Satellite phones can download accurate weather forecasts, call anyone in the world and send back videos and images from mid-ocean, all from a tiny device. But choosing one is not straightforward.

Some, such as the Thuraya SatSleeve Plus, transform your own phone into a satellite device, while Iridium Go works with up to five smartphones using an app.

Others, such as the Iridium 9575 Extreme, Inmarsat ISatPhone or Thuraya’s XT Pro are ruggedised handsets.

A lower cost option is Garmin’s InReach Mini which, while not strictly a sat phone, is a low-cost messenger like the Global Star SPOT Gen 4, which allows two-way text messaging.

As with everyday smartphones, the cost of sat phones and calling plans varies hugely; the phones themselves range from around £500-£2,000+ but you’ll also need a SIM card and data plan.

At the time of writing, a pre-paid SIM card for an Iridium Satellite Phone Global, for instance, costs £427 for 200 minutes/180 days.

It’s worth spending some time researching the best options for your type of sailing. MailASail have a useful guide to choosing your usage.

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Questions to ask when buying a satphone

What will you be using the phone for, primarily? Weather forecasts? Voice calling? SMS? Emergencies only?

These will have a bearing on the type of device and the type of contract/pre-pay deal you end up with.

Do you need it to have an SOS function, or are you happy with a separate EPIRB?

Do you need waterproofing? Some of the latest sat phones can be submerged for a short while, but some older models must be kept dry – an important consideration.

How important is battery life? If you’ll be mainly using the phone on board with ready access to charging, you may not be as concerned as if you were planning to use the phone in an open boat.

Satellite phones with internal GPS can offer significant peace of mind to family and friends ashore, but this comes with a cost, both financial and to battery life.

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This feature appeared in the April 2022 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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