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Be Prepared

A sudden storm, and electronic failure, and the device that saved the day.

I heard this story at ACR Electronics display at the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, celebrating the latest members of ACR SurvivorClub. Yeah, you know what that means.

Kevin Keith tells his story of survival at the 2013 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show.
Kevin Keith tells his story of survival at the 2013 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show.

On a sunny Saturday in late August, Kevin Keith, his brother Karson, and their two friends headed out for Cedar Key, Florida, for an afternoon of fishing on Karson's 23-foot center console. It was a typical day of fishing, and the four men were having a pleasant afternoon--until 3:30, when they went to turn on the engine and realized they had lost all battery power. Kevin got on the radio to Sea Tow, but the connection was weak, Sea Tow could hear them, but they couldn't hear Sea Tow. They saw some boats around them, so they popped off a few flares in hopes that someone might come by to help them, but none of the flares were seen. Then they saw the weather report. A storm was bearing down on their location, where they were floating, dead in the water. Kevin radioed again, this time to U.S. Coast Guard station Yankee Town, with a mayday call. But again, the connection was weak, and they weren't certain the USCG had received their coordinates. They dropped the anchor, deployed all of the line they had, and waited. Within minutes the storm was upon them, the winds built to 40 and 50 knots, churning the glassy sea. The waves built, first to 4 feet, then to 6 feet, and they kept building. In 15 minutes they had built to 10 feet, and water was coming over the stern. Kevin grabbed the PFDs and handed them out and they all got ready for the worst. The water kept coming. One wave came, and in 30 seconds the water rose from their ankles to their knees. It was clear now that the boat was going under. Kevin grabbed their ACR EPIRB and activated it. Then, as one last wave came, the boat capsized, and everyone was in the water. Kevin lashed the ERPIB to his life vest, then the four men tied themselves together with a dock line, and watched the boat sink under the waves as they floated away. They drifted for two and a half hours before the USCG rescue helicopter loated them thanks to the EPIRB's signal. They could see a Sea Tow boat looking for their vessel, but the boat was no where to be found. "Everything failed us that day, flares, cell phones, radio, everything," Kevin said. "The only thing that saved us was our EPIRB. I Just want people to hear this story, and invest in an EPIRB. It's a small price to pay."