View Full Version : Offshore Tracking

03-21-2022, 12:19 PM
I got this email, which got me thinking about other options, which got me thinking that you SHTP'er are probably thinking about it too. If there's already a thread on the forum that covers this topic, please direct me to it. Is this a seminar topic already?

If not, please share your knowledge of whatcha got, whatcha like, whatcha woulda coulda.

Does anyone have one of these? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKNOzDWpbtc


03-22-2022, 07:45 AM
I do not think this device has any satellite communications ability outside of WIFI.

"The DataHub connects to your existing mobile or satellite communication device, so no additional monthly subscriptions are required."

03-22-2022, 09:02 AM
I have been experimenting with InReach Explorer for the past six months. Seems pretty solid and it's a relatively low power solution. Unlimited tracking points for $24.95/month plus texting send and receive. Pairing with phone app Earthmate makes messaging simple. Sharing tracks with folks onshore over the internet has worked well. Weather information is available, but very basic so for those looking for grib files, it's not a good alternative.

tiger beetle
03-22-2022, 07:21 PM
I've been using the inReach SE since 2013 to send position information ashore so my Mom can see where Beetle is :) I set it to transmit at 10 minute intervals. The unit is mounted belowdecks in a RAM mount that positions the antenna up against a portion of the fiberglass deck that is solid glass (no core there) and it works well. I keep a USB cable loose at the nav station that is used to recharge stuff, including the inReach, as needed.

Attempting to send an SMS message over the inReach using its tiny buttons is useless - much better to pair it with an application running on a smartphone or iPad makes it possible to send SMS via inReach (which is using Iridium satellites).

I much prefer using SailMail on the laptop to send/receive email via the Iridium GO - which I've also had since 2013. That works a treat. As a fallback to Iridium I continue to use the Icom M802 SSB and Pactor III modem directly to SailMail - that works well, but not as convenient as running traffic through Iridium GO.

It's not clear to me what problem the PredictWind DataHub is trying to solve, as it doesn't seem to add much beyond instrument data logging and the idea of having PredictWind attempt to generate boat polars. The other touted use cases are otherwise trivially solved by typing in a position; perhaps it's useful as a time-saver? To use it offshore you'd need an installed WiFi-enabled satellite communication system so the DataHub could connect to it. It's likely the satellite system would already have GPS coordinates and UTC time, and possibly a tracking/position function as well. So what's DataHub adding to the mix?

And I don't use PredictWind - so there may be some integration functionality between DataHub and PredictWind that is handy, I do not have any awareness of how that might play.

Eyrie - what problem are you aiming to solve?

- rob/beetle

03-22-2022, 08:34 PM
I watched the promo video and agree w/Rob - instrument data logging appeared to be the only substantive add. Developing reliable polars while sailing solo has proven elusive, so maybe collecting reams of instrument data would help. But I'm not that motivated.

I bought an InReach Explorer for the 2019 LongPac and experienced the "tiny buttons" challenge. What do you like for an app to use it with an iThing? Steve mentioned EarthMate. We'll have an Iridium Go! for Pacific Cup but I plan to take the InReach as a backup.

tiger beetle
03-23-2022, 08:57 AM
What do you like for an app to use it with an iThing?

The only game in town I know of is the DeLorme Earthmate application available through the Apple App Store (and Google Playstore). inReach uses Bluetooth to connect to the iPad (and Samsung Note 8 phone on the boat), and then it's possible to utilize the iPad's onscreen keyboard to create an SMS message to be sent through the inReach out to Iridium. I don't use the Earthmate application for any other purpose than typing a note - it's supposed to do other things, but I'm only using the inReach as a transponder and an occasional SMS note.

A unique feature of the inReach as used on Beetle is that when the account is set up correctly a remote person *can* send an SMS to the boat and make the inReach start flashing a green LED, the functional equivalent of a ringing telephone. All other communications to the boat are not annunciated - I only learn about a message/email when I choose to check SMS/email. The Iridium GO also supports SMS messaging - but those are not annunciated unless I leave the Iridium GO powered on, which I don't.

