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SPOT - Satellite Personal Tracker

3625 Views 20 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  gpgyo
I just picked up a SPOT (Satellite Personal Tracker).

If it works as advertised it will be a great way to stay in touch with the family back home (I just began single-handing this summer and am already planning a big trip for next year that will involve a lot of solo sailing).

I have read a lot of reviews of the product. (Of course I read these after I had bought my unit). Many of the reviews say that the service is inconsistent and there are areas where the satellite coverage is not so good. One area that was mention was Northern Georgian Bay. This is the area in which I plan to be sailing! It seemed that most of the problems where due to overhead obstructions (trees).

Does anyone have any experience with this unit on a boat?

Does anyone use one in Northern Lake Huron (South of Manitoulin and in the North Channel) or Georgian Bay? Any issues with satellite reception?

I tried a "Check-in/OK" message from home last night. It worked very well. It put me about 10 feet from where I sent the message. The link to Google Maps is pretty cool.

Anyhow, any feedback will be appreciated.
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We used a SPOT coming accross the Gulf of Alaska and experienced a 'break in service' after leaving Elfin Cove. Not sure if it was the unit, comms, or operator error but for a big chunk of the trip accross, we were not transmitting when we thought we were. Picked up again South of Montegue Island. We'll try 'er again on our next outing and see... the mean time, the jury is out.

We have one, use it a lot and love it. For the price, it is a super way to keep family and friends informed as to where you are. It has worked for us:

East coast from MD to Newfoundland.

I picked one up awhile back. It works but it seems very sensitive to obstructions. Pretty much needs a clear line of site to the sky to get a signal. It would sometimes work in the boat but to be reliable it needed to be outside.

It seems more geared to hiking as if you look at your course on a map there are lots of areas missing when its in spotcasting mode. But then if you were covering a lot of area you may not really care that your course is there in such detail.

West has them on sale for $80 now so if I had waited I could have saved myself $70.
hugley not only are they on sale at 80, they come with paper work for a 30 west marine card.... i just bought one. so it will cost 150 for the year including the service
New vs Old


Did you get the old or new spot? In case you were not aware, there is a new unit.

The old unit is the "Spot Personal Tracker" and the new unit is the "SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger"

I don't know that much about the new unit other than what I found in this press release:

SPOT Unveils Next Generation Satellite GPS Messenger at Outdoor Retailer

Good luck,
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Thanks for the replies.

I got the older version from West - I guess they are getting rid of the old ones to make room for the new ones.

I didn't sign up for the added package ($49.99/yr US) as I don't think I will use the 'Tack Progress' feature (it looks like it would be a battery pig).

I sent a 'Check-in/OK' message from a different location today. I had the unit on the dash of my car, turned it on, waited about 2 minutes and hit the 'OK' button. About a minute later the text message appeared on my phone. When I got home and checked my e-mail the Google Map showed me to be about 20 feet from where I had sent the signal. I think that's pretty good.

As long as I can get a signal in northern Lake Huron, I think this thing will work out well.

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You can watch ours live right now... go to our blog at s/v Pelican - Following A Dream and click on the "Follow Us" link on the right... We left from Albany,NY today and are on our way down to Baltimore...
Read this post I wrote about the SPOT Messenger.
Read this post I wrote about the SPOT Messenger.
It looks as though you had good satellite coverage for your trip down the East Coast.
I decided not to activate the Tracking option because of the energy consumption issue you described.
It looks as though the unit operated as it was intended.
Did you experience any issues with the service or the equipment?
I have one and use it. Like it very much. Got it originally, and have used it mostly, for hiking and hunting in the Colorado mountains. Now that I live in Tampa I will use it when sailing. You just have to be aware of its limitations.

For one thing, it does need a clear view of the sky. I suspect that even using it from under a bimini would be an issue. It can also sometimes take several minutes to successfully send a message, especially if you simply turn it on and hit the OK button without giving it time to "find" itself. Finally, since the older units provide no positive indication that a message has been sent, you have to keep an eye on it to see the indication while the message is BEING sent. Otherwise you just press the button and hope.

But with these limitations it is very useful. When I went hunting by myself my wife was very comforted by the nightly "I'm OK" message. When she went to Spain to visit our daughter it was neat to get an e-mail and see where they were in Madrid, Salamanca, Barcelona.
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You just have to be aware of its limitations.

