Personal Locator Beacons and bicycling

The other day I was out riding my bike with my buddy Ed. He is one of those guys who can (and does) talk with everyone which over the years has made for some interesting rides. It was one of those typical Northwest days, grey and damp and we were climbing a fire road in Capitol Forest looking for an area that had a recent fire. We were passed by a number of four wheel drive trucks and of course Ed had to find out what they were doing. It turned out that one guy was lost the previous day and this group was on a search and rescue mission. We were told to look out for the lost guy and call 911 should we find him.

Once we got to the top of the hill two motorcycles came along, OK they also had riders. They were lost and Ed got them pointed in the right direction and made sure they had gas (afterwards we wondered what we would have done if they didn’t have gas since one hardly carries that on your bicycle) and sent them on their way.

All this got me thinking, what would happen if I was out in the middle of nowhere and got turned around, injured or came across someone in need of help. Would my cell phone be enough to suffice? It has GPS and downloaded maps so I should be able to find my way home but what if I am hurt? After talking with my wife, we decided that I should carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon
Ocean Signal rescueME Personal Locator Beacon

The Ocean Signal version only weighs 4.1 ounces which is less than many multi-tools that we pack around. This unit provides world-wide coverage, does not have an annual service contract and works using a dedicated government owned an operated satellite system. Best of all it connects directly to search and rescue. Somehow this seems like a reasonable addition to my Camelback.


Of course we sell these units. Full information on the Ocean Signal PLB is on our web site. The unit has a 7 year battery and 7 year warranty so the cost works out to $3.56 per month, about the same as a small latte. Then again if I skip one latte per month I would lose more weight than the 4.1 ounces I have added to my gear.

How to label your MOM

There is a new requirement for sailboat racers to put the vessel’s name on life saving equipment. How do you do that with equipment like the MOM-8 which is packed and requires a professional to remove from its case and get it back together in working order? It is simple!

mom_label As you can see from this label the pylon is connected to both the lifebuoy and the “tray”. The tray is the bottom part of the MOM’s container so all you need to do is put the vessel’s name on the tray.

















Here is a view of the bottom of a pylon and the tether connecting it to the tray.

So it’s simple, just put the vessel’s name on the tray and you have labeled your MOM and the race committee should be happy. This is the same way that commercial life rafts are labeled. They use a watertight container that is packed outside the life raft container and tethered to the raft using line or webbing. That way you can change the information without paying to have the equipment serviced.

The USCG on Boating Safety

The USCG has issued their 2012 Recreational Boating Statistics, a 79 page document telling us all about deaths and accidents. The good news is there were less deaths in 2012 than in 2011 but there are a number of other items that caught my attention.

  • Booze was the major contributing factor in accidents. It was a factor in 109 deaths and 227 injuries.
  • In my home state of Washington, there were twice as many deaths in 2012 compared to 2011.
  • Deaths offshore dropped from 7 in 2011 to 2 in 2012. I guess being offshore is a pretty safe place to be.
  • Of the 459 individuals who drowned, 379 were NOT wearing life jackets.

There is a lot of information in this report but if I was to take away two things they would be:

  1. Pay attention to what you are doing
  2. Wear your life jacket

It has been shown that most accidents are the result of a number of things going wrong at the same time. When we hear of a miraculous event where a disaster has been averted many times this is due to eliminating one or two minor issues by being attentive and thinking quickly and decisively.

Let’s hope that the 2013 report shows a positive trend with less accidents and less deaths.

Wear your damned life jacket!

I was reading our local newspaper this morning and noticed an article that stated a man had drowned in Spanaway Lake (just outside of Tacoma) who was not wearing a life jacket. He was riding an inner tube being pulled by a boat when the tube flipped according to the article:

SPANAWAY LAKE Man who drowned wasn’t wearing life vest

    A man presumed to have drowned Sunday in Spanaway Lake was not wearing a life vest as initially thought, Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said Wednesday.

    Deputies initially said the three people riding the inner tube that flipped while being pulled by a powerboat were wearing life jackets, and that the third person, 55-yearold Salvador John Sanchez of Spanaway, slipped out of his and under the surface.

    Further investigation determined life vests were thrown to the three in the water from the boat after the tube flipped but were not worn at the time of the accident, Troyer said.

    The two women in the water grabbed onto the vests and were rescued, but the man slipped under the surface and has not yet been found, Troyer said.

    Deputies searched for more than two days with divers, sonar and remotely operated cameras, but were not able to find the man’s body. Others involved in the accident might be cited for not wearing life vests and not having improper equipment on the boat, he said.

I don’t know how many of these articles I have read in my lifetime but what they all seem to have in common is the lack of a life jacket. There does not seem to be any argument, wearing life jackets saves lives. Please if for no other reason than to save a tree by newspapers not having to write these articles, wear your life jacket!


Maybe a tether would have helped?

Latitude 38 has an article about a British sailor who fell overboard while crossing the Pacific from Japan. The report says that he was conscious and wearing a life jacket when he went overboard. His fiancee was on-board but unable to rescue him.

ISC Snap Hook
ISC Double Acting Snap Hook

I am a strong believer that you don’t want to get separated from your boat. Staying on-board is the obvious first solution but there are situations when the elements just conspire against you and you get swept overboard. Then having a good tether attached to the vessel and your safety harness is your best bet. We offer a number of harnesses and tethers which meet most needs. A double acting snap hook is your best bet, the less expensive carabiners can get disconnected when twisted in just the right manner.