- rob/beetle

03-23-2022, 11:02 AM
Eyrie - what problem are you aiming to solve?

- rob/beetle

Just my curiosity. So tapping on the collective for data.

Another good thread might be about generating boat polars. A pretty handy tool if you're reaching for the pickle dish I'd say. Are there other tools available or do you have to write your own software?

tiger beetle
03-23-2022, 01:20 PM
For boat polars the key is data logging and taking notes - time, sea state, and sail configuration + sheeting angles. Note the time(s) you think the boat is going really well - that's what you're looking for in the sea of logged data. Extract the relevant data and start constructing the performance polar graph. It's mostly just a matter of: go sailing, get the boat going well, turn on the logging for maybe 15 minutes to capture what's going on, take notes, turn off logging and save off the log file. Adjust sails to some new configuration and repeat. Takes a lot of time to quantify all the possible settings - but I expect you already know exactly when Eyrie isn't going the best and wouldn't need polars at all to know what to do to increase performance. It's kind of fun to try and fill in gaps in the polar when out sailing on a particularly pleasant day - just how fast will Beetle go on a beam reach in 8 knots of wind with the kite up? what about with a jib up? It's fun to calculate VMG points for windward/leeward courses - though I never actually do windward/leewards.

For NMEA 0183 data logging I used Paul Elliott's NavMonPC running on the laptop, it's got handy logging features built in.

For NMEA 2000 (which I've moved to now that I've updated Beetle to B&G H5000 instruments) I'm using Actisense's NMEA/EBL Reader software to log and read the data coming in over their W2K-1 NMEA 2000 -> WiFi gateway, the logging software writes data out to the hard drive, just be careful about how much room is available on the drive! For the PC cartography I'm using Coastal Explorer connected to the NMEA 2000 network via a separate wired gateway (Actisense NTG-1), so logging doesn't interfere with the nav software. If you've got Expedition it has some very nice logging features, but I didn't feel up to spending another $1300 on software.

03-23-2022, 04:36 PM
Two other tracking options to consider: PredictWind Tracker and Following Sea Yacht Tracker. Both work well with Iridium Go. A previous instructor colleague of mine, Bill Kenny, has been cruising up and down the east coast for the past several years and effectively using the PW tracker on his website: https://fetchinketch.net/where-are-we-now/
If you're going to have an Iridium Go on board, might as well use it for tracking too...

03-24-2022, 09:15 AM
At this point I'm just planning to get an Inreach, specific model TBD. Plenty of food for thought in this thread, but I find all this wonky stuff utterly bewildering. Maybe I can figure out how to use my phone or Android tablet (which I've rarely touched since I bought it from Alan Hebert) to get around the tiny button problem, but even that seems like a long shot.

I'm also going to reinstall the M700 Pro SSB that I used in 2010, hopefully with a better ground plane setup. More mumbo jumbo.


03-24-2022, 09:31 AM
More mumbo jumbo.


The RYC Foundation has a nice Snipe for sale. It's very tempting.

08-07-2022, 12:52 PM
I have both an Iridium Go! and Garmin InReach - both tie to phone or tablet via individual apps.
the Go! of course creates a WiFi hub that tethers to the laptop

I end up using the 2 systems for different things, partly based on the UI, but one could fully replace the other if needed.
I do like having redundant yet independent hardware interfaces.
And yeah, I have a plain old sat phone, because.

This is how I break down the InReach and the Go!-

InReach - SMS Messages and Tracking -

good text plan, tracker set up is very easy, Map Share integrates these so you can see what you said where.
easiest interface for these functions, IMO.
Thumb typing data entry is ok.

