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Old 03-01-2008, 15:45   #1
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EPIRB question

Our ACR 406 is getting older and the battery should be replaced. My Wife can get a discount for a new one with GPS so we think by the time we replace the battery it would be better to save the money and sell the 406 and buy a new one. My question is .. should we buy a automatic or manual deployed unit?
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Old 03-01-2008, 16:13   #2
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Somebody may want to correct me on this one, but it's my understanding that the "auto" model will have trouble transmitting to the satellite if it's mounted in the cabin and the boat is sinking to the bottom, anybody?? anybody???
(and I don't really know, I'm trying to learn, here)
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Old 03-01-2008, 16:20   #3
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The auto can be manually deployed, but when it defecation hits the revolving blades, there is at least a chance it will deploy and broadcast on its own. I vote for auto.

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Old 03-01-2008, 18:38   #4
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Auto or have one of each.
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Old 03-01-2008, 22:01   #5
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I am not sure what you mean by "auto" as there are two "auto" aspects associated with EPIRB's.

The first is automatic release (CAT I EPIRB's) which release and operate when a certain hydrostatic pressure is reached. These normally release at around 4m depth so your boat will have good and properly sunk by the time the EPIRB lets go and floats to the top - all assuming you have mounted it somewhere in the clear where it won't get fouled - and you will be floating in your liferaft without an EPIRB unless you have remembered to have gone on deck to where ever the auto release EPIRB is mounted and taken it in hand before your boat sinks.

If I had an automatic release (CAT I) EPIRB I think that I would carry a manual release (CAT II) one as well. On commercial vessels (they are required normally to carry a auto release CAT I EPIRB) I try to have them arranged in the clear so they will float free without fouling but so that they are within reach of and in the path of crew as they evacuate the wheelhouse so that they are more likely to remember to take it with them and have it in the raft with them, rather than it later bobbing to the surface out of reach. Having the EPIRB in the liferaft with you is important both from a general fix point of view for rescue and also so that locating aircraft can fly you down on the 121 MHz locator signal from the EPIRB.

The second automatic function is that most EPIRB's (including the CAT II manual release EPIRB's) always start transmitting automatically when they are floated in water. However, some of the cheaper ones that have come on the market recently do not automatically start transmitting when placed in water but have to be manually switched on (I have not checked, but I think that all ACR EPIRB's are automatic but other manufacturers such as GME have manual as well).

My own personal preferance on a sailboat is for a manual release (CAT II) EPIRB and one that automatically starts transmitting when placed in the water. I am aware of several commercial vessels (fishing vessels) that have been capsized in heavy seas and lost and the auto release EPIRB has not deployed, one assumes because the vessel went over so quickly that the EPIRB was trapped, and the crew lost (in one case found weeks later dead in their liferaft which did deploy).

I would not have a EPIRB that does not start transmitting automatically when placed in water on my boat. We have a manually deployed EPIRB but which starts transmitting automatically when placed in the water (an ACR) and it lives in a handy place beside the companionway, but to hand under our hard dodger if we are not in sheltered waters.

Regarding having GPS integrated with the EPIRB there is not a lot to be gained for oceanic cruising as the difference in time to get a complete fix will be well under an hour. In that time resources will not have been deployed for the rescue so GPS probably gives no useful time saving. There may be a slight advantage with GPS giving a fix within meters for a merchant vessel finding you as they cannot locate on the 121MHz beacon, but I have not heard of them having any great difficulty finding rafts and stricken yachts on the basis of the non GPS doppler fix from the satellites.

My experience is mainly for the Pacific Ocean and there 406MHz EPIRB initiated rescues are normally effected within 24 hours (in most parts there is a ship within 400-500nm that can be tasked for the rescue) and in almost all cases the rescue is from the yacht itself, not from a raft so the EPIRB has been manually activated not floated free. That is another matter which inclines me towards manual release CAT II EPIRBS for yachts. Personally, I would not pay any great premium for a GPS integrated EPIRB and I certainly wouldn't replace my existing non GPS one simply for the sake of change.

