FOB update, SPOT and AIS OK


Flash of Beauty sailed from Camden three Wednesdays ago and is now passing over the top of Scotland, as you can see live on its Spot track sharing page. Tom and crew are planning to stop in Stormness, and I bet they can already smell the heather and taste the peaty scotch. Aside from sailing almost 3,000 miles, Tom did manage an underway install of his Simrad Class B AIS, but—whereas FOB took the cool, damp, and seldom-used northern route—wasn’t sure it worked until early this morning:

Hi Ben,  At 4:00 AM, I woke up to someone on the VHF calling for “Flash of Beauty” and something about AIS. I thought I was dreaming. Pat, who was on watch, had not heard the transmission, so I went back to sleep only to have the AIS 6 mile guard zone alarm go off, and there was a ship, and there were two, and the AIS identified them to me. So now I can start reading the manual.
    At the moment we are about 70 miles from the Orkney Islands, 20 miles from Cape Wrath in Scotland. C-Map has some great current maps. Time will tell if they are just pretty pictures or for real. We hope to be in Stromness tonight. Tom

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The FOB crew has apparently maintained a good sense of humor for all those bumpy miles, as can be enjoyed on their blog. Meanwhile I’ve kept a pretty good eye on the Spot tracking and give it a tentative score of “B”…pretty darn good tracking for the money. It was not a perfect test as FOB sometimes forgot to reset the tracking before the 24 hour end time, but when it was on, it almost never registered tracks every 10 minutes. As you can see today (but it may be gone tomorrow), the tracks sometimes skip a half or whole hour.
   More significantly, out in mid Atlantic, Spot sometimes skipped six or more hours at a time. Below, and bigger here
, is a Google Earth image showing all FOB’s tracks through yesterday. You can see spotty mid ocean Spot coverage in the left hand track column. (Soon I’ll post the GPX, CSV, and KLM files so Tom or anyone can rehash the voyage.)  But I deduce that Spot’s coverage map is a little optimistic (also reported by RXC), and certainly wouldn’t count on Spot to deliver a Help or 911 message from way offshore. I’ve been saying all along that Spot is not as reliable as a PLB or EPIRB, but now I’m hearing that its emergency center sub-contractor, GEOS, has not yet fully co-ordinated its operations with the USCG. Doug Ritter has important things to say on this subject here. And ACR has put out a safety alert stating that the USCG procedures do not treat distress calls from Spot or any other commercial service with quite as much urgency as those coming via SARSAT. Ritter has a copy and some skeptical comments here. Need I note that Tom Amory, obviously one heck of a sailor, has an EPIRB on FOB?

SPOT FOB transatlantic cPanbo

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.

2 Responses

  1. Roger says:

    I think that’s Stromness, Ben, in the Orkney Islands

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Roger; that’s my bad spelling, the “Stormness” link is to Stromness. Hey, did you see on the Spot tracking page that FOB is almost to Norway now!

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