Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: my PLBs and me

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Santa Barbara Sometimes
    Posts
    166

    Default my PLBs and me

    As part of preparation for the DHF race in March, I checked the stickers on my 12-yr-old personal locator beacon (an ACR PLB-200). Sure enough the NOAA registration was about to expire and the battery expiry date was last August. I easily updated the beacon registration online and then called a local marine electronics company (great place: Oceanaire Electronics/Santa Barbara) to get the battery replaced. I was told they could get the replacement battery within a week, but a rebate program from ACR, meant that for about $50 more I could get a new PLB, the PLB-375 ResQLink. And the new PLB price was less than half what I paid 12 years ago! The next day I walked in and bought the new PLB. I brought the old one to compare and am amazed how much smaller the new one is, and it has loops so it can easily be strapped to a PFD or harness. But this isn't the reason for this post....

    As my order was being written up, I (for some reason) decided to test the battery in the old PLB. Well, I did, but not how I expected too! Within a few (3?) minutes my phone rang and I answered the 510 area code number… “This is coast Guard Alameda, we’ve received a 406 beacon activation from a beacon associated with this number and need to confirm the nature of your distress.” (something like that) I explained that the nature of my distress was embarrassment over accidentally activating the PLB and apologized sincerely. The CG caller was pleasant and polite and thanked me for answering my phone promptly, asked me to confirm the beacon UID and then thanked me again – after asking me to make sure the beacon was silenced. I held the off button down until the red indicator stayed dark, and, just as I thought the incident was behind me, my phone rang again, this time a 916 area code: “Hello this is the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services….” Déjà vu all over again, another pleasant and polite caller asking me the nature of my distress…. The second caller did ask different ‘security’ confirmation questions; my favorites were “Are you near Harbor Way in Santa Barbara?” (I was), and “When did you last register your beacon?” I answered “yesterday.” He said “I guess it is you all right. Please make sure the beacon is deactivated.” In less than 10 minutes I learned these lessons: The government response to a 406 MHz beacon activation is fast and professional. The GPS signal encoded in the beacon signal is accurate. The expired battery in my old PLB still works. And I need to put on glasses and read the beacon label—twice—before pushing buttons.

    https://goo.gl/photos/BgMECv1HiiYRe7Q58

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    2,368

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hodgmo View Post
    The government response to a 406 MHz beacon activation is fast and professional. The GPS signal encoded in the beacon signal is accurate. The expired battery in my old PLB still works.
    Wow! That's great. Thanks for the post. I just updated my registration, and now I'll look at the battery.

    After Edit: Uh oh! Battery expired in June of 2015. I've had this PLB for longer than I thought! That was a real public service announcement, Steve. thanks again!
    Last edited by Philpott; 02-11-2017 at 07:12 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Discovery Bay, CA
    Posts
    427

    Default

    I found exactly the same thing with regard to cost. It is very tempting to keep the old one and keep it registered as a backup. I am sure there are several good reasons why this is a bad idea but it kills me to recycle a PLB that looks brand new. I suppose you could have the same discussion about old pyros. I keep those too, but not on the boat. Someday I am going someplace really remote and have a hell of a fireworks display.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Live in Phoenix, boat in San Diego
    Posts
    252

    Default

    I would definitely keep the old PLB, and keep it registered, as a backup. At the Safety at Sea seminar I attended last year in San Diego, they told us that the battery expiry date on these devices is set at 50% of the actual expected battery life.

    The other thing I learned about my PLB came in the day-two training in the pool. In the water, with PFD inflated, I found it damned near impossible to get the PLB out of the pocket on the PFD in which it resides. Good to know. So, if possible, I'll try to pull it out of its pocket before hitting the water.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Santa Rosa
    Posts
    576

    Default

    Ditto on keeping the old PLB as a backup/second unit. I keep mine in the "ditch bag."

