When I’m running a boat offshore by myself, I gear up. I start by cramming a fanny pack with energy bars, packaged water, light sticks and sunscreen. I’ve got a ditch bag too, but with the items detailed here attached to my person, I’m prepared.
I prefer a PLB (personal locator beacon) because it communicates with two constellations of search-and-rescue satellites and because it transmits both location and homing signals. Models with integral GPS allow for more precise location. If you choose one that displays GPS coordinates, you can verbally communicate your location to the SAR crew via VHF.
Some VHFs also offer GPS display. It’s a great feature, but a unit intended to go overboard with me must meet two other criteria. One, it should bear the JIS-8 and IPX-7 standards for waterproof. Two, it better float.
PLBs and VHFs are also available with integral strobe lights. But I pin a dedicated, water-activated strobe light to my life jacket anyway. Redundancy and safety go hand in hand. If I hit the drink unconscious, the light flashes; if I’m conscious, I can hit the “off ” button to conserve the battery.
Even the simple whistle bears consideration. We all watched the lovely Kate Winslet blow hers to alert rescuers in Titanic. One can’t scream for very long without losing one’s voice. I’m considering swapping my plastic whistle for a stainless model, figuring I’m less likely to discover it cracked when and if I need it most. We each need to make choices that best suit our situations and our sense of what we deem responsible. I’m hoping this compilation gets you thinking along those lines.
A floating, waterproof VHF worn with a belt clip and lanyard lets you make mayday calls and communicate with rescuers.
Highly visible, it enables rescuers to follow the direction of your drift.
It’s louder and more reliable than yelling to alert nearby rescuers.
This requires practice to use correctly. See You Should Know, page 26 of this issue, for a how-to.
PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)
Communicating your position directly to SAR satellites, a PLB notifies rescue agencies and helps them home in on your position.
PFD Strobe Light
Select one meeting the SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) Convention requirement for minimum eight-hour operating time.
Apply SOLAS Grade 3155 patches to life jackets and other fabrics; for life rings and other hard objects, select SOLAS Grade 3150-A.