McMurdo SmartFind G8 AIS EPIRB, first of many, PLBs too?

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

21 Responses

  1. Don Joyce says:

    I was thinking long and hard about Charlie’s article while passing through torrential squalls and dodging waterspouts on our way from St. Augustine to Nassau. The advice you pass along is timely and I will repack our ditch bag (same as yours) so items don’t wash away so easily.
    Referring to your most recent article on solid state radars and the comments about their lack of power to see in heavy rain: Our Furuno 1835 with a 4 kW dome doesn’t really have sufficient power to see targets in torrential squalls. It would have nice since quite a few large private yachts were racing through paradise at 20+ kn without AIS. I was praying they knew how to tune their high power radar for torrential rains.
    Cheers Ben and Happy Holidays

  2. Howard says:

    Hopefully Mcmurdo follows ACRs lead and makes the battery user replaceable or it comes with a 10!year shelf life.

  3. Shorty says:

    I have been looking into AIS SART’s, anticipating a spring purchase.
    1. ACR’s new entry appears identical to OceanSignal’s so most likely one is selling to the other, or ACR found OS’s supplier.
    2. To me, an alarm would be essential, anticipating an overnight crossing to Nova Scotia with likely singlehanded watches.
    3. A very good survey article on these devices appeared in last January’s Yachting World (UK, quickly brought up by Google). Includes a device by Wamblee (Italy) that, evidently, is not yet available in the states. WamBlee also has a “SART Sniffer” that is available in the states which will sound an alarm and cut the engine, and presumably autopilot so, if sailing, the boat would head up. It will also send an NMEA 0813 sentence. As I single hand a fair bit, this is of interest as it could give me a chance to get to the boat if I went over. A chance.
    I have asked for clarification on WamBlee’s somewhat vague wiring & function instructions.

  4. Nat says:

    These new hard case ditch “bags” might be an improvement for some applications……

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’m confused, Shorty. The ACR and Ocean Signal AIS MOB beacons do not look identical to me, though the internal technology could be. ACR acquired OS in 2015…
    …but I’ve yet to see much product overlap.

  6. Shorty says:

    Yes, you appear to be right. The arming mechanism looks & functions much the same, if I read both sets of directions correctly, but the bottoms of the units are definitely different.
    The MMSI programming appears the same.
    I was too quick at saying they’re exactly the same. But very close.
    The DSC call must be manually generated on the ACR, that was confirmed to me by Jack Ryan @ ACR.
    I have asked OS if the DSC call is automatic with activation. Their manual says an all ships DSC must be manually activated but is not specific about the mother ship call. The implication is the mother ship call happens upon activation. No answer yet.

  7. Shorty says:

    I just got my answer from OS “When the MOB1 gets reprogrammed the MMSI # used is your vessels, this how it automatically goes back to your own VHF radio via DSC.”
    So they do function differently in that respect. For my purposes the OS would be a better unit as the quicker an alarm is sent the better.

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Shorty, but let’s be clear what MMSI you’re talking about. I’m pretty sure that the MMSI of any AIS MOB beacon is programmed by the manufacturer and not changeable. What you program into beacons like Ocean Signal’s and ACR’s is the MMSI of your vessel, which the beacon uses for the DSC alarming.
    My understanding of all-ships DSC alarming is that some countries allow it and some don’t. I doubt that OS and ACR are different in how they do DSC alarming but if they are it might be a US/Euro thing.

  9. Shorty says:

    Yes – programming the vessel’s MMSI so it can “phone home”. Its own MMSI starts with 972 to ID it as an MOB when it shows up on a ship’s AIS.
    The OS book says it is approved for AIS & DSC in US but AIS only in Canada.
    The OS rep says the DSC call to the mother ship is automatic and the ACR rep said theirs requires manual activation for the DSC call.
    The WamBlee “SART Sniffer” is one potential way to skirt a DSC restriction because it sounds an alarm when it detects an AIS MOB. Again, I submitted a page of questions to one of the two US distributors for WamBlee & he passed it along to Italy.
    I would be happy to share the answers if there is interest.

