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Old 05-02-2008, 19:34   #1
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About to Purchase an EPIRB - Just a Couple of Questions . . .

How critical is an integrated GPS? Most of our foreseeable future cruising will be coastal.
Looking at one of these two, any words of wisdom or experience with them?
Satellite<sub>2</sub>406 Mhz EPIRB
SMARTFIND™ 406 MHz EPIRB

Thanks, Bill
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Old 05-02-2008, 19:43   #2
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If your not going to be out of radio range of the coast an EPIRB may not be necessary. But of the two, I'd choose the ARC brand. They've been around for a long time.
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Old 05-02-2008, 20:29   #3
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Our next scheduled trip is the Sea of Cortez, so we want one. Assuming in the event we need it the Mexican Navy/CG will come and get us.
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Old 05-02-2008, 20:47   #4
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the integrated GPS models will get you a response quicker since it will broadcast your position as opposed to using satellite info to approximate your location. the Sea of Cortez is pretty remote so if I were making the decision I would go for the GPS model, but you will pay more.
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Old 05-02-2008, 21:28   #5
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Originally Posted by Chuck Baier View Post
, but you will pay more.
yes, for costal cruising and the odd short 100mn to sea then you need to balance your wallet. If you have the cash buy the 406 with gps. but if it means going without a liferaft.....

get the point? Its all priorities. I think a 406 is essential with gps but if the $200 difference in price meant I could buy a Mobialret system so I could find crew who go overbord then it would be the mobialert.
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Old 05-02-2008, 22:29   #6
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If you are setup with NMEA running around aboard you can get models that broadcast the position last reported from NMEA, but don't have an integral GPS. They are priced in the middle, and obviously rely upon NMEA to provide position information.
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Old 05-02-2008, 22:42   #7
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How critical is an integrated GPS?
Best choice if the price is not a problem but is not critical. Contrary to others I contend that in remote regions the GPS is much less important, almost redundant, because a rescue will not even be started before the RCC has a doppler fix from the satellites so the timeliness of the GPS fix is not of much importance.

If sailing coastal in range of rescue helicopters on standby then the GPS fix will be an advantage as the fix will then be available pretty much immediately.

For remote area searches, mostly conducted by merchant vessels, it is said that the GPS fix is an advantage as merchant vessels cannot home on the 121MHz beacon from the EPIRB. But I have not heard of any great difficulty finding a yacht or raft within the doppler fix from the satellites.

Rounding that up, if money no problem then seems penny pinching not to get a GPS one. If money means going without other important equipment then there will be very little disadvantage having a non GPS EPIRB - the important thing is to have an EPIRB.

My own experience with ACR has been good and in the few cases where I have specified the safety fitout for commercial vessels the clients have always been happy with ACR.

The country I live in is responsible for one of the largest search and rescue regions in the world and part of it is amongst the remotest. Almost all EPIRB initiated rescues there are made from the yacht, not from a raft as most are made within 24 hours and most rescues are not due to the yacht sinking rapidly (if at all). It is useful to remember when referring to isolated areas that that most merchant vessels can steam around 400-500nm in 24 hours. The number of merchant vessels around makes very few places truely remote from a rescue point of view.
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Old 06-02-2008, 00:56   #8
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Contrary to others I contend that in remote regions the GPS is much less important, almost redundant, because a rescue will not even be started before the RCC has a doppler fix from the satellites so the timeliness of the GPS fix is not of much importance.
In my opinion, the intergal GPS is always important. The doppler fix can be up to 5 kilometres off, the GPS fix narrows that down to better than 100 metres.

Consider the size of the search object (you), a 40 ft yacht is fairly visible from the air but not always from the sea, a liferaft isn't very visible from anywhere and a person floating in a lifejacket is almost invisible. Consider the size of the search area, a circle with a 5 Km radius is huge compared to a 100 m radius.

There is also a consideration that the search area maybe be at the limit of an helicopters range so the smaller the search area the better.

