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Old 01-03-2010, 15:18   #1
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PLB vs EPIRB

Hi all;

Defender is having a sale on a GPS equipped PLB, less than $250.00 Is there a good reason that this could not function as the ships epirb on a sailboat? OR included in the repack of a liferaft?

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Old 01-03-2010, 15:22   #2
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A good question. I know that PLBs are often used as EPIRBS, but there wont be an auto-launch feature. Also, I think that their battery times are usually less...
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Old 01-03-2010, 15:24   #3
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You may wish to start here: EPIRB vs. PLB and here PLB or EPIRB?
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Old 01-03-2010, 16:24   #4
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I think it comes down to where you are sailing.
Our cruising for the next year or so is the Bahamas and the East Coast of the U.S.A.
I believe we can get along fine with a PLB, in these areas rescue should come within 24 hrs.
If we were cruising from Florida to the Caribbean, I would want an EBIRP because of the distances involved.
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Old 01-03-2010, 17:57   #5
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PLB is good and EPIRB even better. Both will work. An EPIRB will have longer transmittion time and if you venture offshore or where the SAR might need long time to reach you, you may opt for an EPIRB. Also, an EPIRB may be required by some regulatory bodies.

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Old 01-03-2010, 19:14   #6
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We went through the same question. We decided to buy 2 GPS enabled PLBs for what was, at the time, the price of one GPS epirb.

Each PLB is rated for ~ 24 hours and the epirb is rated for ~ 48 hours.

Because we both wear our PFDs with harnesses while offshore, we liked the idea of each having a PLB attached to our bodies. We started with them clipped to ourselves which was very annoying and have recently bought one of those tiny camera bags that can fit on a strap so we can keep the PLB/knife/strobe in it where they won't bang on the fiberglass.

The biggest downsides we see to 2 PLBS vs 1 epirb are that PLBs will not go off unless we trigger them and they do not float. The biggest upside is that much of the time they will already be attached to us and each of us individually will have one.
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Old 01-03-2010, 19:26   #7
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Excelent thinking Livia. Seems to me that the fact that the plbs don't self activate is a good thing, allowing you the extended time option. Do any of these have external power options or changeble batteries?

Barnakiel, what regulatory body requires epirbs or plbs?
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Old 01-03-2010, 19:42   #8
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Excelent thinking Livia. Seems to me that the fact that the plbs don't self activate is a good thing, allowing you the extended time option. Do any of these have external power options or changeble batteries?
Annoyingly enough, apparently McMurdo has come out with PLB that is 48 hours AND you can replace the battery yourself. The battery is $175 at REI but at least you aren't shipping your unit to someone.

Our Fastfind 210 does not have a user replaceable battery and is 24 hours, but half the cost of the newer McMurdo. At the cost of the new McMurdo we would have a harder decision between 2 for twice the cost of the epirb vs one epirb.
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Old 01-03-2010, 20:03   #9
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The rational behind the manufacturer replacing the battery is at the same time they will test the functions of the unit and make any adjustments necessary. That keeps the unit in tip top shape. Dave
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Old 01-03-2010, 21:35   #10
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I have also gone with the two PLB strategy - an old one and a new one. The five year life of the batteries is very conservative. They should be fine for years longer. I'll always have one PLB with a new battery pack but I feel a lot better having a backup unit.

Especially with GPS in the PLB, an accurate fix occurs in a few minutes. There's no need to transmit for days.

One thing I do is to clearly indicate in the Beacon Registration database that I have two units aboard (and include the number of both units in the comment section of the record). If I'm in a life raft - I don't want anyone confused

By the way - it's so easy to update a record in the Beacon Registration database using the Internet that I now update the comments information prior to a major trip with my expected dates, route and crew. I also include a detailed description of my boat and liferaft and a link to a picture of her.

Carl
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Old 02-03-2010, 12:32   #11
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Excelent thinking Livia. Seems to me that the fact that the plbs don't self activate is a good thing, allowing you the extended time option. Do any of these have external power options or changeble batteries?

Barnakiel, what regulatory body requires epirbs or plbs?
EPIRB

An ocean going thing in Spain requires one. As far as I can remember the same requirement was for ocean going craft in NZ.

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Old 02-03-2010, 12:34   #12
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Do PLBs output the same strength of signal as EPIRBs?

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Old 02-03-2010, 15:02   #13
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Good question REI says 5 watts on 406MHz for ours. It also trasmits a homing signal on 121.5MHz.

I couldn't find wattage for any epirbs on WM's site.
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Old 03-03-2010, 05:07   #14
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Do PLBs output the same strength of signal as EPIRBs?

b.
Yes, well all the units I have seen are the same, can't say I have seen the specs every PLB ever made. This is for the 406 MHz transmitter, I don't have the specs of the 121.5 MHz transmitter to hand. The 406 MHz transmitter fires about every minute for about 500 milliseconds. The transmitted power is 5 watts.

Just a side issue, I service aviation ELT's, one major manufacturer states their ELT transmits for 48 hours. Well it does - sort of. The 406 MHz transmitter shuts down automatically after 24 hours while the 121.5 MHz transmitter operates for a minimum of 48 hours and continues until the battery is is dead. While this is a design feature of the ELT, I am still trying to get confirmation of transmitter times of EPIRB's. I suspect they may be the same, i.e 406 MHz transmitter designed to shut down after 24 hours and the remaining battery capacity used to power the 121.5 MHz transmitter only after that. If I ever get the actual transmitter specs info, I will post accordingly.
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Old 03-03-2010, 05:51   #15
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In Australia all jurisdictions (that I am aware of) require an EPIRB in areas 2 mile off shore, and a PLB does not constitute an EPIRB.

see for example MSQ

website:

What is a distress beacon?
A distress beacon is a small electronic device that, when activated in a life-threatening situation, assists rescue authorities in their search to locate those in distress.

Types of distress beacons

EPIRBs used in ships and boats are designed to float in the water to optimise the signal to the satellite. An EPIRB is required to operate for a minimum of 48 hours continuously once activated. It has a lanyard used to secure it to something that is not going to sink so that it can float free.
Personal locator beacons are designed for personal use in both the land and marine environment. Personal locator beacons are required to operate for a minimum of 24 hours once activated.

Personal locator beacons are not considered a substitute for EPIRBs if you are required to carry an EPIRB as part of your safety equipment.
Some 406 MHz beacons have an encoded (GPS) location. Locating a distress site is usually much faster if the beacon signal provides a GPS location.
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