Day 13 – The challenges of communication

We are used to being in constant contact with anyone we like when on land. Voice calls have been replaced by video calls and we all receive multiple photos every day from friends, colleagues and relations, whether on social media or via WhatsApp or similar. At sea things are a little bit more basic.

The crews have two communication devices which use a constellation of 64 satellites in low earth orbit. The first is a tracking device which also allows the crews to send and receive SMS messages. The number of messages they can send and receive is only limited by their patience, as each message cannot exceed 160 characters. The tracker sends details of their position, course and speed back to ‘the internet’, which the data wizards at zerosixzero manipulate into the beautiful tracker page you’ve seen.

The second device is a satellite phone. It’s about 4 times bigger than a Nokia 5110 but has the same basic 1990’s functionality (except no game of snake). Sounds on the voice calls have echo and delay of a few seconds which means you’ll be accidentally interrupted constantly by the person on the other end of the call. Sending a text takes close to a fortnight. Tapping in a message using the ‘old skool’ no predictive text is s-l-o-w….tap 2 three times to get a c etc.

There are other systems on the market but the cost associated with going to the next level with capability to send and receive emails, photos and heavily compressed video files has a significant price tag and this just isn’t as attractive for our crews as being able to donate those funds to their chosen charities. It also means that when they do arrive we’re going to have a lot of ‘big reveals’ as they get to share all their best video clips and photographic skills. Although with the crews rowing naked most of the time, we’re expecting some of the ‘reveals’ to be a bit smaller than suggested.

The crews approach the end of their 2nd week at sea and are now well inside the final 2,000 nm! Amazing and inspiring news. Remember it’s like back to back to back marathons for more than a month, not a sprint.

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