

Today, I fired up the Spot and hit the OK button while standing on my back porch. A few minutes later the information appeared on my email, which is where I had it sent. Not only did the image show that I was 100 feet from by back porch, but the Lat/Lon it provided was 20 miles or more from my home. Then I found out why. Instead of using Degrees, minutes and seconds, which our charts and GPS Plotters all use, Spot, for some strange reason, decided to use Degrees, Decimal degrees, which is pretty much worthless if you are trying to find a location on a conventional chart.

The tech from Spot emailed my a NOAA site where I could enter the information and convert it to my chart's position. Wonderful, I'm sure the 18-year old kid from the USCG knows that he has to do this when he gets an SOS from the Spot - NOT! This is a totally idiotic design, and this device should NOT be relied upon for safety afloat. Or even on land, for that matter. How in he Hell could a rescue team find you if your device information is not available on the charts or plotters they're using. And, though I haven't looked lately, I've never seen a laptop with an internet connection on any of the 17-foot Boston Whalers the local waterway's cops are running around on.

I'll continue to use my Spot so my wife and kids can see where I'm anchored or traveled to using Google Earth, but for a safety device, this thing is, IMO, pretty much worthless. I sincerely believe they should all be recalled, their software updated to match standard chart coordinates and thoroughly tested for accuracy. This should be at no cost to the consumers who purchased the devices and continue to pay the annual fees, in hopes of it being a life saver. This life saver could easily get you killed if you were on a sinking boat in a large body of water.

Maybe it would be a good idea to read the Boat US article about this very problem. Know Before You're Towed - BoatUS Magazine

Good Luck,

Gary :cool:
 

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"Instead of using Degrees, minutes and seconds, which our charts and GPS Plotters all use, Spot, for some strange reason, decided to use Degrees, Decimal degrees, which is "

Having had a similar problem (DDD.MM.mm versus DDD.MM.SS) about 20 years ago, I was going to guess that. I don't say they are right or wrong, but they sure as hell should make it clear WHICH co-ordinate system they are going to use.

"Us sailors" happen to be the wrong ones, in the modern world. ISO has changed "the norm" to DDD.ddddd because that's what engineers use, and it gives greater precision while eliminating those pesky "divide by 60" errors. We may be doing navigation the same way it has been done since the degree was invented, but we're the hold-outs, the dinosaurs, the wrongdoers in the modern world.

FWIW.

And if SPOT doesn't provide users with an option or a caution, to let them present the data either way...that's just stupid. Batch of sophomores in band camp, with no idea how the universe worked before they came along?
 

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美国华人, 帆船
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I have SPOT II and just got my SPOT Gen 3 have been using it more than 5 years. I am totally happy with it with more than 35 off shore voyages. My wife can track me and know what boat slip I am at. When at home, it can tell me if I am in the back porch or on my driveway. The only time SPOT failed me was the last 24 hour tracking as I approached the Big Island in Hawaii. Later, I checked the coverage of FINDMESPOT site, it is stated that the area is marginal.

I am not sure if your SPOT has problem or not. One thing I notice that you need to turn on the SPOT let it continue to calibrate. If you turn it off and on again and send the track immediately. It may not have enough Sat data to pinpoint the location, but that is NOT the short coming of SPOT. My SPOT is on all the time while on route.

Do I throw away my EPIRB? NO. but SPOT is godsend. It gives my wife the comfort when I am overdue. From the tracking, she can check the weather info to see any potential problems at my area.

When I attended the Safety at Sea Course, I asked the Commander of USCG. Do they discriminate SPOT SOS? He said: Absolutely Not.
 

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Old soul
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Today, I fired up the Spot and hit the OK button while standing on my back porch. A few minutes later the information appeared on my email, which is where I had it sent. Not only did the image show that I was 100 feet from by back porch, but the Lat/Lon it provided was 20 miles or more from my home. Then I found out why. Instead of using Degrees, minutes and seconds, which our charts and GPS Plotters all use, Spot, for some strange reason, decided to use Degrees, Decimal degrees, which is pretty much worthless if you are trying to find a location on a conventional chart.
Wait ... what? Degree and decimal degrees?!? No one except a computer programmer and Google Maps would do that. That's crazy...

So I'm currently at: 48.320152, -89.209841. Good luck charting that one :confused:.
 

