DeLorme inReach gets weather & goes to Cuba

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.

28 Responses

  1. Kees says:

    Mega cool. I’m eagerly awaiting Iridium Next…

  2. Rick R says:

    I notice that Earthmate iPad screen shows a speed of 115 MPH. Is that a really fast boat, or a really slow airplane.

  3. Looks like “0.115 MPH” to me Rick.. 🙂
    Cool device, Ben – seems like just yesterday that the world dropped away when you left the dock.

  4. Kees says:

    Or that ordering a book wasn’t a one click affair. Eccentric Orbits beaming to my Kindle right now!

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I think you’ll love it, Kees. As well as the Iridium story, there’s lots of interesting tech history, like a footnote about how Hedy Lamarr helped invent CDMA with 12 player pianos:

  6. Matthew says:

    I just did an offshore passage from Annapolis to Newport and had great luck with the weather report. I was anxiously looking as a cyclone was feared to develop behind us. The only thing I see that the weather update lacks is a grib file download. Something like the Iridium Go features would do the trick.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Here’s a thorough description of what it’s like to arrive at Marina Hemingway in your own boat, which included bagging up the Iridium sat phone:
    I assume that all the cruisers at Hemingway get to the nearby and amazing neighborhood art project known as Fusterlandia:

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Incidentally, boat insurance was getting to be the biggest impediment to U.S. boats wanting to cruise Cuba, but that too just changed. Peter Swanson has the story:

  9. Don Joyce says:

    The move by the insurance companies insuring boats in Cuba is a move in the right direction! Now we need the USCG to lift the time duration limit. The high rate due to the “lack of marine repair infrastructure” is a bit of a red herring. There are plenty of areas without any repair infrastructure that are now covered by Pantaenius. Nonetheless,3 cheers for Pantaenius for taking the lead!

  10. Richard C says:

    I just got back from cruising Chesapeake to Bermuda and back with the latest firmware in my inReach Explorer and the Weather feature available, however, in mid-ocean I received an “unavailable” error message when trying to get a weather report. Seems not all ocean areas are up to speed on this new feature.
    I also found that my non-technically savvy friends and family could not figure out how to message or track me after receiving the invitation to Mapshare. Delorme needs to make this part of the process much easier then it is now or explain how to message and track in a clear, simple and understandable way for those who never heard of inReach or Panbo. Again, my wife thought a I was gone for good:)

  11. Phil Chernin says:

    Let me take Richard’s comments a few steps further. I am the former CEO and an investor in a number of software companies. InReach is one of the worst user interfaces I have ever seen. In my recent trip from Anacortes to Haida Gwaii we had to develop a separate set of instructions to do various task on the InReach, as the manual and other instructions were terrible.
    Ben, we need your help here. While InReach is the best of its genre, the UI is so poor that it needs someone of your stauture to beat them over the head for a total over haul of the user interface.
    I can tell you I have talked to many people who have thrown their InReach in a drawer becuase the UI is so fruatrating!
    Now that Garmin owns InReach lets upgrade the UI to something more friendly.Thanks for the help.
    Defever 49, RPH

  12. Richard C says:

    Phil, I totally agree. This was my first impression of the inReach Explorer, but I kept thinking it was just me not getting it. After introducing the Explorer to my crew they opted not to use it or have their family bother texting or tracking. Delorme’s training videos tell me the engineers know how to use every feature, however fail to clearly relate this to non technical users. There are terms used that just set up confusion such as tracking points vs. tracking interval. But, there is more then one interval??? Are they kidding? At the end of my Bermuda trip I decided to sell the Explorer and get a Satellite phone instead. The Explorer could be a great tool but not in it’s present form.

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Well, wow, I’m sorry to hear about such inReach frustration as I’ve been such a proponent, and I’ll certainly try to make sure that DeLorme takes note. But then again, I just looked at my own MapShare again…
    …and I’m not sure how they could make it any more obvious how to send me a message. The point I was trying to make in the entry is that most of us are so in reach all the time via phone, email, text, Facebook, etc. that it’s hard to realize that someone else might only have this very thin connection that requires going to a either MapShare or to the message link at the bottom of inReach emails.
    I’m curious, Richard and Phil, if either of you was using the Earthmate app interface to the inReach? I find it much easier than the UI on the handheld itself, especially for messaging (though I noticed that the handheld does have better word completion now).
    It will certainly be interesting to see what Garmin will do with the inReach platform, but I have to add that I have found their Connect app and Quatix 3 watch ecology pretty darn complicated, though also full of features I value and interfaces that try like crazy to be easy. This stuff is HARD!
    A recent episode of Silicon Valley called “Daily Active Users” is relevant and very funny:

