Please select your home edition
Edition
Wildwind 2016 728x90

Expose on EPIRBS - what price safety?

by Neil and Ley Langford on 19 Feb 2013
Crystal Blues sailing - photo by Neil Langford (in Dinghy) .. .
Neil Langford, sailing with his wife Ley on Crystal Blues in Thailand, is considering crossing the Indian Ocean and reaching the Atlantic via Africa in a loose network of cruising sailors this year. While preparing, they have made some surprising discoveries about EPIRBs, which they share here:

Like many cruising sailors, in Asia we frequently look westward, hoping that the piracy problems will go away and allow us to continue our voyage towards Europe. Unfortunately the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden are still not safe, as confirmed in recent sailing advisories. There is a strong trend amongst cruising boats to travel westwards on a safer route, via Rodriguez, Mauritius, La Reunion, South Africa and the Cape of Good Hope. A loose but effective communication network has been established for those boats, supported with great energy by Richard & Susan Kidd on SV Sea Bunny, who are this year maintaining a list of vessels planning to head west, and sharing information on weather, anchorages, pilotage etc.

Here on Crystal Blues we're busy servicing and checking everything we need to cross oceans safely. As cruising sailors we absolutely depend on our primary safety tools - a sound vessel and responsible seamanship. However when things go really wrong we would turn to our secondary safety systems to help us out - life jackets, life rafts, radio communications and the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, or 406 EPIRB.

406 Emergency Beacons:
Ten years ago we invested significantly in the latest and greatest EPIRB, a 406mhz device with built in GPS, designed to alert the rescue services and tell them (accurately) where we were. It cost over $2,000.00 ! This year, we wanted to replace the battery, as required, preparing the unit for further service.

Here Is What We Found .....

First of all, a 'certified' new battery installation for our beacon, installed by the nominated agents in nearby Singapore, will cost around US$750.00. However, a brand new McMurdo 406 GPS EPIRB, a later generation with improved specifications, will cost about $20.00 less ! Other brands have similar options. Understandably, many cruisers are opting to buy the new product, though we've now found there is an attractive option. Our research has also uncovered some interesting gaps in our understanding and some surprises regarding the performance of existing EPIRB products!

Technology Changes - A New Generation Arrives:
An Australian company is now offering a fully COSPAS / SARSAT approved 406 GPS EPIRB for US$412.00 - quite a saving. The model number is Safety Alert SA1G, manufactured by Kinetic Technology, who make a range of location beacons and rescue transponders used by marine safety authorities and the military. They now offer a 406 GPS EPIRB with unique features that we think sailors will appreciate.

First and foremost, the battery has a claimed life of ten (yes 10) years, and the EPIRB has a ten year warranty. Secondly, the lithium battery is a special type and size that can be transported by air. Third, the unit has a 66 channel GPS receiver, accurate to 1.8 meters, though we're told the search and rescue authorities work to a minimum of 120 meters accuracy. It will also localise it's position in less than a minute. Finally, it works both IN or OUT of the water.

This last feature may seem strange, but we understand that most 406 EPIRBs use the water as a ground plane for their radio transmissions, and must be floating free to work correctly. The KTi unit doesn't require this, and can work on deck, in the life raft or on land. It may look a little retro, but this product seems to hit all the right buttons.

We love the 10 year battery service life, and the fact that we can fly the thing to us from the point of purchase. Or anywhere else for that matter. KTi General manager Mark Knowles tells me the unit will transmit its first burst to the satellite in less than 60 seconds, though the accurate GPS position may not be sent until the second burst, approximately 5 minutes later. The KTi unit then transmits a position update every 5 minutes, the maximum frequency allowed by the COSPAS / SARSAT authorities. We understand that alternative products do no better than once every 20 minutes.

This is where it gets interesting - KTi tell me they believe that while most (non KTI) 406 beacons do send a position transmission every 20 minutes, there are some well known brands that do not update the GPS position - they keep transmitting the original location fix, with no position update for the set and drift caused by wind, tide and currents. Surprised is an understatement here !

