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Old 10-18-2020, 07:55 PM   #1
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? about PERSONAL Locator Beacon PLB (not EPIRBs)

We are in open water a fair amount and usually just my wife and me so safety and situational awareness are important. I am considering adding a PLB's to each of our life jackets that should show up on the AIS tracker on our chartplotters.

My understanding is that once activated, any AIS receiver should be able to see our PLB's on their screen if one of should fall overboard. This should be great for us to see if the other fell off when doing the boat walk-around when underway.

Am I right on their usage?
Are they reliable?
Will something "pop-up" on the screen to notify us, say, with an alarm/sounder if it picks something up?

We currently only have the AIS receiver in our new Garmin chart plotter and I am contemplating adding the transponder to make us more visible to other boats, but we only travel in daylight and I am always vigilant watching for other boats.

Again, I am not talking about EPIRBs in the event of whole boat emergencies. I am talking about PLB's.

Thoughts? Advice?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 10-18-2020, 08:05 PM   #2
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Some terminology: A PLB in common useage is a satellite based locator, using the Solas system, smaller and lighter than an EPIRB but works the same way. It will not show up on your chartplotter. It alerts SAR authorities in a remote location, who will eventually mobilize local resources to try to find you. An AIS MOB beacon is a VHF device. When activated, it sends out an all ships DSC emergency signal, which will alarm and show up on your properly configured chart plotter. It does not notify SAR authorities unless they happen to be in VHF range. There is now another class of beacons being pushed by ACR which are Bluetooth and cell phone based. I'd skip those.

The AIS beacon is your best chance of recovering an MOB short term. The crew left on the boat will get a nearly immediate alarm, along with a position and vectors to that position, as will others in (very short) VHF range. A PLB or EBIRB isn't very good for an MOB, because the turn around time from activation to mobilization of local resources can be many hours. The MOB is likely to be a body recovery at that point. Great for a liferaft or still floating boat though.

The rescueMeMOB1 is very small and can be attached to an inflatable vest in a way that activates automatically. It tested well against competition in the British magazines. It is the one I carry.
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Old 10-18-2020, 08:24 PM   #3
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I put PLBs on our inflatable PFDs. Too bad the PFD manufacturers do not automatically make allowances for attaching that type of equipment. It took a bit of innovative sewing to get them attached. Ours are manual activation PLB although the PFDs are automatic activation. You have to put the antenna up and then push the activation button. But it does take the search out of SAR. They send the GPS coordinates to the RCC ( Rescue Coordination Center). It then becomes how quickly the nearest rescue unit can get a resource to you. I agree they are not a MOB device. When we are underway we always tell the other person where we are going and what we are doing. We do not go out on deck unless the other person has eyes on you. We have the PLB and a strobe light sewn onto the PFD that we each wear whenever we are underway. If someone is below before they come up they call on the phone or intercom and tell the person at the helm that they are coming up now. That way the helm watch can lookout for the person coming up.
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Old 10-18-2020, 08:29 PM   #4
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Thanks to DDW and Comodave for excellent advice. I am grateful to all of you and welcome further advice for getting this dialed in.
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Old 10-18-2020, 08:56 PM   #5
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I put PLBs on our inflatable PFDs. Too bad the PFD manufacturers do not automatically make allowances for attaching that type of equipment. It took a bit of innovative sewing to get them attached.

Totally agree with this. We have the ACR PLBs that have the Velcro straps, but just nowhere on a Type 1 PFD to attach it (offshore only one we wear if we are outside the house). Sian rolls up one sleeve of her top tightly and straps it around that. I am never outside the house when running (and she rarely is), so mine is in a zipped pocket.
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Old 10-18-2020, 09:39 PM   #6
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Even if it is in a pocket you should tie it to the PFD with some small stuff so that if you loose your grip on it while taking it out it will still be tied to the PFD instead of floating away out of reach.

We have the ones with velcro on the PLBs also. I sewed some velcro onto the PFD and velcro the PLB to the PFD. Also have a lanyard to tie the PLB to the PFD. Lots of initials...
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Old 10-18-2020, 09:43 PM   #7
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Even if it is in a pocket you should tie it to the PFD with some small stuff so that if you loose your grip on it while taking it out it will still be tied to the PFD instead of floating away out of reach.

