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Old 04-02-2009, 14:21   #16
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Hey!

For a living (at least a part of it) I inspect GMDSS installations aboard ships. Certified radio surveyor, sounds real nice doesn't it :/ Anyway. Part of that inspection is to test the EPIRB, measure it and make sure it's fittet properly. Usually, the ignorance among mariners is great. Some just don't know how to use it, some are afraid of it. There's a number of examples when the crew hesitated to use the EPIRB, fearing that their situation wouldn't be serious enough, and lifes were lost. Same goes for all the little red distress buttons. If you really fear you're in a situation where you need help and lifes MIGHT be lost, don't hesitate to activate your EPIRB. To put it simple: If you find yourself thinking "If only I was close enough to radio the CG for help", then it's a good time to start fiddling with the EPIRB. For my own part, I would activate it the moment I feared fo a life onboard. I certainly wouldn't wait until the boat sank beneath my feet and I certainly wouldn't think "well, she's beyond help anyway, no point in using the EPIRB there. Better save it for later". Also if someone fell overboard and I had the slightest doubt about retrieving that person myself, I wouldn't hesitate even for a moment to use the EPIRB. Now... All of this is if I had an EPIRB, which I don't
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Old 04-02-2009, 14:22   #17
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Originally Posted by sandy daugherty View Post
I found the best answer to this question right here on this site. A Coast Guardsman was asked when people should activate an Epirb. His answer was "When they think they need to." Think about that very carefully before you respond. Incidents turn into fatalities when a person presses on and adverse circumstances pile up. Its pretty damn condescending to claim they wouldn't happen to me cuz I'm so salty. A survivor is anyone who can stay within his personal limits at that particular moment, and doesn't ignore help because of someone else's armchair appraisal of their personal fortitude!

Everyone has an ego, so just like reefing, when you think of asking for help, you're already overdue.

Kanani: Your summations are not supported in the factual record. What you read in the Press, even the supposedly knowlegeable Press, originates from apocryphal sources, is conveyed like rumor, and "enhanced" to support personal biases or titilate readers' itchies. Empty life rafts can mean someone in them had already been rescued or they were just lost overboard, and floating derelicts are rarely habitable. Leaving a vessel that's still afloat may be a very good decision in any number of likely scenarios.

Why would we comfortably sit in front of our computers and pretend we are better sailors than someone else? We weren't there. And possibly we have never been shown our own limits. Its interesting to note that those who have are far more tolerant of other people's frailties.
I agree with you whole heartedly in regards to being easy to sit behind a computer and make a call about the use of an EPIRB. Human nature is an odd thing. Some people have higher fear thresholds than others. I've seen a seemingly calm person panic at a cross current coming into a harbor. I've seen a normally meek person smile and laugh as waves are crashing into the cockpit. For me, if I can, I try to know my crew. We feed of each others emotions, collectivness and experience. I will always have an EPIRB, as i would any type of safety gear that enhances my chances of seeing my children again...Enough said.
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Old 05-02-2009, 11:00   #18
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Kanani: Your summations are not supported in the factual record. What you read in the Press, even the supposedly knowlegeable Press, originates from apocryphal sources, is conveyed like rumor, and "enhanced" to support personal biases or titilate readers' itchies. Empty life rafts can mean someone in them had already been rescued or they were just lost overboard, and floating derelicts are rarely habitable. Leaving a vessel that's still afloat may be a very good decision in any number of likely scenarios.

Why would we comfortably sit in front of our computers and pretend we are better sailors than someone else? We weren't there. And possibly we have never been shown our own limits. Its interesting to note that those who have are far more tolerant of other people's frailties.
Sandy,

My post expresses my 14 years and 2 circumnavigations worth of personal cruising experiences.

You are exactly correct. I have zero tolerance for "people's frailties" that have the audacity of crossing an ocean with the attitude of, "I know that if I activate my EPIRB someone will come rescue me".

As I stated in my previous post, activating your EPIRB puts the lives of others at risk. This is something that should be carefully thought out BEFORE one crosses an ocean without the ability to handle virtually any situation that may arise, without outside help or having to abandon a vessel because they can't handle the situation at hand.

You will also note, I stated that there is a time to use an EPIRB......My frustration is with the # of EPIRB calls from sailors that activate these things for reasons that are not called for.

