Marine Electronics, July 2021
GPS Tracking Devices
The possibility of someone stealing our floating palace or some high-end piece of onboard electronic equipment is a frightening thought. Fortunately, there are efficient, affordable digital tracking devices available to assuage our fears and keep our thoughts focused on our cruising aspirations.
The SPOT Trace Theft-Alert Tracking Device offers a broad set of features to keep you in touch with its location at all times via your cellular device or home computer. What’s more, it is the only, or one of the only, tracking devices offering coverage in virtually all of North America, Mexico, Europe and Australia, plus limited coverage in South America, northern Africa and northeastern Asia.
As soon as the SPOT Trace is powered on, it acquires precise coordinates from the GPS network and sends the GPS location to communication satellites. Ground networks pick up the signal and relay the location back to your cell phone or computer, where you can track your vessel’s movements in real time on Google Maps.
You can choose between a basic service plan, which allows you to track your vessel every 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes, or you can move up to the Extreme Tracking upgrade, which includes all the benefits of basic service plus GPS tracking every 2½ minutes.
The SPOT device is rated waterproof IPX7 and will set you back a mere $50, plus a monthly service fee, a great buy for the services offered.
Another popular tracking device is Brickhouse Security’s Spark Nano 7, a versatile, portable GPS tracking device offering real-time updates, speed alerts and geofences, which are predetermined virtual boundaries that you define for your vessel.
Brickhouse claims the Spark Nano 7 is “the smallest, most portable wireless GPS tracker on the market.” It is so small, the company claims, you can attach it to your dog’s collar and Fido won’t even know it’s there.
A free smartphone app for both Android and iPhone devices allows you to change monitoring speeds, depending on the location details you need and the urgency involved in your vessel’s movement. The Spark Nano 7’s 4G cellular service covers all of North America, including Mexico. This device will set you back a whole 30 bucks, what you would pay for a burger, fries and a couple of margaritas at your local sailor dive.
Another vessel tracking device worthy of note is the LandAirSea 54 Real Time 4G GPS telematics device, which offers geofence alerts, speed alerts and updates on remaining battery power. You can receive alerts of your vessel’s location via email alerts, allowing you to follow the device’s GPS position and view historical playbacks.
Engineered and manufactured in the U.S., the LandAirSea 54 features a compact, waterproof design with a built-in high-power magnet inside a package so small it can easily fit in your backpack, purse or pocket. On 3-second to 3-minute update schedules, the battery charge lasts anywhere from one to three weeks. The unit is fully waterproof, though no precise rating is offered in the manufacturer’s website. The unit is quite reasonably priced at roughly $30.
With vessel security an ever-growing concern in our marinas, it’s great to know that GPS tracking technology can be had for a low price, even when we consider the monthly service fee. Find a tracking device that suits your needs and sleep soundly, knowing your boat’s electronic babysitter is on duty.
Circumnavigator-author Bill Morris believes the best strategy for succeeding as an offshore voyager is to keep systems simple and, if possible, manual. Key to survival are a windvane self-steering system, a basic array of electronics and an aggressive alternative energy battery charging matrix. Bill is a frequent contributor to Ocean Navigator and the author of The Windvane Self-Steering Handbook (International Marine, 2004); Sun, Wind, & Water: The Essential Guide to the Energy-Efficient Cruising Boat (Seaworthy Publications, 2017), and The Captain’s Guide to Alternative Energy Afloat (Seaworthy Publications, 2019).