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  #11  
Old 11-22-2008
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Sounds like a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) is what you're really looking for. They use the same technology as an EPIRB but are smaller and manually activated. If you want a gaget that will allow others to track you, or allow you to check-in, then a SPOT is the ticket but do NOT consider SPOT an emergency rescue device, it's not even in the same class as a PLB/EPIRB. PLBs can also be rented at PLBRentals.com. Rental gift certificates are available too.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brak View Post
We had that discussion. SPOT signal in case of 911 call will go to SPOT's private response center, that will in turn contact appropriate authorities. It does not go to "your contact" as previously mentioned. While it does not go to government run center, it does go to people dedicated to the purpose that will make sure someone will be sent to rescue you. The center is ran by search and rescue company and additional SAR insurance is sold pretty cheaply with SPOT, giving you additional rescue options beyond government help.

SPOT also gives you real verifiable service, which you can test and see really working anytime. With EPIRB you have to wait till real emergency to find out if it works, which probably isn't a good time to realize you have a faulty unit (and no, "self check" is most certainly NOT a valid test - I can tell you that as a software engineer).

So, personally if I had the money - I'd have both anyway - why not. However, since I am not filthy rich - I choose SPOT.

Note: SPOTs satellite coverage is not as comprehensive (it is Globalstars *data* link coverage) and if I planned to sail outside SPOT coverage area, I would choose EPIRB. However, since that is absolutely impossible as I don't plan to sail in extreme lattitudes - it's a purely theoretical note.
A sensible post above amidst a somewhat distorted picture otherwise. What we're really discussing here is a difference in rescue location philosophy. Contrary to some postings, there's no one right choice for everyone.

There was a day when we did not have EPIRB's or satellite communications for that matter. Vessels commonly reported in every 48 hours or so, depending on their location and the methods of communication available.

Our initial consideration is that we will want our rescuers to know precisely where we are at our moment of distress. Not at all a bad idea but one that, with an EPIRB, comes at a price; lack of knowledge about our location and progress prior to the distress moment. Consideration must also be given to brak's point as to whether the damn thing works when we need it to, or if we're able to deploy it at all. These are just potentialities as, the one thing we know for sure, we never know what will happen in an emergency situation until it is upon us. We do pay a hefty price for this on demand service.

The Spot service offers what might be considered a more traditional form of vessel tracking. In the same way that a ship's owners like to know where their vessel is at, we can presume that the ocean voyager, the nearby coastal, and the solo sailor have someone concerned about their whereabouts and safety. For a fraction of the cost of a one time use EPIRB they can outfit with a system that allows them much more usable information. The only question being it's utility in a distress situation.

Given that the average sailboat will be hard pressed to cover more than 200 miles in a day, if that, the calculated risk of not having a real time accurate fix on it's position would seem to be less urgent. If the Spot is spot on it's all to the good. But, if all we have is a twenty four hour old position fix, that's not chopped liver either. And a functioning Spot will have also given us the vessel's course made good as well.

Certainly, cost being no object, one can take a suspenders and belt approach to this. For those on a budget though and desiring to achieve a reasonable level of safety in terms of being located, the Spot may well fill not only the rescue need but offers non verbal communication with those concerned on shore. Money spent in one area takes money away from another area. If real trade-offs are to be made, I see no reason that a justification for using only the Spot versus a real EPIRB can be made to the benefit of, say, carrying a liferaft or affording a sat phone, etc...

Of course, if you acknowledge that going to sea is an inherently risky business the risk of which should be borne solely by the risk-taker you'll need none of this stuff when you cast off.
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Old 11-22-2008
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I'm not saying SPOT doesn't have it's place but a PLB IS the answer if you want the best emergency rescue device available. The comment wondering if it will work isn't a valid concern. The self test does actually send out a distress signal but the bits are inverted and ignored by NOAA (Agency that monitors the SARSAT[Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking] system). You can see how well PLB/EPIRB technology works by going to the NASA website at searchandrescue.gsfc.nasa.gov/sarsatreports.html
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Old 11-22-2008
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I bought a SPOT in late summer and have used it on a number of trips. It has worked flawlessly. It's never taken more than 10 minutes to send a signal and give me teh indication that the signal was received (PLB doesn't do this as far as I know). With friends and family knowing my plans and receiveing normal check-ins, I have complete confiedence in the system. If I miss a check-in or send a trouble signal there will be plent of people to make sure the Coast Guard is doing everything they can.