We have the ones with velcro on the PLBs also. I sewed some velcro onto the PFD and velcro the PLB to the PFD. Also have a lanyard to tie the PLB to the PFD. Lots of initials...
Story: we were boarded by the CG after coming in through Fort Pierce two years ago. After they did their inspection we were chatting with two of them in the PH. I pulled out my PLB and showed it to them, they both reached into their jacket pockets and pulled out the exact same models!
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Old 10-18-2020, 09:45 PM   #8
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That is the ones that we have. I have had years of experience with them so I bought those for our personal PFDs.
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Old 10-18-2020, 10:20 PM   #9
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Just be aware that with a PLB, it transmits location to the satellite, then it is forwarded to the CG. The CG will then call the number listed on the PLB reg, to find out if it is a false alarm (something like 99% are). Then they will try to find a local SAR resource to start a search. This often takes hours. An AIS MOB beacon will transmit your location to the closest yacht (which is the one you just fell off of) within seconds. I have a PLB but don't carry it on my person when at sea, the turn around time is too long unless you are in a survival suit. The AIS MOB gives you at least some hope, that's the one I carry. It is smaller than the PLB and easily wrapped in your vest.
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Old 10-18-2020, 10:26 PM   #10
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For the immediate notification and locating of a crew overboard, we use the Weems & Plath CrewWatcher. And on our daughter's life jacket we have the Weems & Plath Personal Rescue Strobe (a visual location aid that works best when underway in the dark, which we don't do all that often). The CrewWatcher system also works great if you have a pet onboard. We sell both items in our store.

We also offer a 10% discount to fellow TFers on Weems products with the coupon code WEEMSTFDISCOUNT (all caps).

https://www.pacificnwboatertested.co...rewwatcher-mob

https://www.pacificnwboatertested.co...-rescue-strobe
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Old 10-19-2020, 01:33 AM   #11
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An AIS MOB and a PLB are 2 very different things and serve 2 very different functions. A MOB locator is for when you are going to respond on your own. A PLB is for when you are asking the CG or other organization to come and rescue you. One is not a substitute for the other.
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Old 10-19-2020, 05:05 AM   #12
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Just be aware that with a PLB, it transmits location to the satellite, then it is forwarded to the CG. The CG will then call the number listed on the PLB reg, to find out if it is a false alarm (something like 99% are). Then they will try to find a local SAR resource to start a search. This often takes hours. An AIS MOB beacon will transmit your location to the closest yacht (which is the one you just fell off of) within seconds. I have a PLB but don't carry it on my person when at sea, the turn around time is too long unless you are in a survival suit. The AIS MOB gives you at least some hope, that's the one I carry. It is smaller than the PLB and easily wrapped in your vest.
Woah...not sure much if any is really accurate as far as procedure...within minutes of a satellite hit of a GPS EPIRB, a USCG helo is turning up and will launch whether any info is verified or not.Rescues get complicated quick, delays can happen, but they are the exception, not the rule.

With a NON GPS EPIRB, things are a little slower as there might not be any decent position info for up to nearly an hour or so.

Telephone calls are made AS the rescue resources are alerted and stood up....a lUSCG aunch might be held if the position report is over land as that usually is Civil Air Patrol and I can expand on their response operations.

While MOB devices give the best chance of the quickest rescue, as once past the initial few minutes of MOB and not found, especially at night (and in cases with no visual signaling devices), the vessel you fell off of is not always the best rescue resource.

Old style EPIRBs had a bad false alarm rates, the newer (say last 20 years or so, especially GPS EPIRBS) have a very low false alarm rate because of the GPS locating and improvements to bracket failures (very high cause) and awareness to other issues.

Comodave is correct when he posted there are different tools for rescue...offshore, either can be the lifesaver. An aside, if you are offshore and its cold enough to need rescue in under an hour....you probably should be in some type of survival gear no matter what electronics you strap on. The key to survival is alway lasting long enough to be rescued, and in any rescue things can take longer than planned.
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Old 10-19-2020, 05:13 AM   #13
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Woah...totally false...within minutes of a satellite hit of a GPS EPIRB, a USCG helo is turning up and will launch whether any info is verified or not.

With a NON GPS EPIRB, things are a little slower as there might not be any decent position info for up to nearly an hour or so.

Telephone calls are made AS the rescue resources are alerted and stood up....a lUSCG aunch might be held if the position report is over land as that usually is Civil Air Patrol and I can expand on their response operations.

While MOB devices give the best chance of rescue, as once past the initial few minutes of MOB and not found, especially at night (and in cases with no visual signaling devices), the vessel you fell off of is not always the best rescue resource.

