Satellite Phones – A New Necessity?


Roadpost – Rent an Iridium Satellite Phone Once a 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 2006 kayaked three days in the Garden Islands in Northern Lake Michigan, launching from the Upper Peninsula. Looking at a [map of the area]( shows how long the crossings can be, and how isolated from commercial and recreational boat traffic.

The wind blew continuously to the northeast out of Green Bay — a long fetch — causing very high waves up to six feet.

The area is quite remote and for three days, our party of three didn’t see another vessel when we were out on the water… as we crossed for miles from island to island, my mind got to gnawing on whether help would arrive in time if we got into trouble.

In sea kayaking capsizes in bad weather can tend to have a nasty cascading effect with second and third failures compounding the initial capsize. For example, a second kayak capsizes rescuing the first, flares fail to work in the rain, the victim is hypothermic, then cell phone gets wet, then everyone gets hypothermic and can’t make sound decisions,  etc.

Handheld VHFs like ours have a very limited a range of 1 to 3 miles – which would have been useless to us, unless a vessel happened to come by.

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…
garden islands 2006.jpg
Two long-range emergency communications are available, a GPS beacon or EPIRB (Emergency Personal Infrared Radio Beacon), or a Satellite Phone. Satellite phone rentals now make this otherwise prohibitively expensive option easily in the reach of the sea kayaker or other wilderness adventurers.

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.



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