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PLB recommendations

Aug 21, 2019
109
Catalina 315 18 Grosse Pointe Park, MI
I am a Great Lakes Sailor and plan a few trips next season on Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. I am considering purchasing a couple of PLB for the admiral and myself. Any recommendations for specific models?
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,824
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
There are 2 broad categories to consider, each has specific strengths and limitations. One is AIS based and the other is Satellite based. For your intended sailing area I'd suggest an AIS based locater, assuming you have an AIS onboard.

If someone should go overboard, the vessel that is in the best position to rescue the person is the boat they fell off of. An AIS locater will send an emergency AIS signal to every boat within in range (about 5 miles) and an MMSI call to the ship's radio. The onboard crew will then be able to quickly locate the POB and pick them up. Time in the water will be short.

A PLB is better for ocean sailing. When the unit is triggered a signal is sent to a satellite, which then sends the information to a SARs service which then notifies the local CG who then try to verify that it is not an inadvertent transmission. And then they send out the troops to find you. This can take hours. In the mean time, there may be boats near by that could pick up the POB minutes after they go overboard had they known about the POB and had a position.

We have the Ocean Signal MOB1. There are other brands that are similar, however this one has fewer limitations than the phone based ones and the overboard alarm only models.

 
Aug 21, 2019
109
Catalina 315 18 Grosse Pointe Park, MI
There are 2 broad categories to consider, each has specific strengths and limitations. One is AIS based and the other is Satellite based. For your intended sailing area I'd suggest an AIS based locater, assuming you have an AIS onboard.

If someone should go overboard, the vessel that is in the best position to rescue the person is the boat they fell off of. An AIS locater will send an emergency AIS signal to every boat within in range (about 5 miles) and an MMSI call to the ship's radio. The onboard crew will then be able to quickly locate the POB and pick them up. Time in the water will be short.

A PLB is better for ocean sailing. When the unit is triggered a signal is sent to a satellite, which then sends the information to a SARs service which then notifies the local CG who then try to verify that it is not an inadvertent transmission. And then they send out the troops to find you. This can take hours. In the mean time, there may be boats near by that could pick up the POB minutes after they go overboard had they known about the POB and had a position.

We have the Ocean Signal MOB1. There are other brands that are similar, however this one has fewer limitations than the phone based ones and the overboard alarm only models.

Thank you. On my boat I have AIS receiving only capability. My radio is an Standard Horizon GX2150 with a registered MMSI number. The VHF is also interfaced to my GPS system. I do not, however, have an AIS transponder. Will the MOB1 still work for me?
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,824
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
So long as you have a receiver, yes. The AIS needs to be turned on and the alarms enabled.
 
Aug 21, 2019
109
Catalina 315 18 Grosse Pointe Park, MI
The PLB1 is a satellite based unit made my the same manufacturer as the MOB1. The PLB1 costs the same amount as the MOB1. My question is: in what ways is the MOB1 better than the PLB1? Why would it be better for a Great Lakes Sailor?

My fear is that there would not be a boat, with AIS, within range to hear my distress call. Lake Huron is big and most sailors I know do not bother with AIS or registering a MMSI number.
 
Last edited:
Apr 8, 2011
465
Hunter 36 Deale, MD
I singlehand most of the time I sail, and wanted a PLB that would unobtrusively fit IN my auto-inflating lifejacket. I also like the idea of it being a PLB so that bonafide rescue services are dispatched, as opposed to depending on fellow boaters to watch their AIS display - IF they have one - and respond to the signal. Its personal, but I want a virtual guarantee that someone will show up to pluck me out of the water rather than depending on good samaritans.

I decided on the Ocean Signal PLB1 due to its size and the reviews I read. It is so small I don't notice it when I have my lifejacket on, so I'll DEFINITELY have it on me if I go overboard.

PLB1 - Ocean Signal

YMMV, and you should do your research on what works for you.
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,824
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
The PLB1 is a satellite based unit made my the same manufacturer as the MOB1. The PLB1 costs the same amount as the MOB1. My question is: in what ways is the MOB1 better than the PLB1? Why would it be better for a Great Lakes Sailor?

My fear is that there would not be a boat, with AIS, within range to hear my distress call. Lake Huron is big and most sailors I know do not bother with AIS or registering a MMSI number.
If you single hand and sail in isolated waters, then a PLB may be a better choice. However, you will be in the water a long time, hours, before anyone comes to find you.

If you sail with crew, sail where there are other boats, both recreational and commercial, then the MOB1 is a better choice, because recuse can happen quicker. When someone goes overboard, the nearest boat and nearest rescue is the boat the POB fell off of. The AIS based unit will enable the crew to quickly find and retrieve the POB, that any other boats may hear the alert is a bonus.

With a PLB only the satellites will hear the location signal, location information is not available to anyone nearby. It is entirely possible for a boat with AIS to sail by within a few hundred yards and not be aware of the POB and sail on by.

