October 31, 2014

Sat Phone Use and Plan Auto-Renewal

We use our Satellite Phone for voice and SMS [free incoming...] as well as email through the very efficient UUplus eMail service for the bandwidth challenged. [We can also use UUplus with our HF radio and Pactor modem.]

Most of these methods of communications use Sat Phone minutes, or in the case of Iridium, 20 second increments of time. Therefore keeping track of time used [costs] is important to us.

You can test your Iridium Sat phone by calling [no charge] 1-480-752-5105. If your phone is working, you will hear a call completion confirmation message.

If you call or text 2888 [FREE] from your Iridium phone you get the following response in kind:
On: 2014-11-01 02:32:04 [-8], [Iridium replied via SMS:]

You have 112 minutes. Your account will expire on Nov 07, 2014. [i.e., This is the plan renewal date: unused minutes roll forward if you keep renewing this plan.] This account has no minutes expiring between now and May 01, 2015. [New from Iridium is roll-forward minutes can only age 3 years... No problemo...]
For now we use a special pre-paid plan that offers reduced rates in return for only allowing our phone to receive calls while in Alaska and Canada [We can call anywhere...] Like cell phone voice plans of old, our unused minutes roll forward. Therefore we set up auto-renewal with our vendor when we first activated our current plan in May-2014. (And of course, so we can continue to use the phone... Duh.)

Since then some wonderful friends surprised us by paying for several auto-renewals!

Wow. What did we do to deserve such fantastic friends who are simultaneously selflessly generous and gluttons for punishment? [Be careful what you ask for (or enable...)]

We will adjust sat phone plans as our needs change, and we will keep a close eye on new satellite communications technology like the Iridium Go. [Of course, such hotspot devices will be far more useful once Iridium upgrades their satellites so data is faster than the current speed of 2.4kbps...]

Why Iridium? For now they offer the best high-latitude coverage of the sat phone carriers.

For more details see our Satellite Communications page.

October 30, 2014

Putting her to bed for the winter...

It is nice to be back on the boat again, even if it is only to prepare her for our absence the next couple of months... [Uh Oh; Her again. For those who read the Dream and the Search page, you know Robert (French: 'row-bear') will be getting disgruntled... again...]

Taking care of the home in Fairbanks where the weather is far more extreme than in Wrangell (where the boat is slipped) takes priority.

While I'm here, along with the usual seasonal maintenance, I'll also be installing a remote monitoring system from Siren Marine.

It will send SMS and eMail messages based upon how we configure it (and we can do so remotely...)

For example, we will be monitoring:
  • Temperature inside the boat
  • Bilge pump cycles and duration
  • High water alarm (in bilge) [based upon sensor placement]
  • Motion detection in the main cabin [Intruder alert]
  • Boat battery voltage [set notification thresholds]
  • Shore power on or off [notify if off]
  • Location [and it will notify us if the boat has moved, and track it if so]
  • Etc.
Here is a follow-up post regarding the Siren Marine device and service.