He had been carrying his PLB since 2007 without ever needing it, but the day came... British solo sailing enthusiast, Richard Coles was wrenched from his boat while on the foredeck off the coast of Cornwall, but has lived to tell the story because in the water he was able to activate the personal locator beacon (PLB) attached to his body.
A Sea King helicopter was used to lift Mr Coles from the sea, saving his life after he activated his PLB
It was a McMurdo Fast Find PLB which helped save the life of the solo sailor, who was successfully rescued off the coast of Cornwall after activating his PLB last week.
The 68 year old solo sailing enthusiast was returning to his base at Mayflower Marina in Plymouth from Portmellon in Cornwall onboard his 39ft Benteau Oceanis 393 when he ran in to difficulty.
On trying to untangle the yacht’s genoa, weather conditions caused the vessel to lurch, forcing Mr Coles overboard – solo and unable to get back onboard, he took the decision to activate his Fast Find PLB.
On receiving the PLB alert, a search and rescue crew from RNAS Culdrose, near Helston was sent. Mr Coles was successfully rescued by Sea King helicopter around six miles south-east of Looe, just one and half hours after activating his beacon, before being taken to the Royal Cornwall Hospital where he was treated for hypothermia.
Commenting on the incident, Mr Coles said, 'I purchased my PLB in 2007 and always carry it with me when I venture out solo, safe in the knowledge that I will have a direct method of contacting the emergency services if the worst was to happen.
'I was extremely grateful to be carrying my PLB on a pouch around my waist when I was forced overboard and came in to difficulty. It was also very reassuring that on activation, my PLB continued to flash and give out a faint beep so that I knew it was transmitting and help would be on the way. If it were not for my PLB, I’m almost certain I wouldn’t be here today and I would like to thank the rescue services for their amazing help and the speed in which they were able to assist me.'
About the PLB which saved Mr Coles:
The latest generation of the Fast Find range, the Fast Find 220 is a powerful distress beacon with GPS as standard, which provides a direct method of alerting the search and rescue authorities where no other forms of communication are available, using the 406 MHz search and rescue satellite communication system, COSPAS SARSAT*. As well as sending out a distress signal by satellite, the 220 also transmits a 121.5MHz homing signal and the GPS enables a typical positional accuracy of +/- 62m, effectively taking the ‘search’ out of ‘search and rescue’.