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of security. A vessel still needs to be able to track the
unit’s signal to find the person in the water. Landfall
Navigation has the Tracker Radio Direction Finder that
you can activate and lock onto a PLB’s signal so you
can motor back to it. The unit sells for $599 and Marx
is perplexed why he had only sold three in four years.
Marx is also a fan of waterproof handheld VHF radios
because you can tell the Coast Guard or other rescuers
monitoring Channel 16 your location if you are in
trouble. If you drift by a navigational buoy, just tell the
other party the buoy number so they can help find you.
Another electronic necessity is a chart plotter
equipped with Automatic Identification System (AIS)
capability. AIS lets you see every vessel longer than 40
feet. Marx said there is a PLB with an AIS transmitter
coming in the future, but it still needs to be approved by
the Federal Communications Commission.
Everyone loves apps for their cell phones and
iNavX is a marine navigation app for the iPhone,
iPod Touch, and iPad. Marx said these programs can
be a nice backup, but should not be considered a
primary navigation tool or your boat’s primary form of
communication. Remember the Coast Guard cannot
triangulate a cell phone call, but it’s required to monitor
Channel 16 on a marine VHF radio. To protect your
iPhone, however, Landfall sells a $30 waterproof case
that still lets you work your phone while it’s inside. It’s
a great backup communication option to a VHF if you
need to call home to let relatives know you might be a
Beacons are fine, but the best visual distress signal
is still a flare and the best flares are SOLAS grade
models. They are similarly priced to the Coast Guard-approved flares, but are more powerful and burn longer.
A SOLAS parachute flare has a rating of 30,000 candle
power for 40 seconds while an Orion 25mm is 20,000
candlepower for 20 or 30 seconds. Expect to pay about
$40 for SOLAS parachute flares.
Finally, we have a safety device for your outboard-powered tender, the Autotether. This wireless
automatic shutoff switch clips to the boat’s ignition
switch and is powered by AAA batteries. It’s operated
by a transmitter that sends radio waves to a receiver
connected to a boat’s engine. Autotether shuts off the
engine if the boat operator falls into the water and it
sets off an alarm if a passenger other than the operator
wearing Autotether sensors falls into the water.
Much like life insurance, safety equipment on your
boat is something you hope to never use. If you wind
up in an emergency, however, it’s better to return home
from it knowing you were properly prepared with the
right knowledge and equipment to handle the situation.
Otherwise, the alternative isn’t such a pleasant scenario
to think about.