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Old 05-01-2018, 12:06   #1
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PLB Recommendations

After searching this topic on CF the latest info I could see was from 2013 and I'm almost sure technology has moved on since then...

SO, I am seeking recommendations, damning tirades, pluses, minuses - give me all you've got.

We are initially doing coastal cruising in remote northern areas (upper BC and AK) and then heading south next winter.

As always, thanks.
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Old 05-01-2018, 13:39   #2
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Re: PLB Recommendations

Quote:
Originally Posted by redhead View Post
After searching this topic on CF the latest info I could see was from 2013 and I'm almost sure technology has moved on since then...

SO, I am seeking recommendations, damning tirades, pluses, minuses - give me all you've got.

We are initially doing coastal cruising in remote northern areas (upper BC and AK) and then heading south next winter.

As always, thanks.
Sorry, Redhead, I am short of tirades, but I am happy share what we have chosen to use in our higher latitudes escapades- with links to blog posts [with more links and details] explaining why if you want more details...

I'm going to include PLBs, MOB beacons, and EPIRBs since these often get lumped together under this topic...

Excerpts from these more detailed blog posts: [Which we update as needed...]

For PLBs, [defined as a COPAS-SARSAT capable, and MEOSAR compatible device registered to an individual- not a vessel. See this brief article.] we prefer the PLB1 from Ocean Signal because I liked the smaller form factor [see photo at end of this post] and the 7 year battery life.

For MOB beacons we prefer the Ocean Signal MOB1 since it broadcasts the AIS MOB alert, and has VHF DSC alert capability as well.

For EPIRB [COPAS-SARSAT/MEOSAR device registered to the vessel...] we await the impending AIS/EPIRB units. Until then, we are using an Ocean Signal EPIRB1 mainly for its small form factor, 10 year battery life, and competitive pricing... [Watch for special pricing and rebates on all these devices...]

Note: All EPIRBS acquired in the US are manually and water activated [e.g., in an extreme emergency, you can just toss them overboard if you don't have time to fumble with pressing buttons, etc...] Other countries [notably Australia] allow the purchaser a choice of water activated or manual only. The manually activated models are often somewhat cheaper, but cannot be registered in the US due to its requirement for water activation... This may change in the future...]

While we are on the topic of individual survival electronics, I should mention we each also carry a third electronic device on our PFDs: a DSC VHF radio [waterproof, that turn on when they get wet... SH 870HX was our choice] so we can converse with the mothership- or any vessel for that matter... [Denali Rose, Swimmer 1; please don't let anyone eat my lunch...]

One final note: All of the above devices have their own internal GPS receivers and transmit their position automatically. [Using DSC and/or polling on the VHF.]

Best wishes deciding what best suits your needs...

Cheers! Bill
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Old 05-01-2018, 13:54   #3
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Re: PLB Recommendations

I also like the Ocean Signal PLB1 - although practice unrolling its antenna and pretending to push the button several times. It's weird - would be very hard to do in the dark.

I also strongly suggest you carry an InReach. This is now my "first use" beacon (I do have the others as backup). First, because Inreach will reply so I know I've been heard. Second, because SAR can immediately confirm the distress directly with you. They don't have to waste possibly hours confirming it's not a false alarm. Over 95% of beacon signals are false alarms.

Finally, the Inreach gives you an effective way to handle difficult situations that are not yet Mayday - "send a helicopter" severity. It's especially useful to setup a checkin schedule with SAR when facing unusually bad weather.
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Old 05-01-2018, 14:01   #4
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Re: PLB Recommendations

WR Wakefield:Thanks for that! I have the PLB1 on my short list due to light weight. And I'll look up your other recommendations tonight.

Carl: We will definitely have an InReach, just debating whether to go monthly or annual.
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Old 05-01-2018, 14:12   #5
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Re: PLB Recommendations

FWIW, something to be aware of; PLBs that have a flotation pouch (like the PLB1) normally require the unit to be removed from the pouch for activation / operation.
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Old 05-01-2018, 14:25   #6
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Re: PLB Recommendations

Quote:
Originally Posted by redhead View Post
After searching this topic on CF the latest info I could see was from 2013 and I'm almost sure technology has moved on since then...

SO, I am seeking recommendations, damning tirades, pluses, minuses - give me all you've got.

We are initially doing coastal cruising in remote northern areas (upper BC and AK) and then heading south next winter.

As always, thanks.
What purpose are you looking the PLB to fill? Is this the primary device for your boat or will you have an Eprib? Are you looking for an MOB device?
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Old 05-01-2018, 14:28   #7
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Re: PLB Recommendations

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Originally Posted by wrwakefield View Post
......]

