Dr Tone’s Zoleo

Zoleo satellite communications device by Dr Tony Hudson.

Many thanks to the team at Zoleo who provided me (Tone the doctor) with a satellite communications device to trial during the voyage from New Zealand to Ushuaia, Argentina. I thought that it would be worth saying a bit about “The Zoleo”!

The Zoleo performed faultlessly throughout & been a really import addition to the existing communications options on Kialoa II. It’s provided independent contact with friends and family (important to free up boat communications for other important tasks particularly in the aftermath of the forestay failure when Paddy needed to get a lot of technical information to and from various sources), access to my various medical colleagues back in the UK who have been on standby to provide specialist advice in the event of major medical problems (they know who they are – thanks guys,) and not least, the extra ability to put out an SOS message in an emergency.

What is it? It’s a device about the size of a chunky phone that allows the user to connect to the Iridium satellite network from anywhere in the world. Using the Zoleo app (bit like WhatsApp) users can use their smartphone to connect to the satellite network via the device. From my phone I could easily send messages (no voice or photo option) to anyone with the App. One of the great advantages was that I could also access my contacts list and send SMS or emails to people without the App – very user friendly & intuitive! I was also able to “drop a pin” with our current latitude and longitude position – great for keeping folks up to date with our progress. The device, crucially, can also be used directly to update a nominated contact (as ever, Mel, supporting from the wings) of current position or in extremis to put out an SOS.

Dr Tone’s opinion? At the risk of sounding like a plug for Zoleo, the device was absolutely fantastic. Weathered rain & salt spray when left up on the doghouse roof one day (oops), heat when left at the nav station window in direct sunlight and most importantly never failed to connect to the Iridium network. Messaging was sometimes so fast, even way out in the South Pacific at our furthest point, that it was possible to have conversations back & forth by message. A flexible arm device was also provided that worked really well – a suction device (“Ram mount”) that allowed us to fix the device at various windows, angled towards the sky to get satellite signal. Great for keeping it dry but also readily accessible in an emergency. As long as it was facing sky, in any direction, we got great signal throughout our sojourn into the South Pacific.

Many thanks to Team Zoleo for a great communications tool that made this phase of the trip safer & allowed messaging with friends & family. As we said in the Royal Navy, Bravo Zulu!