SailMail is a communication system for sending and receiving email specifically designed for use on board yachts or other types of boats when they are at sea, especially in areas where using regular Internet connections is often difficult or impossible. This email communications system is maintained by a nonprofit organization of yacht-owners called the SailMail Association, and membership in this organization is required to make use of SailMail. This system was originally an exclusively radio-based email system, using a network of radio stations all over the world, but it now also makes use of regular Internet and satellite communications. Users do not need an amateur radio license but do need a marine radio license, which requires passing an exam. In order to use this email system, a software application called Airmail SailMail must also be installed on the computer used for communication.
The SailMail Association operates and maintains a global network of private, high frequency radio stations. Each station is located in a coastal area, and together these radio stations provide worldwide coverage for the association's members. Locations for these radio stations include San Diego in California, USA; Firefly in New South Wales, Australia; and Maputo in Mozambique, Africa.
This email system also allows for sending and receiving email using a satellite connection, for example the Iridium or GlobalStar satellites. An Internet connection, such as Wi-Fi or cellular networks, can also be used to access SailMail. This feature is called SailMail webmail, and is mostly used when boaters are in a harbor or on shore where Internet access is more common. Email messages can also be accessed using a web-based mail reader, for example if one is using a public computer.
There are no fees per message, nor any connection fees for this email communications system. However, membership in the SailMail Association is required to use the system. Membership fees are paid per vessel, per year. This allows members to use all of the association's radio stations for a maximum of 90 minutes per week.
Airmail, the software application required to use this email system, includes a mail client that makes it possible to send and receive email with or without attachments, and also features data compression, which makes transmission of emails faster, as well as spam and virus protection. The software also gives users the ability to add features such as weather reports to their email service.