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ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
Personal Locator Beacons PLB
|Author||Topic: Personal Locator Beacons PLB|
posted 11-17-2011 08:18 PM ET (US)
I do not believe I need an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB). I am considering getting a personal locator beacon (PLB).
If I go offshore 30 to 50-miles out for tuna in my 170 Montauk I would always be with a buddy boat. I seldom run for tuna.
I do routinely go over 50-mile along shore but sometimes no boats within 10 to 20-miles of me. No ramps or marinas within 50-miles. But my kicker could get me beached if my main motor fails.
I have a VHF [Marine Band radio] and a backup handheld VHF radio.
Do you even think I need a PLB?
All recommendations are welcomed.
How about this one?
posted 11-17-2011 09:13 PM ET (US)
WT: let's say you are out 50-miles or more, and your engine does quit or does die. What equipment would you want to have? Is [the equipment you want to have] cost effect[ive]? I do not know what size your kicker is, but 50-miles in any kind of bad weather would take you 10 to 16-hours to reach shore, and that would be if the wind and current is going your way.
posted 11-17-2011 09:49 PM ET (US)
Kicker is only to keep me off the rocks or to get me further offshore. It won't move me very far and only with the swells.
I suppose the beacon is to locate my 170 Montauk or my body a little easier.
posted 11-17-2011 10:08 PM ET (US)
Be aware the ReqQLink model does not float. The AquaLink model will float and has a strobe.
Shop around a bit, also. I have an AquaLink purchased from BOE Marine that was cheaper.
posted 11-18-2011 08:04 AM ET (US)
I worry about devices like the ACR PLB that advertise like this:
"With its powerful 66-channel GPS...."
The device has a GPS receiver, not a transmitter, so the description as powerful does not make much sense to me. A receiver is usually not said to be powerful, but, rather, sensitive. As for 66-channels, this is just nonsense. There are only likely to be a maximum of ten GPS satellites in view overhead at any time, so the notion that a GPS device has "66-channel" capacity is meaningless. In actual fact, there are really only 32 "channels" in use, so what possible benefit is there to having a 66-channel receiver? Advertising that tosses around strange numbers like this usually sends me a different sort of signal. The impression I get is the device is being hyped for a consumer who does not really understand what he is buying.
Then, when I find out the device does not float, I get confirmation that there is something odd about its design. It's a rescue or lifesaving device, it has a powerful 66-channel receiver, but it doesn't float. Something is not right with that design.
posted 11-18-2011 08:36 AM ET (US)
As noted by Mr. Pendleton, ACR does in fact make PLBs that float. However, there is a bit of competition between ACR and McMurdo to build the smallest, most compact, and least expensive PLB on the market. They apparently believe, and I tend to agree with them, that the cheaper and more compact these devices are, the more likely they are to be purchased and used.
By the way, you can buy a floating case for the ACR ResQLink - it is shown on the page linked by Warren.
posted 11-18-2011 08:50 AM ET (US)
Warren--I would assess your need for a distress beacon transmitter based on the position of your boat relative to the USCG RESCUE 21 radio system coverage. If your boat is located in a position that is covered by the USCG RESCUE 21 radio system, the USCG should be able to receive a distress signal transmission from your boat made from your VHF Marine Band radio. If you have a CLASS-D DSC VHF Marine Band radio, you should be able to make a digital transmission to the USCG--and to all other boaters in the area who are similarly equipped with a DSC radio--of your distress call which includes your precise position using data from your vessel's GPS receiver.
A distress call made with a CLASS-D VHF Marine Band radio is transmitted with 25-watts of power. With the antenna installation that a typical small boat would have, the distress signal should be received by other boats within at least a 15-mile range and by shore stations such as the RESCUE 21 stations within at least a 25-mile range. The power to operate the radio and the GPS receiver will be provided by your boat's electrical system. If the boat electrical system has failed, you will not be able to make a distress call using these devices. If the boat GPS receiver fails, your DSC-radio distress call will not include precise position information. If you boat's radio fails, you will not be able to make a distress call. If your boat's radio antenna is damaged, the range of your transmission will likely be significantly reduced.
