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.