SPOT coverage is much better than implied in this thread...

SPOT COVERAGE

For the rest I'll rely on my EPRIB.

With a SPOT my family knows I'm safe, which has huge value to me (and them). With EPRIB / PLB they don't really know much.
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Old 11-24-2008
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The SPOT's use of AA batteries is a nice feature too - easy to replace and easy to charge. I have a Fastfind Plus PLB that gets used for hiking and such, but if it ends up with a power problem in the field, there isn't much that can be done about it.
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Old 11-24-2008
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Most PLBs and EPIRBs rely on a relatively long-life lithium-based battery for their power. These batteries are usually good for five years or so. If you can't remember to get the battery replaced before its expiration date, then you haven't done your prepwork for whatever trip you're taking properly.

Personally, I'd rather rely on a sealed lithium battery than AA batteries. Every time you open a piece of electronic equipment on a sailboat, you run the risk of getting water in it and damaging it beyond repair. Also, there's no guarantee that the AA batteries you put in it will be any good.
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Old 11-24-2008
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Great discussion, with many very good points. Important thread. I have not seen specific mention of the whole GMDSS/SOLAS specification, which some readers may not be aware of. An informed decision means understanding the GMDSS dimension more fully.

EPIRB is part of GMDSS (google that acronym). If one wants to be inside the GMDSS maritime rescue system, it is wise to get trained and certified in limited maritime radio with a GMDSS endorsement. It is not costly in time or money. In Canada, recreational boaters who use VHF radios, EPIRB etc need that certification (Restricted Operator Certificate Maritime).

I view a Spot-type device as a very useful supplement to equipping a boat with GMDSS relevant to the type of cruising. Near shore, DSC VHF radio may be enough GMDSS, especially when supplemented by cellphone. Offshore, more GMDSS compliance makes sense. A Spot-like device adds an extra layer of social connection, and maybe security if the recipients of positions can reliably follow previously agreed protocols should things go wrong. The 911 feature is also important to consider, as pointed out by others.

Just my amateur recreational boater thinking.

Last edited by floatsome; 11-24-2008 at 06:22 AM.
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Actually SPOT uses lithium batteries. They are AA size, so you can use standard AA batteries in a pinch.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
Most PLBs and EPIRBs rely on a relatively long-life lithium-based battery for their power. These batteries are usually good for five years or so. If you can't remember to get the battery replaced before its expiration date, then you haven't done your prepwork for whatever trip you're taking properly.

Personally, I'd rather rely on a sealed lithium battery than AA batteries. Every time you open a piece of electronic equipment on a sailboat, you run the risk of getting water in it and damaging it beyond repair. Also, there's no guarantee that the AA batteries you put in it will be any good.
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Yes, but they don't have a FIVE YEAR LIFESPAN in a SPOT, do they??? BTW, I use those same lithium AA batteries in all my flashlights and strobes on my boat, because they do have a ten year shelf-life. Also have two-dozen in the ditch bag for the handheld GPS and VHF.
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Actually SPOT uses lithium batteries. They are AA size, so you can use standard AA batteries in a pinch.
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Old 11-24-2008
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The AA size lithium batteries that I purchased do have a "FIVE YEAR LIFESPAN". SPOT was smart about design here. Having the flexibility to use any AA battery in an emergency is just a good design. I see no reasonable argument to that.

Obviously is you buy crappy lithium batteries they might not last five years. Here's what to expect if you buy decent batteries. You can leave SPOT...

- powered on for 1 year,
- in continuous tracking mode for 14 days (position sent every 10 minutes),
- 911 continuous tracking mode for 7 days,
- send 1,900 Ok check-in messages

When it comes to power management SPOT got it right.

I would not go to sea without an EPIRB on the boat. However, for a personal tracking system, it's a very nice device.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
Yes, but they don't have a FIVE YEAR LIFESPAN in a SPOT, do they??? BTW, I use those same lithium AA batteries in all my flashlights and strobes on my boat, because they do have a ten year shelf-life. Also have two-dozen in the ditch bag for the handheld GPS and VHF.
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