For one thing, it does need a clear view of the sky. I suspect that even using it from under a bimini would be an issue.
We put ours on the binnacle under the bimini and it sent every time we pressed OK. It also was in its neoprene case - so, in a neoprene case and under the bimini was ok for ours.

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Mine was in the cabin the whole trip, and it worked just fine... sitting in a basket on top of the refrigerator.
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One problem I see is it uses the GlobalStar satelites, and they are experiencing financial difficulties for some years now. The satelite constelation has moved a significant amount out of its orbits and just land correction is not enough to fix it anymore, so a more expensive maintenance is needed, including the launch of new satelites to replace some already dead. Until GS can't find a suitable mean to overcome the financials necessary to recover the system, SPOT will suffer the same braks all GlobalStar telephony is expereincing for a while now. But you won't find anything cheaper ....
Well... I have one and it works fine for what we did this (non) summer. Up to Killbear. I have the "tracking" option but it's only a power hog if you use it. You can still operate the unit in "check in" mode.
I think it's essential if you're on your own.


P.S. The boat is now on the hard at bayport on Midland. :(
We have been using a SPOT Messenger for a bit over 1-1/2 years. We originally purchased the device for our daughter to keep track of her travels while she and some other teens were sailing a Beneteau 50 from St. Martin to Trinadad during the summer of 2008. We then loaned the device to a friend to keep track of his travel from Nevis to Bradenton Florida in November of '08 for which it worked very well--well enough that I could time my drive up to the marina to meet him when he arrived in the middle of the night.

Since then we've been using the device to keep track of our own travels. Lately we implemented a SPOT Adventures page that keeps track of all of our travels (when the tracking mode is activated). For one thing, our yacht club has a rule about active verses inactive boats and there has been a bit of debate about whether one's log is sufficienbt evidence that one has an "active" boat and is not just using the marina for in the water storage. Our Spot Adventures page is pretty irrefutable evidence (so long as we remember to turn the thing on). Our SPOT lives in a mesh bag suspended from the stern pulpit and seem to work without difficulty. A representitive SPOT Adventures page is shown here: Daysail to Egmont Key - Sailing - Spot .

We have purchased the full service package with Tracking and GEOS SAR service (which must be purchased separately). The device has proven very reliable although I do not consider it a replacement for and EPIRB.


s/v HyLyte
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The thing I don't like about spot is that it doesn't go directly SARS unit but through a private company and they contact the nearest SARS Unit. The Coverage is really spotty to. That's why I'm not using one during my Expedition. I'm going to get one this along with carrying a sat Phone.

ACR Products
I used one this november when moving my boat from Virginia to Puerto Rico.
loved it. The only time I had coverage problems were in severe storms, where only 1 out of 2 or 3 msgs got out. once it cleared up, all went out fine.

It really kept friends and family back home in touch with my progress, which really kept the concern down in their minds. I also bought the Search and Rescue package for the 911 button. Glad I didn't need it.

I set my messages up with my "Standard" message that all was well - my help message was that we were having problems but ok (just in case the next one was 911 and the Coasties contacted my primary contacts - they could inform them of the amount of time we were broadcasting issues prior to calling for them, just in case.

In talking with the Coast Guard in PR, they also told me they recommended the system to boaters as it really increased the ability to track and connect when needed. This, coupled with a Sat phone for downloading weather maps and making calls when necessary completed our ability to effectively communicate. Also had a 406 epirb on board.
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I use the SPOT on deliveries as a service to owners who like to see where their boat is. *grin* I generally use blue painter's tape to tape it to the inside of a hatch. Generally works fine but there are occasional gaps. As noted, it is NOT a life-safety device. It's a convenience item. Be sure to educate family and friends that if you "drop off the map" it is most likely due to 1. forgetting to reset the tracker, 2. Globalstar pooping out for a while, or 3. the display web-server getting the hiccups.

Please tell them NOT to call the USCG (as an uneducated friend of a Bahamas cruiser recently did) and launch a SAR effort just because the SPOT stopped posting.
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I bought and used one on a a trip in Dec from Destin Fl to the Keys and loved it. It was the ONLY communications for days with family. It worked great and was appreciated by those at home.

Just set it up right from computer.
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