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August 23, 2012

New Personal Locator Beacons

New rescue beacons expand safety options for mariners

When Help Is Near


Kannad’s Ross Wilkinson says his company designed the R10 primarily for crew members aboard large sail and power vessels, which could include sport-fishermen. The SART can quickly alert a captain when a crew member falls overboard.

“We’re not guaranteeing that other vessels in the area would perform a rescue,” says Wilkinson, Kannad’s business manager and global sales director. “So this is really to alert the boat that you fell off to come back and get you.”

The R10, chosen in April by West Marine as one of its top six products for 2012, transmits continuously for 24 hours and has a seven-year battery storage life. It can be used more than once on the same battery, unlike PLBs (personal locator beacons) and EPIRBs (emergency position-indicating radio beacons) — their batteries must be replaced before a second use. A victim must manually activate his or her R10, although some PFDs support automatic deployment.

A SART’s man-overboard alerts display differently depending on your plotter. Garmin issued a statement earlier this year saying all of its AIS-capable plotters can be optimized with a free software download to work properly with SARTs, including the R10 and its sister commercial-use product, McMurdo’s Smartfind S10.

That means Garmins display a red circle with a cross inside. Wilkinson says that Raymarine units tested by Kannad also displayed the correct icon and sounded an alarm. All plotter makers are expected to respond with software changes at least for their newer AIS-capable units. Older units see the distress signal as a ship icon (a triangle). “All [R10] units have a fixed MMSI (maritime mobile service identity) code that starts with 972,” Wilkinson says. “So that’s how it distinguishes itself from a normal vessel” to older plotters.

Plotters also can display distance and bearing to the target, projected drift, and time of last transmission. Garmin and Raymarine offer the option to navigate to the target, treating it as a waypoint with course information displayed. On an onboard PC, some ­software products (Kannad tested Euronav) show where the crew member entered the water and the victim’s projected drift.

Wilkinson adds that Digital Yacht recently released an AIS SART alarm that produces a sound when the R10 activates.