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Little Wonder

Able to track distance and speed, Garmin’s pocket-size inReach Mini is small but mighty.

They say luck favors the prepared: Pack a raincoat and it won’t rain. Pack the Garmin inReach Mini emergency satellite communication device ($350, with subscriptions starting at $12/month) and you won’t need to use it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, because it’s packed with handy features for even the smoothest days. The pocket-size handheld can track distance, speed and trip time, and you can even request the weather forecast (there’s an upcharge for marine locations). Rain in the forecast? No problem. The inReach Mini can withstand rain, splashes and submersion at 3 feet for up to 30 minutes.

inReach Mini

inReach Mini

The inReach’s claim to fame, however, is its interactive SOS and satellite messaging capabilities. Using Garmin’s global satellite network, you can send and receive texts to alert others to your whereabouts. (You can also post on social media, which seems superfluous.) An SOS button, equipped with a cover to keep it from being accidentally pressed, activates a coordinated emergency response from GEOS Worldwide. If a full-scale emergency response isn’t what you need, you’ll want to type a custom message, and on the 0.9-inch by 0.9-inch screen, that’s tricky. It took me over two minutes to type “Rough seas. Be back at 4” using the ribbon of letters (it’s not even big enough for a mini keyboard).

In an emergency, speed is everything. To make typing faster, you can pair the device to your phone using Bluetooth and the free Earthmate app. (It took me three seconds to type -“Sinking, send help” on my smartphone.) Messages send quickly when the device has a clear view of the sky, and it checks for incoming messages regularly so you can get confirmation that your message was received—and stay updated on the status of the emergency response. The battery lasts up to 50 hours with 10-minute tracking and 2-minute logging, according to the manufacturer.

The Mini is truly mini, weighing in at just 3.5 ounces. But since pairing it with your phone is the only way to type with any efficiency, don’t forget to factor in the weight of your smartphone (around 6 ounces). It’s a great addition to your onboard safety kit, especially since it alerts you that help is on the way. But because it’s not completely waterproof, you might want to pack a drybag in case things really go south.

Online Education: Safety & Rescue at Sea

“Safety and Rescue at Sea” is replete with practical tips for dealing with emergencies on the water, but the most valuable insights it offers are about preparation and evaluating risk. Knowing how to prepare and how to parse danger create a boating environment in which crises are far less likely to happen, and if disaster does strike, the course will have prepared you to cope more effectively.

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This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.