I have an Apple watch series 2. My partner can track me on it. I can call emergency services. I have made calls while kiting, just to try it out.
It's not perfect but it's better than nothing. You need to make sure your battery is fully charged before a session. It's hard to work the touch screen with wet fingers.
It is pretty convenient. You have it on your wrist. No messing about with waterproof bags or storing bigger devices. It cost $5 a month on the phone bill.
The SOS call is a button press so that's no so bad.
I have used SPOT trackers, and now Garmin Explorer for paragliding for years. Particularly in the Himalayas. Never had to call in a rescue but the tracking is excellent. The Garmin is better and the two way messaging is great. If I had to buy something now it would be the Garmin Mini.
EPIRB/PLB are not much use at all. They don't do anything until the day you have to throw them away and get a new one. The SPOT/Garmin devices can be used each day for tracking and massaging. More importantly, the tracking lets people at home monitor you. If you go messing they can work out what is happening (I have done this when a friend went missing and we do it all the time observing paraglider tracks).
I'm sorry, but if you have used a marine radio then they are a joke for kiting. Too big, too unreliable, and the whole system is designed for boating where emergencies tend to be in slow motion. Not so good for a semi-naked person in the water. The vast majority of communications are garbled noise. It might be better than nothing, but not really. Any properly equipped boat is going to have a satellite phone.
The best thing would be to have a range of options depending on the trip you're making. Apple watch for everyday kiting. Other stuff for longer trips. The whole flares, radio, beacon thing for expeditions.
Garmin’s web site says the InReach Mini will not be available for another 3 to 5 weeks. Other than the subscription cost it is hard to beat, and the small size is outstanding since the best rescue device is the one you have with you at the time you need it (too big and it might be left behind). The SOS might even be better since their is an emergency operator talking/texting you about the type of emergency you have and what the appropriate response is required, and maybe faster that a PLB only signal.
Some of the VHF radios are getting pretty small, such as the Icom M-85 at 2.2 by 3.6 by 1.1 inches (not including the removable antenna). Also some of the radios have GPS and a registered coded signal with your information that they can send with the push of one button.
I also have the Apple watch 3 but haven't tested it on the water yet. I got waterproof headphones and a Catalyst case. Headphones will activate Siri so I might be able to make a call without touching the watch, we will see.
The satellite phones are coming down in price and there’s even a device that attaches to smart phones to give them satellite connectivity. The Spot X now has 2 way text messaging. With all the new private launch companies putting up new satellites, competition, cost, and access should be improving.
Last edited by Dave_5280 on Sat May 12, 2018 2:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I have made calls from the Apple Watch using Siri. It works but it's hard to do when flying a kite. I guess in a proper emergency then you wouldn't be flying the kite. You'd be sitting there wishing to get rescued. In that case you could push the SOS button.
It would make sense to have an emergency contact with a unique name that Siri could understand with water and wind noise in the background.
In terms of "stuff you could reasonably have with you without overloading or forgetting", a whistle would be a good thing to have. You could simply have it on a lanyard around your neck. It's louder than yelling and much more energy efficient. It's kind of blindingly obvious that a person sitting in the water blowing a fucking loud whistle really wants to get your attention. I have called in rescuers (while sitting up a tree) when GPS and radio were useless (true there's not many trees in the sea).
We were chatting in India about organizing mountain rescue. We decided that calling SOS can be a bit useless in those circumstances. Rescue authorities will dick around and go through channels and talk to each other, and maybe achieve nothing. Contacting your friends who can then proceed to light a rocket under the authorities can be more useful, especially in "other" countries.