    And, a note about floating around with my PFD inflated. I was very nearly/almost completely helpless when it came to removing anything from a pocket, etc. I mean helpless! First, I couldn't see anything to reach for, even with the thigh straps holding the PFD down. The two "pillows" filled with air pretty much gave me tunnel vision. Second, I didn't have a lanyard attaching the PLB case to me once I unhooked it from the PFD and I lost it. It was an older model in a yellow "floatation" pouch so I could see it in the water beside my boat in the berth when I practiced an "overboard" adventure and sort of flounder toward it, but what about a "real" scenario with breaking seas? My flare pouch was hooked onto the PFD "belt" and was somewhere under the right "pillow" behind my back. I could reach it, but couldn't get it open. Made me think through how to set things up, seriously! I now keep the PLB hooked onto the PFD by a lanyard so it floats alongside me in the water.

    It's really interesting to get all geared up and take a dive off your boat, even in the marina with friends standing on the dock ready to help. I couldn't "swim" very well. Lost the PLB. Got cold faster than I thought (diving to clean the bottom in a wet suit is different), and couldn't get out of the water by myself, even after removing the PFD. I was in the water 10 minutes and was already becoming helpless.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Montara, CA
    Posts
    733

    Default

    At least for the EPIRBs, there is a "test time" once a month that you can use. I forget the parameters of it and will see if I can find it again. It was something like first 10 minutes in a certain hour on a certain day. Gives you some peace of mind. My PLB expired last year and I need to get this done. NOAA registration updates are required every two years, but changes can be made anytime, especially if you take the device on another boat.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Discovery Bay, CA
    Posts
    427

    Default

    In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you an embarrassing, but PLB related, story from the 16 transpac. I had what I thought were rudder issues about 500 miles out. The steering/rudder got very stiff and I was pretty sure I had picked up some debris of some sort. Couldn't see anything from the deck. Tortuga was about four miles to weather and I asked him if he would come down and standby while I went in the water to check things out. Randy accommodated me (thanks once again Randy). I stopped the boat and made damn sure I had a way to get back aboard. Wind was light with about 4 foot swell so conditions were not too scary. With Tortuga circling I dove in. But...in the excitement, I forgot to take off my PFD. Now that was pretty stupid but it actually worked out pretty well because I discovered something about the PLB and, fortunately, I had packed a spare PFD charge along with a complete backup PFD.

    Anyway, when I went in the PFD deployed very nicely but scared shit out of me initially, I thought I was being attacked by a shark, ha ha. After the initial shock, I took a moment to take stock before I removed the PFD. PDF was riding very nicely and the buoyant PLB (which I had tethered to a case sewed to my PFD) had autodeployed from its case and was floating at the end of the tether right at arm's length. Perfect! I am a frikking genius!

    Despite feeling embarrassed because Randy had observed my silliness, I was feeling pretty good about how the PFD/PLB worked out. During my Survival safety course I was also concerned about access but found I could get my hands on the PFD chest belt when the PFD was deployed. That is where I located the PLB case.

    Epilogue non PLB related

    I did not find anything on the rudder and completed the race after lubing the rudder bearings which I can do via zerks in the boat. She came home and all was well until I came up for the 17 TBF when the rudder went very tight again. I thought I would do some serious troubleshooting this time and figure out what the heck was going on once and for all. I disconnected the AP linear drive, no help, lubed the Edson helm chain, no help, looked for cable binding in the pedestal and quadrant...nope and finally started to wonder what those little piles of dust were above fwd and aft holes in the steering wheel bearing housings. A little research and it was revealed these were not just any old holes but lubrication points which I had not lubed for 17 years ie the entire time I have owned the boat. Well, that might account for the little piles of dust says I. Put some oil in there and the steering is smoother than it has ever been. Stupid me, but whatever...Yeeha!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Santa Rosa
    Posts
    576

    Default

    Okay, here's another PFD tale. In the early 1980s I sailed a Newport 30 and on a very long, slow SSS Farallones Race I was coming back in about the Light Bucket around 10:00 at night. The auto helm was steering. I was cold, damp, hungry, and sort of nodding off. Suddenly I heard someone whispering to me and tapping on my back. It startled me back into awareness. I actually turned around in the darkness to see if someone was there. Then I realized my belt-pack PFD had gone off. (Yes, regs were much looser and I was much dumber about safety then.) What I heard was the PFD inflating and since it was down around my waist, as it inflated it popped up behind me and pushed against my back. I fired up the Atomic 4, called in DNF, and spent 3 hours motoring back in.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •