Nautilus Lifeline VHF radio

-- Last Updated: Jun-25-13 2:25 PM EST --

Doing the regular research any new paddler does I am now learning about VHF radios and how valuable they are in times of distress. I have been carrying my Spot messenger but fear it may come up short when we need it most and came across a similar device called the Nautilus Lifeline. Seems to have a number of good reviews on Amazon, but I wonder if anyone here might have some real work experience with it?

I like the Idjit Proof setup and already familiar user interface coming from the Spot, but is this a real radio or simply a distress beacon? The manufactures website is pretty sparse on details other than how to Push The Red Button.... I would like to get weather reports, talk to the SO and all that too.


not a PLB
PLB, a Personal Locator Beacon, is a device specifically designed for the sole purpose of sending your GPS coordinates to the rescue services using satellite network.

You linked to a VHF with GPS chip that will send digitally encoded GPS coordinates to stations equipped to receive them. Since this is a VHF radio, it suffers from all the usual line-of-sight communication shortcomings.

This is not the only VHF with GPS/DSC capabilities. USCG is updating/finished updating its stations with DSC capabilities, if you paddle in the area with good coverage a VHF of this type will certainly speed up rescue.

not a VHF radio, either
The Nautilus is a diver’s emergency beacon that uses VHF and the DSC system. Other than very limited voice calling capabilities, you don’t have any of the normal functions of a marine VHF radio. You have 3 buttons. One activates the DSC distress signal (alerting any DSC-equiped radio, and telling them your position), the second button is for voice calling on Ch. 16, and the third button is for voice calling on another pre-selected channel.

This works well for divers, and that’s who it was designed for. But for paddlers, a submersible DSC/GPS equipped VHF is much more functional and costs the same as the Nautilus. With a DSC VHF, you gain the ability to talk on any marine channel, listen to weather reports, and generally have a device that’s easier to use. All you lose is 425 foot submersion rating. (Personally all I need is the first 25 feet anyways).

Issues to think about
1. It appears to be designed primarily for divers so ergonomics for kayaking not ideal.

2. Audio output 400mw which is definitely on the low side.

3. Max RF output is 1.85 W as opposed to 5W for most VHF handhelds.

4. Lack of any RF/Audio specifications on their website gives me pause.

5. Battery claim of 24 hours is not comparable, I believe, to battery life numbers for regular handheld VHF radios. Manual says max of 30 minutes transmitting.

6. Antenna must be extended to use.

7. After you push transmit button you must wait 3 sec before speaking which is inherently a bad idea.

8. No NOAA WX coverage. No WX alert ability.

9. No ability to scan or dual channel monitoring.

10. Changing channels appears not to be all that easy.

11. I would be very concerned about the USB cover failing which will cause radio to fail if unit gets wet while being operated.

Yes… As I thought!
All very good responses indeed. The manufacturer is doing a little marketing to paddlers, that’s why I posed the question, but indeed it seems to be fairly specific to diving.

Eel’s list is exactly what I was hoping for in fact - a good look at missing, possibly vital functionality. I like the idea of the device, but then again I liked the idea of the Spot, which has served me well for a few years but is little more than a toy to keep my Facebook pals updated on how much fun I am having. Thankfully I cannot attest to the rescue feature of the Spot.

For what it is the Nautalis seems like a cool bit of kit, but it shall not have any of my hard earned cash.

Many thanks!

We use a Spot, a PLB, and a VHF
The VHF is great for the weather report, but will only be good for short distances if you are in trouble. If you are with a group of other paddlers it is great for keepingin touch.

The Spot’s SOS will get you saved, but there is an annual fee with it after you pay for it. It is a great tracking device and an awesome tool for down loading and keeping track of your trip and letting any else that you want to keep track of you and know where you are. If you are a techie like my wife is you can have a lot of fun with it.

The PLB (Personal locater Beacon) in my estimation is the best bang for the buck. It is strictly for an emergency. You register it with NOAA, (the government). You pay an initial cost for the unit and the registration is free. NOAA sends ou a form once a year and you up date it. The battery is good for five years, and then you have the option of sending the unit back to the manufacturer for a replacement battery, (for a fee) or buying a new unit and reregistering it. If you energize it any place in the world, the closest rescue unit wiil be dispatched to you… It has a test button that you test once a year.

Jack L

Yes, the PLB has been on the list for a few years - we are rock climbers and like the Eastern Sierra quit a bit. Never though of needing a submersible one though… The ACR Aqualunk looks pretty nice indeed.