I’m a somewhat elderly canoeist. Most of my paddling is on open water near the Carolina coast. During the winter the winds can get brisk and the chop pronounced. It’s not unusual for me to be out for more than an hour without encountering a living soul. Some days I decide to stay home and read a good book (I’m not suicidal). But not always, and there are days when the wind is lively, the water is cold (for us) and it all gets a bit touch-and-go.

My wife is encouraging me to buy a personal 406 EPIRB before next season. I know little about these - neither does she - and don’t know if one would be helpful for me or not (cost is not an issue).

I’d be grateful to hear from canoeists who have experience with or informed opinions about these devices. Can they be attached to a PFD? And if so, must they be attached in back so as not to obstruct the paddle stroke? If they can’t be put on a PFD, how are they properly mounted or secured? What else should I know? As a practical matter, would they actually contribute to safer winter paddling for someone like me?


This site has some interesting articles on EPIRBS:


another article:




You may be in an area that has great …

– Last Updated: Mar-23-09 4:21 PM EST –

...Marine VHF radio reception. This option is typically much cheaper than a true EPIRB or PLB and it allows 2 way communication that the PLB does not. CG can typically triangulate on a VHF signal, depending on the area you are in, which may make the EPIRB option not quite as appealing or necessary.



for some submersible rated (mine is 15ft, if I recall) PLB's. If you get one, consider one with the option of the built in GPS so that it sends the units exact cooridinates, which should potentially result in a faster find.

A good radio to consider:

Edit: Oops, wrong link. Here's the right one:


There's no gear that will replace experience, skill development and good judgement, however, as I'm sure you're well aware. Good luck.

Extra insurance
can never hurt :slight_smile:

Anyways, Fast Find 210 lists for less than 300USD, includes GPS and is comparable in size to average gps unit.

Since satellites are above horizon, any radio shadowing is not likely. Operation is error proof as well.

good stuff
Thanks for the tips so far. I’ll be checking the links.

I carry a PLB on my PFD
so many acronyms… anyway, I have a PLB attached to the back (just ovet the shoulder where I can still reach it) of my lifejacket most times I am out paddling in a sea kayak (does that still count as relevant reply to your canoeing?)

A PLB is small enough to do so while a true EPIRB is way too large.

However I paddle in warm waters and if I get separated from my kayak and I set off my PLB I probably can survive a day or so floating around without hypothermia getting me. I should be rescued by then.

Falling in cold water could be a totally different scenario. How long could you survive? long enough for the rescuers to arrive?

…I have an ACR AquaFix (point 4) that I carry in my ditch kit for off-the-grid paddling. My ditchkit is attached to my PFD. I also carry a VHF radio most of the time. The EPIRB is for stuff where help won’t be readily available and mistakes are costlier. I paddle on the BC Coast and it can be pretty remote. Help can be way out of radio range.

I wear a Kokatat MisFit Tour w/ Tributary hydration pack and the ditchkit (when worn) is in a Kokatat Rear Pocket attached outside of the Tributary. The EPIRB, while waterproof and well-built is in a beefy, waterproof hard case. Definitely a belt and suspenders approach but I figure that if I ever really need this thing I don’t want to find out that I broke it crashing into the rocks that trashed my boat but miraculously spared my life. It makes it a sensible choice as long as it’s in one piece.

I considered the ACR MicroFix as it has the same function as the AquaFix.4 or TerraFix.4 and is smaller but doesn’t float. You can buy a holster for it that floats. Somehow, I don’t know, seemed to me like something that wouldn’t sink was a better choice for me.

It’s important to me to have a unit capable of sending GPS coordinates in the first burst rather than only a radio signal and having a GPS interface isn’t the same thing. If you ever really need this thing, and you paddle with a GPS, you have probably already lost it with your boat and only have a radio signal to send.

Makes sense to me.


Useful info
Jon, this is very useful information. Thank you.

Funny that I just ordered a Kokatat MisFit last week with this sort of requirement/solution in mind.

If I invest in anything more than a whistle or air horn, I want it to get immediate attention. If I have to wait “6 to 12 hours” for rescue in mid-January, I will likely have been a goner for 5 1/2 hours.

I’m lucky to live someplace that, although sparsely populated, has an overload of marine rescue resources. Being near capes Hatteras and Lookout, there’s a large USCG presence in the area. There are also 2 Marine Corps air stations close by – Cherry Point and New River – that routinely engage in marine rescue operations. And there are the nautical assets of local city and county police and fire organizations. So the help is around: I would just need to reliably and promptly broadcast my “mayday”.

More info…

The McMurdo units linked severak posts above will fit in the front pocket (initially meant for a Marine VHF radio, I believe) of these Koktat PFD’s–link above. I usually keep my M72 there, but just tried the McMurdo PLB and it fits fine in the pocket–this is the PFD I have and I just double checked to make sure it fits. We usually only use the PLB on extended open ocean trips off the west coast of Vancouver Island or Washington coast where, there a few spots close to land that VHF is spotty at best. My buddy puts it leashed in a rear Kokatat PFD pocket: