Editorial May 1, 2000 Issue

Comings and Goings

We’ve been aware for some years that the Loran navigation system is presumably on the way out, this despite the fact that the global positioning system (GPS) is a military operation and not guaranteed to recreational boat owners. While proponents of Loran are urging the government to fund the US Coast Guard for maintenance of the Loran system for some years to come, and while we appreciate the value of Loran, we can’t help wondering how many boat owners still use it. Maybe commercial fisherman, who can return to their canyons, nets and pots with considerable accuracy, but the rest of the boating world seems totally smitten with handheld GPS. Does anyone remember Micrologic’s handheld Adventurer Loran? For that matter, does anyone (other than owners of the Admiral GPS, which failed to rollover last August) remember Micrologic?

Now comes word that the International COSPAS-SARSAT Program will cease satellite processing of distress signals from 121.5 and 243 MHz EPIRBs. No timetable has yet been determined. The intent is to handle only 406 MHz emergency beacons, which must be registered with user identification, thereby making them a much more reliable search and rescue aid. A major problem with 121.5 MHz EPIRBs is the number of false alerts, which waste search and rescue resources.

We guess we should have seen this coming, too. And while we’d like to applaud, boat owners had better brace for the higher cost of a 406 MHz EPIRB—about a grand versus about $250 for a 121.5/243 MHz. Maybe, like everything else electronic, the price of a 406 MHz will drop dramatically. Yeah, right. At least not until they take the word “marine” off it and start marketing to backpackers.

Already gone is the Yachtsaver Flotation System from Round Pond, Maine, which for some years manufactured inflatable bags that would ostensibly float a sinking boat. We wrote about Yachtsaver in the September 1, 1991 issue, and while we recognized its quality components, we raised the question of whether crew were really better off in a boat awash in green seas, or in a life raft. This raised Yachtsaver’s hackles, which was an adamant adherent to the school that recites, “The only time you get into a life raft is when you have to step up.”

The matter, at least as far as Yachtsaver goes, was resolved late last summer when it closed the doors. Seems that in applying for CE certification (European standards necessary for exporting products to member countries), it was found during lab testing that, according to Yachtsaver, “the flotation capacities of our bags were less than the figures upon which we had theretofore been basing our bag requirement calculations.” Yachtsaver added, “we are no longer confident that existing systems provide sufficient flotation to float the boats for which the systems were designed.”

On a happier note, coming is Theodore Too, a 65-foot, 105-ton rendition of the children’s television tugboat. Filmed in Halifax harbor, Nova Scotia, the PBS and CBS show is well-known to parents of pre-schoolers. It stars Denny Doherty (formerly of the Mamas and Papas) as the Harbor Master. Through Theodore Tugboat’s interactions with other ships, kids learn about friendship, courtesy and safety. You snicker? Theodore’s www.cochran.com/theodore website claims 60 million hits a year! In the next year or two, look for the real Theodore in a port near you.

At last, a happy ending!

—DanSpurr

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