  14. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ben
    I too have used the InReach and think it great – but I had many friends that could not log on while I was on trip to Nova Scotia. And once on a trip it is hard to try to troubleshoot any problems they are having.
    To this point, I am trying to find our if there is a way to link the data for tracking to be shown on a blog or website. I want to add it to blog for upcoming Great Loop trip and would like to not have folks go to multiple sites to read the blog and then look up where I am.
    Any help or suggestions would be appreciated
    Ron O

  15. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Ron, I’ve been curious about that too and found out how you can insert your MapShare into your website as an iframe:
    In fact, I tried it:
    There’s very little control, except for height and width, but it does seem to nicely duplicate my MapShare as I’ve set that up.
    inReach also works with SpotWalla (and probably other free tracking widget services). It’s more complicated to set up but it uses the inReach KML feed which means your embedded Spotwalla tracking map will be completely separate from your MapShare.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ben
    Thanks for the quick response
    I am anxious to try your suggestions
    Really enjoy your website – particle and useful information abounds
    Ron O

  17. Cool device but a little bit expenseive

  18. Michael says:

    Sad story about DeLorme support;
    My InReach died (fortunately not in the middle of the ocean) after working perfectly for about 2 years. So I made a trip to the mainland expressly to take it to DeLorme in Yarmouth. Was greeted by a security guy who said one had to call or email first — apparently Garmin is not big on customer support, though they are happy to collect my money every month. I just wish there were a resonable alternative.

  19. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’ve long been meaning to write about all the rescues that have involved inReach two way communications, like this one:
    And this one:

  20. Rick R says:

    I too am very disappointed in my inReach SE. It has the worst user interface that I have ever encountered. It is much worse than the old DOS than we had to put up with twenty years ago. I downloaded Earthmate hoping that would make it easier, but then discovered that the SE wouldn’t pair with anything. I phoned tech support (9Am to 6PM Monday to Friday, never on a weekend or on a holiday) and was told that Delormes would not pair with a laptop, but they claimed that it would pair to an iPhone or iPad. I tried 2 iPads and an iPhone, but no luck. I asked Garmin to take it back and refund my money, but was told to discuss this with where I bought it. Finally tech support said to reinstall Earthmate (as if that would make a difference), but she wouldn’t stay in the line while I did that. It was getting close to 6PM.
    If Garmin is smart, they will either fix the UI pronto, or withdraw inReach from the market. It is a bad reflection on their other products.
    At least I can cancel the subscription after one month.

  21. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Rick, inReach experiences seem to vary widely. I’ve been using the iOS and Android Earthmate apps with various models for years without significant problems. For at least a solid year, I had an SE powered up and tracking in a bracket suction cupped to one of Gizmo’s main cabin windows. Whenever I went aboard, my iPad just hooked up to the SE and I had not only Earthmate but GPS for other apps. Same now with Samsung Note4 and Explorer+
    On the other hand, Rich Cassano — who enjoyed an SE going to Bermuda last summer — just experienced what seems like a real injustice regarding Garmin inReach warranty.
    And on the third hand, Charlie Doane — a self described “Luddite” — has gotten amazing utility from the Explorer+ he activated in France on April 25. See my latest Facebook (middle of this page). He and his crew are only using the handheld interface, which is very similar to SE but here are their stats so far:
    Tracking Points Sent: 1591 (every half hour almost without fail, from inside the doghouse)
    Messages Sent: 888
    Messages Received: 676
    Their into their 23rd day from Madeira, lost engine on 5/25, and I’ve been “talking” with Charlie as they’ve endured doldrums just east of Bermuda. It’s been an epic passage I got to feel a little part of thanks to inReach.

  22. Michael says:

    Even though I had a support problem a year or so ago, I am still very happy with our InReach SE. I used it to communicate with our weather man both ways across the Atlantic, and with family and friends as well.
    I adapted their “motorcycle” stand to mount just inside a window in our aluminum pilothouse, and I sometimes get the red blinker that means it can’t see the satellites, but that always goes away. I would not now go offshore without it.
    I just don’t get the interface problems people seem to have.
    It’s not a sat phone, but it doesn’t cost like one either.

  23. Richard C says:

    The interface issue: From what I experienced it seems that those who own an SE or Explorer take the time to learn every aspect of how it works. It took me two phone calls to Delorme before I understood terms like tracking and tracking points. I sent a few test messages to get used to the procedure and thank goodness I was able to link it to my iPad which is a much better platform to compose an email then using the archaic display on the Explorer itself.
    Eventually, I became comfortable with using the device. However, when it came time for my crew to send an email home from mid-ocean they couldn’t be bothered trying to figure it out. And, their spouses didn’t understand the Mapshare page well enough to take a chance on sending message back until the trip was half over. I knew communications between one crew member and home was essential so I had him compose the email and I sent it. All was terrific after that. The ability to communicate from offshore made all the difference to crew morale.
    Although I like the inReach concept I personally feel the user interface can be made easier to use.

  24. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Charlie wrote up his looong Atlantic crossing…,-big-jump-to-bermuda
    …and also made his inReach MapShare public:
    Lunacy may start making tracks toward Newport today, single handed.