Go! - email, grib, weather data -

WiFi bridge to laptop + iPhone + Android Tablet.
mostly for data I don't want to thumb type, or needing a laptop interface.
Grib requests via Sail Mail or Predict Wind (depending on what's allowed)
Predict Wind works very well with Go! - compact files, good app interface



08-15-2022, 12:21 PM
I have a similar setup to DaveH

1. I have an Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 phone, like this https://www.bluecosmo.com/inmarsat-isatphone-2-satellite-phone.html but the one time I tried to call David H at around noon first day of LongPac in order to test things I could barely hear him. I could never get a good signal. Now I guess that did work as sort of a proof of life, POL. From then on I used the Iridium GO! app for POL via SMS which was not what the SIs required.
2. The LongPac SIs required sending a custom POL email (which was hardest on the Iridium GO!). I did do this but was never sure they got through because I would receive "bounce" messages back in the Iridium Mail app. This is partly because of the way the Iridium Mail system works and partly because we were using reflectors to email multiple people with one address.
3. I could send a Quick GPS email (one button) which is super easy on the Iridium GO! but we didn't use that feature. I'd recommend thinking about that for Iridium GO! users.
4. Easiest on the Iridium GO! is sending an SMS text but you need your iPhone. For me this was the most reliable and fastest way to communicate with David H and the RC. When I really needed to communicate in near real-time then the Iridium GO! App was the only way to do it. At the end of the LongPac race I was so tired and not thinking straight. I could not figure out why I was going backwards and the RC was asking me when I would finish. I really panicked and felt awful for keeping these guys on the sea wall for days on end. If I had not been able to get some encouragement back from RC almost real time via the Iridium GO! App that I needed to just wait (it was still ebbing near Pt Bonita even though flooding elsewhere) I would have given up. VHF did not work even close to the gate. If I had an emergency situation, for sure Iridium GO! App would be my best bet.
5. My Iridium GO! has an external antenna, I think I need it.
6. There were only a few occasions on which I got less than 5 bars on the Iridium GO! The Iridium GO! does work like an old-fashioned modem though. The interface between phone, Iridium GO! and the end points can be very slow and quirky (checking modem status, waiting for connections .... can take minutes) and is not "smart". This is especially noticeable when trying to send email via the Iridium Mail App (which is different, separate and much worse than the Iridium GO! App) and when you are using the the PredictWind interface to the Iridium GO!. Sending a custom email (as required for POL) or downloading GRIBs can take a very long time and require monitoring, stopping/starting connections. Again, SMS and the Iridium GO! App just plain worked, and was fast - often just seconds - and never more than a couple minutes.
7. I only used my Garmin GPSMAP 86sci handheld for friends & family tracking (since my Iridium GO! was being used to direct tracking to SSS RC & Ray). The Garmin worked perfectly for tracking without a hitch. The Iridium GO! tracking worked OK, but with one weird glitch that put me miles from where I actually was. Ray has seen this behavior with Iridium GO! before. I am still trying to figure it out with iridium, but I don't hold out much hope.
8. My Garmin GPSMAP 86sci handheld was mounted on a RAM mount with charger on my steering pedestal and worked flawlessly. Easy to read screen too.
9. I think tracking is easier to setup for the Garmin devices because Ray has put so much work into that. I think more people currently use Garmin than Iridium but Ray could tell us that for sure. Next I need to work on sending email and text from the Garmin in case I had to.
10. PredictWind is pretty good about support. Garmin is non-existent. Iridium, time will tell. Next (I wont hijack this thread) I want to ask about the PredictWind plans folks use. I could never get a straight answer from PredictWind on which resolution models were supprted on which plans offshore and despite paying a fortune I could only get extremely low resolution GFS models.

08-15-2022, 01:58 PM
5. My Iridium GO! has an external antenna, I think I need it.Mandatory.

I want to ask about the PredictWind plans folks use. I could never get a straight answer from PredictWind on which resolution models were supprted on which plans offshore and despite paying a fortune I could only get extremely low resolution GFS models.Any PAID weather models are against the rules. Only PUBLICLY available FREE models are allowed. PredictWind Offshore Routing is also against the rules as the routing is done onshore, not on the boat. Programs like OpenCPN, Expedition, LuckyGRIB are allowed as the routing function is onboard.

