There are many different aspects to safety afloat, including having the necessary tools to deal with emergencies when they happen, and being able to call for help when all else fails
McMurdo Personal Locator Beacon
The McMurdo Fast Find 220 personal locator beacon measures just over 4in long and weighs less than 6 ounces, but is still waterproof to a depth of 30 feet and transmits for a minimum of 24 hours in a distress situation. In addition to its 406 MHz signal, which contacts rescuers from anywhere in the world via the COSPAS SARSAT satellite system, the Fast Find 220 also transmits a 121.5 MHz homing signal to help SAR teams pinpoint a victim’s exact location. Other features include a flotation pouch and an LED flashlight to assist with rescues in limited visibility. $299.
Floating VHF Radios
A pair of waterproof, floating VHF radios for around $150 is an excellent deal. The HX100 Twin Pack radios are low-powered, switching between 2.5W and 1W, but this is all you need for messing around in anchorages or harbors, which is what they’re intended for. Otherwise they have many of the same features as more expensive radios: programmable scan, NOAA weather channels, dual watch and so on. $149.
Standard Horizon, standardhorizon.com
The smaller and more unobtrusive a PLB, the more likely you are to have it on your person when you’re sailing, either in an arm pocket as provided on some offshore jackets or fastened to your lifejacket. Measuring 3in x 2in x 1 1/4in, the rescueME PLB1 weighs just 4 ounces, and its lithium battery has a seven-year shelf life. Incorporating a 406MHz satellite transmitter, a 121.5MHz homing beacon and a high-powered LED strobe light, this little PLB will transmit for 24 hours. $369.
Ocean Signal, oceansignal.com
The Weakest Link
The Sailfuse serves as a sacrificial link in your mainsheet system that breaks before your boom, gooseneck or traveler has a chance to do so in the event of an accidental crash gybe. At the heart of the system is an internal metal filament sized to break at about 75 percent of the load that would damage your rig. This metal filament is, in turn, surrounded by a rubber-like weather-proofing compound and a coiled 10in Dyneema safely line that carries the load after the filament is broken. Granted, a correctly rigged preventer would make the Sailfuse redundant. But who can honestly say they’ve never been caught out sailing by the lee without a preventer? $143.
Sailfuse Ltd., sailfuse.com
Sta-Plug Form-Fitting Emergency Plugs
Plug it Up
Be prepared to stop any leaks if your boat is holed, with Sta-Plug Form-Fitting Emergency Plugs. The plugs not only easily fill round-hole and through-hull leaks, but most irregularly shaped hull breaches as well, thanks to their conical shape, edge-gripping riblets and high-density foam material, which is expressly formulated to conform to the outline of the hole. Plug too big? Not a problem, as plugs come in various sizes and can be torn along the top riblet to create a smaller plug. Unused plugs will last for several years without molding or swelling. From $19.95.
Few things make less sense than igniting a small, very hot fire in an emergency situation, especially if you happen to be aboard an inflatable liferaft. However, that’s precisely what mariners have traditionally been required to do every time they lit off a handheld pyrotechnic flare. The Odeo Flare gets around this problem by using five small lasers mounted in a rotating head that spins at variable speeds to mimic the flicker of a hot flame. (An LED version is also available.) Powered by three AA lithium batteries, the Odeo Flare has a rated range of 3 miles, but has proved to be visible from 4 miles away in practice. As an added benefit, the Odeo Flare remains “lit” for at least 5 hours, and is both buoyant and waterproof. $249.
Odeo Flare Ltd., odeoflare.co.uk
Kannad Marine r10 SRS
The Kannad Marine r10 SRS may soon become a “must-have” safety device, especially for those sailing aboard boats equipped with AIS. When manually activated, the safelink r10 SRS (survivor recovery system) transmits an alert message and GPS code that can be processed by any AIS receiver (class a or b) within a four-mile radius to provide a position, range and bearing on an MOB victim; no more having to carry dedicated equipment to pinpoint the source of a personal homing beacon. The safelink can be clipped to a life jacket and transmits continuously for 24 hours when activated. A flashing LED helps rescuers make visual contact when homing in on the signal after dark. $250.
kannad marine, kannadmarine.com
ResQLink Distress Beacon
All sailors should have a PLB onboard in case of an emergency, and the ResQLink distress beacon is smaller and lighter than even before, making it convenient to carry and store. The unit weighs just 4.6oz and is 3.9in tall. But don’t let its small size fool you. The ResQLink packs a powerful punch—the ResQLink is bright yellow, made of engineered polycarbonate blend, waterproof (and comes with an optional flotation pouch) and exceeds the minimum requirement operational life of 24hrs in -20°F weather. Once you have it, you won’t want to leave the dock without it. From $259.