What is the dif­fer­ence be­tween a yacht’s EPIRB and a crew’s PLB?

Yachting Monthly - - TECHNICAL -


An EPIRB – Emer­gency Po­si­tion Indi­cat­ing Ra­dio Bea­con – is de­signed for your boat. It floats and is ac­ti­vated by con­tact with sea­wa­ter, in ad­di­tion to hav­ing a man­ual switch. It trans­mits bet­ter when float­ing than when sit­ting on a hard sur­face. If you have to use it and you are still on your boat, put it in a bucket of wa­ter. An EPIRB is re­quired to trans­mit con­tin­u­ally for at least 48 hours, and its chunky Lithium-Ion bat­tery has to be pe­ri­od­i­cally re­placed.


A PLB – Per­sonal Lo­ca­tor Bea­con – is de­signed to go in your pocket or life­jacket. It may float, but it won’t float in the trans­mit po­si­tion with the an­tenna point­ing ver­ti­cally up. A PLB must be man­u­ally ac­ti­vated; COSPAS/SARSAT does no per­mit PLBs to be wa­ter-ac­ti­vated. It should be held, or strapped to some­thing, to keep it up­right and clear of the wa­ter. A PLB is re­quired to be able to trans­mit con­tin­u­ally for at least 24 hours, so its bat­tery can be a lot smaller than an EPIRB’s bat­tery, even though its ra­dio per­for­mance is said to be the same.

Whether you have an EPIRB or a PLB, both will work with the new sys­tem

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