Old style EPIRBs had a bad false alarm rates, the newer (say last 20 years or so, especially GPS EPIRBS) have a very low false alarm rate because of the GPS locating and improvements to bracket failures (very high cause) and awareness to other issues.
Thank you for that clarification.
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Old 10-19-2020, 05:20 AM   #14
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I added a bit more to that post...
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Old 10-19-2020, 09:14 AM   #15
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May want to read the attainable adventures article about exactly which personal AIS based brand to use. Very informative.
Our working thinking is if you fall off a boat you’re dead. Think we will continue to use harnesses if working outside while underway. Think floatation just makes it easier to have something to bury but our devices have both and spray hoods and crotch straps. . However in spite of that thinking did take our spinlock, mustang and Baltic stuff off the boat to use again. Do have ships epirb and personal ones, do have personal AIS as well. Awaiting a small cost effective combo unit and will buy that when current devices time out.
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Old 10-19-2020, 11:19 AM   #16
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So first make sure your VHFs are tied to your MFD so IF you have to push the 'big red' button your position is also sent at the same time.

ASD has 2 Gumby suits (Cold immersion suits) and each suit has its own PLB. . This way if we are separated, they can still find us.

The PLBs also need to be registered each year with NOAA

https://www.acrartex.com/products/resqlink-plb
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Old 10-19-2020, 11:41 AM   #17
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Woah...not sure much if any is really accurate as far as procedure...within minutes of a satellite hit of a GPS EPIRB, a USCG helo is turning up and will launch whether any info is verified or not.Rescues get complicated quick, delays can happen, but they are the exception, not the rule.
That depends a great deal on where you are. Sure, in LIS or the Chesapeake with resources close at hand you will get a quicker response. I am personally aware of instances when there was significant delay (including a formerly owned EPRIB that triggered accidentally). In more remote areas, a helo is a long time coming even if dispatched promptly, and that is assuming the weather allows flight. I've followed on VHF the progress of many SAR operations, the time line is typically not minutes (in the PNW) and can be hours.

Maybe my perspective is tilted more towards offshore or remote coastal than yours. In cold water, you will be incapacitated in 15 or 20 minutes and dead in 90. Your own boat has a good chance of fishing you out, if: they know you've gone overboard, and they know exactly where you are. The AIS beacon serves both purposes, a PLB does neither.

One category not mentioned so far is the inReach type device. It is slower than either a PLB or AIS beacon, but has the significant advantage of 2-way communication with SAR resources. I own all of the devices mentioned, each has its purpose and attributes, good and bad.
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Old 10-19-2020, 11:57 AM   #18
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DW ...but thats not what you insinuated.

Of course mid ocean rescue is not sudden, I would hope everyone here would know that. Or remote areas like Alaska. And I doubt anyone thinks you will be rescued in minutes using PLB. But that doesn't mean launches don't happen in minutes..the typical launch where I was hard to be 20 minutes, even the dead of night...we often bested that.

In the USCG I was involved with hundreds of EPIRB reports...some were in cas doing 60mph down the turnpike, one was in the middle of a Mexican desert with no way to get there, and too many others to count.

Just letting coastal US and most developed nation boaters that a PLB isn't as scary as you portrayed.

Plus.....as I posted before...if you are boating in water with only possible quick rescue and you aren't in survival gear...shame on you as no electronics may save you. I was one of the main proponents of better survival gear for our rescue crews.

While a MOB device is great....until them, recovery of MOBs by the vessel they fell off of wasn't great for many reasons...even then some take hours to turn and locate the MOB. Hip said it right...the best solution is dont go overboard or be attached.
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Old 10-19-2020, 12:09 PM   #19
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Having worked with the CG for 30 years, they take every activation very seriously. If you are in a remote area then obviously it will take time to get resources to you. You should expect that and be prepared for that situation. If you arenít prepared then shame on you and you will probably die. But it certainly doesnít take hours for the CG to respond to an activation, more like minutes. However travel time is out of their control. When I was training boat crew personnel I used to tell them to bring whatever they needed to complete their mission. That would include any PPE needed.
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Old 10-26-2020, 01:14 PM   #20
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I have AIS MOB on my lifejacket but I also have the OLAS system "wrist watch" that means if someone falls overboard the engine (s) switch off (Outboards at the moment). They can easily be restarted by the remaining crew on board to facilitate a rescue. If you are single handed this means you can swim to the boat as its not far away and in addition it will send an emergency sms to a nominated number. I do also have PLBs, EPIRBs and a SPOT and use them according to what I am doing.
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