The availability of comparatively inexpensive, and proven effective, AIS/DSC POB beacons has made Phyllis and me think long and hard about what changes we should make to our Person Overboard (POB) procedures.
These devices are the biggest advance in POB recovery in my lifetime, because (like the EPIRB did before them) they have essentially taken the search out of search and rescue: We will now know where the POB is with pinpoint accuracy as long as we remain within two to five miles of them.
And, better still, any other AIS-equipped vessel (most these days) who responds to our POB Mayday call, will have the same information.
This is a huge advance, but to get the increased safety benefits, just buying the beacons is not enough, we must also:
- Set up the beacons and receiving equipment on the boat to make sure that a POB alarm will be heard and that homing in on the signal will be easy for the busy and highly-stressed crew remaining aboard.
- Revise and practice the techniques required to return to the POB.
- Come up with, and practice, realistic methods to get the POB back on the boat—perhaps the biggest remaining problem to solve.
It's tempting to start with number one, if for no other reason than talking about marine electronics is fun. But thinking about gear before technique is a huge mistake, and one that contributes to a lot of poor decisions, so I'm going to start with number two:
What actions are we going to take if the POB alarm goes off?