  25. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Single-handed Charlie was already beating his fully crewed transAtlantic average but now his speed has picked up. When I asked via inReach if he’d turned on the afterburners, he replied:
    “Oh yeah! Sailing on a broad reach in 27-30 kts true ESE wind. Might be like this for a while.”
    Armchair sail along here:

  26. Richard C says:

    I apologize for the long letter posted here, however, I feel it best explains the unfortunate situation I found myself in with inReach/Garmin customer support.
    The hardcore, unforgiving Customer Support philosophy of inReach is nothing like what I’ve experienced with other Garmin products. I have mostly all Garmin on board Gray Eagle and a good track record with their support – up until now.
    I purchased my Explorer Nov 2015 and didn’t activate it until Spring of 2016. It was used during a sail to Bermuda in a dry location and stored for the winter on my desk at home. Total ownership was 15 months.
    On May 12th 2017 I tried to reactivate my suspended Freedom Plan so the Explorer could be used for this season. I never received an acknowledgement that the activation went through so called Garmin support. The support person told me there was a problem with my account and put me on hold. If you remember, Garmin bought Delorme during the winter while my inReach Explorer was sitting on my desk.
    After a long hold the support rep said all was fixed and I should sync with a clear view of the sky which I did. The Explorer did complete the sync after about an hour of sitting on my back porch. Just to be sure all was well I turned it off and then back on. The screen said, “Your inReach was suspended on May 12th 2017” I assumed the Garmin Tech support person made a mistake and sent a command to “Deactivate” instead of Activate”. The next day I called back.
    After many phone calls and working with support updating Firmware, software, syncing and syncing again we found the Explorer would activate just fine and when synced with the satellites to download updates it immediately flashed the screen that I was suspended on May 12th 2017. In my opinion, inReach Tech department was unable or didn’t know how to remove the deactivate command. Then the wheels really fell off.
    My credit card had been billed for three activation’s on the same day, May 12th 2017, for the same exact device IMEI number. I called inReach and they said they would issue a refund, but a refund never came. After a week I called their Billing Department and was told they do not issue refunds only credits to the account for future service. No Good! I told them, I wanted a refund back to my credit card. Several days went by without hearing from them so I filed a dispute with the credit card company. Eventually inReach agreed to refund two of the three activation charges. Even though I was still not activated they said I owed them for one months service on the Freedom Plan. It was the equivalent of paying for services NOT rendered.
    I offered to send my Explorer to them for their inspection and to try and find out what might be the problem, but they refused this offer. They would not allow me to talk to one of their engineers and they would not offer an explanation of why they felt it was my device malfunctioning. Garmin’s final offer was to sell me a new device for $450 with another 12 month warranty. Since the one I have was only 15 months old this did not sound like a good deal to me. I turned it down.
    At this time, I have closed my account because we were not able to solve this issue. Garmin/inReach Support said there is nothing more they can do. I feel the inReach concept is an excellent one and has a strong future. But software malfunctions generated by Garmin should not be subject to a hardware warranty. In my case, the cost for so little use made the inReach experience not worthwhile. If Garmin does not have faith in the quality of the Explorer or their back end computer operation then how can I?

  27. Richard C says:

    Finally, a solution from Garmin​:​
    ​It may be because I explained my situation to an acquaintance in Garmin’s marine sales division, but today I received a phone call from Garmin Customer Support with a solution to my ongoing inReach Explorer activation problem. They believe the problem is software based and not a defective Explorer. This was my guess as well. I was asked to give activation another try using a specific check list that Support sent me. If for some reason the Explorer does not activate and the same, “You are Scheduled to Deactivate on May 12th 2017” message shows up then Garmin will replace my device. Fantastic!
    During this frustrating exchange of emails with their customer support department I have to say that Garmin always remained professional and polite.​ I’d like to think it just took time for them to understand this was not a routine problem that followed the normal customer support script. For others that might experience a similar issue I would suggest it is important to have the case escalated to the Development Team where technical problems seem to be hashed out. Nothing happens overnight as I was expecting​, and if you know someone at Garmin it might help.​
    In any case, I should be up and running with inReach tracking for my upcoming cruise to New England.

  28. Wally Moran says:

    Ben – just came across this tonight, and found your comments to be most interesting in light of my own positive opinion of my Delorme unit in Cuba. Your concern regarding confiscation of the unit was unnecessary however. At most, the Guarda would put the unit into a sealed locker, not take it from you. This is what they have done on two occasions with my portable GPS. In my case, they looked at the Delorme and, not having any real idea of what it was or could do, proceeded to ignore it as just another device for navigation.
    As for weather, I used it on Cuba’s north coast prior to the addition of the weather facility and got my weather by having someone back home text me the weather forecast for wherever I happened to be. A bit clunky, but it worked quite well in practice.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published.