We love our DeLorme inReach for staying in touch with friends and family via text message to/from any text-enabled phone or an email address, and also being able to share our location via a track link. It works via Iridium satellite service, so there are no dead zones as there are with cell phone coverage. Whether for fun or in an emergency, we can be in basic communication anywhere!
About a week ago, DeLorme came out with a firmware upgrade that includes the ability to get a weather forecast. While I thought the inReach was fun and useful before, this seriously ups the usefulness factor. Since it uses satellite communications, you can get a forecast virtually anywhere.
DISCLAIMER: The forecasts are not super detailed and don’t talk about long term outlooks, squalls, tropical storm formation and so on. They are not going to replace services such as Chris Parker (note: you can get custom forecasts sent to your inReach by Chris Parker, too – see here). Still, they are one more tool when you are in remote locations, particularly if you do not have a SSB receiver or are in a location with poor reception. We like to always have multiple ways to get weather info – both to compare the forecasts and in case we can’t reach one for some reason.
I won’t rehash all the features of the inReach (you can read my first post about it here) other that to say that you buy the unit and then subscribe to one of several data plans that include either a limited or unlimited number of messages and tracking points.
To get weather forecasts:
- You have to upgrade the inReach to firmware version 2.12 (or higher). This requires a computer (not a tablet or phone) and internet access; go to your explore.delorme account and “sync” to get the latest firmware. (NOTE: You may get a notice right on the inReach device or via the Earthmate app on a phone that there’s a firmware update available and it’ll even give you a button to “update now” – but nothing happens. You MUST be connected by a USB cable to the computer and do it via the sync function, despite it appearing otherwise.) The DeLorme site gives good info on how to sync right on the screen where you do it, so I won’t repeat it here.
- Three types of forecasts are available (see screen shots of each below):
- A basic (land-based) weather forecast costs you one text message. If you have a package with unlimited texting, it’s essentially free. This includes temperature, precipitation, wind speed and direction, and atmospheric pressure details for three days in six-hour intervals.
- A premium (land-based) weather forecast costs $1 and the same information as the basic forecast, but for 7 days with the first 12 hours being in one-hour increments and the remainder of the time in increasing increments.
- A marine weather forecast also costs $1 and contains wind speed and direction, plus wave height and period, current and visibility for 7 days in six-hour increments. It also gives you a basic forecast at the same time. This is powered by OCENS.
- With all forecasts, you can get it for your current location or a remote location (using the map) – great if you are trying to plan a passage.
- Any charges – whether for text overages for forecast costs – will be added to your next DeLorme bill.
- You can request and view forecasts either directly from the inReach unit or from a smartphone or tablet that is paired with it via the Earthmate app and Bluetooth. It is much, much easier to read the forecasts on a tablet or phone than on the inReach.
And now a few screen shots . . . First, the Basic forecast viewed on the inReach. To get the wind forecast, you have to select a particular date and time.
Selecting a date and time will get you a forecast like this on the inReach (BASIC).
Basic forecast as viewed in the Earthmate app on my Android phone. Scroll down and sideways for more info.
The Marine forecast can be requested from the inReach or by scrolling down in the Earthmate app in the Weather section.
Slide the dot to the right to activate Marine forecasts (it will turn green to show it’s on), then press the reload symbol at the top of the page (scroll up to get to it). A few minutes later, you’ll have a marine forecast.
The Marine forecast as it appears on the inReach — selecting a date/time will give you more info.
Marine forecast on my phone — again, scroll up/down and sideways to see it all.
Marine forecast on an Android tablet. Scroll sideways to get all seven days.
Tapping on a day/time will show the details for then on the bottom of the screen.
If you need more detailed offshore weather forecasts, you might want to look into the Iridium GO! I haven’t used one, but my friend Behan on Totem has written quite a bit about using theirs on passages in the Indian Ocean. Read it here. While it is far more powerful, it is also significantly more expensive and has a far steeper learning curve.For many of us who are coastal cruising and island hopping, the inReach weather is a great backup to whatever other weather info we have at an affordable price. Even without the weather function, the inReach is a good way to stay in touch with family from remote places (as well as an impressive emergency communications device since it’s two-way — meaning that someone can give you advice and answer questions, not just come look for you). Tracking is fun for friends to see where you are.
But now with affordable weather for times when you are out of cell and hence internet coverage? WOW! I am extremely glad that we got ours.