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Old 27-06-2016, 08:28   #1
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AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

The tragic loss of the sailboat with a father and 3 teens has inspired quite a lot of conversation on the value of the personal locator beacon.

My personal nightmare of one of my crew lost overboard at night inspires me to expound a tad on the potential value of the modern Search and Rescue Transmitter.

With a DSC alarm for VHF notification, the crew of the closest vessel (the one u fell from) can track u as opposed to a PLB which requires coordinated communication between a number of sources.

I'm glad to say that my only reception on a SART signal to date has been from a boat sitting in port while I was 6 miles offshore. I was impressed by the insistent notifications on my plotter and vhf and would have been on my way to offer aid were the boat not obviously at a dock.

While it may be of some comfort that a PLB signal can talk to a satellite, I think a boat a couple miles away can offer more immediate assistance.
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Old 27-06-2016, 09:13   #2
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

Not "vs" I think -- the SART, good for very short ranges, is no substitute for a satellite distress beacon. If you can have only one -- then IMHO clearly EPIRB or PLB.

When it really hits the fan, I mean, when you're in the water or in your life raft and you're staring death in the face, you will really want every possible means at your disposal. The AIS SART is a terrific device, in my opinion, in the first place for a MOB situation. I keep one in my life jacket. It would equally beneficial in the life raft, alerting passing vessels of the fact that you are in distress, together with your exact location.

But if there are no vessels passing nearby, this device won't help you.
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Old 27-06-2016, 09:27   #3
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

Yes.

Neither am I in the vs. mode. I am in the club where people say it is OK to do without, it is OK to have something too.

Life ends in death and there are dangers along the road and how much one decides to hedge these dangers is up to them.

If I were in the gadgets can save you club, I would have all devices that could help: an EPIRB and a DSC/AIS device and flares and ...

One never knows what may be THE item that may help others find us and rescue us.

And our risk acceptance / seeking curves do differ. Some buy bonds, some buy shares, some buy options ...

Then again, then again, once all dangers are hedged ... what's the point of setting off at all?

We are killing the adventure every time we hedge a risk. Think of Columbus: no pdfs, no EPIRBs, no watermakers ... but his adventure beyond any measure. Not possible today, on an insured boat with all the crutches.

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Old 27-06-2016, 09:35   #4
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

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. . . We are killing the adventure every time we hedge a risk. Think of Columbus: no pdfs, no EPIRBs, no watermakers ... but his adventure beyond any measure. Not possible today, on an insured boat with all the crutches. . . .
I don't know about that. I think if you go overboard obsessing about the risks, maybe that "kills the adventure". But a bit of normal prudence and investment of a little thought, time and effort into managing the risks is just part of seamanship. For me, this is part of the adventure, and certainly doesn't kill it.
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Old 27-06-2016, 10:23   #5
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

I have the AIS MOB devices and an EPIRB, I do not have current PLB's.
I have tested the AIS and the alarm on my Watchmate 850 will wake the dead, and any fool can navigate straight to the MOB.

I think they are two completely different types of devices, one short range but should facilitate rescue in just a few minutes, the other will alert rescue services, but may take hours to get help. I'm hanging my hat on being able to get to the MOB and get them out of the water before a PLB would even get the CG moving.

I sail in warm water only, I think if I sailed in cold water, then the AIS device would be even more important.

I need to buy the vests that will automatically activate the AIS device, that way even if incapacitated, the alarm will be set off.

Both cost money of course.
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Old 27-06-2016, 12:30   #6
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

My youngest son lives on a Columbia 29 with his gf and 17 month old son. I spent my morning at the beach with the busy boy.

I have been spending a a bit of time with him in a community pool but sadly it is often at capacity before we arrive. The beach is near the ship channel and wakes knock him down and roll him on occasion.

Although I enjoy spending time with him, my primary intent is to teach him to keep his head above water and stay calm if he falls overboard. He does well with the new (to me) style armband floatie with the chest float and back buckle. He struggles to keep his head up with his walk around life jacket.

I hope he will be dog paddling soon. I taught all my boys in a similar fashion. We were always around water and drowning was always to real a possibility.

For now my son sails Galveston Bay and when they go my lady and I look after the little guy. His boat, although my son is making real headway in repairs, is in similar shape to that of the father of 3.

