|Don’t Worry, Be Happy|
| In Touch Down Island
By Richard Thiel — July 2001
When Capt. Bill Pike invited me on a cruise to the Berrys, one of the Bahamas' least-developed island chains, I wanted to go but couldn't justify a week out of the office during which I'd be completely out of touch. There are telephones in the Berrys, but they're few and very far between, and the Bahamian telephone system--landline or cellular--is often regarded by cruising yachtsmen as the communications equivalent of the Yugo.
What I needed was a satphone. Since our Nordhavn 35 was not so equipped, I called the folks at Globalstar, whose coverage map shows service throughout the Bahamas. They sent me a Qualcomm trimode (satellite and two cellular services) handset, about the size of a TV remote.
Using the Qualcomm phone is intuitive. It has two antennas, one for cellular and one for satphone. You simply switch on the phone and look for the icons on the easy-to-read LCD that tell you which services are available. Choose the service, then deploy the appropriate antenna and dial your number.
I tried making a call on our overnight passage from Miami to Great Harbor Cay but couldn't get a satellite connection. However, once we were on the Banks, I never had a problem. Voice quality was remarkable. The people I called couldn't believe I was on a satphone, and they sounded like they were next door. However, the service was not without glitches. I was occasionally cut off in the middle of a call, although if I walked just a couple of feet away, the signal always returned. In one case I was cut off seven times during a five-minute call, each time reconnecting after moving a few steps. I did not try the voice mail or data transmission services.
As Globalstar picked up the costs of our calls, I can't comment on what a week of connectivity cost. The company offers a number of monthly calling plans ranging from $24.95 for five minutes to $399.95 for 500 minutes. Voice mail is extra. Suggested retail price for the Qualcomm handset is $899.
Globalstar Phone: (877) 728-7466. Fax: (925) 988-4567. www.globalstar.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.