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Author Topic:   EPIRB and PLB
sternorama posted 12-07-2009 01:24 PM ET (US)   Profile for sternorama   Send Email to sternorama  
I'm interested in the different opinions folks might have on [use of a personal locator beacon] versus [use of a emergency position indicating radio beacon]. My boating is off the coast of southern California, either island hopping or chasing tuna. Thanks--G
Fishmore posted 12-07-2009 11:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for Fishmore    
Differences between the Personal EPIRB (PLB) and the Larger EPIRB (ELT).

The larger EPIRB or ELT is registered to the boat. It has a 48 hour battery life when deployed. All have flotation built in. Can be purchased with auto deployment or manual deployment. Auto deployment is usually achieved by use of a plastic case with a deployment device that disolves in water and launches the EPIRB out of the boat. Auto deployment occurs when the unit is submerged in water it should not deploy in rain or in water splashing on the outside of the case.

The PLB is registered to the owner. It has a 24 hour battery life when deployed. Some have built-in flotation some do not. All are manually deployed. These can be used while hiking or camping as well as in any boat you are on. The units that do not float usually have an option to purchase a floating case or collar.

"The U.S. added two notable requirements to the international Personal Locator Beacon standards. They must include a 25 milliwatt 121.5 analog homing signal. This compares to 100 miliwatt for a conventional 121.5 ELT, 406 MHz ELT or EPIRB or 50 milliwatts for other PLBs. Inserted into the homing signal at the insistence of the FAA is a Morse code P to distinguish a PLB from an ELT."

Other options available:
Both can have a connection to an external GPS.
Both can have a built-in GPS.
Both send signals on the 406 mhz range to satellites.
Both need to be registered with NOAA.
Both have batteries with a shelf life of 5 years.

Price range varies from $300.00 to $700.00 for PLBs and from $600.00 to $1200.00 for ELTs. At least that is the pricing I have seen.

I go on many different boats up and down the West Coast from Seattle WA to San Diego CA so I have a PLB on a 3 foot lanyard attached to the pocket of my float coat. It is approximatly the size of a pack of cigarettes so it is easy to carry. Almost all of the boats or ships I travel on have an EPIRB also.

Personally I believe everyone should at least have a $300.00 PLB on them if you are going to be on the ocean.
If you run the same boat all the time then the boat should also have an ELT (larger EPIRB). The ELT will follow the drift of the boat and any debris, but if you keep the PLB with you. Then you have a better chance of being found. Not to mention that if you fall off a moving boat the ELT will stay on the boat but the PLB should be on your person.

20dauntless posted 12-08-2009 10:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
Excellent summary, Fishmore. My only comments are that if you get a PLB which doesn't float (and that's all but the newest ACR, I believe), make sure it's tethered to your lifejacket. This is what I do with my McMurdo FastFind 210.

Also buy a unit with integrated GPS.

In my opinion, the 24 hour transmit time of a PLB (versus 48 for an EPIRB) is insignificant for coastal areas. At least here in the PNW, I need to be pulled from the water fast. I'm dead in way less than 24 hours.

For more information and some indepth test check out .

sternorama posted 12-08-2009 08:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for sternorama  Send Email to sternorama     
Excellent info-thanks!. The PLB looks pretty good as it can be multi-functional. Has anybody compared ACR to McMurdo? Cheers.-G
20dauntless posted 12-08-2009 09:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
Here is an article from Equipped to Survive about the McMurdo FastFind 210:

My take on the article is that the newest generation of PLB's offers a significant increase in performance compared to the older generation.

Now, McMurdo vs. ACR... The McMurdo is cheaper, and all indications are that it performs very well. The newest ACR units offer some advantages, however, like a longer battery life, built in flotation (on the AquaLink), and a supposedly superior GPS antenna. These features come at a higher cost and larger size as I recall and since I use the PLB for activities beyond boating (backpacking, backcountry skiing) the size was important. I don't think battery life matters beyond 24 hours.

Bottom line: get the PLB that will be on you when you are on the boat. They all perform well.

sternorama posted 12-10-2009 03:21 AM ET (US)     Profile for sternorama  Send Email to sternorama     
Yes-a comment that was made by the marketing manager at ACR (I might not have his title right) was that the lower end PLB's available now are 15,000 times better that the magnumB EPRIB I am currently using as a paperweight. Anyone want it?

Thanks for all the great commentary, gentlemen. I know what to put on the holiday wish list now. -G

an86carrera posted 12-11-2009 01:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for an86carrera  Send Email to an86carrera     
A automatically deployed e-pirb does not have a device that disolves in water, the mechanism actually senses the additional pressure of being submerged, if I remember the coast guard regs correctly the are required to deploy at a depth of ten feet max. Keep this in mind as Whalers do not sink so an automatically deploying device won't deploy.


vayase posted 12-11-2009 09:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for vayase  Send Email to vayase     
Excellent question(s)! I researched this and decided to buy
the ACS AquaFix 406 from Seattle Marine (best price and
service): talk to them and they can give objective help in answering questions.
I also boat in socal and joined: Boat US Towing service: 800 395-2628. One time fee covers you for a year and they dispatch from San Diego and Dana Point. Call tht number and they can describe
vayase posted 12-11-2009 09:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for vayase  Send Email to vayase     
(OOPS)...they can describe their service. I consider their policy of towing equal in importance to the ACR. It's a long haul back if it's not an emergency, as in overboard.
Moe posted 12-12-2009 09:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Compared to a PLB, the EPIRB not only has to float, it has to float with the antenna automatically in the transmitting position. The PLB may need to be held in the transmitting position. If you're concerned about your ability to function in cold water, it seems to me this should be important to you. A category I EPIRB has a water-pressure release that is probably not going to reach auto-release depth on a Whaler.

Compared to a PLB, the EPIRB not only has to transmit 48 hours, it has to do so while flashing a strobe. The extra time IS significant in warm Gulf or South Atlantic waters, as is the difference in visibility from the air.

PLB requirements are specified for land-based use, but they are better than nothing on the water. I just find it surprising that some who would pay extra for a Whaler to go offshore would skimp on emergency equipment. YMMV

Buckda posted 12-15-2009 12:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Something that might tip the scales for you - the SPOT PLB is on sale at Cabella's right now - $150 - with $150 mfgr's rebate - so the unit is free.

You must subscribe to one of their monitoring packages, however. So the hardware is free, the monitoring service is a recurring expense with this particular PLB.

20dauntless posted 12-15-2009 01:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
The SPOT is NOT a PLB. When you activate a PLB (or EPIRB) the signal is transmitted through the COSPAS-SARSAT network and immediately notifies the nearest rescue agency. The SPOT signal goes to a private company which then has to notify the appropriate authority.

I have both, and each has their place. The SPOT is useful for sending position reports to friends and relatives, but if I'm in the water I want a PLB or EPIRB. I, and many others, don't consider the SPOT a true replacement for a PLB or EPIRB.

Here is a link to a blog written by the USCG comparing the two:

SJUAE posted 12-27-2009 04:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
Just looking up info on PLB's etc and noticed this recall on some Spot 2 devices


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