Advice on EPIRB or PLB
I am relatively new to sailing. My boat is a 30 foot Catalina and sailing territory will be the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds of North Carolina.
I have been shopping for an EPIRB and have read the threads on sailnet and other sources for information. The literature strongly suggests a full EPIRB rather than PLBs (personal locator beacons) for "off shore use".
I have been looking at the new McMurdo Fastfind Max G PLB 406 EPIRB. The device is waterproof to 38 feet, gives a 48 hour signal, includes GPS but not a strobe. Overall I am thinking that this unit may meet my needs as we are not actually sailing off-shore (generally in VHF range) and, aside from the strobe and rugged construction, answers many of the objections that I have heard regarding the use of PLBs as a primary EPIRB device.
I also have some minor issues with mounting and potential mounting locations, size and lastly cost that are swaying me toward the McMurdo unit.
Before I try to sell my wife on the idea, any thoughts from more experienced sailors would be appreciated.
Sailing where you do, I can't imagine why you need either. A good VHF radio with DSC locator and a good handheld will bring the coasties running. If you want to spend the $$, I'd go for a PLB over an Epirb in your situation.
Given where you're sailing, you really don't need an EPIRB.
The major differences between an EPIRB and a PLB are:
EPIRB is registered to a specific boat, a PLB to a specific person
EPIRB has a 48 hour run time and a strobe and will float. Some will activate if immersed in water or if removed from their mounting bracket. All PLBs are manually activated, most need to be held above water to function properly, and only a few float. Most have only a 24-hour run time and are not equipped with a strobe.
That said, what you really need is a good VHF with DSC capability connected to a GPS, as Cam said above.
Just FYI - I have a McMurdo Fastfind that was issued to me by my employer in 2004 (so it's probably an older model than what you're looking at). Last fall I had a problem with 'locating' my locator beacon (ironically) and discovered that I had somehow lost an $800.00 piece of gear. Not good, but it does happen.
So I had to report it to NOAA. They told me that the device had actually been activated. I'm thinking "good, someone picked it up and I can get it back from them...". But then no follow-up call from NOAA or anyone else about getting it back.
Two weeks later, I "find" my beacon wedged into a corner in one of my packs, so it was never missing. It was also still intact/unactivated, so whatever NOAA or the CG had read regarding my beacon was obviously an error.
Point being that these things aren't all they're cracked up to be - either the device or the system used to track it. Unless you're in AK, where they actually take this stuff a lot more seriously (and they use mainly EPIRBS there, anyway). I no longer look to this thing as the golden parachute. Rather have a decent cell phone or a VHF radio.
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