Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Safe and Connected with OCENS and MVS


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After circumnavigating with almost no communications, we knew we wanted good services for our high latitude voyage.  Friends had spoken highly of OCENS, so we approached them for sponsorship.  We only work with companies whose products we would use regardless of sponsorship.

We’re thrilled to have OCENS Satellite Systems and Service, and their partner MVS Satellite Communications helping us stay safe and connected as we voyage north!

MVS_logo (2)Communications are vital for voyaging in higher latitudes where weather is volatile and can be severe, and where ice conditions can change even faster.  Aboard Celeste we’ll need access to good weather forecasts starting upon departure from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  They’ll become even more vital when we cross the Gulf of Alaska and when we enter the Bering Sea.  Upon reaching Arctic waters we’ll also need daily ice charts so we can make informed and safe decisions.  Thanks to OCENS and MVS we’ll be able to do all that reliably and quickly through OCENS’s excellent weather and e-mail services and through our Iridium Extreme phone and airtime.  This newest, most rugged version of Iridium’s phones will hook up to OCENS’s high latitude external antenna (to ensure an unbroken signal) and will talk to our laptops through a firewall/wi-fi router.  The firewall is particularly important for blocking unnecessary data traffic, thus keeping airtime use to a minimum.

Satellite phone, router/firewall. and computer

Satellite phone, router/firewall. and computer

Met Mapper at work. Photo courtesy of OCENS.

Met Mapper at work. Photo courtesy of OCENS.

OCENS has created all the software and services to go with this hardware: WeatherNet, GRIB (Gridded Information Binary) Explorer, MetMapper, and OCENS Mail.  WeatherNet provides forecasts of up to 7 days showing wind, waves, surface pressure, and air temperature among other indicators, all accelerated for delivery to your computer.  MetMapper enables us to view these forecasts (in animation!) overlaid on an interactive map.  If we hook up our GPS to the computer, we even have our vessel position displayed within the weather analysis.

GRIB Explorer does something similar for Gridded Information Binary forecasts, which we’ll obtain through WeatherNet.  GRIB files are small, versatile, and contain an amazing amount of information, which makes them perfect for low bandwidth connections like a satellite phone.  GRIB Explorer allows us to control exactly what information is displayed, and animates it for us.  We’re familiar with GRIBs because we used very basic ones on our circumnavigation over our SSB radio, so we’re excited to have an updated version of something we already know and like.

Equally important is OCENS’s e-mail service and software.  In southern Alaska we’ll use this primarily for staying in touch with those back home and for sharing information with fellow sailors.  Once in the Arctic, its primary function will be to receive daily ice charts which will help us navigate and help us make decisions.  Although some sailors before us—especially Amundsen—have visited the Arctic without any communications, OCENS and MVS have greatly increased our safety margin!

Learn more about OCENS and MVS at http://www.ocens.com and http://www.themvsgroup.com!


13 thoughts on “Safe and Connected with OCENS and MVS

  1. Hey Guys – the closer you get to leaving the more excited I get for you, and the more convinced I am that you are going to do a great job. You’ve clearly prepared for everything and, with your experience, you are going to have a fantastic adventure. Best of luck to you both, and Celeste! M

  2. Excellent communication system. Looks like you will have great access when you need it.

  3. Please provide a real world example of its route planning features – i.e. Port Angeles to Unimak Pass? I assume you are going direct across rather than the Inside Passage which is what I highly recommended albeit would require more motoring on inside protected waters with tidal currents but may actually be a better starting route enjoying the fjords – which route are you taking and why would be appreciated for readers to learn.

    Standing by,
    Douglas Pohl

    • Hi Doug, We’re still learning the software so we’ll have to wait to update you on it until we’re in more of a position to give advice. We will indeed be heading straight across to Dutch on account of time – it will probably involve a fair bit of motoring but that’s fine. Once we get further north and west we’ll have to start paying close attention to the lows coming across from Russia since we’ll have to cross their potential path, hence having reliable weather software will be key. Best, -Seth

      • So you are going to test that new Yanmar diesel with a cross of the Gulf of Alaska… OMG… I would not recommend 30 horsepower going against the major ocean weather and current as a wise decision. If you depart soon you have plenty of time to “dog-leg” a passage from S.E. Alaska – see my recent post on routes to Unimak Pass here: http://northwestpassage2014.blogspot.com/2014/06/nwp2014-voyage-planning-examples.html?view=sidebar But as they always say – to each their own – you are the Master of your own ship. Wishing you a safe passage. I look forward to your blogs.

      • Suggestion – Don’t go to Dutch Harbor – its 100 miles out of your way when you could touch and go in King Cove Alaska enroute to Nome Alaska. Why are you thinking of stopping in Dutch? Deadliest Catch meeting?

  4. Looks like a brilliant system!