The attitude that one should activate an EPIRB "When they think they need to" seems a bit flippant to me and that is the same attitude that will (in the future) change the entire cruising experience IMO. At some point, I predict that purchasing and licensing an EPIRB will be a very costly thing and more cruisers will leave shore without one. That is the real risk with the over use of the EPIRB system by recreational boaters.

I will not hesitate to state that MOST rescues from EPIRB activation are caused more from a lack of experience and knowing how to handle a situation rather than true life/death scenarios for a more experienced sailor. Those people should not be at sea in the 1st place.

BTW.......a cruising "Sailor" needs to be as much a mechanic, engineer and medic as a person that is able to navigate a vessel from point A to point B.
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Old 05-02-2009, 11:16   #19
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Well said, Kanai!
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Old 05-02-2009, 11:35   #20
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Kanani-
"activating your EPIRB puts the lives of others at risk."

How do you figure that? The EPIRB signal, and the SAR mission, go out to trained responders. The first and foremost thing those guys are taught, is that their #1 job is to stay safe and GO HOME AT THE END, not to endanger themselves.

That's right, police, fire, USCG SAR...they are all taught to draw the line, if they choose to go macho and endanger themselves--that is their own choice, and contrary to their training and standing orders.

You lose one helo crew to save one sailor, and you have a net loss. You lose one sailor and keep two to four crew--and you have a net gain.

I'm not saying push the button without thinking--just that the lives at stake are there because they WANT to be. They are only lost, if they are as foolish--as macho--as the guy who pushes the button. Which makes them all members of the same club, in Darwinian terms.

I *know* USCG bases and marine police bases where they make no bones about saying "The inlet is too rough, we are suspending operations." Routinely.
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Old 05-02-2009, 12:50   #21
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Kanani-
"activating your EPIRB puts the lives of others at risk."

How do you figure that? The EPIRB signal, and the SAR mission, go out to trained responders. The first and foremost thing those guys are taught, is that their #1 job is to stay safe and GO HOME AT THE END, not to endanger themselves.

That's right, police, fire, USCG SAR...they are all taught to draw the line, if they choose to go macho and endanger themselves--that is their own choice, and contrary to their training and standing orders.

You lose one helo crew to save one sailor, and you have a net loss. You lose one sailor and keep two to four crew--and you have a net gain.

I'm not saying push the button without thinking--just that the lives at stake are there because they WANT to be. They are only lost, if they are as foolish--as macho--as the guy who pushes the button. Which makes them all members of the same club, in Darwinian terms.

I *know* USCG bases and marine police bases where they make no bones about saying "The inlet is too rough, we are suspending operations." Routinely.
I believe that you've made this comment before......

The fact that someone is willing to put his/her life at risk to save ours does not give you or I the right to put them at risk or lesson our responsibility to that person (and family) if we cost them their life or injury.

Please don't make light of the number of Coast Guard, Police and Fire fighters that lose their lives due to the carelessness of others.......That's my point.

Just as big an issue is that more rescues are made from passing ships then Military or other professional sources anyway. Many commercial ship crew members have been injured and killed in rescue attempts.

EPIRBS are also routinely set off by accident. Setting off an EPIRB sets off a series of events that is totally out of the control of the person that set it off. This is not something that should be taken lightly. The very purchase of an EPIRB puts a heavy burden on a yacht's captain and that captain should be aware that just having that on board (as necessary as it is) is an awesome responsibility. I think that far too many don't take that responsibility seriously enough.

Going to sea with an EPIRB but not having the experience or ability to get yourself out of a jam is reckless and irresponsible IMO........I am judging myself as much as I am admonishing others. I started out being just that naive and reckless myself. Now I know it.....then I didn't. I'm merely trying to help others fill that void.
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Old 05-02-2009, 15:05   #22
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"I believe that you've made this comment before......"
I haven't.

"Please don't make light of the number of Coast Guard, Police and Fire fighters that lose their lives due to the carelessness of others"
And I didn't. Don't infer things I haven't said. They know the job before they sign up for it, and these days even the USCG are all volunteers, there are no draftees there.

What I said, is simply that they are not supposed to endanger themselves. That they may do so, and whether that is a good or bad thing, is a whole other subject. That the SAR guys work long hours under the most difficult environment for meagre pay, is something else too.
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Old 06-02-2009, 02:24   #23
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Another perspective: I am required by law to have an EPIRB if I go offshore. When to use it is already determined in Australia.

