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Delorme InReach


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Earlier this week, Garmin bought DeLorme, purportedly for this two-way satellite text messaging and tracking technology.

I don't have any experience with DeLorme's existing inReach products, nor any inside information, but I'd guess that the next iteration of this technology will be Garmin-branded and integrated with their top-of-the-line GPS receivers. I suspect there will be some very compelling devices from Garmin next year.


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There are important differences in how SPOT vs PLB/SOLAS search and rescues (SAR) are conducted. For instance, in the Bahamas, (and most likely everywhere, but I saw it in the Bahamas) the USCG has PLB equipment installed in their choppers. Before a recent paddling trip, I stopped by the USCG base on Andros with SAR questions.  They wanted to see my PLB, copied down the pertinent info, and were nice enough to give me a little tour: base dispatcher has a screen (monitored 24/7) where a PLB signal is automatically geolocated, and initiates a required false-alarm reduction procedure. Once that procedure is completed, information is downloaded to a SH-60 helo which has automatic PLB DF/locating equipment and can essentially fly straight to it and land on it. Delay time is dominated by the false-alarm reduction procedure. My showing up at the base with PLB and float plan was sufficient to bypass false-alarm reduction procedure.

I got essentially the same story from the Canadian Coast Guard and  SAR team in Nain, Labrador.  They had PLB SAR equipment there, rescues (and false alarm responses) are paid for by the Canadian government.(although I was warned they reserve the right to prosecute deliberate frauds). They copied down our PLB info, took our float plan, and told us that was sufficient to bypass the false-alarm reduction process.  They could activate a SAR mission within seconds of our PLB going off.

Both places told me of woes they've had with SPOT SAR activation. According to them, it's coordinated by a for-profit center in the US, which can dispatch both private and Government assets. Both told me of rescue victims being handed six-figure bills!.  A SPOT beacon purchase includes insurance against rescue costs. It is VERY IMPORTANT to read the fine print on that insurance to find out just who in your party is covered and what the prior relationship between the owner and victim is! I understand things have gotten better in recent years, but there are plenty of expensive anecdotal tales out there.

Finally, PLB's are a part of SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) and are intended for maritime coverage.  I understand things run quite differently away from oceans and open water.  Great lakes may be fine, but I'd research  just what the response might be on a remote inland river, for instance.  SPOT is intended for inland rescue.  What I wrote above may not apply to inland areas.

Edited by josko
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