SPOT Messenger Locator?

Has anyone used the SPOT/SPOT2 messenger/location device? Read very mixed reviews on reliability, customer service and exploitative service plans/processes??? Thanks, Rick

On the ocean
On the ocean you are much better off with a VHF handheld that can send DSC distress with ur position automatically to nearby vessels which can then respond or automatically relay the call to the coast guard with their high power radios.

But only on the ocean and not in the backcountry…

Off topic a little, but
if you just want it for an emergency, why not think about the “fast find” PLB.

No nonsense, and there is no fee other than the initial cost.


VHF doesn’t work everywhere
A DSC VHF will only send your distress message to stations that are within range. At best, that’s probably 20 miles or so with a handheld radio. SPOT and PLBs are satellite based, and have global coverage.

If you paddle in an area with lots of CG coverage, like the Northeast US, then DSC VHF is probably fine everywhere, but in more remote areas, or for the best chance of rescue, I’d choose a PLB.

Most like them
I have a few friends with them. One is a bike rider and the others are glider pilots. They like it because they can give their wives a little comfort. Their wives can track them someway on the computer. I don’t know in how much detail but they like the option. I do know they were surprised by some of the additional fees they encountered after purchase. Research that part well so you know what you are getting into. I believe it is the start of a growing technology that will grow better over time.

Not surprised by your friends
"discoveries" of extra fees but glad their SPOTS seem to be working ok. I like JackL’s PLB idea but Watertribe race I’m entering requires SPOT use. Rick

You don’t have a choice, get over it.

I’ll venture a guess that race organizers are using SPOT to track paddlers.

Don’t want to buy, rent it

Or use a search engine of your choice and find a whole bunch of other companies

Reread my post
I said your better off with VHF on the ocean and stand by my words.

In principle the VHF distress DSC call has much more than 20 miles range because when it is picked up by any other boat, that boat retransmits it. That is really necessary when sending a call via a handheld that is 1-2 feet over the water.

It will take SPOT much longer to respond and communicate with the authorities. Minutes save lives.

PLB for Kayaks? How far off shore were you planning to paddle?

VHF is line of sight. If anything is between the transmitter and receiver, chances of successful information exchange are nil. Being in fjord, among rocky outcrops are some examples.

Satellite communication devices are also line of of sight, but the view to the skies in water based activities is more often clear than not.

Both PLB and Spot inform local rescue authorities ( this is quite simplified), who then, presumably, arrive to your rescue. SPOT, and the latest breed of gps receiver equipped PLB will transmit your GPS coordinates for those said authorities. As a result, one might get rescued quicker than attempting to contact someone with VHF

Got one
A few months ago. Like it. Considered a personal EPIRB but on all the ones I looked at, they had sealed batteries which required replacement at the factory after a number of years whereas the SPOT batteries are off the shelf. Plus the SPOT allows non-emergency one way messaging. I figured SPOT was worth the yearly charge of about $150 compared to the personal EPIRB.

different oceans
I get your point, but all oceans are not equal for VHF coverage. If you are paddling around the Fjords of Norway, your VHF coverage is diddly, but satellite coverage is reliable. In this part of Maine, there are areas where I haven’t been able to reach a shore station (with a 50’ antenna) just a few miles away) because VHF won’t go through a tall granite island). There are also times of day out here where you literally don’t see a single boat over many miles of ocean. And lobster boats are not required to have DSC equipped radios on board to re-transmit for you. Again, Satellite coverage here should be no problem.

In Boston Harbor, no doubt, a DSC signal is going to get a good response. But not all waters are like that, and I think a GPS-equipped PLB or EPIRB will get a 5-minute notification time regardless of where you are located.

Fjords in the Ocean?
I am talking about paddling the US coastline.

Spot will take far longer to notify the authorities than a VHF DSC call. Go read their manual and see what they say. In fact, the nearest power boater may decide to come to your aid in minutes because his radio is going to beeping when it gets your distress call.

Where did you get 20 miles from–its more like 50+ if the receiving antenna is high up) That’s pretty far out for round trip paddle, don’t you think?

Chances are that a steep fjord is going to block the spots path to the satellite anyway.

I carry a SPOT
AND a marine VHF radio AND a Fast Find PLB

I just did a Lake Superior trip. The VHF was useless except for the weather radio. The problem is very few boats ply the eastern coast of Ontario. You can transmit at five watts…but there is no one to listen.

SPOT performed its nine OK messages flawlessly. I do carry a PLB because when things go sour fast the PLB transmits a more powerful signal than SPOT.

I cant see where anyone can generalize that SPOT rescues take a long time. It depends on where the rescuers are deployed from . An acquaintance of mine hit the 911 on SPOT and was rescued 45 minutes later…simply because Canadian Forces were training in the area several hundred miles north of Thunder Bay in a real wilderness setting ( almost no one lives in the area and those that do fly in). He was expecting a much longer rescue time.

Hey Rick …
Not to change the topic, but are you entering the 100 miler on core sound.

If so, I hope you have seen Marty Sullivans write up and all the waypoints. He did a marvelous job.

If you are doing the long one down in Florida next March, we will be there too.

jack L

What works in your neck of the woods won’t necessarily work somewhere else.

Nate gave a good explanation, I am quite sure you are smart enough to come up with a few more scenarios - paddling Pacific North/West is probably the most obvious - think glaciers.

Rescue 21 Deployment

This is a list of towers capable of receiving DSC calls.

A 5W VHF signal can go over 200 miles line of sight, less to a high tower with a sensitive receiver, and more if other radios automatically relay the distress. DSC has much greater signal-to-noise ratio than voice.

Please reread my post. I said paddling in the ocean off the US coast and did not bring up Fjords or great Lakes or countries lacking a rescue 21 system.

Spot claims the average time to alert rescuers is 11 minutes. They have to go down a phone list calling people on the forms you filled out to see if the emergency is real or not. Then they have guess the jurisdiction and/or get referred to the proper one.

Google Spot 19 hour response time. Even the OP said there were many mixed reviews.

VHF DSC can get the coast guard in seconds. And you may get a good samaritan boater headed your way immediately because his radio starts beeping as soon as a distress is received.

Sure, if you are going to a remote Fjord or Alaska or a country without rescue 21, get an PlB or EPIRB, but not some 99 dollar piece of plastic that is not tested to rigorous marine engineering standards.

Planning to do the NC 50 miler this
first time, but in my little cat-ketch and that’s why the SPOT questions, but maybe paddling class next after more training :-), and for wilderness paddling adventures too. Probably rent it this time. Rick

We are planing on renting one
after the one 300 miler, I am sure we won’t be wanting to do another.

Jack L

do you sell vhf radios?
I would hope most would carry a vhf on the open ocean, in addition to a beacon of some sort. But the spot is for his race and people at home can keep track of your progress.

That’s most stern pro vhf argument ever… I feel like I need one to go mow the grass now.

Plus I was thinking. If your rescue is coming down to minutes on the open ocean it probably just wasn’t meant to be.

Ryan L.