Not sure why anyone considers an EPIRB to be too expensive to carry. My latest one works out at AU$24.90 (say US$22) per year and it is a GPS
one at that. We have three on our yacht, the new one, and two battery
expired but still working ones. One of these is in our grab bag, the other in the dinghy
. We also have a PLB on each of our lifejackets. Nothing like redundancy.
I would also like to share something that happened to us two weeks ago. At 0030 in the morning, a friend's wife rang me. Her husband is crewing
on another friend's cat and should have been in the vicinity of Fraser Island that night. She had received a copy of an SMS message from the third person on the boat (also a friend) via this person's son. The message said something like "450 miles off the coast, taking on water
, look after your Mum, I don't regret a thing".
Well, that really woke me up. First, it was physically impossible for them to be that far off the coast as they only left Mooloolaba two days before and were sailing up the coast. Secondly, no way the SMS could have been sent if that far off the coast. We then spent many hours trying to find out where they were. The third person's mobile (cell) was ringing but he did not answer. This shows they were still within range of the coast. However, the other two's phones did not ring. As they have a provider with poorer coverage, it probably only meant they were in an isolated spot.
My wife and I then contact the two volunteer marine rescue
bases they would have used and with a lot of help from them, we ascertained that they had safely crossed the Wide Bay Bar on the first day. This also confirmed that they were probably okay and in the protected waters behind Fraser Island.
My mate's wife by this time had contacted the Queensland
Police and they ascertained via the phone
company that the third person's phone was still being picked up by a tower that indicated they were on the northern or western side of Fraser.
We could do not much more till about dawn when another marine rescue
base opened (it did not have an after hours contact). They ended up radioing the boat and made contact. All was well.
What had happened? It seems like the third person was on very heavy pain medication and after consuming a few beers, had some sort of physicotic episode. The other two on the boat knew nothing of the message he had sent nor of the concern we all had.
My point about all this is that even though the message we received seemed to have no chance of being correct, we acted as though it was and immediately contact the relevant rescue authority (the police in Australia
have this responsibility) and the volunteers who assist.
If the brother who received the phone call had even just alerted the coast guard to say there "may" be a problem, perhaps the situation would have ended up differently. A very sad case that makes me worry every time I read about people living on boats that are perhaps not in as good condition as they should be due to their economic situation.