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Old 17-07-2007, 22:05   #1
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EPIRB alert

EPIRB alert to all fellow mariners:

Some of you may have heard of the sub-tropical storm Andrea that led to the sinking of two vessels off the coast of North Carolina on May 7th. My s/v Sean Seamour II was one, the Flying Colors was the other lost with all hands on board including two professional skippers. In our case we suffered an initial knockdown followed by a 360 roll, all of this is consigned in my log that can consulted on my blog : Art and Sea in Provence :: s/v Sean Seamour II - the final log entry, those interested in the latest weather data analysis from the NHC visit Robin Storm: The NHC Report on Subtropical Storm Andrea

The reason I am alerting the community concerns the EPIRB that was launched right after the initial knockdown with the following background and results:

1. I purchased the unit in October of 2002, the UK vendor registered it with NOAA and supplied it to the vessel at the time still in the Mediterranean. Once in Florida all portables, from sails to EPIRB, Life raft et-al has always been kept in an air conditioned storage when the boat was not in use.
The EPIRB was always kept in its cradle affixed to the inside of the companionway whenever the boat was in use.

2. Prior to leaving for the May crossing back to Europe I had the shipyard sent the EPIRB with the life raft for recertification, the accredited service center informed me through the yard that the unit was fully operational and certified until next November.

3. The unit started to function normally when initiated at about 02:45hours on the 7th, betwen the knockdown and the 360 I put it back in its cradle for safekeeping and accessibility should the need to abandon ship occur, less that 30 minutes later it ceased functioning.

4. The Coast Guard received the signal initially, but the hexadecimal code it received was that of another vessel in Alabama.They never received a distress signal from s/v Sean Seamour II as there appears to be no Sean Seamour II vessel registered in their database.

5. Once they ascertained that the ID code received was that of a non initiated EPIRB, under the principle that every EPIRB has a unique hexadecimal code plus the interruption of the signal, further search on this distress signal was abandoned.

Had I not kept an 11 year old EPIRB (with its original battery that functioned over ten hours) from one of my prior vessels my crew and I would be yet another set of lost at sea statistics and all of the above would not be known.

This is much more critical when considering the information provided by the manufacturer who I initially contacted to attempt to understand what may have happened (my insurance carrier could not understand why the reported vessel name was Lou Pantai, a vessel I owned ten years ago, but reported throughout the press and USCG due to EPIRB identification). In my discussion with one of the directors I was told "this has happened before".

I am of course extremely interested in any similar experience or knowledge someone may have that could corroborate my experience, I consider there are too many lives at stake for this to be swept under the rug as there are three issues at stake: (i) why did the unit mis function, (ii) if there was a technical flaw why was this not detected at recertification, finally, (iii) how could the hexadecimal number be attributed to another vessel. My decal from NOAA says Sean Seamour II with the ID code, the ID code is to another vessel. Any one of the above three faults could have cost the lives of the crew, let alone the three.

For anyone interested in reading the story in French, Voiles et Voiliers, the leading sailing magazine in France has just published a four page spread with some dramatic photography in the August issue.
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Old 18-07-2007, 08:11   #2
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Question What EPIRB?

It would be helpful to know what EPIRB you were using. Most of us are aware that there were some problems with the Pains-Wessex device but your web site--at one point--makes reference to ACR. We have an ACR GlobalFix EPIRB and if there is, potentially, a problem I'd sure like to know so that we can have the unit checked-out by ACR before we might need it!

s/v HyLyte
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Old 18-07-2007, 08:19   #3
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It was an ACR Globalfix (cat 2)
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Old 18-07-2007, 09:15   #4
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Terrific--

I don't suppose the unit was recovered so that a post-mortum could be conducted, eh? Just for the sake of it, how old was the unit? Also, I have to wonder about the "certification". Frankly, it sounds like the battery was near death which would not necessarily have been evident if someone simply ran through the self-test routine.

N'any case, my next email is to ACR!

Thanks for the info-- I'm glad you all survived your trials. The loss of the yacht is a heart-breaker but its the crew that counts.

