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Who You Going to Call?

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If you are getting ready to do some serious Pacific West Coast cruising and am debating the various emergency communication devices now available. Details: Nordic Tug 34, heading north from SF area to Pacific Northwest/BC Coast (possibly Southeastern Alaska) for 4-6 months. Will harbor-hop staying relatively near shore (out deep enough to avoid most pots) with the occasional (hopefully rare) overnight. No deadlines, happy to wait for the right weather windows. Just my wife & I on board, but we have probably 10,000 mi + cruising East Coast/Caribbean/Gulf recently as a couple and several San Juan cruises, including bringing my old Willard 30 from Portland to Seattle a few decades ago.

The options --

EPIRB - the old stand-by, one-way emergency signal for catastrophic vessel events.

PLB - one-way emergency signal that covers catastrophic vessel events and MOB. A disadvantage is that there is no direct PLB to vessel communication possible to aid in immediate MOB Search & Rescue. Possible third-party communication if everything happens just right.

MOB Device with AIS - personal device on PFD which broadcasts DSC signal and GPS data locally (5 mile range) to alert vessels in area of MOB and direct immediate Search & Rescue. No remote emergency transmissions from the device but one assumes remaining crew on board can initiate emergency communications via VHF.

Satellite Communication (Garmin inReach) - tracking available for family/friends, 2-way text messages possible and interactive emergency signal activation. No help with MOB S&R other than emergency messaging. Subscription required.

All of these are going to run around half a boat buck and, I suppose, you could carry more than one type of device on board, but I’m trying to convince myself that the right ONE would be enough. But which one is the right ONE?

I’m thinking that a catastrophic vessel event (immediate sinking) in coastal waters is unlikely to happen without people being notified of it via VHF/emergency signals, etc. and my biggest fear is the MOB situation. We do all the usual things to minimize getting into that situation, but IF it happens, especially in cold Pacific waters, that is a true life-threatening emergency. Since we tend to be pretty independent cruisers, I’m leaning toward the MOB device with AIS (on each PFD). I feel that, with these, there’s a better chance of us getting ourselves out of a MOB situation - a rare, but more likely event than a vessel catastrophe.

I got my PLB for around $250 on sale.

I think PLBS and EPIRB are still at the top of the emergency food chain....and not just for catastrophic events, but not casual use either.

Communication devices are nice, but I personally would try and keep my cruise legs short enough that several days of cruising wouldn't require one.. But I haven't planned a West Coast trip so my times between ports may be unrealistic.

But I still firmly believe that no other device has replaced an EPIRB/PLB, they just supplement them.

Many of the devices you discuss have fairly specific missions, and really aren't interchangeable. Sure there is overlap, but as you said, the time it takes can be critical.

If I was planning long legs offshore where medical type situations would worry me, then really only a sat phone would satisfy me. Speaking directly to a doctor and if it had photo transfer capability..... would be what I would pay for, no matter the cost and my cruising budget is tiny compared to many here.
I use PLB. I often travel solo and it can be kept in a pocket. Then standard stuff like VHF and cell phone, which will do in most coastal situations.

Next on the list is a satphone, which I have yet to get. If I do more Caribbean island hopping, I'll get one. Or some other device that allows some two way comms, have not researched that yet.

My dink is my raft.
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