Steve, the PLBs put out exactly the same signal as an EPIRB
. If an EPIRB
gets detected, so will a PLB. Note that the PLB has to be put in the proper orientation, while the EPIRB is designed to float with the antenna
pointing in the right direction (up). There are two types of satellite
used to detect EPIRB/PLB signals: geostationary ones that cover between 70N to 70S latitude, and low-earth polar orbit satellites that fill in the gaps over the poles, so there is full coverage of the globe.
For what it's worth I once had a PLB false-trigger while it was belowdecks, and it was almost certainly not
properly orientated. It was detected, and I got a call on my satphone from the Coast Guard.
The primary issue is how long the PLB will transmit before draining its (smaller) battery
. If you will be a long way from outside assistance you might choose the EPIRB (48 hours minimum, 65 hours typical), over the PLB (24 hours min, 35 hours typ).
If you are likely to be rescued within 24 hours then the PLB battery
life won't be an issue. If you carry multiple EPIRBS or PLBs when one dies you can trigger another.
Even if your PLB battery croaks before you are rescued, by that time the SAR guys will have have your position and drift, so they will at least have a reasonable search area. Having a working transmitter will make the search much more likely to succeed though.
I'm not a SAR expert, although I have read the gear
specs and talked to some USCG people about the process. I would take anything I read here with a grain of salt
and do your own research
before making a critical decision.