Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | April 13, 2012

Beam Oceana 800 Evaluation

N 16° 13.2′   W 61° 31.7

Pointe à Pitre, Guadeloupe

Back in January, Bob was asked by Ben Ellison at Panbo, the noted marine electronics blog, if he was interested in evaluating a Beam Oceana Satellite Phone for a dealer in Florida. We said sure, why not?

So we exchanged an email or two with John Minetola of Marine-Satphone.com and obtained the unit in February. We got it installed and operational in March just before we left Saint Martin, and have since been using it when needed. The phone service on the Beam Oceana is provided by Inmarsat, one of the premier satellite phone networks. We will use some demo airtime graciously provided for the evaluation and return the unit after 3 months.

The Mar Azul already has 2 portable satellite phones, one with Inmarsat service and one with GlobalStar Service. The Inmarsat service provides the peace of mind that we can make urgent calls whenever needed.  It is an important ditch bag item. The GlobalStar service has limited call windows, but provides a more cost-effective way to chat with folks back home with a flat monthly rate and unlimited minutes. Both of these phones must be used outdoors and some effort is required to orient the antennas to connect with the satellite. The Beam Oceana is a fixed installation at the lower helm station and uses an external antenna. The advantage is that it is much easier to use underway and can be used inside, out of the weather and noise.

US callers dialing an Inmarsat number are charged around 10 bucks a minute, and to avoid irritating our family and friends with an unexpectedly huge phone charge we don’t give out that satellite number. We can call the US at about 99 cents a minute. Not too bad for brief calls since it works from anywhere in the world.

Obtaining data is another vital use for the satellite phone, primarily weather information. We can use the phone to download GRIB weather files via email when away from other internet sources. These are compressed binary files that contain forecast information for up to 14 days out. Text only email is also possible, but at 99 cents a minute for a 2.4 Kbs connection (about 1/10 the speed of the old dial-up technology), there is no such thing as web surfing. A weather update takes about 2 minutes.

I will be writing a more detailed evaluation for Panbo eventually and I’m sure Elaine will have something to add.

– Bob

We are still in Guadeloupe, enjoying some marina time, sightseeing, and the company of other cruisers.  The boat is the cleanest it has been for months – maybe years!  Moving on today to Marie Galant.  Will have our Guadeloupe update shortly.

– Elaine

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