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I still use SPOT the first generation and haven't had any issues that I'm aware of.
I've used it all around Georgian Bay and it has accurately shown my position.
I used it on a crossing from Bermuda to Lunenburg and it showed an accurate track.
I plan on using it this summer throughout France, Italy and the Greek Islands. Based on my experience with it to date, I don't anticipate any challenges.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The problem is not with where the Spot places you on Google Earth - that's right on the money. It's the coordinates it sends out, which are not compatible with our charts or GPS/Plotters. Yes, my wife and kids love that they can keep track of me, the crazy guy, but they can only do so using Google Earth - not follow me on a navigational chart. So, in retrospect, it's a great device if you're looking at a satellite view, but if it came to a search and rescue mission you could be in a world of trouble. That's the part that has me concerned. This device is advertised as a safety device, something that can be used to locate you if you're lost or seriously injured in a wilderness area, or maybe 50 miles offshore. If those coordinates it sends out are not compatible with the rescuer's charts, they're pretty much worthless. Read that article in Boat U.S. Magazine and you'll get a good idea just how far away from your actual position that those rescuer's may be searching for your sinking vessel. Not a good thought.

Gary :cool:
 

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美国华人, 帆船
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Gary,

SPOT SOS has responded more SOS calls than EPIRB. There is "NO" reports regarding the accuracy of SPOT coordination is ever in question. You are taking about well trained USCG and S&R personnel, not the HS drop out working part time in Towboat US.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Rockdawg, I spent four years in the Navy, and believe me, not everyone was well trained, or really wanted to learn the three different conventions for navigation. And, not every kid aboard a USCG RIB, and they are kids, at least comparatively speaking, has the ability, knowledge or tools to do those conversions, and therein lies the problem. If the kid in the RIB searching for you is armed with a conventional chart and does not have access to the online conversion tables, YOU could be in a heap of trouble.

Now, most of the coasties I worked with many years ago were pretty darned smart when it came to finding guys doing bad things on the water, then apprehending them. As a relatively young reporter I got to ride along on many of their operations. The coordinates they were provided for the bad guys were often provided over the telephone, either from headquarters, or from an aircraft, and using the same charts. So there was never a problem finding the crooks. However, this is a different situation, the basic information is not compatible with their charts, so they have to rely on someone to do the conversions, then communicate the converted information correctly to them. It's not a cut and dry situation. As a kid in the Navy I participated in many rescue missions, mostly successful, but some were not. I sure wouldn't want to be in the later category. Lets face it, someone on Spot's engineering staff just wasn't thinking real clear when the software to send out the position information was created.

Gary :cool:
 

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A simple scientific calculator (you should have on board) that does trig can convert DD to DMS in a heartbeat.
 
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I don't know if YOUR GPS/chartplotters will change format to decimal degrees, by my Garmin equipment will.
Guys this isn't a new/old thing or scientist/layman thing, it's about using quality equipment that will work for everybody. Spot doesn't need to change; perhaps some of us just need to read the operator's manuals of our gear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I don't know if YOUR GPS/chartplotters will change format to decimal degrees, by my Garmin equipment will.
Guys this isn't a new/old thing or scientist/layman thing, it's about using quality equipment that will work for everybody. Spot doesn't need to change; perhaps some of us just need to read the operator's manuals of our gear.
Actually, that information is not in the owner's manual. Additionally, prior to making the conversion in you GPS plotter, you would have to know the problem exists. Accordingly, those using paper charts would not know this, and have no way of converting unless they have a calculator onboard, or a PC with Internet access while at sea, which is very unlikely.

If you go to Spot's web site, you will not find this information. It's not there, and they have not published this. Gee, I wonder why? Ya think that maybe it's a screwup that someone wishes to hide? Think about it. I wonder how many of these devices would have been sold if consumers knew the above information.

Every call for help I've heard in the past 60 years on the water, the person in trouble provided position information in degrees, minutes and seconds. In all those years, with nearly 100 trips on the water each year, in locations around the world, I've yet to hear a single call for assistance where the caller said anything other than degrees, minutes and seconds. Think about it!

