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Vol 47 | Num 14 | Aug 3, 2022

Offshore Report Ocean City Report Ship to Shore Chum Lines Delaware Report The Galley Virginia Report Issue Photos
Ship to Shore

Article by Capt. Steve Katz

Tournament Talking

The handheld satellite communicator was once a futuristic device on Star Trek, but now many offshore boaters carry a similar device. With tournament season in full swing, most offshore captains, crew and anglers want and need a way to communicate to other distant boats or to friends and family on shore. There are over a half dozen two-way satellite communicators available today, though there are a few rugged satellite communicators that are a good match for offshore boating.

The Garmin InReach, Iridium GO! and the new ACR Bivy Stick. These are all two-way communicators, able to send and receive a text message to any text capable phone or device. Garmin inReach, ACR Bivy Stick and of course the Iridium GO!® all use the Iridium satellite network to send and receive messages. The differences are in the hardware functionality and the costs, both initial purchase and airtime plans.

The InReach starts at $350, The Bivy stick is $250, and the Iridium GO!® starts at $800.


In 2011 DeLorm launched a device called “InReach," a worldwide handheld satellite communication and SOS device that fits in your pocket. The company was purchased by Garmin 6 years ago and the InReach device is still one of the most popular satellite communicators. The product received a Garmin makeover and was originally offered in two Garmin versions, one with a built-in map and one without. In the following years Garmin introduced additional InReach products to fill out their product offering to meet the needs of consumers -currently: inReach mini, inReach® Mini 2, GPSMAP® 86i and GPSMAP® 86sci. The inReach includes a smartphone app that allows users to use their smartphone to send and receive messages and integrates their existing contacts.

The 86 Series devices include a screen that allows you to use the device without a smartphone. The SOS function connects you to the IERCC, International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center based in the USA to coordinate emergency service.

Note: the newest inReach Mini 2 has a better battery, better screen, more storage memory, more GPS satellite systems, built in compass and other improvements over the inReach Mini 1, though it still requires a connected smartphone for full functionality.

ACR Bivy Stick

The newest marine oriented satellite communicator is the ACR Bivy Stick. Introduced a year ago by ACR, this device is the most compact and least expensive satellite two-way satellite messenger and app, the Bivy Stick also includes an SOS function in conjunction with a global rescue center. The Bivy Stick offers an innovative and affordable option for sending SMS messages, tracking, sharing location information, accessing GPS maps, viewing live weather forecasts and initiating a distress call in an emergency. With no activation fees and one of the lowest monthly costs starting at $20/month, this is the least expensive airtime plan in the marketplace. Additionally, the Bivy Stick service is good for seasonal users, allowing you to use the service on a month to month basis without long term plans or activation fees. The Bivy Stick ties into the ACR app on a smartphone that synchronizes with your contacts. The SOS functions work with "Global Rescue", a US based company that specializes in travel emergencies.

Iridium GO!

The Iridium GO! is like the above devices, with one major additional feature – voice phone calls. Using the accompanying Iridium GO! smartphone app, you can make voice calls or send text messages with the device. It can also connect you to an email service and some social media services. The Iridium GO! has a flip up antenna, small status display and built in networking to connect up to 5 smartphones or similar devices, though you can only use one device at a time. The SOS function connects you to the same service as the inReach uses the IERCC, International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center based in the USA.


These three devices transmit and receive data to the Iridium satellite constellation which offers true global coverage. Iridium has 66 active satellites in a low earth orbit (485 miles above the earth surface). The Iridium constellation is comprised of six orbital planes spaced 30° apart, with 11 satellites in each plane. This allows for continuous global coverage, meaning you do not need to wait for a satellite to pass overhead to send or receive a message. Side note: there are a few countries that limit or regulate satellite communicators, including but not limited to: India, China, Iran, Cuba, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Chad, Sudan, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia, and North Korea so be aware where you travel with your satellite device.

Emergency Use

The private rescue center coordinates a rescue by alerting local agencies in your geographic area and provides rescuers with your information and location so they can take over the rescue. For comparison, an EPIRB’s or PLB’s are automatic rugged floating lifesaving devices whose only purpose is to send an emergency signal to “government” satellites that are monitored by a regulated worldwide network of international government agencies who coordinate a global rescue. There is no cost or fees to subscribe to the EPIRB/PLB monitoring network and often no charge for bonified emergency rescue.

These satellite communicators offer a low-cost, straightforward way to stay in touch with friends and family on land and others on the water. They are a good fit for all offshore boaters.§

Coastal Fisherman Merch
CF Merch



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