Predictably, we like the advanced capabilities of this new product - even though we hope never to use it ! The manufacturer will custom encode the unit to suit your national safety authority requirements, upon receipt of vessel registration papers and your MMSI number. Air freight delivery to Asia is quoted at A$80.00 We're ordering one this week.

You can follow the cruising life of Crystal Blues by http://svcrystalblues.blogspot.com.au/!clicking_here.

Did you like this article? Did you know that you can have all your non-competitive sailing news in one easy-read news magazine delivered direct to your inbox each week, simply by subscribing FREE to Sail-World Cruising? Stay up-to-date with what's happening on the water: everything from sailing adventures to new products, from rally news to new ideas and old tricks. Simply http://www.sail-world.com/CruisingAus/newsletter_subscribe.cfm!click_here now!

Colligo Marine 660x82Bakewell-White Yacht DesignT Clewring AC72

Related Articles

Olympic Gold medalist and Volvo Ocean Race winner up for WS Board
Torben Grael (BRA) is amongst the 15 nominations for one of seven places on the Board of Directors of World Sailing Torben Grael (BRA) is amongst the 15 nominations for one of seven places on the Board of Directors of World Sailing in November. The five times Olympic medalist, Volvo Ocean Race winner and several times America's Cup competitor will bring a much needed sailing edge to the Board of World Sailing if he can navigate the politics of the controlling body of the sport.
Posted on 25 Sep
D-Marin Farr 40 Zadar Regatta – Overall report
Enfant Terrible and Plenty have been doing battle on the Farr 40 International Circuit for several years now. Enfant Terrible and Plenty have been doing battle on the Farr 40 International Circuit for several years now. Those two top-notch programs have resumed their rivalry this week in the waters off this historic city along the Dalmatian coast.
Posted on 23 Sep
Impressive tow-in freestyle show on the water in Cold Hawaii
The second day of the netIP Cold Hawaii PWA World Cup proved to be yet another lay day for the main competitio The second day of the netIP Cold Hawaii PWA World Cup proved to be yet another lay day for the main competition as expected with light winds and small waves.
Posted on 21 Sep
Brookes and Gatehouse Videos with Knut Frostad
Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos with Knut Frostad, the legendary Volvo Ocean Race sailor and former CEO. See him talk about sailing in general, the B&G product choices and placement he made for his own boat, and then why he loves his Outremer 5X.
Posted on 8 Sep
Soft Padeyes – light, strong and versatile
Several types of soft padeyes are now available and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel pa Several types of soft padeyes are now available on the market and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel padeyes. They all capitalise on the incredible strength to weight ratio and abrasion resistance of Dyneema® which offers a reliable, robust, flexible and safe termination.
Posted on 6 Sep
The hurricanes headed for Hawaii and Florida
The National Weather Service has upgraded a tropical storm headed for Florida to hurricane status. The National Weather Service has upgraded a tropical storm headed for Florida to hurricane status. The first of two hurricanes headed toward Hawaii lost strength and was downgraded to a tropical storm. Meanwhile, in Florida, a tropical storm gained in strength and is now designated as a hurricane.
Posted on 4 Sep
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug
Kids Polarised Sunglasses from Barz Optics
Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Each pair are supplied with a neoprene case and sunglass retainer.
Posted on 4 Aug
Reducing weight aloft with composite backstays
Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Every kilogram you take out of the rig is roughly equivalent to 4kg added to the bottom of your keel!
Posted on 26 Jul
Free $US3,000 Carbon Vang with SouthernFurl boom orders in July
Southern Spars is giving a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July Southern Spars is giving away a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with all of their SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July. Carbon gas vangs make a great addition to the furling boom package, though if you’d prefer to keep your existing one, Southern Spars will offer you a 5% discount on the price of your boom instead.
Posted on 29 Jun