Gary :cool:
 

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I was really looking into getting one instead of my extinct epirb I understand they are widely used for treckers and climbers etc and they are used mostly on land

so what is the exact deal? do you have to do the calculation in order for a real sos message to work or is it a non issue

I understand the decimal change issue but what I dont understand is this a life or death situation if your in an emergency and your trying to calculate your exact position is this a go no go scenario for rescuers and other persons, boats, ships around or will it still be useful?

thanks

travlin Im with you all the way...simplicity is key and a standard method is best for everyone but I do hear these guys have a very good track record

so dunno
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Personally, I would not recommend purchasing a Spot as a safety device. Yeah, it's neat that your friends can follow you on trips down the Chesapeake using Google Earth and look at satellite images of where you are, even if the satellite view is from six months ago. My wife and children followed me all the way down the ICW to Marathon Key and loved how they could see the places where I spent the nights on the hook and in various marinas. That part is really neat. But as a rescue device, IMO, it leaves a lot to be desired.

If I were going to do a long, offshore passage I would go for an EPIRB. The information transmitted from the EPIRB will quickly bring aid to the correct location and no one has to guess what convention information is being used to guide them to me. When I fished offshore, often 100 miles or more from the nearest shore, I had an EPIRB onboard at all times and I had a great deal of confidence in the device. Fortunately, I never had to use it.

Cheers,

Gary :cool:
 

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Where did you find that information?
I believe I read it on the GEOS site.

But I can't find it anymore.
GEOS | We Save Lives... We Are GEOS

But remember GEOS is not for marine use only. It is much more widely use by land adventurers/layman. Just by the large number of users, the SOS calls will proportionally higher than EPRIB. If SPOT provides inaccuracte GPS coordinates, we should have known it by now.

The more I read on this thread, it appears that Gary's complain is not the accuracy of the SPOT but the format of the coordinate it presents. To me this is not an issue for me.

One must know the unit of the number it represents.
Just like reading the chart, Is the Depth in Feet or Meters? Is the degree is F or C?, Is it in Litre or gallon?

If someone input this coordinate DDD.ddddd or 034.12345 into 34 degree, 12 min and 34 sec, of course it will give a wrong coordinate. He should just stay home, if you ask me.

By the way, I like the decimal system. It is easier and less confusion to transmit in text and voice over the radio, especially for the massive (worldwide). Americans need to adapt in our changing world. We are not the Center of Attention.
 

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rockdawg so do you do the caclulation on a need basis...

hope that makes sense

I could care less whos tracking me as that is not necessarlilty what I would use the spot for its for that message or one time spotting like an epirb does that I find attractive

down here we use the decimal system as well as metric, funilly enough hardwares stock mostly sae stuff and do inches too! jajajaja
 

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Every call for help I've heard in the past 60 years on the water, the person in trouble provided position information in degrees, minutes and seconds. In all those years, with nearly 100 trips on the water each year, in locations around the world, I've yet to hear a single call for assistance where the caller said anything other than degrees, minutes and seconds. Think about it!
I don't think that's the Coast Guard standard. When I hear Sector Delaware bay giving coordinates, they use Degrees, Minutes, and Decimal Minutes (DD° MM.mm'), which is neither DD° MM' SS" (the old-school chart way) nor DD.DDDD° (what your Spot is using, along with basically every other electronic navigation device in the world, at least internally). DD° MM' SS" isn't the SAR standard either.

Page 4 of this document from the Coast Guard:
http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg534/nsarc/CISAdd2-0-Geo-Ref.pdf

The standard Latitude/Longitude format for CISAR operations is Degrees, Decimal Minutes (DD° MM.mm')...Latitude and longitude is stated as:
"Three nine degrees, three six decimal zero six minutes North by seven six degrees, five one decimal four two minutes West." The words, "degrees," "minutes," and "decimal" must to be spoken.


The three systems are all perfectly capable of conveying your exact position. It's true that it can be confusing, but it's just abstractly confusing, not because of the Spot. If your SAR team is as stupid as you'd have them be, you're in trouble no matter what. If your idiot rescuer, regardless of his age, is flying around on a RIB with a paper chart, a compass, and a set of parallel rules, you're probably also in serious trouble.

I think learning about the different systems for conveying Lat/Lon, and helping people understand those differences and how to communicate them effectively over VHF, would be a way better use of this forum than standing on your porch with a Spot in your hand, yelling about whippersnappers and how stupid everyone is.
 
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