For now he is satisfied with the bay, but being 21, he won't be for long. The gulf will be calling.

Before I sail away I plan to purchase an AIS SART for his boat. I think it should be the go to SAR device for the majority of pleasure boats.

I find it odd that it isn't mentioned as often as the PLB.

I hope it never has to be activated.
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Old 27-06-2016, 12:42   #7
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

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Originally Posted by Cap Erict3 View Post
My youngest son lives on a Columbia 29 with his gf and 17 month old son. I spent my morning at the beach with the busy boy.

I have been spending a a bit of time with him in a community pool but sadly it is often at capacity before we arrive. The beach is near the ship channel and wakes knock him down and roll him on occasion.

Although I enjoy spending time with him, my primary intent is to teach him to keep his head above water and stay calm if he falls overboard. He does well with the new (to me) style armband floatie with the chest float and back buckle. He struggles to keep his head up with his walk around life jacket.

I hope he will be dog paddling soon. I taught all my boys in a similar fashion. We were always around water and drowning was always to real a possibility.

For now my son sails Galveston Bay and when they go my lady and I look after the little guy. His boat, although my son is making real headway in repairs, is in similar shape to that of the father of 3.

For now he is satisfied with the bay, but being 21, he won't be for long. The gulf will be calling.

Before I sail away I plan to purchase an AIS SART for his boat. I think it should be the go to SAR device for the majority of pleasure boats.

I find it odd that it isn't mentioned as often as the PLB.

I hope it never has to be activated.
We've been discussing the AIS SART. A great device, but don't forget that it will only work over a few miles. The AIS SART is a great supplement to, but no substitute for a PLB, which I would recommend by the first purchase.
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Old 27-06-2016, 13:10   #8
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

Other thing is to be of much good, the boat has to have an AIS receiver, best if linked to the plotter so you get an icon on the moving map to steer to.
So you have to buy an AIS as well as the AIS SAR device.
I think my AIS SAR devices are supposedly good for 5 or 6 miles, but one would hope that you would be alerted and responding to the MOB within a few hundred feet, not miles.

The AIS SAR is a self rescue thing, the EPIRB / PLB is a call the Calvary thing, no good for you on the boat at all, but sometimes you may need the Calvary.
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Old 27-06-2016, 13:54   #9
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

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I don't know about that. I think if you go overboard obsessing about the risks, maybe that "kills the adventure". But a bit of normal prudence and investment of a little thought, time and effort into managing the risks is just part of seamanship. For me, this is part of the adventure, and certainly doesn't kill it.
I can hear you. I am with you on this too. We too have an EPIRB (a gift from our friends who could not imagine). I could also buy a liferaft one day. We have an AIS now (a passive one, but I want a transceiver next time across). Etc.

Still, having sailed sans EPIRB/liferaft before, I can tell you there is a quality difference in what it is all about. Not to say it is a universal thing. Every one is perceiving this world, its risks, and the apparent necessity to stay alive, in their own way: what is an adventure to me will inevitably appear as mad irresponsibility to someone else. It's OK. It is what it is. Diversity. Complexity. Liberty.

That's all good too, I think. As long as we are free to live by our choices, without expecting others to pay the cost of our fears.

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Old 27-06-2016, 14:17   #10
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

Looking at Watchmate with my iPad, I see no less than 20 vessels underway with twice that number stationary. Coastguard, Homeland and countless other official vessels are all around Galveston Bay. Add all the other AIS equipped vessels capable of receiving a distress signal and the odds improve dramatically.

The area around the mouth of the bay is a crowded anchorage for tankers and cargo ships. Rescue craft and fast rescue are required by SOLAS on many vessels.

I know test runs of the FRC were common on the vessels I worked on.

I like the idea that a vessel in sight gets an alarm on the bridge and can respond before the boat goes under. That you can flip a switch while fighting the fire, trying to plug a leak or get the engine cranked to chase the KOB and the boats around you know you need aid.

20 miles from land the EPIRB and PLB make more sense. Near or in a busy port I think the SART preferable.
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Old 27-06-2016, 16:24   #11
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

One thing we have today is options.

We're currently replacing all instrumentation on our Liberty 458. AIS is one addition we considered mandatory.

This gives us the option of adding MOB AIS transmitters to our PFDs which we wear whenever the vessel is moving. This gives an automated MOB alert and position fix. AIS needs to be active whenever the vessel is moving so this will become part of our standing orders.