08-15-2022, 02:50 PM
This from Bob Johnston, returning from the Pac Cup with friends:

08/13/22 1220PDT, 38 09'N, 130 54'W, 398 nm to the Gate

Despite fresh GRIBs that show increasing wind on the beam, any breeze remains light and well aft. We've been motoring almost continuously for a couple of days.

I get their desire for diversification. I also get the connection between weather and the ark. But I think the GRIB experiment hasn't gone well and they should stick to the bagels. Maybe waffles? "You want GRIBs on your grids? Side of grits?" The weather GRIBs must just be for grins. The result is looking grim.

Returning from the 2006 SHTP I motored the last couple hundred miles, including through a glassed-off Gulf of the Farallones. Yeah, I know what the models show but could this arrival be a repeat of 2006?

ETA at the Gate is now moving into mid-late afternoon on Monday. Otherwise all is well.

Bob, Dave and Neil

08-15-2022, 05:40 PM
Help me out here. I went by the SIs and this: https://youtu.be/Nl8cGyzakTE?list=PLilS16PFFp6SPQTo3pPeBwdvoO2tPdmb q&t=566 (at that time in the video). That was a very useful video, I know I will have to watch it many times to understand it all...

But when I was staying at the STFYC the night before the LongPac, I couldn't get anything but low resolution GFS from the PredictWind Offshore app and if I was offshore and not racing, like cruising or returning from somewhere like Hawaii, or even in an emergency for example, I think it would be good to have finer resolution models.

08-15-2022, 05:48 PM
Oh and BTW I got that Stan Honey weather video from this page, which continuing with my learning as a newbie, was really helpful to me: https://cruisingclub.org/article/weather-seminar-videos-2020

Maybe I will start a new newbie thread on weather and PredictWind and models ...

08-18-2022, 12:58 PM
I love the InReach Mini... when set on low power... sends locale every 4 hours and is otherwise "off", it will transmit nearly a month. So no matter how I am doing mentally, the race and friends know where I am.

Sure it can be used for daily proof of life... but for that the Iridium GO+Sailmail is the trick as its both a POL email with fun local color (caught a fish... blew up a chute) and source of GRIBs. And maybe a few phone calls to the wife (Iridium app on my android phone for phone calls).

And if the InReach or GO go belly up, I have a backup.

Now if only the GO and its subscription was as cheap as the InReach... sigh

09-30-2022, 07:20 PM
In a major concession to the realities and capabilities of offshore electronics, the SHTP R/C has reluctantly approved a new weather routing device:


10-01-2022, 08:08 AM
Good one, Bob. Include in the SIs?

10-01-2022, 08:47 AM
I'll get right on that.
all processing is onboard, and operator initiated.
The grammatically dubious warning notwithstanding, I see no issue with it....

11-18-2022, 08:14 PM
Does anyone have any experience with YB3i and YB3? Fixed or handheld?

I am getting less and less impressed with my Iridium GO! Somewhat neutral on my Garmin 86sci.

I am impressed with the performance of the YB3 devices in the GGR 2022 especially during the current abandon ship rescue in the Southern Ocean. You can see Tapio being tracked in his liferaft and he is able to text (albeit poorly) from the liferaft.

Though this is a tracking thread I would like to start a discussion maybe moving to another thread about satphones. The quality of the satellite calls from deep ocean in the GGR is very impressive. I think most are using the Iridium phones. and I think the majority of those are 9555 with some using the Extreme 9575. I got an Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 and the one time I used it way offshore David H could barely hear me. I may add an Iridium.

12-22-2022, 03:20 PM
To give this thread a new *kick*.... Iridium just offered up the Iridium Go Exec. 40 times the speed of the Go. But with a cost increase. I read that the Go Exec does not offer any tracking on its own and requires the Data Hub to do tracking. One benefit being it can take many tracking positions and save them up, transmitting every 4 hours to save on data costs (Iridum has a minimum size charge for transmission, positions take up way less than that, so if you are sending position often, you are burning up a lot of data plan unused).

