5th February 2022
The 406 Epirb wasn’t really a new toy. My old GME Epirb’s battery had expired so it needed renewing. When I phoned Sartech they offered me a tempting upgrade to the version which has a built in GPS. It can save rescue time if the Epirb incorporates a GPS, so it seemed a no-brainer to pay the difference and get the upgrade. I sent off my old one for deactivation and the new one arrived very swiftly. What is so lovely about these gizmos is that there are no charger cables involved, no pairing to other devices – just screw the bracket on the bulkhead and you are almost ready to go. I say, “almost” because you do need to register the device:
It is amazingly painless. You can add a couple of shore contacts and some text to explain your normal cruising area. It is useful to keep all this data updated every year because if you have just divorced from your shore contact they may say to the rescuers “You are outside mowing the lawn” so that the search gets called off. It also must help if you have noted that you are cruising to Greenland and a distress call comes from that region. They might be reluctant to send a chopper to Greenland if your Epirb registration says that you normally cruise the Stour and Orwell.
The GME MT603G is considerably smaller than the old Lokata Epirb that I had in the 1990’s but quite a lot bigger than the other gizmo that has just arrived – the Garmin Inreach Mini
I have purchased this device mainly for shore excursions but also because it can open up options for Search and Rescue insurance which can be diabolically expensive to cover Greenland. I will do a separate post about insurance in the near future. Unlike the simplicity of setting up the GME Epirb, this device has been a bit of a devil. It is probably just me but I find all this IT stuff very confusing.
Firstly you need to activate it by going to explore.garmin.com. You will have to choose a payment plan because it relies on the Iridium satellite network. You can pay more and choose monthly, or save a bit (pro-rata) and go for an annual subscription. I went monthly, but I bet I’ll forget to cancel it.
The website seemed to have several glitches. It made me fill in all the contact details six times before it eventually allowed me to move to the next screen. There were several dead-end links showing up error pages. This is all a bit scary when you might be trusting the device to rescue you. It actually took me an hour to learn how to turn off the machine (via Youtube) and then it seemed to happen by accident. So unlike most Garmin kit which I find quite intuitive, this little beast was amazingly frustrating.
To add to these tasks you also need to pair the gizmo with your smart phone if you want to use your phone for texting. You can text using the Inreach Mini by itself but it would be amazingly slow. You can however preload standard texts so it should be possible to quickly send messages such as: “Just setting off”, “Being chased by a herd of musk oxen” and “Safely back on board” relatively easily. I’ll find out tomorrow!
There is a flap on the side which can be lifted to send an SOS message. The rescuers will text you if they receive the alert and you should respond back but God knows how long it would take to send back a text. I’ll have a play with it.
The Garmin Inreach Mini will also send out tracking points which can be set to go off at various intervals. Friends can follow the track somehow. Once I get this sorted out I will put a link on this website.
They supply a charger cable to charge it up. No doubt it will be completely different to the bucket of other charger cables that I have!
I have just done one of my “Idiot Sheets” as a quick reminder of the instructions.
- GME Epirb was supplied by: Sartech Engineering Limited, 13 Trowers Way, Holmethorpe Industrial Estate, Redhill, Surrey, RH1 2LH UK. Excellent service – you can even talk to real people on the phone, marvellous stuff.
- I paid £299.00 to include VAT. I did return my old Epirb which they deactivated for me.
- Registration was free and very easy on the Government website.
- The Garmin Inreach Mini was purchased from Ordinance Survey. I paid £239.00. I believe a new version has been released – yesterday would you believe! That may be why Ordinance Survey were discounting their stock. I believe the new version has better battery life. Too late now!
- Battery life on the Inreach Mini is up to 90 hours. Rechargeable via USB.
- Weight just 100 g which is impressive
- Registration was frustrating.
- Running costs. I pay £14.99 per month plus a one-off annual charge of about £30.00 but payment plans are complex and worth studying in detail. I pay per tracking point. Some plans offer unlimited tracking points but I’ll probably set mine for every half hour so it will only be £4.80 per 24 hour day (when the tracking is turned on)