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Author Topic:   EPIRB?
whalerron posted 05-08-2002 08:57 AM ET (US)   Profile for whalerron   Send Email to whalerron  
Does anybody carry an EPIRB when they go out? After reading this article about the Morning Dew , I am wondering if carrying an EPIRB would be a good thing. The Coast Guard suggests we carry a VHF and an EPIRB. The EPIRB is a backup for when everything else fails. For those of us who stay within the coastal waters of the US, I would think a 121/243 mhz model would be fine.
reelescape1 posted 05-08-2002 11:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for reelescape1  Send Email to reelescape1     
I just purchased one. I happen to live in Chas. SC and remember the Morning Dew very well. Last year while fishing a King tourney in a friends Whaler we rescued a father/daughter team who probably would not have made it had someone not been there....after getting them aboard we watched his 20' Seacraft sink. I purchased a Globalfix 406 from ARS. If my life isn't worth a thousand $$$.....I dont know what is!
reelescape1 posted 05-08-2002 11:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for reelescape1  Send Email to reelescape1     
I meant to mention...Boat US has a no sales tax sale 'till May 15th (I think)and with the $25 rebate from ARS thats the best price I could find. They also rent them a week at a time.
jimp posted 05-08-2002 11:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
whalerron -

I've carried an EPIRB for the last 12 years. But in Alaska, VHF coverage has many "blind" spots. Even though 10 miles from a repeater site, but behind a mountain, you can get no VHF coverage, so an EPIRB is good insurance.

The Lower 48 has much better VHF coverage. Unless you're going far offshore you usually have VHF radio comms with the USCG or with another boat.

It depends on what you can afford and how secure you want to feel. A 406 EPIRB ($1,300) would be great, if you register it. It provides contact information for the USCG to track you down (it also provides a position). Mini-Bs (or the like, 121/243, $140) provide a position but no contact info.

An EPIRB may have helped the Morning Dew as they didn't know where they were. It would have helped if they had engergized it.

An EPIRB is only good if it stays with people, and the people must stay together. The EPIRB povides a position. If people get separated from the EPIRB, they are very difficult to locate. Imagine traveling at 10-90 knots in a small boat or helo and looking for something the size of a basketball on a football field. Now do the same search in the dark when the people in the water have strobes, or if they don't have strobes. Many variables here. Unless your boat stays afloat and you stay with it, you're a tough target.

A VERY high percentage (maybe 98%) of EPIRB reports are non-distress. But the CG checks them out anyway (a lot of of resource hours go into this from the rescue center, CG Auxiliary, the helicopter, the cutter, or the small boat). Each year, quite a few EPIRBs are found sending out a signal in dumpsters!

For the coastal America, a EPIRB would be nice, but not necessary. A good GPS that can provide the rescuer a position is likely a better investment.


triblet posted 05-08-2002 03:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
Those $140 EPIRBs provide an extremely approximate
position (10 nm?). That's a LOT of ocean.
Even the expensive ones with a GPS are only
accurate to about half a mile (the GPS is a lot
more accurate than that, but the EPIRB only
transmits a low res position. (YES, REAL DUMB).

The Morning Dew was a CF (tech diver term) looking
for a place to happen. It was a kid who made the
short garbled Mayday. Read the NTSB accident


reelescape1 posted 05-08-2002 04:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for reelescape1  Send Email to reelescape1     
The accuracy of the internal gps 406 units is supposed to be within 300 ft.....which in the wrong weather....might as well be 300 miles.
jimp posted 05-08-2002 05:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
CF (also a tech nautical term) is likely applicable to the Morning Dew. Glad I wasn't there.

The CG and others can direction find (DF) on the 121/243 EPIRBs. That helps, but the mariner's job is still to have his VHF handheld radio or his flares ready to go. As the Morning Dew article explained, the mariner has a responsibility in his own rescue AND he has a responsibility to the rescuer who is often performing rescue duties in bad weather. The mariner should use all the tools he has available. Don't forget your signal mirror and whistle. When you're tired of yelling, the whistle is a great substitute.


zpeed7 posted 05-08-2002 05:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for zpeed7  Send Email to zpeed7     
If you really doubt for a second the ability of an EPIRB to save your life, I suggest you read: Rescue in the Pacific: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in a Force 12 Storm
by Tony Farrington.
I placed the order right after I finished the book. If they were able to find all these people in a Force 12 storm in the middle of the Pacific Ocean I doubt they will have much trouble finding you closer to home.

My 2 cents...


whalerron posted 05-08-2002 09:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for whalerron  Send Email to whalerron     
Food for thought...I just read on the Coast Guard's website that the lower frequency EPIRBs 147/253 (or whatever the heck the freqs are) use a very overcrowded band. Because of this, there is a 99% false alarm rate in this band. For this reason, the Coast Guard will no longer monitor these frequencies in 2008. They are recommending that noone buy the lower freq units. Maybe this will drive down the price of the 406 units? West Marine has them on sale now for 800 bucks.
triblet posted 05-08-2002 10:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
All: The NTSB Accident Report on the Morning Dew
is at . It's worth reading.

Also, it takes an average of six hours to
get the 11 nm accuracy fix on a 121 EBIRB.

whalerron: not all 406 EBIRBs have a built in
GPS. Some have a GPS interface, as opposed
to a built-in GPS (a bit
problematic, from what I've read, and THAT
wasn't in the face of an emergency).


I was wrong. The accuracy of the 406/GPS
units is 1 nm, not 1/2 nm.

To quote the 2002 West Marine catalog:

"Why 1nm when the accuracy of GPS is much
higher? This is due to the length of the
"sentence" that the GPS/EPIRB units transmit,
which is not long enough to capture the
precision of today's 12-channel GPS receiver.'

Do you really think West is going to err
on the HIGH side?????


Guts posted 05-09-2002 08:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for Guts  Send Email to Guts     
I have a 406. got it cme, cost was $649.00 plus s& need to register them. I should say they will call the first two phone numbers that you list on the regisitrtion.these phone #'s should be some one that can see if or knows if the boat is gone, like a friend or dock master.if you don't have raido contact with the VHF (off shore) you need one. my two cents.
David Pendleton posted 05-09-2002 10:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I don't know if this is still the case, but BoatU.S. used to rent EPIRB's.

A good option if you're on a limited budget.


David Pendleton posted 05-09-2002 10:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Just checked their web site, they still do.

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