Radio Lifelines Page 2
— April 2001
By Tim Clark
|Part 2: Electronics continued|
Sea Marshall's CrewFinder has the capabilities of the CrewGuard along with considerably more sophisticated direction-finding capacities. Connected to a directional antenna mounted high on your boat, the CrewFinder will indicate the source of the PRB signal in relation to your boat's heading on a circular display of 36 LEDs. The antenna overcomes the potential temporary loss of PRB transmissions due to wave action by constantly averaging the signal's direction. If the signal is interrupted for more than a few seconds, the unit will recall and indicate its last position on the circular display. A signal-strength indicator--four horizontal LEDs within the circular face--shows when the boat is nearing the source of the transmission. Michael Feldstein, Sea Marshall's vice president of sales and marketing, says that the rescue system has a range of up to five miles.
The Sea Marshall Rescue System has received approval from the U.S. Navy and includes among its customers the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.K. Coastguard. The SMRS-8L Personal Rescue Beacon with light has a suggested retail price of $179. The CRWG-1 CrewGuard sells for $448.40, and the MDF-220 CrewFinder is priced at $2,840.
ACR Electronics of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, manufactures the Vecta2 Hand Held Radio Direction Finder. Also tuned to 121.5-MHz frequency, the Vecta2 will, like Sea Marshall's receivers, pick up a signal from any ELT or EPIRB, including ACR's 6"L x 2.6"W x 1.6"H manually activated MiniB2. Connected to ship's power and to an omnidirectional antenna mounted high on your vessel, the Vecta2 will put out an oscillating tone when a signal is picked up. You must then disconnect the direction finder from its remote power source and antenna, unfold the antennas mounted on the Vecta2 itself, and from a position on deck, sweep the sea to determine the direction of the signal (see photo, this page). LEDs on the handheld unit indicate signal strength. ACR claims that "under ideal conditions" the Vecta2 has a range of up to 8 NM. The MiniB2 sells for $249.
Seattle's Emerald Marine Products manufactures a man-overboard rescue system that operates on a UHF band at a 418-MHz frequency. Emerald's 5.5"L x 1.5"W x .75"H ALERT System AT100 transmitter activates manually or by contact with water. The AT100's signal is picked up by the AR100 receiver, which sounds a 95-dB alarm (65 is the level of normal conversation). Like Sea Marshall's CrewGuard, the AR100 can be interfaced with a GPS and autopilot. To search directionally the receiver must be fitted with the optional 19"L x 15"W x 3"H ADF100 direction-finding antenna. You then use the antenna--like ACR's Vecta2-- to sweep the horizon for the signal's origin. Emerald states that the ALERT System's maximum range is one mile. AT100 transmitters sell for $199 each. The AR100 receiver is $399, and the ADF100 direction finder is $299.
Many items we take onboard solely to be used in case of emergency are rarely given much attention beyond annual battery checks. With these devices, however, you can practice. ACR Electronics and Sea Marshall both sell test beacons that operate above the official search-and-rescue frequency and can be used for training. And Emerald Marine's 418-MHz beacons can be used any time for skill-building drills.
Is it unlikely you'll ever actually need to use any of these devices in an emergency? Of course. But if you agree that one of their functions is the creation of peace of mind, then you'll be reaping the benefits every day you're on the water.
ACR Electronics (954) 981-3333. Fax: (954) 983-5087. www.acrelectronics.com.
Emerald Marine Products (800) 426-4201. Fax: (206) 781-4646. www.alert2.com.
Sea Marshall Rescue Systems (212) 790-6604. Fax: (212) 642-4265. www.seamarshallrescue.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.