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SPOT tracking device
Team McLube


The Publisher

Jun 27, 2012, 9:14 AM

Post #1 of 3 (13868 views)
SPOT tracking device Log-In to Post/Reply

By Darrell Nicholson, Practical Sailor

If you recently bought a SPOT Connect for its distress calling capability, or are looking at similar satellite messaging devices such as the SPOT Messenger, DeLorme InReach, or Briartek Cerberus, you'll want to read our upcoming report on the tragic April 28 accident involving the Hunter 376 Aegean during the Newport to Ensenada Race.

When we first reviewed the SPOT Messenger (Sept. 2008), we raised concerns about introducing a private distress monitoring service into the search-and-rescue equation. Unlike a 406 EPIRB or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), the SPOT "SOS" distress signal is not part of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) that relays distress signals directly to search-and-rescue agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard. The SPOT signal goes to GEOS Alliance, a monitoring service based in Houston, Texas, which follows its own response protocol.

According to the SPOT website, if a distress call is made using the SOS function on a SPOT device, GEOS Alliance's Emergency Response Center "notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on your GPS location and personal information." In case the SPOT cannot acquire its location from the GPS network, "it will still attempt to send a distress signal - without exact location - to GEOS, which will still notify your contacts of the signal and continue to monitor the network for further messages."

While reading about the Aegean accident, in which four sailors died when their boat reportedly sailed into rocky Coronado Island sometime around 1:30 a.m. on April 28, I began to wonder: What would happen if a SPOT distress alert had no position, but the SPOT's approximate location was known through tracking data? And what would happen if the SPOT's track clearly indicated danger - say, a sailboat plowing into rocky island off the coast of Mexico?

Would that then merit a call to the Coast Guard?

Apparently not.

Sometime around 1:30 a.m. on April 28, the SPOT device owned by Theo Mavromatis, the registered skipper of the Aegean, sent out a distress signal that was received by GEOS Alliance. According to one person I spoke with who is familiar with the incident, "there is no question that this was a distress signal sent by a person."

Although the distress signal had no position data, Mavromatis had programmed the device to report his position every 10 minutes so that family could track the boat. Shortly after the distress signal went out, Mavromatis' wife, Loren, received a phone call from GEOS Alliance. She was asleep, so the report of the distress signal from her husband's SPOT went to voicemail. For several hours after that, it appears that there was no effort made by the monitoring agency to contact the U.S. Coast Guard or to confirm the distress alert, even though boat's track clearly indicated trouble. -- Read on:

The Publisher

Jun 27, 2012, 9:15 AM

Post #2 of 3 (13866 views)
Re: [The Publisher] SPOT tracking device [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Jeffry Matzdorff:
Regarding SPOT, I have the tracking feature which does report my position every 10 minutes. Additionally, when I'm offshore, both my 'Help' and '911' buttons are programmed to send a text message to the cell phone of two land based friends who have agreed to leave their cell phones on at all times and agreed to the below procedures.

1) 'Help' button is pushed notifying my contacts to stand by, we may have a problem.

2) '911' is a message to both contacts to call Search and Rescue and give them my Lat/Lon AND the USCG Search and Rescue telephone number is part of that 911 text message. VERY important

The Publisher

Jun 27, 2012, 9:16 AM

Post #3 of 3 (13865 views)
Re: [The Publisher] SPOT tracking device [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From: Tom Materna
Subject: Spot info and tracking

I read the SPOT non-action with great concern and posted it to our rider group that uses them. Roger, who has been doing adventures for years, has this info set up to make SPOT work better which may have helped save a life. It may in the future. This is a reply I got:

This is why I created a website ( that monitors every update from every user every 10 minutes. If someone hits their HELP button, I know about it regardless of who it is and if I'm one of their 'lucky 7' on their SPOT details page. If you hit the 911 button, that information gets sent to SPOT and they make the calls to the emergency contact you've setup on your account.

When people register they also have the option of filling out some "Emergency Contact" information so I can get on the phone and call people even if I don't know them. Had this user been registered on my site and hit the HELP button prior to 911, a pair of digital eyes would have known he needed help before a pair of real eyes do...and to me that's better than not having any eyes at all watching over you.

Doesn't it completely suck that if you hit the 911 button, that information doesn't get sent to your SPOT page?? SPOT needs to fix that. The 'HELP' button information does though, so if you need to hit the 911 button, I'd say hit the HELP button first, then the 911 button after that. At least your people get notified, THEN your contact will get a call from the GEOS center. Just a hint if you need it sometime.

All that aside, you're only as safe as the people looking after you while you are on an adventure carry'n your SPOT. When you ride, you need a PLAN. Not just some sweet gps tracks you get from Gil, Crawford, or Counts, you need a safety plan in case you need help. You need to have the details of your trip somewhere that people that can help can access it if needed. If I hit my HELP button on my SPOT, an email gets sent to those in my 'lucky 7' with a link with a username and password so someone can coordinate a rescue. I setup an email distro so that 1 email address will actually forward to about 15 people. When I ride, people know about it, I post on forums, multiple people would know to come looking for me if I didn't show up in the evening or if I hit the help button.

If you have a reason to use a SPOT, you have a reason to alert people what you're doing, where you're doing it, how long it should take, and you need to check in daily and have someone watching you as well. When you fly an airplane you file a flight plan, I still 'file a flight plan' every single time I go riding even if it's local.

This is a very tragic incident I hope I don't ever hear about again, it's just too bad the ball got dropped somewhere and no one followed up on it.

All I really expect out of SPOT is a phone call, after that the person on the other end of the line needs to take action by calling authorities, as I wouldn't trust anyone else to get help on my behalf.

Btw, my site is free, all of the basic functionality is free to anyone that registers including the server monitoring of your ride. All of your are my riding family, and I don't want ANY of you to ever be in a situation where you can't get help if you need it.


D37 - GPS Tech

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