Author Topic: PLBs. Personal Location Beacons - A cautionary tale  (Read 4579 times)

Off-Shore

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PLBs. Personal Location Beacons - A cautionary tale
« on: December 02, 2017, 12:00:37 PM »
A surfskiing friend send me this story about a Surfskier activating their PLB on the world famous Millers Downwind Run near Cape Town, South Africa.

“A couple of weeks ago, here in Cape Town, a paddler found himself in trouble on the famous (notorious?) Miller’s Run downwind route.  Some 2km offshore, he fell off and after a number of attempts was unable to remount his surfski.  He activated his McMurdo FastFind 220 Personal Locator Beacon.  An hour and half later he was pulled from the water having swum his ski almost all the way to safety. A happy ending - but not because of the PLB.”

If like me you own, have registered and carry a PLB when paddling in the ocean and in high wind or extreme conditions, this is a must read.. I had no idea that they were so sensitive to positioning, being exposed to water once activated and that satellites that pick their signals up may only pass overhead once an hour...

https://www.surfski.info/latest-news/story/1608/personal-locator-beacons-and-surfski-paddlers.html

I actually have the McMundo FastFind PLB in this story which I registered in the US. My other PLB is the ACCUSAT Pocket Series 408/121.5 MHz PLB which is registered in Hong Kong... This one is bigger that the FastFind...


« Last Edit: December 02, 2017, 12:10:03 PM by Off-Shore »
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Off-Shore

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Re: PLBs. Personal Location Beacons - A cautionary tale
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2017, 12:22:24 PM »
Here is the conclusion from the article from which I quote..

"But I already own a PLB”[/u]

For those paddlers who own a PLB, I make the following recommendations:

-Make sure you read the manual and you understand the implications of those “Safety Notes”.
-Make sure you understand that the satellites may only pick up your signal up to an hour after you activate the unit.  And even then, your position might not have been communicated.
-Test the thing regularly.
-Whatever you do, don’t think your PLB automatically makes you safe.  Make sure you have other plans in place (like, for example, a phone with a tracker app like SafeTRX installed).

Safety in General

And of course, a communications device is not the only safety equipment you should have anyway.  Some things you can do to keep safe are (in approximate order of importance):

-Know your limitations and don’t go out in weather that’s too extreme for your capability and fitness.  Practise remounting.  If you’re worried about remounting – in any conditions – you should not be out on a big downwind.
-Make sure someone on shore knows where you’re going and what your ETA is.  Make sure they know who to call if you don’t arrive.
-Leave a good margin between your ETA and sunset.  Factor in the time needed for the Search and Rescue people to activate, launch and search for you.
-Don’t paddle alone.
-Wear a PFD.  On that PFD should be a whistle.
-Leash yourself to your ski. (More about this to follow).
-Take a phone in a waterproof pouch with a tracking app like SafeTRX running.  Be aware that it’s difficult to use a phone in a pouch (but not impossible – try it).  But a tracker app is invaluable for the SR team looking for you.
-Take flares – either a smoke flare or pencil flares (both have their advantages and disadvantages).  Make sure they’re waterproof and not expired.
-Take a VHF radio – but be aware that the range between you in the water and a boat with a 4m aerial is only about 7km.  It’s very useful when you can see your rescuers but they can’t see you.
-By all means take a PLB.  You never know, it might work.

PLBs into the future

Cospas-Sarsat is in the process of upgrading its satellite system and in the not too distant future (2 years) the network will be in a position to offer near instantaneous communication of distress signals.

Of course the caveats about the beacon having to be held upright, out of the water and so on will probably still apply."

One of the recommendations they have is

"SPOT
A possible alternative to the PLB is the SPOT Satellite Messenger (www.findmespot.com).  The system also works with satellites, is not reliant on cellular networks, and also claims a rapid response time.  It’s expensive: $150 for the unit plus $150 annual subscription fee.  But then – what’s your life worth?"

This is currently on offer for 50% off until end of year at USD75 but the subscription seems to be USD199 per year... Is anyone using this?
« Last Edit: December 02, 2017, 12:31:43 PM by Off-Shore »
SB 9' x 33' x 4.1" - RPC 9'8" iSUP - SB All-Star 12'6" - Blue Planet Bump Rider 14 - SB Ace 14 x 27 - RedAir 14' Elite Race - SIC Bullet 14v1 TWC - SICMaui F16v3 Custom

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/HksupaHk_SUP_and_Downwinding

surfcowboy

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Re: PLBs. Personal Location Beacons - A cautionary tale
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2017, 02:17:21 PM »
Always read the fine print, right? Thanks for this. I've never heard any of it. I assumed they were almost instant.

Good info on the Spot too.

PonoBill

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Re: PLBs. Personal Location Beacons - A cautionary tale
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2017, 02:37:58 PM »
One of the reasons I like SUPs over boats is remounting. If you're really over your head you can lay down on the things, but you can crawl onto them in almost any conditions and prone paddle, or kneel and Pocahontas.

I considered getting a PLB and rejected them, for the general reasons stated in the article. I saw dozens of articles on the interweb warning about response limitations. I'm not out in the mid-Atlantic. I'm at most a few miles offshore. Maybe for a channel crossing it would be good, but for downwinders I think my iPhone in a lifeproof case and a magnetic closure bag is good. Yes, VHS radio might be better, but they're a bit bulky and don't have my music, a camera, motion tracking, coaching, or the ability to answer "board calls". So I'm good.
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Billekrub

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Re: PLBs. Personal Location Beacons - A cautionary tale
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2017, 05:21:34 PM »
Why don't lost planes and submarines release emergency beacons?  Would save a lot of money in search time and increase successes.