Adventure Zone, & more Spot Hug details


Though already a fan of SPOT for reasonably easy and inexpensive boat tracking, I didn’t realize until yesterday that there is a slick way to track whole fleets of Spot-equipped vessels (or back country runners, dog sleds, whatever), even with photos and commentary on the same site.  Go to the Adventure Zone and select the NARC Rally for a current example.  I’m not sure, but the service — provided by TrackMe360, which rents Spots, among other things — may even be free.  And note how spread out and “off course” the NARC fleet (more info here) is, due to the atrocious weather that’s plagued the Northeast lately.  One thing I’m more sure of is that boats like these will find Spot services easier to use once they can install Hug systems, instead of using handhelds…

When Panbo readers tested Spot offshore, the biggest complaints involved the difficulty of mounting them on deck and keeping their batteries fresh.  And while the Spot2 model is smaller and has an easier interface, it seems to go through lithium batteries quicker than the original. By contrast, the main tracker component of the Hug system — seen at right below — can mount under a fiberglass deck and can be wired to a boat’s 12 or 24 volt supply, though it can also run, or fail back to, internal batteries.  A Hug user will also have three different wireless ways to send off two customizable messages, or an SOS, or activate 24 hours of tracking (note on the Rally screen how some boats are using tracking, which costs $50/yr extra, while others are just sending an OK message every watch change or so).  While Hug was previewed at NMEA, a lot more details were revealed in Fort Lauderdale…


As you can read in the Lauderdale announcement here, Hug is scheduled to ship in December for $450.  A $150 {correction!} subscription will get you unlimited messaging, just like the handheld, plus unlimited “asset protection.”  The manual isn’t available yet, but I gather that the latter is armed whenever a fob (in your pocket) leaves the wireless range of the tracker, which contains motion sensors so that it isn’t constantly running its GPS to know your boat is still.  When the armed Hug does detect motion, it starts sending alerts with position updates every five minutes to Spot’s call center, who will contact you and the authorities as necessary.  And that’s not all…


As demonstrated on a large yacht in Lauderdale — with lots of iPads for the web and email portion of the demos — the Hug can also monitor a boat’s battery bank and/or up to four inputs like intrusion and high water alarms.  (They had the latter set up in the on-deck hot tub!)  These are handled like regular Spot messages, in that you set them up on your FindMeSpot account web page where you can also designate a list of up to ten email or sms addresses to receive alerts, a different list for each sensor if you wish.  Each alert event (no matter how many messages it involves) will cost you$1.50, which will encourage good sensors installs, but you’ll also be able to pre-purchase bundles of sensor alerts at lower cost, like $50 for 50 events…


It may take a while for boaters to understand all that Hug can do for them, but might it be the right bundle of services at a good enough cost/install/performance level to make tracking and off-boat security/monitoring more than a small niche market?  Your thoughts, please.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

19 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    By the way, if you drill down on the NARC Adventrue Zone site, you’ll see that Airielle is skippered by Panbo friend Bruce Schwab.
    Also, the reason I got into Spot this windy, wet weekend was because I’m helping two colleagues at Yachting get ready for a similar Newport/Bermuda/Caribbean passage. When the weather allows. I know they’ll also be carrying an EPIRB as their primary SOS device, as I’m sure Bruce and the other NARC boats are doing.

  2. Tim Flanagan says:

    I’m extremely excited about the potential of this SPOT HUG product. Although I still hate the name: “HUG”…seriously, guys? 🙂
    I’m impressed with the top-shelf GOST vessel monitoring and tracking products, but for many of us, with smaller boats (and smaller boat budgets!), the SPOT unit may be, as you suggest, just enough, at just the right price.

  3. Adam says:

    My thoughts are that I am frustrated by the proliferation of monitoring and alert systems that lack provision for integration with existing onboard sensors. I really don’t think that it’s the place of my security system to connect directly to the bilge sensors, smoke detectors, CO monitors, and shore power shunts I probably already have. I’d like to see SPOT — and Paradox, and Marine Guard, etc. — acknowledge that more and more boats are already monitoring these things locally and provide a way to access the data already being aggregated. Yes, I’m talking about N2K and Ethernet and even a serial connection.
    But perhaps I don’t understand this product. At the price point it seems like the sort of thing that a marine electronics installer would put in, not an end user. As such, ease of system integration should be a key product feature. Reading the press release, though, suggests that SPOT’s focus is a bit more on the plug-and-play aspects of the HUG. I’d be much more interested in a dedicated communication box with a built-in web server for configuration and knowledge of relevant N2K PGNS (AC and DC power, tank level, etc.).

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Agreed, Tim, “Hybrid Universal Guardian” was a mouthful and even Spot seems to have dropped the phrase. Check out the GOST Immobilizer for a different approach to small boat security. I’m trying and it works well.
    Adam, Maretron will soon make N2K-to-Ethernet/Web pretty easy for users of N2KView, though you’ll still have to provide your own shore link. What Spot has going for it is that nearly global satellite short message service. But then again, Iridium has truly global two-way short messaging, and no doubt we’ll start seeing products based on their new little modem soon. I’d guess that if Hug is a success, an N2K version might follow.

  5. Adam says:

    Ben, yes I understand that if I already have some sort of Internet connection I can already use N2KView to transmit alerts via email (or email-to-SMS gateway) if something goes wrong.
    Your point about SPOT (and Iridium) offering global (or “not global” in SPOT’s case) short messaging is precisely correct: and wouldn’t it make sense to expose that network to the 50 or so data-generating devices already on my boat?