I have been following StarLink closely as well. Much better throughput for comparable costs to Go. But to many unanswered questions at this point and only comes in 120VAC, meaning you either have to run it on an inverter or do mods to convert to 12V. Not really ready for the recreational boat community that plans on crossing oceans yet.

12-23-2022, 02:08 PM
I got a "special invite" for the Exec but I looked at the price and compared with what I have in the GO! and my current thinking is I would rather spend that extra money on a YB3 for tracking in an emergency (I meant YB3 that is handheld vs YB3i that is the fixed puck). I have the PW "unlimited" data plan but its not that issue that bothers me most about PW and GO! its the fact I cant get anythng but basic weather offshore. The PW GO! tracking does work pretty well but Garmin is actually better. The GO! skipped a couple of times in the LongPac putting me in completely the wrong place. Garmin also allows you to edit and collect tracks (once you figure out their horrendous user interface). Either non-racing or in an emergency I'd like the best weather information and tracking I can get. The various PW plans are very confusing as to exactly what you get offshore at each PW level and honestly I still haven't figured it out.

I have a StarLink but I dont think its going to be a sensible option on my small boat. I got too much going on electronically already. People have used them though. Several have said you need to mod the controller to fixed direction. I don't know about that. What is wacky is that its fine to spend a $100k on Internet satellite to get weather in a race but not to use PW.

01-03-2023, 03:02 PM
I use both a GO! (to get GRIBS and do email thru Sailmail) and the InReach (which is dirt cheap and if you have the settings right will transmit for over a month... and its a backup for texting if the GO! packs it in). The GO! monthly subscription is a bit pricey ($140/month and you have to buy full months) last time I looked... with the InReach having a $15/month package (with the mobile app its fine for texting). Yes two ways to communicate... "belt and braces" (or aka "sxxx happens"). :-)

01-03-2023, 03:13 PM
Thanks again Jim !! (you are answering all my other questions on the other threads). I just picked up a YB3 handheld in addition to my PW GO! and a Garmin 86sci. I will report back on the YB3 when I know anything. I'm not confident I could handle the Garmin 86sci (sort of an InReach) in all conditions, but since the subject of this thread is tracking, I think it does that well. I got the YB3 because I was really impressed with the way the YB3 handhelds have been handling the GGR emergencies so I talked to them and I got one. Intention is to use the YB3 for tracking but also in the ditch bag.

01-03-2023, 05:03 PM
Just picked up a used Inreach Mini (not the mini2) for $200 online. They seem to go for 200-250 used and in good shape. New Inreach Mini2 is about $400.

01-22-2023, 12:25 PM
Update from Iniscaw: I haven't managed to hear a peep -- at least, not an intelligible peep -- out of my old SSB, even though I think I have a much better installation this time around. My plan was to rely on verbal weather forecasts from USCG as I did last time when it worked out pretty well. But I guess I'll be joining the 21st century arms race and adding an Iridium Go. Oh well, it's only another boat buck or so.

I got my Inreach Mini a couple of months ago, figured out how to get it to do what I need, suspended the subscription, and now I've pretty much forgotten everything I learned. Par for the course. Hopefully it hasn't forgotten its setup.

01-22-2023, 07:26 PM
I al currently running a test with my Inreach Mini. With it on “Extended” mode and set to send a track position every 4 hours the battery is supposed to last more than 20 days. So I have it out on the balcony and am testing this. I am about 11 days in. It misses a transit once in a while, going 8 hours instead of 4, but it doesn’t have an unobstructed view of the sky either, so not too bad. I will post here when it runs out of juice!

