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Author Topic:   EPIRB and Other Distress Electronics
diveorfish posted 09-28-2007 03:31 PM ET (US)   Profile for diveorfish   Send Email to diveorfish  
What is the best way to ensure the quickest rescue at sea should things goes horribly wrong? If you go offshore and get into trouble what would be the best distress call methodology that would ensure the quickest rescue? What equipment is really needed?

The obvious thing is to have a 406 MHz emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB), but which kind? It seems that one with an internal GPS engine would be best. Is there a recommended brand that is better than the others?

There are manual and hydrostatic release EPIRB's. How wet do the hydrostatic have to get before they activate? Since Whalers don’t sink, would a hydrostatic release kind offer any benefit?

There are also “personal locator beacons” that attach to your person. The Personal EPIRB's are cheaper; does that mean they are not as good? (i.e. less range than the larger ones in their own case)

Should you have a backup, water proof, hand held VHF radio? Do they have any range should you find yourself in the drink?

Any advice is appreciated.

Buckda posted 09-28-2007 06:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
I'm not as well-versed in the EPIRB category as I probably should be, but I say "absolutely" to the question about having a handheld VHF. No matter how short their range, it is still longer than you can call with your voice.

Were I to embark on a long-range oceanic trip, I'd consider a handheld aircraft emergency radio. If you are unsuccessful in raising help on VHF, you could wait until you see a plane overhead and try to raise them on an emergency frequency. That would probably land you in court once you've been rescued, but I'd take an appearance in court over an appearance in the Ultimate Court (upstairs or down) any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

I really think that the EPIRB is the best route though, because it was designed for exactly this purpose.

I have also thought that renting a satellite phone for a trip might be a good option in case you have to ditch or are stuck out there without any help. At least you can call SOMEONE to let them know you're alive, and where to look for you.



WT posted 09-28-2007 07:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
ACR or McMurdo.

I love Landfall Navigation and use them a lot.



Good luck,


WT posted 09-28-2007 07:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
Oh, yeah. I carry a waterproof ditch bag with a spare handheld vhf, Garmin gps, flares, first aid kit, etc.

If my Montauk turtles, I have to get back onto my Montauk's hull and retrieve my ditch bag that is tied/attached to my side rails.


Newtauk1 posted 09-29-2007 02:10 AM ET (US)     Profile for Newtauk1  Send Email to Newtauk1     
I suggest you consult with the folks in your area that would respond to an emergency call and get their input. I do not think your best answer will come from a web site unless you have time in the water to post the question, and then expect someone from the web site to rescue you.

All jokes aside. Your best solution will come from local rescue teams, not a boating web site. OK let the critics hammer me.

jimh posted 09-29-2007 09:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I found this Wikipedia article on emergency position indicating radio beacons to be informative:

blackdog54 posted 09-29-2007 02:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for blackdog54  Send Email to blackdog54     
Well Warren- I have a ditch bag too, but it is tethered, via a velcro strap, to the handle on top of my RPS. Duh. If I turtled, that puts me diving UNDER the boat to retrieve it.

Item #1- move ditch bag to side rail.

My ditch bag has a whistle (no mirror), a hand held Garmin ETrex GPS, a handheld 5 watt VHF, sailing gloves, my mobile phone.

Item # 2- get a small mirror.

My extensive selection of flares is in my center console.

Item # 3- put a couple from the collection in the ditch bag.

Item # 4- get an EPIRB. $600 vs loss of life, its an easy equation. Will wait to see what the rest recommend on this equipment question.

Item # 5- get a slightly larger ditch bag.

Henry posted 09-30-2007 12:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for Henry  Send Email to Henry     
The ditch bag is a great idea. what are you all using for a ditch bag?
fno posted 09-30-2007 09:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for fno  Send Email to fno     
The main difference between a standard EPIRB and a "personal" EPIRB other than price is battery life. A standard will run for up to 48 hours and a personal is good for 24 hours. This means very little if you are boating in 50-60 degree water. You will not survive that long anyway due to hypothermia, unless you are wearing a survival suit. I chose the personal unit from ACR, mainly for cost, and also considering that I do not go hundreds of miles offshore, plus I can move it from one boat to another.
blackdog54 posted 09-30-2007 10:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for blackdog54  Send Email to blackdog54     

My ditch bag is just one of those role up vinyl/rubber bottomed bags that you can buy at any adventure store, like REI. Anywhere kayak and canoe gear is sold.

There are larger ones and I may need a bigger one to include flares. They can be clear, so that you can see the contents, or solid vinyl. They roll up and lock via a clip and are watertight and float (reportedly).

The only thing is on a hot or moist day, I do find moisture collecting inside the bag and that worries me about the mobile phone and VHF. Sometimes I keep the mobile on me, as I think the moisture in the bag is more of a problem. I have a carabiner on the clip and a velcro strap on the RPS handle. I will be moving the set up to the rails.

andygere posted 10-01-2007 11:03 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
3 things that should go in "Ditch Bags":

1-Something to keep you warm like a space blanket. These are compact, but could stave off hypothermia for a while if you were sitting on the bottom of your hull.

2- Some water. This will be the next problem after hypothermia, although you could go a few days without it. Dehydration is nasty and it makes you weak, better to have a liter or two at the ready.

3- Something with some calories like Powerbars, Cliff Bars, Gu, etc. Keeping warm and alive requires fuel. The more you have, the better your chances are. These items are shelf stable, have bomb proof packaging and taste decent.

All of these items will be of use weather you are huddled on the bottom of your boat, or just stuck on a sandbar waiting for high tide to roll in.

Back on topic: I think the personal EPIRBS with GPS are a great idea, and can certainly mean the difference between life and death in a situation that is much more likely than swamping or capsizing your Whaler: falling out of it when boating alone.

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