New Electronics: Safety Electronics

When seas are unforgiving, these devices make the call.

August 13, 2010

Close Call
The ORCAdsc Man Overboard Alarm from Briartek ($275) works with the DSC-enabled VHF radio on any boat to raise the alarm if the wearer falls overboard. Program the device to trigger the DSC alarm on any equipped VHF as well as alarms on any radio within range with an MMSI number with a similar group ID. Worn on its combination antenna/lanyard, the device has a safety light and protects the wearer by communicating with search-and-rescue assets via the 121.5 MHz SAR frequency. BriarTek, (703) 548-7892;

Identify the Problem
Don’t wait for an EPIRB to signal land-based assets—the Smartfind S5 AISSART from McMurdo (priced at about $1,100) calls all AIS-equipped vessels to your aid. When activated, the device sends a signal on AIS1 and AIS2 frequencies, putting your distress call on the plotter screens of a growing percentage of commercial and recreational boats for the next 96 hours, thanks to lithium batteries that stow up to six years. A self-test function actually does the job, too, and will show up as a test on all AIS screens within range. The lightweight device comes in a highly visible orange case and includes a telescoping five-foot pole to keep the signal pulsing effectively. At this writing, the device is awaiting FCC approval. Revere Supply, (877) 738-3738;

Pushing Buttons
“We had kind of a running joke about the number of electronic gadgets I had with me,” said Senior Editor Mary South of her fellow crew on the voyage around Cape Horn (see “In the Wake of Legends” for the full story). “Obviously there’s a substantial EPIRB on a boat like Pelagic Australis—it’s equipped with state-of-the-art everything.” But South gained an appreciation for one gadget—the ACR Electronics AquaLink View PLB-350C (list price $500), a personal locator beacon (PLB) equipped with a 66-channel GPS to tell you where you are. But it goes one better: With a little foresight and an optional subscription to the service (starting at $40 per year), you can set up e-mail notifications that tell caring colleagues—and loved ones, if you must—your location at the touch of a button with an e-mail that links to a pinpointed chart. “I felt the value of it for people at home,” says South. “They said it was cool to get a message every day saying ‘I’m here.’ And it was easy, when all the other communications were fairly iffy.” It should be noted ACR recommends sparing use of the notification feature, to preserve the batteries for both its 406 MHz signaling to satellites and its 121.5 MHz homing signal, as well as its integrated strobe. “I did wind up wishing I had put myself down as one of the contacts,” says South. “So when I got back, I would have had this record.” ACR Electronics, (800) 432-0227;


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