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Shorty. I’m interested, and I’m probably not the only one. However, I think that there are numerous ways to achieve an audible AIS MOB alarm system on your boat.
    Ocean Signal has one that’s configurable:
    Digital Yacht also has a standalone AIS MOB alarm:
    Vesper Marine has always supported AIS MOB, SART etc. alarms well and some of their AIS transceivers like the XB8000 support an external bell, buzzer or siren:
    Finally, I think that some multifunction displays will sound an MOB alarm with an AIS MOB beacon and can also support loud external alarms, but I’m not sure which.

  11. Shorty says:

    Ben thanks for the links.
    A quick look in the AIS section of the manual of my just installed eS97 MFD has “any incoming safety messages from surrounding vessels, shore stations and mobile stations are displayed in a dialog box.” This could also likely be configured to an audible alarm.
    The AIS is being received through a Standard Horizon GX2200.
    I like the engine cutoff function of the WamBlee.
    I am assuming a DSC call sent immediately upon activation, would be faster than the AIS alarm needing to acquire a GPS fix. In the case of single handing, if I went over and the boat is motoring at 6 knots, 1 minute is 600′, 15 seconds 150′. Ideally I would want to minimize the distance I had to swim in Maine’s balmy waters, in an inflatable life vest.

  12. Shorty says:

    Methinks I need to dig deeper into the eS97’s functionality. I have it sitting on my desk for fiddling with this winter.

  13. Reading this, it occurs to me that we need a way to test this functionality. Not the EPIRB part, but the parts that talk to our radios (AIS, DSC receiver, etc.).
    Since setting one of these gizmos off is likely to result in all sorts of bad things (in a non-distress situation), we need a device that can generate a signal containing an AIS distress (of whatever flavors are extant) or a DSC distress call that could be hooked to our radios/AIS receiver, etc., without actually radiating a distress call.
    This would allow us to see exactly what our equipment (radio, MFD, etc.) will do, if/when it receives an actual distress. I know I was startled the summer before last when we picked up a DSC distress call off Oregon (an accidental activation, fortunately) but what happened made a lot of sense in retrospect – and when we started receiving an AIS distress beacon on the 2015 Baja Ha-Ha, it was REALLY annoying. I have no idea if there was something odd about that beacon (which was never resolved as actual or accidental, to my knowledge) but it set off my RayMarine e95 with an annoying audible alarm EVERY TIME it beaconed! We weren’t the only ones having the same issue, btw.
    Having a tester would allow us to resolve what to expect – and also to ask our suppliers to change the way our equipment responds, if possible.
    I doubt very many folks would want to invest in such a thing, but if the USCG (or Auxiliary) had one available, I bet it would be popular. Does anyone else remember back a few years ago when the USCG offered to check everyone’s 406 EPIRB? The problem here, of course, is that the tester would have to come to the vessel.

  14. Shorty says:

    The units that issue an automatic DSC call, do so to the mother ship, the mother ship’s MMSI needs to be programmed. An all ships DSC needs manual activation.
    Units have testing functions but not sure what sort of testing you are looking for.

  15. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Cool. Charles will talk at the Miami Boat Show about his EPIRB rescue as a new member of ACR’s Survivor’s Club, Thursday 4pm, Tent C, Booth #384. I will be there.

  16. Don Cappadona says:

    I’ve been waiting for this to get approval from the FCC so I could purchase it. Does anyone have any information on this?

  17. Jenny Aiken says:

    As CEO and co-founder of Life Cell – we would love to connect with Charlie Nethersole. Life Cell was designed in Australia after a rapid sinking and solves the problem of storage of marine safety equipment. Life Cell is a float-free ditch case that stores all marine safety equipment and most importantly is fit for purpose if you do find yourself in the water. It will provide much needed buoyancy and a stable platform from which to operate all the safety gear.
    We would love to hear from you.

  18. Tobbe Ingemansson says:

    Like Don Cappadona, 2 April 2018, I am also looking for an EPIRB to buy, like McMurdos with AIS. Any news Ben?

  19. Milos says:

    Hi, by Kannad Safepro, how long performs short self test, please? Thank you.

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