It can only be activated by the order of the person in charge of the vessel and can only be activated when the vessel or persons using are in grave and imminent danger AND all other means of communication has been exhausted.

Quite simple really
BTW, in general I agree with Kanai's comments on this matter.
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Old 06-02-2009, 04:57   #24
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Sandy makes a good point about we "armchair sailors" making pronouncements from the comfort of our computer desks. It's easy to sit there and conjure up a mental picture of how you'd handle a desperate situation offshore--naturally you come out the hero every time.

However, I still have to come down on Kanani's side of the debate. Many of the decisions to activate the EPIRB and abandon the boat that I've read about seem to have been made for reasons other than lives or the boat being in imminent danger of being lost. The reasons were obviously valid at that point in time in the minds of those onboard, but analysis after the fact shows that abandoning ship was unnecessary.

I can sympathize with sailors who have done this. Until you've experienced a few days in a strong gale or storm offshore in a small boat, you really can't imagine what it's like to be there. Add sleep deprivation, dehydration, seasickness, bruising/battering, physical exhaustion, the constant assault of the senses by hellacious noises and violent unpredictable boat movements, constant wetness, gear failures, leaks, lack of proper meals, and perhaps hypothermia to the experience, and you can begin to understand why people decide that they just want to end it and just "get off the boat".

Why do some sailors endure all that and yet get to enjoy the sunrise over calm waters after the storm from their own cockpits, while others push the Button, and find themselves on a slow boat to China, while their vessel continues to float, aimlessly adrift in their wake? There's a lesson here for coastal sailors considering offshore cruising. The lesson is, don't "Just Do It", as some advise. Before you go, get some experience offshore in rough conditions first, but do it on someone else's boat. Sign on as crew with experienced passagemakers on an experienced boat. And hope for a gale, so that you can see what it's like, and how you handle it, with experienced sailors there to back you up.

I believe that fewer EPIRBs would be activated if more sailors experienced the rigors of offshore in a learning situation before trying it on their own.
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Old 06-02-2009, 16:27   #25
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Well put Hud........
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Old 06-02-2009, 16:52   #26
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Sound wisdom Hud....
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Old 06-02-2009, 21:23   #27
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Ditto!
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Old 07-02-2009, 12:58   #28
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I agree with Kanani that the Epirb is a last resort. For me it is an item to be used when fire has forced me into a liferaft, or it is impossible to rig any kind of jury rig on my boat, or if a crew member has some form of medical emergency that I cannot deal with onboard (e.g. appendicitis)

Whilst SSB does offer some possibility of getting help without going to the extreme of activating the epirb, this would need to be a relay through some well meaning person that you dont know.

A far better means of getting assistance is the Iridium phone. There have been a number of cases now around the world where the alarm has been raised to the UK rescue coordination centre through iridium for incidents on the other side of the world. Help has been swift and effective.

IMHO this is probably a more effective solution than contacting the nearest country direct, as that is always deniable, whilst a contact from a national rescue coordination centre is not.
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Old 08-02-2009, 11:30   #29
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I agree with Kanani that the Epirb is a last resort. For me it is an item to be used when fire has forced me into a liferaft, or it is impossible to rig any kind of jury rig on my boat, or if a crew member has some form of medical emergency that I cannot deal with onboard (e.g. appendicitis)

Whilst SSB does offer some possibility of getting help without going to the extreme of activating the epirb, this would need to be a relay through some well meaning person that you dont know.
There are exceptions to that. We had a life threatening medical emergency while on Palmyra Island (900 miles SSW of Hawaii). I got hold of the US Coast Guard by SSB and they patched me into a DR that walked me through exactly what to do. They put us on a 30 minute schedule to be patched through to the Dr for 24 hours.

I have even heard of Drs walking sailors through certain types of surgery at sea. In one case it was the amputation of a hand. I (and a lot of other cruisers) listened to the whole thing as it was happening. It was pretty awful but the guy lived.

My wife and I both had our appendix removed before doing our second circumnavigation. I had a minor attack while in Hawaii. The ER Dr wanted to give me antibiotics and send me home. I asked him what the chances of a relapse was over the next 5 years and he said, pretty good chance of one.

I asked him if he would teach my wife how to remove my appendix and told him what we were doing. One hour later, my appendix was out . He told me that he didn't think that it was necessary before he did it. Afterword, he said that it was quite inflamed and the antibiotics probably wouldn't have worked anyway.
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