Once the only the privilege of the military elite, Satellite phones have hit the mainstream, with rental plans for as little as $7 per day – a small insurance fee for a potentially life-saving technology.
During July I kayaked three days in the Garden Islands in Northern Lake Michigan, launching from the Upper Peninsula. The wind blew continuously over a long fetch (up from the length of Green Bay to the Northeast), and waves grew to six feet.
The area is quite remote and our party of three didn’t see another vessel when we were out on the water.
Sea kayaking mishaps tend to have a cascading effect with second and third failures compounding the initial capsize. For example, a second kayak capsizes rescuing the first, flares fail to work, the victim is hypothermic, the cell phone gets wet etc.).
In a remote area our handheld VHF has a range of 1 to 3 miles – which would have been useless to us if we had capsized many miles from the nearest port.
It is my personal wilderness policy to make a review of any safety issues and take action to prevent them in the future. I was not comfortable that we had an adequate emergency communication should we need it. Fortunately we didn’t have reason, as we avoided an emergency… but next time I want to be sure, and began researching emergency communications options.
Two long-range emergency communications are available, a GPS beacon or EPIRB (Emergency Personal Infrared Radio Beacon), and a Satellite Phone.
Satellite phone rentals now make this otherwise prohibitively expensive option easily in the reach of the sea kayak or other wilderness adventurer. Simply rent the phone for delivery in time for your scheduled departure, and bring the waterproof box.
Roadpost seems to be a well-organized service, but others are available. The principal brands manufactured are Iridium and Qualcomm products.