Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Float Cabin Living - Do You Have a Telephone?

One thing we really like about our float cabin on Powell Lake is that it is off-the-grid. We have all the comforts of home (because it is), but with simplicity. When we are in town, we are amazed at how much excess there is. The saying is true, less is more.

Telephone communication makes our life in a remote area more comfortable. It provides a measure of safety that wasn’t available to pioneering families. But we try to keep our phone calls to a minimum so they don’t interrupt our lifestyle. Here are the two types of phones we have used.

Satellite Telephone Service

For many years we had a satellite telephone for emergencies while flying. The advantage of satellite service is that it works outside of landline and cellular areas. In North America there's Iridium and Globalstar (the one we used). Disadvantages included high cost (handset and service), outdoor operation for the antennae to reach the satellites, good sky exposure for optimal signal strength and signal degradation in rain and wind when the float moved during storms (when you want it the most!). After much frustration with dropped calls, we started exploring our cellular options.

Cellular Telephone Service
Just about everyone knows about cellular telephones. Our cabin is at the ragged edge of Powell River’s cell tower on Telus Mountain. Digital service reaches about 5 to 8 miles (8 to 13 km). Analog service extends the range, but has security disadvantages. Plus, there are plans to phase out analog in the future. To improve our cellular connection, we purchased an external antenna for my Motorola handset. It is the same type of antenna you would use on a car. The heavy magnet base attaches the antenna to our metal roof. The cable extends under the porch where we can now sit in comfort on the “phone booth” chair. Cellular advantages for us are: we get a more consistent connection, lower overall cost, and we don’t have to stand under an umbrella juggling a phone to keep it aligned with the satellites on a windy, rainy night.

I recommend that you explore all of your telephone communication options before making a decision. But for us, cellular was the better choice. -- Margy

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