The PLB is a battery operated device, so it remains operational even if the boat electrical system fails. Its GPS receiver and distress beacon transmitter are completely independent of other boat systems or devices, and should continue to function even if those other boat-mounted devices or their antennas have been damaged. This is a distinct advantage of a distress beacon transmitter; it is generally completely independent of other boat systems.
posted 11-18-2011 10:03 AM ET (US)
I have a McMurdo Fastfind 210. It doesn't float, but I have it tethered to my type I lifejacket along with a waterproof VHF and GPS.
I also have a SPOT which is used regularly. When I'm out cruising it sends a position via satellite every 10 minutes that is then viewable by family and friends on a map online. It also has some additionally functionality that makes it more useful generally than a PLB or EPIRB, but I wouldn't consider it a replacement for a beacon that utilizes the SARSAT network.
posted 11-18-2011 10:21 AM ET (US)
ACR's own product literature states the ResQLink is "designed for anglers, pilots and back country sportsmen."
This might explain it's lack of more marine-like features, e.g. buoyancy and a strobe.
I think Kevin is right in assuming that the smaller, lighter and less-expensive models are designed to target markets that wouldn't normally consider owning such a device.
If you search for "66-channel gps," you will find the devices to be quite common and probably the industry standard for GPS receivers. I'm guessing the additional channels are to support additions to the GPS constellation in the future.
posted 11-18-2011 06:15 PM ET (US)
Basically, I think a PLB is cheap enough that you ought to have one if you run offshore, especially in cold water. If you're ever in a position to need one, you'll be glad you spent the few hundred dollars.
posted 11-19-2011 10:57 AM ET (US)
Re the specifications for a GPS receiver: the number of "channels" is usually interpreted to mean the number of satellites it can receive at one time.
In the NAVSTAR GPS there are only orbital slots for 30 satellites. There have only been 32 PRN codes used for satellites. These two numbers set the upper bound of the number of satellites in the NAVSTAR GPS that are available to be received, or monitored, or tracked. The orbital positions cut this number in half, at the very best, so anything more than 16 satellites being received is just marketing hyperbole, as far as I can tell.
It's great that a receiver can track 66 satellites, but there just are not that many available to track. It looks to me like there is a popular, small, very low-power, and inexpensive GPS chip or GPS engine that is available for which the manufacturer specifies it can track 66 satellites. This same chip is probably used in a number of these distress beacon transmitter devices, and those manufacturers just repeat the specification of 66 channels. Consumers understand the specification only in the sense of they know (what I call) the direction arrow, that is they know whether better comes from a higher number or better comes from a lower number. (The default is usually better comes with a higher number, if the consumer does not really know which is better. And the guy writing the advertising copy may not know much more, either.) So touting the device as having 66-channels makes it sound better than a competitor's device that might only have 16-channels.
It would be a lot more informative to specify the sensitivity, acquisition time, and power consumption data, but those are much harder to understand, probably because there are actual dimensions to the values, and the values tend to be ones where the better performance comes from smaller values, making it harder to interpret for the uninformed consumer.
posted 11-19-2011 11:11 AM ET (US)
Just because a unit is smaller and more compact, does that make it better? (meaning sending a stronger single, waterproof, floats)
posted 11-19-2011 11:42 AM ET (US)
Contender - a smaller, more compact unit is "better" only in the sense that it is more likely to be carried.
Floating PLBs are available, but they are generally a little bit larger than the most compact models - they have a bigger case so that floatation can be built into the unit. These larger, floating models generally have the same performance characteristics as the smaller models, except they float. Since they are larger and more cumbersome, they are less likely to be carried.