When a person goes overboard with a MOB1 the sequence is:
  1. AIS Emergency Alert is triggered
  2. DSC Call is made to the mother ship
  3. Crew activates DSC emergency notification on VHF (aka the Panic) button
  4. Crew sails to the POB's position
  5. Crew Retrieves POB
  6. Crew Notifies CG of situation
When a PLB or EPRIB is activated:
  1. Signal is transmitted to a Satelitte
  2. Signal is relayed to a Shore based station (Global Marine Distress System
  3. Receiving GMDS station relays information to local/Regional SAR organization
  4. Regional SAR organization tries to contact the Emergency Contact on the EPIRB registration to verify emergency
  5. Regional SAR notifies nearest SAR (USCG or CCG on the Great Lakes)
  6. CG broadcasts an alert to boaters
  7. CG mobilizes SAR unit and initiates search
Near by boats are completely unaware of any problem until the CG makes the VHF announcement. In the meantime the POB's position is only updated with each satellite pass, so position reports are delayed.
 
Jun 14, 2010
1,725
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
The PLB1 is a satellite based unit made my the same manufacturer as the MOB1. The PLB1 costs the same amount as the MOB1. My question is: in what ways is the MOB1 better than the PLB1? Why would it be better for a Great Lakes Sailor?

My fear is that there would not be a boat, with AIS, within range to hear my distress call. Lake Huron is big and most sailors I know do not bother with AIS or registering a MMSI number.
I own a PLB1 and 2 MOB1's. The MOB1 is for life vest wear, packed inside my inflatable vest, and IMHO is more likely to result in a timely rescue. (I'd rather be rescued in minutes by a nearby vessel than hours by a CG unit that's far away.) The SAR response that gets triggered by a PLB alert is not quick. If you're in cold water, the greater risk is succumbing to hypothermia (as opposed to drowning or sharks). Tuck your body to a fetal position to retain as much warmth as possible, and pray.
When I leave the cockpit I wear the MOB1-equipped PFD and also wear the PLB on my belt, along with a handheld VHF that's got integrated GPS and DSC.
Plan 1: Assuming my wife and I are together and I go overboard, I would first try to have her rescue me, and I would talk her through that on the VHF. If that's not possible;
Plan 2: I would turn on the handheld and wait a minute or two for it to acquire a GPS fix, then press the DSC distress button. I would also start calling "any station" for help.
Plan 3: If no timely response, I would activate the MOB1 and the PLB1 in that order. Neither one give the user any feedback about a response. So then it's a matter of survival skills and hope.
I view the PLB as a backup to the boat's main EPIRB. Its advantage is portability. The EPIRB is more powerful and longer lasting.
If I were planning an offshore trip I'd also get a Garmin Inreach Mini, for 2-way messaging.
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,824
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Plan 3: If no timely response, I would activate the MOB1 and the PLB1 in that order. Neither one give the user any feedback about a response. So then it's a matter of survival skills and hope.
If your handheld is programmed with the ship's MMSI number the MOB1 call will activate both the ship's VHF and the handheld.

We also have an EPRIB and a Spot messenger. Both were added last year in anticipation of our Covid aborted trip.
 
Jun 11, 2004
1,220
Oday 31 Redondo Beach
There are 2 broad categories to consider, each has specific strengths and limitations. One is AIS based and the other is Satellite based. For your intended sailing area I'd suggest an AIS based locater, assuming you have an AIS onboard.

If someone should go overboard, the vessel that is in the best position to rescue the person is the boat they fell off of. An AIS locater will send an emergency AIS signal to every boat within in range (about 5 miles) and an MMSI call to the ship's radio. The onboard crew will then be able to quickly locate the POB and pick them up. Time in the water will be short.

A PLB is better for ocean sailing. When the unit is triggered a signal is sent to a satellite, which then sends the information to a SARs service which then notifies the local CG who then try to verify that it is not an inadvertent transmission. And then they send out the troops to find you. This can take hours. In the mean time, there may be boats near by that could pick up the POB minutes after they go overboard had they known about the POB and had a position.
These are good considerations.

Besides the satelite and AIS based systems you may also want to consider one of the the app based crew overboard devices that are available. Here is a good writeup from Boat/US.

5 Man Overboard Safety Devices Tested

As a potential crew overboard I would rather be wearing one of those or an AIS based device (possibly along with a GPS/DSC enabled handheld VHF) than a PLB. I would save the plb or epirb for the boat / ditch bag.
 
Oct 22, 2014
16,081
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Having a signaling device is one part of the problem. I selected the ACR RESQLINK™ VIEW. Check the battery.

And either stay on the boat using tethers and JackLines, or wear a dry suit.

And the PFD being worn while sailing helps to give you a chance.
 
