Iridium Certus 700 and Iridium GO!

Safety, Work and staying in touch with family - three reasons to install robust satellite equipment

sy ydalir

Purpose for getting the satellite equipment

Anders and Gunilla planned their circumnavigation before the pandemic and were originally only planning to be able to access e-mail and weather; this subsequently changed as the need arose to be able to do some consultancy work while away.

Their journey started at the beginning of July 2020 from Sweden in small stretches to Portugal, with their first blue-water trip taking place from Portugal to Lanzarote.

They stayed about one month in the Canary Islands before joining ARC+ to Mindelo and then on to St. Lucia. Due to the Covid pandemic they are now planning to cruise in the Caribbean for about a year, and then hopefully continue their circumnavigation.

Lessons learnt

Iridium Certus with BT handset

Anders and Gunilla had from the outset installed VHF radio, mobile phones, 4G router for mobile SIMs and the Iridium GO with external antenna.

They used the Iridium GO relatively little at the beginning of the journey from Sweden – mostly they used it to get some to practice ahead of their Atlantic crossing.

Quality and delay of the voice over the Iridium GO made it difficult for their family to hear them, and they found it burdensome to make phone calls. They did not have many incoming calls, but even some of those were not successful.

They found that downloading even small weather files was a slow process and often they were not successful in getting the full file.

Anders says: “The service was quite reliable but of a poorer quality than hoped for.”

This was a concern with the need to be able to download larger files for Atlantic crossing – this additionally influenced their decision to upgrade to a speedier system: the Iridium Certus 700

One feature they missed on the Iridium Certus is the Iridium SMS service available on the GO, as many of their fellow sailors use this service. They had to retrain friends to send e-mails but they will now look into the option of further using Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp, which is possible via the Red Box.

Being adaptable underway

Anders and Gunilla decided to upgrade their satellite system while in the Bay of Biscay.

They had considered installing a more substantial satellite system before setting off on their trip. This was partly in order to have the option of working while away as well as having a more reliable and higher quality contact to family at home.

But due to insufficient advice when they initially considered suitable satellite options, they purchased the Iridium GO! Their supplier thought the faster options were only suitable for cruise ships, so advised them to focus on the slower end of the options

But then they learned from MailASail via WCC that there are relevant options for higher speed at controlled cost by using compression software and reliable firewalling on the Red Box.

They listened to Ed’s presentation for the ARC members where they heard about the Iridium Certus, and then they contacted MailASail for further advice.

Anders really benefitted from MailASail’s advice, long after the sale was done and the equipment installed and activated.

“It has been so nice to stay in touch. Any company selling stuff is always very service minded until you have done the deal and paid the invoice

I really appreciate the fact that you are still there and very supportive and helpful afterwards; that is is why I have no problem recommending you to others”

So the initial driver to upgrade the satellite system was Anders’ need to work while away, requiring him to be contactable both via phone and e-mail. And they also had concerns whether the GO could provide the speed and larger weather files needed while crossing oceans. These considerations would be dwarfed by other benefits later on in their journey.

He bought the Iridium Certus system from MailASail and it was shipped to Lagos (Portugal) within a day. They commissioned an installation company and together they installed the system in one and a half day.

Having two people was good during install, where the biggest job was installing the pole for the antenna and running the cable; it was not difficult but this part of the installation took the most time.

Anders says: “It was surprisingly easy to install.”

Thales VesseLINK on pole
SY Ydalir calling!

The main components are the Antenna, the cable and the Below Deck Unit. The antenna is fitted on a pole at the back, the cable runs inside the boat to a compartment above he nav table, where it connects to the control unit, which was easily fitted alongside the Red Box from MailASail.

There was less install needed for the GO, but much longer time needed to learn how to use it. Getting up and running on the Certus and connecting required a couple of phone calls just to understand the logic for the excellent Red Box; but essentially it was much simpler to use.

Anders has a normal British Telecom landline handset for voice, hanging above nav table. “It was a very positive surprise how well the phone calls works, and how easy it is.” “It is basically like having a house phone in the boat, you have a dial tone all the time and you are calling anywhere in the world for 40 cents/minute.”