Remember that if you get an automatically deploying EPIRB that it should be mounted so that its antenna is vertical. If you ask for assistance by radio the rescue authorities may ask you to turn the EPIRB on so that they can fly you down on the 121MHz beacon that it transmits - for that, the antenna is more effective if vertical. Of course, if asked to do the same with a manually deployed EPIRB make sure it is mounted with the antenna vertical when you do so.

I realise that in the selection of safety equipment personal views and ones emotive approach to the sea comes into it. Others are obviously welcome to do different to the above and be responsible for their own decisions but I hope the above is of some assistance.
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Old 07-01-2008, 03:50   #6
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Buy new, buy automatic. If you really are in need of emergency help; you may be personally disabled, either physically or mentally by panic.

The likelihood of having a number of significant problems simultaneously could limit or distract "presence of mind" with regards to alarming your EPIRB manually.

The EPIRB needs mounted properly in accord with manufacturer instructions.
A fellow sailor had his manual EPIRB, loose and stashed under one of the bunks in his cabin.
When I asked him if I could see it, it took him 15 minutes to find it. (Looking under wrong bunks). Need I say more?
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Old 07-01-2008, 04:38   #7
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If 406's were a reasonable cost we could afford to have a few and toss them round the boat like confetti.

I would really like 3 or 4 on board: 1 hydrostatic, 1 at the nav station, 1 in the life raft, 1 secured near the helm. And one without batteries for when I panick
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Old 07-01-2008, 11:46   #8
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Our old out of date EPIRB is packed in the life raft. It's a pain packed away there as the liferaft has to be deployed for me to get to it. Which brings me to another Question. It's an RFD life raft. If I deploy it, can I easily deflate it and pack it down so as I can take it to RFD to be repacked? or once deployed, are they a pain in the neck to get deflated again?
Back to the EPIRB...having it packed away like that, I am not sure it is a good idea. There maybe times I would need the EPIRB without needing the raft. Medical emergency for instance. Or in the hopefully very rare case that we could not get to the Life raft, at least we have a signal. I even know of cases of raft being washed from decks. So I think in future, when we do finaly update the EPIRB, we will keep it seperate from the raft. In our case, probably mounted in the Pilot house.
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Old 07-01-2008, 13:06   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Wheeler View Post
Our old out of date EPIRB is packed in the life raft. It's a pain packed away there as the liferaft has to be deployed for me to get to it. Which brings me to another Question. It's an RFD life raft. If I deploy it, can I easily deflate it and pack it down so as I can take it to RFD to be repacked? or once deployed, are they a pain in the neck to get deflated again?
Back to the EPIRB...having it packed away like that, I am not sure it is a good idea. There maybe times I would need the EPIRB without needing the raft. Medical emergency for instance. Or in the hopefully very rare case that we could not get to the Life raft, at least we have a signal. I even know of cases of raft being washed from decks. So I think in future, when we do finaly update the EPIRB, we will keep it seperate from the raft. In our case, probably mounted in the Pilot house.
If its old and out of date you might as well leave it in the life raft and go and buy a new 406 one anyway, you should be able to unpack liferaft without inflating if you really want the old one out
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Old 07-01-2008, 16:10   #10
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Back to the EPIRB...having it packed away like that, I am not sure it is a good idea. There maybe times I would need the EPIRB without needing the raft.
Certainly in our part of the world, and I suspect it is the same most places, from my observation almost all rescues initiated by a 406 EPIRB alert from a yacht are made from the yacht itself - the crew have not had to resort to the raft before rescue. That probably because most rescues are not from yachts that are under any immediate threat of sinking but rather due to crew incapacitation or damage to the yacht making it unseaworthy beyond the abilities of the crew to manage it.

Even if your alert is made by radio one may still be asked to activate the EPIRB so that a search aircraft can fly down the EPIRB's 121MHz beacon.

So, my personal view is the EPIRB should not be packed with the raft unless another EPIRB is carried as well.
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