PLBs are another option. However they aren't really a local immediate action option. Our EPIRBs are also only activated as a quaternary (4th) safety option. PLBs therefore don't neatly fit within a layered safety system. They work best when a vessel and people are involved. They appear as a safety gimmick.

Is a PLB better than an AIS MOB? Which one is automated and which allows for local or own vessel rescue? The AIS MOB option. Run through the scenarios for a PLB. Fall off a cruise ship. Fall off own boat and get left by crew. Survival in PLB response times seems farcical.

Our boat has an EPIRB (actually 2) so PLBs seem less important. Being part of a crew on a vessel that has no EPIRB is the only scenario where I see a PLB making sense. PLBs are tied to a person and not a vessel so I would expect response times to be worse and false alerts to be more common. I havent seen any stats to indicate whether PLBs are effective at sea.

Of course our rationale mandates wearing PFDs at all times and having instrumentation on at all times. Most vessels do neither so our choices won't work for some.

Staying on the boat and self rescue also are our primary and secondary safety options. Electronic gadgets are at best a tertiary safety option. Being safe is all about risk management.

Staying on the boat is a passive option so much more desirable than gadgets. We have inviolable rules and 'actions on' for staying on the boat. Get these right first then work on secondary, tertiary and quaternary safety options.

I struggle to where PLBs fit. Either from a survival or cost perspective.

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Old 28-06-2016, 02:39   #12
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

If you have the necessary electronics for AIS to be displayed on your chart plotter, then getting an AIS SART device seems a very worthwhile safety investment, at around $300 per crew device.
In an MOB situation, without an AIS SART it's really tough for crew to effectively keep track of the MOB, especially in the snotty conditions most likely to cause the MOB in the first place.
Unfortunately the overall cost of entry is high, but like other insurance it's cheap if you ever need it.
Best chance of recovery is if your own crew or nearby boat can rescue you. A PLB will only call the CG and it would likely take hours for them to respond.
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Old 28-06-2016, 02:50   #13
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

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. . . I struggle to where PLBs fit. Either from a survival or cost perspective. . . .
We were not actually talking about MOB rescue situations. For that, the AIS SART is definitely the killer app.


We were talking about general distress signalling -- from a sinking boat, from the liferaft, or whatever -- when the entire vessel is in distress, like the Florida case which stimulated the OP to start this thread.

For that, as has been discussed, an AIS SART is undoubtedly useful, but will not help you if you're in the life raft far from shipping lanes. For this case, an EPIRB or PLB is the best Plan "A" for calling for help. As has been discussed, EPIRB and PLB are functionally identical, with certain pluses and minuses relative to each other.

Many sailors choose PLB over EPIRB because you can keep the PLB on your person which reduces the risk that you may not manage to bring the device with you in a sudden disaster, as often happens. The EL Faro disaster, 33 killed, is a case in point. Some choose to have a PLB for each crew member -- great idea if you can afford it. EPIRB, on the other hand, has a better antenna and has longer battery life. YMMV.
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Old 28-06-2016, 04:21   #14
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

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We've been discussing the AIS SART. A great device, but don't forget that it will only work over a few miles. The AIS SART is a great supplement to, but no substitute for a PLB, which I would recommend by the first purchase.
Max 10 miles, 40 miles helicopter @ 1000 feet, and 140 miles for aircraft @ 20 000 feet.

And your right, as recommended by the manafacturers it's intended to be a supplement.
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Old 28-06-2016, 04:57   #15
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Re: AIS-DSC-SART vs PLB

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Max 10 miles, 40 miles helicopter @ 1000 feet, and 140 miles for aircraft @ 20 000 feet.

And your right, as recommended by the manafacturers it's intended to be a supplement.
Thanks for real numbers. Sounds about right to me, and we should all keep in mind that AIS uses VHF radio which wants near line of sight between the antennae. An AIS SART with a small antenna and located right at the level of the surface will be compromised there with regard to vessels who themselves have relatively low antennae.

I wonder if these devices can be received by the satellite AIS system? Anyone know? I would guess not but it would be interesting to know.

Another thing Rustic's numbers remind us about is that a handheld VHF radio will have much greater range than we are accustomed to, when dealing with aircraft, so they may be more useful in the life raft than you might think.
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