The Evolution of Emergency Beacons

We’re all familiar with Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacons (EPIRBs). Yachts venturing further than 2 NM off the coast are obliged to carry them on board. In addition, some of us may also carry Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), attached to our life vests to help find us in a man overboard emergency.

Both EPIRBS and PLBs send a signal to overhead satellites to set off an alarm at the Rescue Authority, in Australia that is AMSA. While these beacons have a proven track record in saving hundreds of people in emergency situations, they still suffer from some limitations. For example, EPIRBs can only send an “all out” Mayday message, with no possibility of indicating the level of emergency, nor can rescue authorities acknowledge or establish return communications. PLBs will only send a mayday and position to the rescue authorities, rather than to those closest to the incident, usually surrounding vessels, who are in a position to provide immediate assistance.

A variety of alternative beacons and Man Overboard devices have come on the market and I thought it would be interesting to highlight two new types which overcome some of those limitations. Continue reading “The Evolution of Emergency Beacons”

Affordable Cruise Communications

I thought we would highlight three gadgets which are changing the way we communicate on our cruising yachts. From affordable, convenient Internet access to economical satellite communications.

Prepaid Mobile Broadband

Internet at sea has become an essential part of cruising. Some of us might like to get away from emails, but easily accessed weather information and the ability to keep in touch with friends and family sways most of us. On our boat, Te Moana,  we have a permanent Wireless Broadband installation, with which we’re very happy. However, not everyone is prepared to spend $1000+ or have a permanently installed system.

Continue reading “Affordable Cruise Communications”

Q&A – wireless broadband and AIS

[This is the online version of an article in the April 2011 issue of the Mainsheet, the monthly magazine of the Coastal Cruising Club of Australia]

I have recently been giving presentations about the use of the Internet at sea as well as Cruise Communications generally. Here are some of the questions which came up after those talks.

Q: Where should I install my Mobile Broadband Antenna?
Continue reading “Q&A – wireless broadband and AIS”

Marine Traffic website falls in the category “why wasn’t I told about this before?”. It aims to plot all ships carrying AIS and uses volunteer ground stations. Stunningly simple concept (connect AIS receiver to a computer and upload AIS data to a central site)

Here is the state of shipping going to and from (and anchored at) Newcastle this morning:


Clicking on a vessel displays its details:


Wow…. Try it out.

Coverage is not complete (it needs a station in MacKay for example) and of course this is not a system on which yachties would want to rely on exclusively, but its yet another reason for having internet access on board. And a sensible resource for those as yet without our own AIS.

The shape of things to come.