Courtesy ACR, Garmin, Iridium, Spot X, Zoleo, Apple
Special delivery: Sign up for the free Boating email newsletter. Subscribe to Boating magazine for $14 for 1 year and receive 4 bonus digital issues.
Communications devices using satellite technology are more abundant today than any time in the past. What’s more, many are portable, ultra-compact, relatively affordable and designed for boating, dispelling any perceptions that you need a big, expensive dome antenna aloft to access satellite communications.
Today’s portable satellite communicators can wirelessly integrate with mobile devices to turn your smartphone into a satphone when cruising or fishing outside cell coverage. This lets you stay connected anywhere and provides a means of hailing rescue agencies. Here are examples.
ACR Bivy Stick
The waterproof Bivy Stick from ACR wirelessly turns your cellphone into a satphone. Using the Iridium satellite network, it includes text messaging, an SOS button to contact the Bivy Global Rescue Center, location sharing and weather reports. You can also activate the SOS feature through the Bivy app. Measuring 4.47 inches long by 1.85 inches wide by 0.83 inches deep, it provides you with a dedicated phone number and email so that others also can reach you. $299.99, plus a satellite service plan starting at as little as $14.99 per month; acrartex.com
Garmin inReach Mini 2
Garmin’s inReach Mini 2 satellite communicator and navigation device offers messaging and can send an interactive SOS message to the Garmin International Emergency Response Coordination Center. It automatically records activities and stores routes. Measuring 4 inches tall by 2 inches wide, the IPX7 waterproof-rated device wirelessly pairs with Garmin GPSMap series chart plotters and the quatix 7 series marine GPS smartwatches. It includes a rechargeable lithium battery and 12-volt power cable. $449.99, with plans as low as $11.95 per month; garmin.com
The Iridium Go taps into the Iridium satellite network to serve as a waterproof onboard Wi-Fi hotspot for voice calling and text messaging with your smartphone using the Iridium Go app. It also offers the ability to send one-touch SOS alerts for 24/7 emergency assistance, access GPS data, and receive weather forecasts. Measuring 4.5 inches long by 3.23 inches wide by 1.26 inches high, the unit features a lay-flat design, a flip-up antenna and a simple user interface. The rechargeable battery provides up to five and a half hours of talk time. Starting at about $855, plus a service plan as low as $65 per month; iridium.com
The waterproof Spot X device serves as a satellite messaging device to communicate with family, fishing buddies and business colleagues, as well as access 24/7 search and rescue services in case of emergency. The SOS feature enables messaging back and forth about the nature of your distress. You can also wirelessly connect your smartphone to the device via the Spot X app. Measuring 6.54 inches high by 2.9 inches wide by 0.94 inches deep, Spot X provides you with a personal mobile US phone number so others can message you directly from their cellphones or other SMS devices at any time. $249.99, plus a service plan starting as low as $11.95 per month; findmespot.com
The waterproof satellite communicator from Zoleo provides seamless messaging, SOS alerting and location awareness. Measuring 3.35 inches long by 2.6 inches wide by 1.06 inches high, it pairs with mobile devices via Bluetooth and the free Zoleo app to provide messaging via the Iridium satellite network. This lets you message your contacts, check weather forecasts, and share your GPS coordinates with family and friends. It offers more than 200 hours of battery life on a single charge. $199.99, plus a service plan starting at $20 per month for 25 satellite messages; zoleo.com
You don’t need a portable satellite communicator to turn a cellphone into a satphone if you have Apple’s iPhone 14. It is available with an emergency SOS feature, which enables you to message emergency services such as 911 and other first responders via satellite when outside cellular and Wi-Fi coverage. You can also reassure others of your whereabouts while boating outside cell range by opening the Find My iPhone app and sharing your location via satellite. The service uses the Globalstar satellite network and requires a clear view of the sky, as is the case with all portable satellite communicators. The service is free for the first two years after activating the iPhone 14 or 14 Pro.