Note: All EPIRBS acquired in the US are manually and water activated [e.g., in an extreme emergency, you can just toss them overboard if you don't have time to fumble with pressing buttons, etc...] .......
For them to be water activated they must be removed from the mount. I've seen Epribs that have the mount strapped to them but not actually mounted. For these to be water activated you have to remove the mount. Just an FYI.
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Old 05-01-2018, 14:45   #8
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Re: PLB Recommendations

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Originally Posted by wrwakefield View Post
Note: All EPIRBS acquired in the US are manually and water activated [e.g., in an extreme emergency, you can just toss them overboard if you don't have time to fumble with pressing buttons, etc...] Other countries [notably Australia] allow the purchaser a choice of water activated or manual only. The manually activated models are often somewhat cheaper, but cannot be registered in the US due to its requirement for water activation... This may change in the future...]
I'm not sure where you get this, but it's not true. Manually activated EPIRBs (Cat II) are perfectly legal for recreational vessels in the US and are widely available from any retailer selling EPIRBs. Cat I automatic EPIRBs are also widely available and usually cost around $100 more. I carry a manual Cat II.
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Old 05-01-2018, 14:48   #9
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Re: PLB Recommendations

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Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
What purpose are you looking the PLB to fill? Is this the primary device for your boat or will you have an Eprib? Are you looking for an MOB device?
The PLBs will be our primary MOB device. One of our closest friends a retired Coasty was asked the question a while ago "If you could only have one MOB device, what would you choose?" Without a seconds hesitation he said "PLB, I want them to find ME, not the boat".
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Old 05-01-2018, 14:57   #10
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Re: PLB Recommendations

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The PLBs will be our primary MOB device. One of our closest friends a retired Coasty was asked the question a while ago "If you could only have one MOB device, what would you choose?" Without a seconds hesitation he said "PLB, I want them to find ME, not the boat".
There's a reason why plbs are so much smaller than Epribs. It's battery life.
If you are referring to an MOB situation, you are much more likely to survive due to an AIS Sart than a PLB. The response time to a PLB will typically be far too long to do an MOB any good - certainly in a remote area away from USCG helicopters. At least with a Sart you have the opportunity for your vessel to rescue you, assuming not single handed, and other vessels within VHF range.
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Old 05-01-2018, 15:11   #11
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Re: PLB Recommendations

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Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
There's a reason why plbs are so much smaller than Epribs. It's battery life.
If you are referring to an MOB situation, you are much more likely to survive due to an AIS Sart than a PLB. The response time to a PLB will typically be far too long to do an MOB any good - certainly in a remote area away from USCG helicopters. At least with a Sart you have the opportunity for your vessel to rescue you, assuming not single handed, and other vessels within VHF range.


As the recent deaths on the Clipper Race boats show, even 40 minutes in cold waters can lead to death. The PLB is going to have to go through rescue channels of official rescue services, and a rescue effort mounted, assuming there are rescue assets (boats or helicopters) available in your location or near it.

There are other, relatively low cost, small, devices which can allow the boat's remaining crew to "home in" on the MOB, and potentially get to the MOB much faster.
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Old 05-01-2018, 15:44   #12
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Re: PLB Recommendations

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I'm not sure where you get this, but it's not true. Manually activated EPIRBs (Cat II) are perfectly legal for recreational vessels in the US and are widely available from any retailer selling EPIRBs. Cat I automatic EPIRBs are also widely available and usually cost around $100 more. I carry a manual Cat II.
Yes. You are pointing out a common misunderstanding between deployment and activation...

Most of us on recreational vessels choose the Category II Manual deployment models for the same reasons you mention. [Cheaper Vs. Cat I with an automatic deployment mechanism in case the boat sinks...]

What I was referring to is how the EPIRB is activated once it is deployed...

The US [and other countries] require water as well as manual activation. Such an EPIRB has a couple of metal probes- usually recessed in the housing- that will make contact with water when floating. That is the water activation mechanism. [And that is how Cat. I auto deploying EPIRBS activate once they are released from their bracket...]

I cover this in more detail with citations in the blogs posts I linked in my original response in this thread.

I hope this helps clear things up.

Cheers! Bill
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Old 05-01-2018, 16:00   #13
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Re: PLB Recommendations

Ah, my mistake - yeah I thought you were talking about deployment. Good point that all the cat II EPIRBs here have a safety that prevents activation unless the metal contacts are submerged.
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Old 05-01-2018, 16:42   #14
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Re: PLB Recommendations

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
There's a reason why plbs are so much smaller than Epribs. It's battery life.
If you are referring to an MOB situation, you are much more likely to survive due to an AIS Sart than a PLB. The response time to a PLB will typically be far too long to do an MOB any good - certainly in a remote area away from USCG helicopters. At least with a Sart you have the opportunity for your vessel to rescue you, assuming not single handed, and other vessels within VHF range.
I agree. However since our primary waters for the next year or so will be cold northern waters I expect the 24 hour battery life to be more than enough if I go overboard. We have gumbie suits, but most of the time will not have them on, so life expectancy in the water is significantly less than 24 hours.... this is somewhat of a panacea, since in those waters, either the one left on the boat will recover the MOB by visual or the officials will be able to locate the body. We are also ordering life raft and other mega $$ items, so I can choose either EPIRB or PLB - just can't afford both right now. We will have AIS also.
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Old 05-01-2018, 16:51   #15
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Re: PLB Recommendations

PANBO.COM reviewed a number of recent PLBs. Some have AIS and DSC functions, some fit on some PFD pockets, others don't. Some have "triggers" that can be set to be automatically pulled by an inflating PFD. There's quite a variety of stuff that's come out recently.

Even with just two of you, if the PLB has a "local" broadcast that your on-board electronics can read (i.e. an AIS or DSC position call) then the one remaining on board stands a good chance of being able to go back and get you. Arguably worth looking for. (The feature, not the MOB, that is.(G)
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