Gear Graveyard: Expired EPIRB Batteries, Obsolete EPIRBS

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Aqua Link View

We received the letter below yesterday from Practical Sailor reader Arnold Rowe. He was kind enough to let us share it (with some minor edits of his well-expressed and understandable ire), with the hopes of raising awareness of the limited service life of 406 EPIRBs. Having had a similar experience years ago with the torpedo-sized RLB23 (which set me back more than a $1,000 in the 90s) I can sympathize. The now obsolete RLB23 is officially consigned to Practical Sailors Gear Graveyard, and I expect a series of other newly obsolete EPIRBs to join it.

As we move forward with Ralph Naranjos report on Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) in the April issue of Practical Sailor magazine, well also look at effective service life. Battery life has become an even more critical issue these days as ACR-and I assume other makers will follow suit-add non-emergency functions to their PLBs, like the AquaLink View PLB , pictured at right. According to ACR Electronics , the new unit is designed with fixed limits for non-distress messaging and tests, so that using the non-distress features will not tap into the required reserve battery life for distress alerting. We look forward to testing this product and hearing readers take on the messaging feature, as it raises some important questions regarding the purpose of emergency signaling devices.

By the way, some safety equipment dealers are offering trade-ins on old ACR EPIRBs, which should help ease the financial pain of replacement. According to Mr. Rowe, Avalon Rafts is one of them.

Finally, Ill emphasize here again that it is very important that owners of EPIRBs routinely drop in at the NOAA beacon registration website to make sure all their data is correct and up to date:

Dear Practical Sailor,

I own an ACR Satellite 406 EPIRB, Product No. 2758, Category II/Class 2. This unit is manually deployable. A date stamped on the side of the unit reads Sept 15, 1997. A sticker on the same side reads Serial No 5990, Date: 9605.

On April 13, 2006, I had the battery in this EPIRB replaced at my local ACR service center at a cost of $222.38. A statement on the back of the EPIRB reads Battery must be replaced after emergency use or by: 07/2011.

Yesterday I happened to be in my local ACR service center and they kindly checked out my EPIRB using their computer based system. It immediately passed all tests with flying colors.

Upon completion of the successful testing I was informed that after the battery theoretically expires in July of 2011, they will not be able to install a new battery as ACR will not permit this, the contention being that the EPIRB has lived out its useful life as a piece of electronic gear and therefore can no longer be placed in service any longer. If I wish to continue having an EPIRB aboard my vessel, I will need to purchase a new unit!

My EPIRB is in absolute pristine condition. I am perfectly pleased with my existing EPIRB and wish to keep it for many years to come. Purchasing an EPIRB was not a trivial initial investment and I find it irritating that I am forced to chuck a perfectly adequate piece of gear at the manufactures whim.

Arnold Rowe

Riverside, Calif.

For future EPIRB and PLB tests and discounts on back articles, subscribe to Practical Sailor magazine.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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