It should also be kept in mind that one reason that all PLBs do not float is that PLBs are not made exclusively for marine use. PLBs can be used by backpackers, hikers, hunters, snowmobilers, skiers, or anybody else traveling in the wilderness. EPIRBs, which are generally much larger and more expensive than PLBs, are manufactured exclusively for marine use, and as such, they are required to float.
Although some PLBs do not float, I believe that all PLBs are required to be waterproof, at least to a certain specification. Thus, if you securely attach your PLB to your PFD, and you wear your PFD, your PLB should be available and fully function in the event that you go overboard. As long as you keep the PLB attached to your PFD, you shouldn't have to worry about the fact that the PLB does not float.
posted 11-19-2011 01:33 PM ET (US)
Warren-I think having a PLB in your pocket while offshore is a great idea. My buddy who is a commercial fisherman flipped his Montauk while pulling crab pots just a few miles offshore. He and the two others on board waited for three hours sitting on the underside of the flipped boat until rescued. He still fishes almost everyday when in season and now he has a EPIRB mounted to his boat.
When I fish with him, I carry my Fastfind PLB in the chest pocket of my Mustang float coat. My feeling is, you can never have too much survival gear. With the amount of dough we all spend on boats and fishing gear why not spend the extra bucks and invest in the gear that will get you home safely in the event that something goes wrong out there.
posted 11-19-2011 05:35 PM ET (US)
I guess I shouldn't mention that the volume on my VHF goes to eleven, then...
posted 11-19-2011 08:35 PM ET (US)
Okay, when I'm out on the ocean alone I've thought about being hit by lightning, hit by a whale, breaking down or rolling my 170 Montauk.
A friend of mine rolled his boat last year at Bodega Bay and a passenger on board died. It's not unusual to roll your boat around Northern California waters.
Anyways, I think I will get a unit that is attached to my Mustang Flotation Jacket.
What do you guys think about this one?
I do have a ICOM 504 with DSC VHF marine radio and a backup handheld VHF. Also a mounted GPS/Sonar and two backup GPS's.
Thanks for all the input.
posted 11-19-2011 09:35 PM ET (US)
Warren, I think you'll find the ACR ResQLink is a better buy. It has the ability to send "I'm okay" messages and it has a strobe light, while the McMurdo FastFind has neither. The ACR unit is also marginally smaller. I plan to purchase one of the ACR units before my next wilderness trip.
posted 11-19-2011 09:38 PM ET (US)
Correction to my last previous post - the McMurdo FastFind does have an SOS strobe light. It does not have the ability to send "I'm okay" messages.
posted 11-19-2011 10:07 PM ET (US)
If I turn on my beacon, I'm not okay. :-)
posted 11-19-2011 11:37 PM ET (US)
Looks like the ACR ResQLink has an optional subscription service that you can buy for email and text message alerts.
Basic plan for $40 or the Plus plan for $60/year.
posted 11-20-2011 02:02 AM ET (US)
I just ordered the ACR ResQLink.
"ACR ResQLink Awarded Five Year US Coast Guard Contract For Up To 5,000 Personal Locator Beacons"
If the ResQLink is good enough for the US Coast Guard, it's good enough for me.
Thanks again for all your input. Stay safe on the water and Happy Holidays.
posted 11-20-2011 10:47 AM ET (US)
I bought an ACR PLB last year. I can't remember the model name at the moment. It is in my boat bag at all times. The bag is with me if I am on my boat or on someone else's boat.
posted 11-21-2011 01:41 PM ET (US)
Just received my ACR ResQLink.
Very small, about the size of an older flip phone.
Online registration with NOAA was simple.
posted 11-21-2011 11:14 PM ET (US)
That is approximately 1/2 the size of my ACR PLB. It is amazing how quickly technology advances.
posted 11-21-2011 11:22 PM ET (US)
Warren-That's the one I have. Great Buy! Just put it in your chest pocket and you won't even realize it's there.
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