  6. Rich G. says:

    One of the simplistic approaches embraced by the SPOT HUG design is that it’s bare wire connectors leave it available to a multidue of sensor options that are not neccessarily proprietary. Simply put, any sensor that can provide an “open” or “Closed” circuit can be monitored by the HUG.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    My friends George and Arnie are finally underway and their Spot2 is tracking well:

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    This week’s header photo is for George and Arnie who have been in seas something like those since Thursday and are now in about the same place I took that photo in 1978. George blogged about the wait before the voyage here:
    but I’m looking forward to reading what he has to say about the ride! The boys are getting some short emails out, which is how I know they’re in 10-15 footers, with occasional 25’s, and they’re struggling with a failing alternator. It’s amazing how well the Spot2 is tracking in those conditions; it’s hardly missed a 10 minute message in nearly 400 tries.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Spot tracking shows that Sea Mist did a big, slow loop-de-loop just after dawn this morning, a rigging problem is my wild guess. But now they’re up to speed again, though perhaps toward Bermuda (which they’d been planning to skip because of their late start). Note how they’re sending Spot messages to family and friends (limit of 10 addresses per message type) at around midday. That was my suggestion, as I think we’ll be able to turn the data into something like a traditional noon position (once I mull through all the possibilities of Spot Sharing, Spot Adventure, Adventure Zone, and the various data output formats):

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    It turns out that Sea Mist’s odd morning track was all about drifting in light air because the alternator had busted again. A jury rig is in place, but untrusted, and the boys are nursing the Shannon 43 to Bermuda for real repairs. Arnie reports, via Iridium or Globalstar and OCENS email, that he’s been “dismantling things in order to provide parts for the many alternator repairs…like burning the walls of your house for firewood.”
    I just saw weather router Susan Genett’s forecast for the next few days to Bermuda and it’s impressively detailed. It was also Susan who first spotted the odd track this morning. She seems like a great ally to have when you’re way out there:

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Sea Mist is making the classic Northern approach to Bermuda, and will be in St. George late tonight unless they decide to stand off:
    George and Arnie’s recent blog entries suggest a stressful voyage:

  12. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks to Spot I watched Sea Mist motor through the cut and tie up next to the customs house in St. George. I dare say there will be some deep sleep aboard tonight.
    I also created a rudimentary Spot Adventure page that shows the whole track and (mostly) noon time messages. They logged 965 miles at 6.5 mph average (though missed a few miles of track when messaging).

  13. norse says:

    re tracking fleets, Steve Dashew mentioned today that he has a Yellowbrick for the ARC Atlantic crossing, with photo:
    He says it uses an Iridium 9601, recently mentioned on Panbo.
    The Yellowbrick blog has an impressive gallery of fleets they have tracked:

  14. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Norse, It’s the smaller, better, cheaper 9602 SBD modem that I wrote about last winter:
    I understand that the modems are in production, but I’m not sure any of the third party devices that use them are shipping yet. However, I understand that there will be lots of choices when they do get to market.
    The Yellowbrick looks great for fleet rental use like this, because there is zero training or underway management involved, and very high reliability I assume. But the standard model does cost 1,300 pounds and $25/month.

  15. Oscar says:

    I’m still not sure about the Spot Hug…Here’s my $0.02.
    The majority of issues onboard, with exception of theft, occur while a vessel is located at its slip. This inlcudes shore power disconnect, dead batteries, bilge, fire, etc… The HUG is sending notifications via satellite. Their technoogy is Simplex (one-way) and transmissions are expensive. It seems like this product is really designed for vessel tracking… I’ve seen another products that cost half as much and use land-based infrastructure to communicate intrusion, vessel monitoring and more. It was offered at a Marina in San Diego as an amenity. Spot has a reputation for tracking people, not monitoring onboard conditions. This HUG is a location aware security system. If you don’t hardwire it, you’ll be changing batteries way too often. I also can’t seem to find a battery voltage sensor or if the software has the ability for a user to set parameters for sensor to alert.
    Just my thoughts.

  16. Rich says:

    Oscar. Good point about the less expensive options using GSM technology instaed of Satellite. The reality is that most of the GSM systems aren’t that much cheaper and of course if you happen to be in a place that has poor or no GSM reception then your out of luck no matter what the price. Second scenario is that people who cruise in the Bahamas (like I do) or the Caribbean or anywhere that GSM coverage is not available or has a roaming charge really make this option less appealing and more expensive.
    The ultimate attraction to the HUG is that it offers a lot of value for the price. 1) The anti theft capability via Satellite at a better price than anything on the market (My insurance company was pretty happy about that). 2) The ability as a Satellite Communicator thrown in (if you use SPOT then you get what I’m talking about). 3) The Distress Capability included (yes I have an automatic GPIRB as well). 4) Tracking (which you eluded to as a strong SPOT feature). 5)Vessel Monitoring as well (which will run me a few dollars a year when it’s all said and done).
    All this for a $400 price on the unit (By the way every other system on the market no matter what the technology costs more than this for the base unit) and a roughly $200 a year service cost just blows everything else away in total value in my opinion.
    By the way. SPOT is coming out with a Low Voltage sensor for around $250 next month.

  17. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Panbo reader Michael Wilson is underway from the Galapagos to French Polynesia with SPOT tracking enabled. He should lose contact eventually, according to the coverage map, but he’s showing up now:
    And has anyone tried HUG?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Ben, you mentioned “As demonstrated on a large yacht in Lauderdale -…- the Hug can also monitor a boat’s battery bank ….”. I would like to find out what part to use to monitor the voltage and activate the sensor when too low. Besides the $180 accessory from Spot LLC, any (lower cost) suggestions?

  19. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I don’t know of alternatives to the Spot voltage sensor, nor why it costs as much as it does. I had hoped to try the Hug system but it hasn’t happened yet. Asides from the battery sensor, are you happy with how it works, Anon? Any other Hug user want to report in?

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