|Of Seas and Satellites|
in touch while getting away from it all.
By Tim Clark — March 2001
Take a week to cruise secluded waters, and your boat can seem like a world unto herself: gratifyingly self-contained, isolated, and restful. Set a course for distant shores, and these satisfying sensations intensify.
There are few better ways to get away from it all. Yet how many of us want to be entirely cut off from family and friends left behind on land? And how wise is it to completely abandon your business, even for a matter of days? Only a few years ago such concerns compelled a lot of boaters to limit many a voyage to within cellphone range. The time for more ambitious boating was there, but convenient, reliable, and reasonably affordable means of keeping in touch with kith and kin--to say nothing of stockbrokers and business partners--didn't exist. As for an onboard satellite communications system, the cost was--forgive me--sky high. That has changed. In recent years prices have become less astronomical.
The International Maritime Satellite Organization (Inmarsat), MarineSat (Motient's marine satellite service through Stratos), and Globalstar are the leaders among satellite networks serving the North American market and offering the most practical and economical options available to pleasureboaters. Of these, Inmarsat has the widest geographical coverage and, having been in operation since 1981, is the oldest. Founded as an intergovernmental international consortium to serve the International Maritime Organization's Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), Inmarsat expanded its services in the late `80s to include telephone, fax, and data capabilities for fixed and mobile satellite terminals on land and at sea nearly worldwide. Only the polar regions--above 76 degrees north latitude and below 76 degrees south--are beyond the system's reach.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.