01-23-2023, 12:42 PM
I am doing the same test with a YB3 V3 Mk II. The YB3 is supposed to last 36 weeks on 4-hour intervals. I too will report back when done, meanwhile a few notes:

1. I can already report that texting on the YB3 is way easier than on any of my other devices, still not easy but do-able. I can see how this is pretty much the only device you can use for text in a liferaft.
2. Folks may think this is more safety than tracking but to me tracking is really safety. I came across this report on what to expect from Iridium in an emergency: https://nzsar.govt.nz/assets/Downloadable-Files/Nina-Independent-Review-June-2014-1.pdf Search on "Iridium". Sobering.
3. What I see as a factor, but can't measure, is that Yellow Brick was originally designed for ocean sailing and these guys are sailors. They have a record of helping sailors out when in trouble.
4. Yellow Brick warns that battery consumption will vary enormously depending on view of the sky: "Whilst it may still work perfectly well, a device with a poor view of the sky will use up battery 10 times more quickly than one with a good view of the sky!" That makes it harder to do any battery life comparisons.

01-23-2023, 01:10 PM
While the report linked is an important data point, it is important to realize that this report is 10 years old. It also identifies issues obtaining iridium satellite phone communications. Without more info this could be misleading. Who were those calls made to? We’re there any legal requirements to privacy? As to messaging from the YB, why do you feel it is the only device you could use from a life raft? The Inreach mini has a number of stored communications that are easy to send off with a couple of clicks. You can pre-store a number of custom messages. You can also compose new messages with one of those difficult to use scroll to letter and click methods. Isn’t that what YB uses? Just curious as to the differences and what you are comparing the YB to. Thanks!

01-23-2023, 01:29 PM
I cant answer any of the questions on the Nina, I just dont know. What I meant was I dont think you can count on Garmin or Iridium helping out. I dont think you can count on anyone helping out, but Yellow Brick has.

I have a PW Go! that needs a phone, thats a problem in some situations. I have never been able to get an iPhone to work on the Bay when any water is involved. Even in three different types of AquaPac. Couldn't even get my iWatch to help me when I needed it. Even the slightest dampness on a touchscreen wrecks it.

I have a Garmin 86sci and that too (like the YB3) has a click this-way-and-that-way interface. I found it hard to use.

The YB3 has bigger scroll keys and easier to use click this-way-and-that-way interface. I cant explain why a few mm makes a difference but it does for me anyway. I plan to test the YB3 in a liferaft when I do the next course. I think it could work. I'm sure this is how Tapio sent texts from his liferaft.

PS: I researched the Mini (stand-alone) text interface and the best I can find that shows how it works is here: https://youtu.be/IdbRzscDgpg?t=155
The 86sci is somewhat similar. I cant find a description or video showing the YB3. I will take a picture to show how it works and post.

For someone else's perspective, see https://youtu.be/FOOll2LEoh4?t=501 (at that time code)

I'm not saying the YB3 is better or the best. Its hard to compare different things. The PW Go! is great for some things, like weather. It's also convenient to send quick texts in the cabin with an iPhone. The Garmin 86sci is great as a backup GPS device. The YB3 is probably what I would pack in the liferaft though. I might get an InReach Mini too; its so small you could carry it all the time in a pocket, along with a mini EPIRB.

01-23-2023, 11:18 PM
Just a thought here. Since this thread is titled offshore tracking, under the SHTP header.
Perhaps RC or Ray could chime in here.

Last two races the trackers that could be linked through Jibeset for race tracking were iridium based, i.e. InReach and iridium go.

I believe tracking with the yb3 is exclusive to yellow brick.

I have an older InReach explorer, from Delorme, and have used it offshore since 2016. I have used the small hunt and click screen in rough sea. Doable but makes me seriously nauseous. I think the newer ones have a little bit larger screen.
I have used it for two Long Pacs and 2018 SHTP for tracking and messaging. Kept it below all the time.

I used an iridium go for calls, email and gribs with inavx.

Yes, wet touchscreens are a problem. Keeping them below and having a towel handy helps.

As far as things to grab for the life raft, after the ditch bag with epirb, would be the InReach.

01-24-2023, 09:08 PM
>> I believe tracking with the yb3 is exclusive to yellow brick.

See Ray's page at https://www.jibeset.net/gpsspot0200.php

I'll ask Ray if his web scraper works with the YB default web pages or if you need to setup more, for example with YB.

I thought Ray had got the tracking info copied into all SIs for this year. That may have got lost...