Jun 25, 2004
1,108
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
Plan 1: Assuming my wife and I are together and I go overboard, I would first try to have her rescue me, and I would talk her through that on the VHF. If that's not possible;
Our club ran an exercise on San Francisco Bay where we actually had live crew go overboard and then we retrieved them. One of the things we discovered was that communication between the COB and mothership via a waterproof VHF communication was next to useless because it was muffled and distorted by the water. Our volunteer in the water used a brand new Standard Horizon VHF.

I'd highly recommend that you both practice the maneuver before it happens. Talking her through it from afar and while you're in the water isn't likely to succeed.
 
Jun 11, 2004
1,220
Oday 31 Redondo Beach
One of the things we discovered was that communication between the COB and mothership via a waterproof VHF communication was next to useless because it was muffled and distorted by the water.
Well that's disconcerting.

Just curious, did the COB try to shake out the water and if so did it do any good?

Sorry for the hijack.
 
Jun 14, 2010
1,725
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
Our club ran an exercise on San Francisco Bay where we actually had live crew go overboard and then we retrieved them. One of the things we discovered was that communication between the COB and mothership via a waterproof VHF communication was next to useless because it was muffled and distorted by the water. Our volunteer in the water used a brand new Standard Horizon VHF.

I'd highly recommend that you both practice the maneuver before it happens. Talking her through it from afar and while you're in the water isn't likely to succeed.
Thanks, @DrJudyB that's good to know. I'll revise my thinking.
 
Jan 4, 2010
982
Farr 30 San Francisco
They do different things, the PLB works anywhere in the world and notifies the local authorities. The AIS notifies nearby boats with AIS receivers. The AIS is better if someone is near, the PLB works better if you are alone.
 

PaulK

.
Dec 1, 2009
782
Sabre 402 Southport, CT
Our club ran an exercise on San Francisco Bay where we actually had live crew go overboard and then we retrieved them. One of the things we discovered was that communication between the COB and mothership via a waterproof VHF communication was next to useless because it was muffled and distorted by the water. Our volunteer in the water used a brand new Standard Horizon VHF.

I'd highly recommend that you both practice the maneuver before it happens. Talking her through it from afar and while you're in the water isn't likely to succeed.
We've also run practice drills with volunteers going overboard. The volunteers learn very quickly that falling off a boat- even with a pfd on - is not something they want to do again if they can help it. Doing a practice run using a PLB or AIS device (to actually see how it works from on board the boat) might be problematical. You wouldn't want the alarm to actually go off and involve others in the event. Is there a test mode that would allow the victim's vessel to be the only one to get the signals on the victim's location?
 

CarlN

.
Jan 4, 2009
577
Ketch 55 Bristol, RI
The AIS MOB is the biggest change in MOB to come along in my lifetime. In your relatively busy waters, I would definitely go with the AIS MOB. I saw one go off in Maine. I was 8 miles away - several islands over - and my chartplotter started beeping with an icon of a drowning man. Within minutes the CG, TowBoat, a harbormaster and six other boats had all come up on VHF 16 looking for confirmation and heading for the signal. I've always worried about my wife getting the boat turned around and back to me if I fell over. Now I tell her to stay calm and don't do anything risky. There's no reason to throw things over the side. No reason to keep me in sight. Just answer the radio to those responding to the AIS MOB. Then take her time getting the sails down and coming back for me using the chart plotter - but only if the weather conditions are such that she can do that safely. I'd prefer to wait in the life jacket for one of the professionals to pick me up in a low sided boat rather than asking her to try the dangerous maneuver of getting the high sided sailboat up to me.
 
Jan 11, 2014
7,824
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
The AIS MOB is the biggest change in MOB to come along in my lifetime. In your relatively busy waters, I would definitely go with the AIS MOB. I saw one go off in Maine. I was 8 miles away - several islands over - and my chartplotter started beeping with an icon of a drowning man. Within minutes the CG, TowBoat, a harbormaster and six other boats had all come up on VHF 16 looking for confirmation and heading for the signal. I've always worried about my wife getting the boat turned around and back to me if I fell over. Now I tell her to stay calm and don't do anything risky. There's no reason to throw things over the side. No reason to keep me in sight. Just answer the radio to those responding to the AIS MOB. Then take her time getting the sails down and coming back for me using the chart plotter - but only if the weather conditions are such that she can do that safely. I'd prefer to wait in the life jacket for one of the professionals to pick me up in a low sided boat rather than asking her to try the dangerous maneuver of getting the high sided sailboat up to me.
This is where a Lifesling comes into its own. The boat only has to be near the POB. It is much safer and easier to bring the POB to the boat than bringing the boat up to the person. This is what a Lifesling does best.
 
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Oct 22, 2014
16,081
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
It only works well if you have floating line, and you have practiced the maneuver a couple of times to be sure you know how to manage the boat.
General idea...
Circle the MOB. Get the float to wrap the MOB. Get the MOB to putt their body in the sling. Slow/STOP the boat and manually pull the MOB to the boat.

At least with the life sling you can keep the MOB afloat and near the boat.