Regards,

s/v HyLyte
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Old 18-07-2007, 09:27   #5
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Post mortem is being programmed, unit was four and a half years old, just out of recertification, the unit that saved us was also an ACR, unit and battery were eleven years old and it emitted over ten hours
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Old 18-07-2007, 10:00   #6
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We have just sent an email off to the technical department at ACR concerning replacing the batteries of our, also, 4-1/2 year old unit and having it tested for proper operation. FWIW we also carry a couple of smaller, personal, ResQFix EPIRBs for individual use on the dinghy and in case someone goes over the side (the 121.5 homing frequency can be detected by our SeaFix RDF) so, hopefully we're covered. I shall post our response from ACR ASAP.

Cheers,

s/v HyLyte
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Old 18-07-2007, 12:27   #7
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I have a nagging memory that there were some issues some time ago with ACR EPIRBs being recalled after water was seen in the "waterproof" strobe assembly portions, and another issue of the confidence light lighting up--but no actual transmission being made.

IIRC the USCG has made provisions for actually testing EPIRBs at a number of USCG stations, where you can set up an appointment, have it inserted in an insturmented "coffin" (a Faraday cage), and actually testing to confirm that it IS transmitting and is transmitting the correct code.

My faith in the certified merchants who handle life-saving equipment is somewhat tempered by one too many reports like this over the years.

If it isn't tested and verified in front of my own eyes--it isn't verified by the only source that matters to me.
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Old 18-07-2007, 13:29   #8
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Seanseamour, can you tell me if the batteries were replaced when the unit was sent in for service?? 4 1/2yrs is a long shelf tiem for batteries and even if they test OK, they shoudl be replaced, as reserve capacity may not be truely indicated by Test voltage. If I sent my EPIRB in for service inspection and recert, I would be assuming the batteries would be replaced. I do hope that is the normal case.
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Old 18-07-2007, 14:48   #9
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Hi

I would like to reproduce seans original post on another sailing forum, pretty much as a public service announcement.
I don't want to offend anyone though, what's the protocol?
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Old 18-07-2007, 15:21   #10
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Quote:
I don't want to offend anyone though, what's the protocol?
Republishing of already published materials requires the permission of the original publisher. In this case the author. It's always true. It isn't a Cruisers Forum issue it is an international copyright issue. In any case you don't have the right to publish works you don't author or own.

Your option is to post a link in the other forum that points directly to this thread. That you can easily do. That way the updates added here are included for the next reader too.

That is the method we prefer here too. Don't cut and paste original material here - we won't accept it and no one else should either. We expect you to make a short comment then paste the http link. We have run into this before where members cut and paste a whole news story and that can get CF in deep trouble with the news publisher.

Materials you didn't author yourself are not yours to spread around any way you see fit. Posting a link that points here makes sure the readers get the whole story not just your quick cut and paste. They see the actual words written by the author and the replies he makes as well.

This is clearly a story we all want the details about should more unfold. Don't spread just part of a story that is still unfolding. We don't mind if new people join CF either. They don't have to join to read a thread but they may want to.
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Old 18-07-2007, 15:44   #11
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If I sent my EPIRB in for service inspection and recert, I would be assuming the batteries would be replaced. I do hope that is the normal case.
Hey Wheels, you don't own an epirb
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Old 18-07-2007, 20:40   #12
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Everyone can check his own "i am registered" status here:
Search for Ship Particulars

Hope this helps a little bit.
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Old 18-07-2007, 20:41   #13
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Thank you, I will do some research on this issue.
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Old 18-07-2007, 20:45   #14
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No the battery was not replaced, the service centre saidthey were good, added that they ususally last anither five years (of course not to the 48 hour specification) my 11 year old ACR that saved me emitted for 10 hours.
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Old 18-07-2007, 20:51   #15
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Hello, if you are referring to my log of May 6th s/v Sean Seamour II, I have no problem with it being posted as I have done elsewhere, but suggest you take full version from my blog as some parts were missing on one of the sites Art and Sea in Provence :: s/v Sean Seamour II - the final log entry
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