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By Wayne Spivak; National Press Corps United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

PORTSMOUTH, VA – The three people rescued from the 35-foot sailing vessel Dulcinea85 miles southeast of Cape Fear, N.C.

After drifting for more than two days, the trio activated an Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. A C-130 airplane from Elizabeth City, N.C., was launched and quickly located the demasted sailboat. An HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was also launched and safely hoisted all three people aboard in 55 mile-per-hour winds and 10-15 foot seas.

The crew of the Sailing Vessel Dulcinea was lucky. They were lucky because they choose to carry onboard their vessel a non-mandated, somewhat expensive piece of safety equipment. They were lucky because they remembered that they had this non-mandated, but essential piece of safety equipment onboard their vessel. They were lucky because they triggered this non-mandated, but essential piece of safety equipment, and were rescued in short order.

What is an EPIRB?

An EPIRB is a device that costs anywhere from $200 to $1500, depending on the Class or Category, and optional features of the device. Today, if a boater were to purchase an EPIRB, the Coast Guard recommends the following types:

Category I

406/121.5 MHZ. This model floats-free, and is an automatically activated EPIRB. It is detectable by satellite anywhere in the world. Recognized by GMDSS.

Category II

406/121.5 MHZ. Similar to Category I, except is manually activated. Some models are also water activated. The following type of EPIRB is currently not sold in the U.S.; however, the Federal Communications Commission is considering recognizing these devices.

Inmarsat E

1646 MHZ. Float-free, automatically activated EPIRB. Detectable by Inmarsat geostationary satellite. Recognized by GMDSS.

What is GMDSS?

GMDSS stands for Global Maritime Distress & Safety System. According to the USCG Navigation Center, GMDSS “…consists of several systems, some of which are new, but many of which have been in operation for many years. The system will be able to reliably perform the following functions: alerting (including position determination of the unit in distress), search and rescue coordination, locating (homing), maritime safety information broadcasts, general communications, and bridge-to-bridge communications. Specific radio carriage requirements depend upon the ship’s area of operation, rather than its tonnage. The system also provides redundant means of distress alerting, and emergency sources of power.” For more information on GMDSS, visit

A Simple Decision

If you boat offshore, or in areas that are not transited regularly by other boaters, you really should strongly consider purchasing an EPIRB. If you boat in an area transited by many other boaters, think twice about the number of times you’ve helped a boater in distress, and then rethink your decision (especially if its against spending the money) and buy an EPRIB.


So you’ve thought it over and went out and purchased a 406 MHz EPIRB. Congratulations – you have your new EPIRB! Remember, older models are NOT recommended, and are considerably less accurate. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for. So, spend a little more money, even though you may find the deal of a lifetime on eBay! Now don’t forget to register it with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). You can get the registration from here: Why register? First, it’s the law; and secondly – it helps the Coast Guard with identifying the vessel and the owner. You should not move an EPRIB from one vessel to another, unless you modify your registration.

Boating Safely

Boating safely includes adhering to federal, state and local regulations concerning mandatory equipment; obtain as much boating orientated education as possible; and then go the extra mile and obtain safety based equipment and education that will make you the best and safest boater you can be!

For more information, refer to the USCG web site ( and for boating education, contact the USCG Auxiliary

Press Release

Date: Jul 18, 2005

Contact: Aux. Wayne Spivak
Chief – External Communications
Public Affairs Department
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
[email protected]

EPIRB Saves Massachusetts Fisherman

A Coast Guard Station Cape Cod aircrew rescued three commercial fisherman from a life raft after their fishing vessel sunk, yesterday afternoon.

A MayDay was unable to be sent, since the electrical system was compromised and power was lost by water which entered the engine compartment due to an accident while fishing.

What saved these commercial fisherman was the use of an EPIRB.

EPIRB is an acronym for Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon. The state-of-the-art units, a 406Mhz with an integral GPS system send a signal to a GOES weather satellite. The emergency alert as well as the position of the EPIRB are then sent to the nearest USCG SAR Rescue Coordination Center (RCC). From there, a Search and Rescue mission is mounted.

EPIRB’s are not just for commercial fisherman, they are also for recreational boaters as well. Whether you boat in the intra-coastal waterways, the Great Lakes, 5 miles offshore or 500 miles offshore, the USCG and Coast Guard Auxiliary suggest you think about your boating territory and habits; then consider whether the purchase of an EPIRB should be part of your boat’s safety equipment.

For more information about EPIRB’s, visit the USCG Navigation Center at