Before I explain how the SPOT works…
Disclaimer: The SPOT device service is not guaranteed on and between the isolated islands of the western and central Pacific. If there are no SPOT messages, it simply means the SPOT isn’t sending our location- NOT that we have sank to the depths of the ocean blue. We have various other means of communication in addition to the handy, albeit spotty, SPOT device that we will rely on in case of emergency or to send/receive weather or other updates.
Now that you know that, I’ll explain a little more about the SPOT. 🙂
This little doohickey is a pretty cool piece of technology. It has four buttons that we can press to communicate to people around the world: ‘OK’, “need help’, ‘SOS’ and a custom message. When we hit any button it contacts a specific group of people with that message.
OK- Sends a message to our parents and emergency contact that we are okay, publishes the OK message to our public page
Need help- Sends our e-contact a message requesting for help, depending on our location he/she would contact the coastguard or a nearby boat/island
SOS- Contacts emergency services to come save us, ie coastguard
Custom- Our custom message sends a message to our parents and e-contact letting them know we are OK but delayed and it may take additional time to reach our location but that there is no emergency or danger at present
There is also a 5th button that can be used to ‘track progress’. After pressing this button SPOT will record and send your location every 10 minutes. We won’t use this button because I decided not to subscribe to this service (it costs extra).
Along with each message, the recipients receive a link to a Google map image with a marker of that specific location. That map would look something like this…
You can view the location on a political, satellite, hybrid, or terrain map. And it’s pretty specific. Right now the map displays a test message I sent this afternoon. The dot is about 2 feet to the left of the cockpit of our boat, which is where the SPOT sat when it transmitted the test message. Pretty precise!
In addition to the email service, you can set up a public page like this one that anyone can visit. This website will show all SPOT locations for 7 days. After 7 days the individual SPOT expires and disappears from the map. What a great way to keep anyone in on your progress travelling solo or in isolated areas, right?
The reason for the disclaimer is because on our last sailing trip, to Saipan, the SPOT stopped working when we got east of Goat Island, just south of Tinian. We had been sending messages every 3 hours for 24 hours already and when family and friends stopped getting the notification emails and we there was a bit of mild panic. This last 24 hours of the trip should’ve only taken 12-15 hours but we spent the last 12 sailing up and down the coast waiting for the sun to come up. This was when our transmission had just died and we didn’t want to try to sail the long channel into the Saipan harbor in the dark. It was a good decision but because people expected us to already be there AND the SPOT messages weren’t transmitting there was a little bit of worry. BUT, no need for more panic this time. We have a satellite phone that we can anyone in the world from and an EPIRB that will notify emergency services of our location if we throw it in the water. We love the SPOT though and if you aren’t our mom, dad, or e-contact you can follow our progress on the public page map. There is a link along the top side menu on the Pyrate Enterprises site. Check it out! 🙂