Think worst case, you hit semi-submerged object 200 nm off shore, boat sinks in minutes, some problem with liferaft, heavy weather, night, you floating in lifejacket with eprib (with intergal GPS) - at least something is going your way. Flick the switch and wait. With any luck 2 hours later some SAR helicopter with bright light hurting eyes will hover overhead with a big guy coming down a winch. BTW he will look absolutly beautiful at this stage. Far better than watching a SAR aircraft (or ship) conducting a square search some 2 or 3 Km's away. The extra 200 dollars will seem like a good investment now. My philsophy is that safety equipment will never be used until that time arrives when it is the only trick you have left, it had better be an ace.

The GPS fixes are probably better than doppler fixes if the SAR Centre are having to calculate your drift but I don't really have any data on that aspect, just a hunch.

BTW, I work along side the guys who operate SAR aircraft and helicopters, they always prefer a smaller search area and a reliable fix to centre the search around.
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Old 06-02-2008, 03:37   #9
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Old 06-02-2008, 07:00   #10
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Thanks for all the thoughts. You guys know your stuff.
What about the small personal ACR units with integrated GPS like this one:ACR Aquafix 406 I/O PLB-EPIRB

Is the biggest differance between these and full size units battery capacity? Or am I missing something?
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Old 07-02-2008, 00:59   #11
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Is the biggest differance between these and full size units battery capacity? Or am I missing something?
Yes and no.

There are some differences between an EPIRB and PLB. The minimun operating time for an EPRIB is 48 hours (from my memory??) while the minimun operating time for a PLB is 24 hours. However some PLB's do better than this so check the specs before buying (so you are comparing apples with apples). An EPIRB will float, a PLB doesn't have to but some might.


Some other points to watch out for:
Battery replacement time varies between models. Keep in mind that the unit you buy now will be obsolete when the battery needs replacing in say 7 years!
Some batteries are field replaceable, most are not.
Some batteries are declared dangerous cargo which makes transporting them as freight a bit more difficult (but not impossible).
A lot of the newer PLB's are now "non hazmat" meaning they are not considered dangerous cargo and you can carry them on board passengar aircraft (as checked luggage - not cabin luggage).
Some are easier to operate with cold wet tired fingers in the dark, some aren't so easy or intuitive.
The HEX ID (and country code etc) can be field reprogrammed on some models (by an approved field agent), others can't. This is not usually a big issue unless your are planning to permanently relocate to another country or re-register your vessel in another country.
Some PLB's also have a strobe built in, could be handy trying to find a MOB at night.

Then there is the legal aspects. In some places an PLB is not a replacement for an EPIRB. For instance, in Western Australia, if you are in the catergory where an EPIRB is complusory, you must have a current EPIRB on board regardless of how many PLB's you might already have.

Disclaimer - I sell and install aviation ELT's but have no commerical interest with EPIRBs and PLBs.
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Old 07-02-2008, 01:12   #12
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A bit more: while I don't believe in relying on others to rescue me, I do carry a EPIRB (without GPS) for the vessel and a PLB (with intergal GPS and strobe) attached to my inflatable lifejacket. My reasoning is that friends and family should consider I am OK even if they haven't heard from me for months providing the EPRIB / PLB has not activated. If it has, then depending on which one is activated (either solely or sequentially), some probable interpretation of events can be assumed (assuming I have not be rescued, thus deceased). Just something to think about.
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Old 07-02-2008, 05:02   #13
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Keep in mind that the unit you buy now will be obsolete when the battery needs replacing in say 7 years!
This point is part of my decision process. Most of our cruising will be coastal until retirement in the next 5-7 years. So I planned on the unit being obsolete and needing a new one when we plan on taking off for further destinations.
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Old 17-05-2011, 11:24   #14
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Re: About to purchase an EPIRB, a couple questions.

Just purchased...

Amazon.com: ACR GlobalFix Pro 406 2844 EPIRB Category II Rescue Beacon with Manual Release Bracket and Built-in GPS: Electronics

Hope I never have to use it.
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Old 05-06-2011, 10:37   #15
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Re: About to purchase an EPIRB, a couple questions.

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Hmmmm...Amazon usually has the lowest prices but the ACR 2844 sells for $680, that's $63 less, of all places, West Marine.
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