Anders attended a two hour board meeting from middle of Atlantic and people did not notice he was not on a standard phone line. He can also receive calls well.

Anders and Gunilla used internet mainly for weather forecasts during Atlantic crossing – and they probably did much more than needed; they had the luxury of downloading the entire area from Mindelo to the Caribbean with three hours update in high resolution which took about 10 seconds for download with a size of 4-5MB. They did this in the morning and in the evening and sometimes additionally in middle of the day.

The service was VERY reliable – allowing them to do a lot of weather routing as well, possibly more than needed.

Anders found that it provided “peace of mind knowing what to expect in order to prepare when to set sail and when to tack. It added significant quality and peace of mind to have a longer, detailed outlook”

The driving reason for getting the system was initially a business need, but getting reliable weather for the crossing is good enough reason to get it, suggests Anders

They could probably have done with half of the 500MB allowance they activated on, even with all the usage they had.

Anders and Gunilla also used their Iridium Certus for other e-mails; they were managing property in Sweden with PDF, letters, permissions, invoices etc, so they could keep up with that, receiving attachments of 4-5MB. They felt that this was an added benefit even though initially not essential requirement.


“If you are willing and able to spend a little more for the three to five months you do ocean crossing the benefit is more reliable and much faster service” agree Anders and Gunilla.

Big files on the Iridium GO were not just slow but often interrupted (not always successful)

They feel safer knowing they have a system where within a minute they can get the information they need. Often needing the information when weather conditions are already a bit rough it is a benefit that it limited the time he has to work with the system. Being able to access up-to-date weather information quickly is a real benefit.

“In order of magnitude” they also feel safer knowing that they can just make clear phone calls on the Certus, says Anders.

It is a great benefit to be able to call for help and advice when running into technical issues, which Anders and Gunilla experienced first hand during their crossing

They downloaded a PDF manual for an emergency generator when it got damaged by water – they were able to diagnose what was needed with help from electrician in Sweden via phone. They were able to send pictures to identify the exact serial number; a replacement part was ordered whilst they were underway and waiting for them in St Lucia when they arrived.

Family/social comms

“The voice quality of phone calls is fantastic”, says Gunilla, “like being in the room”. “With older relatives suffering with bad hearing and younger children being nervous, it is extra lovely and psychosocially important to bring them peace of mind by being able to stay in touch and show them we are enjoying life” agrees Anders.

They had no chance of making these calls with Gunilla’s dad on the iridium GO due to the poor quality, but had meaningful conversations on the Certus.

Knowing what he knows now, Anders would have upgraded to the faster system even just for the additional speed and quality of the weather

“The two way communication and ability to call for help is so important if anything bad were to happen. Voice for distress has value – absolutely. EPIRBS and VHS are good too, but voice essential.”

As an interesting anecdote, Gunilla told us that they often could not reach marina on VHF but could always call them, which was very valuable. Yet another unexpected bonus of the Iridium Certus system.

GSM coverage

On the issue of relying on having mobile signal everywhere, Anders and Gunilla have had mixed experience.

The coverage along the European coast was less patchy than expected but there were areas where it was weak.

Reception was much better via external 4G system than their handheld mobile phones alone.

However, the Caribbean is less well covered than along European coast, but they have had acceptable reception with Digicell and marina wifi when they stayed in Rodney Bay and Marigot Bay,

The French parts of the Caribbean count as Europe, so they have free roaming with their Swedish SIMs.

Future plans and expectations

sy ydalir

Anders and Gunilla plan to join the World ARC next year and visit Polynesia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South Africa, Namibia, St Helena and Brazil before returning to the Caribbean and then back to Europe.

Anders and Gunilla are planning to use the Certus for different weather info when crossing the Pacific. And as it will be harder to access spare parts and technical service provision in this part of the world it will be even more important to get access to that and friends/family back home And Anders also plans to still be doing some business as well.

They expect to increasingly have restricted access cellular data, so they will rely more on the Certus during that part of their trip.


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