Personal Locator Beacons

I read the article
Which linked to other sources of info. It appears to be legitimate. A lot of people make the same point as you, but none link to any information to back up the opinion. Yes, it is free and it seems like a good idea to me. I can only guess why most people don’t register them, but my guess is it isn’t clear that it is more than a “regular” product registration, which most people don’t do for most products. Why they don’t is only a guess on my part, but the idea that most people don’t register them seems to be supported by data.

Dear Paddling Community -

Thanks you for your responses on the PLB/SPOT for our Puk trip. As always, our paddling friends have given us lots to think about and digest. My concern with the SPOT is that our parents are in their 80’s - and tho they all use email, I am very concerned about them getting frantic if a day’s message got messed up (my father once alerted Isle Royale after we were several hours late).

We will go read all the links and articles and make our decision. We know about Naturally Sup. Adventures - nice folks - and will use them for our shuttle.

We are also concerned about the indiscriminate use of distress calls. We have heard that this happens a lot in the Rockies with hikers and backcountry travel. It would be a shame if a minority of morons ruined things for the rest of us.

We will not rely only on the marine radio for the distress signal - that was just a “nice to have” feature (we have bought a second radio for this trip - we will both carry one) and we know that at points the forecast we get will not reflect conditions where we are.

All that said - we are planning to begin the Puk trip on July 12 or so - we are allotting 12 - 14 days - we are in no hurry, want to explore a lot, and will not paddle if the weather/wind is iffy. We are a married couple - late 50’s/early 60 - anyone else want to come?

Thank you all again for your input and advice.


And not only that, but
If you don’t register your PLB,(annually) any initiation of it will be ignored.

Jack L

Have a great trip!
Enjoy. Wish my wife and I could join you but we have other adventures planned!

you didn’t read it either, did you?
They don’t ignore them. The article was about an unregistered one that the guy kept setting off because he didn’t know what he was doing and they kept scrambling to find him. Anyway, they do respond to unregistered ones.

renting PLBs and SPOTs
To rent PLB, click here -

To rent SPOT, click here -

To rent DeLorme InReach, click here -

If having difficulties finding something, try

I think this is relevant to the thread

Misleading headline
From the article:

“On December 22, Doba’s SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger transmitted a lower-level distress signal that indicated he was in need of assistance, though not the kind that was life-threatening.”

In other words, not an SOS, but more of a “yeah I am having trouble but pushing on” status. They didn’t scramble a rescue team, just asked a passing ship to look in on him. Had he been in dire straits, they probably would have pressed a rescue. That level of alert is an interesting conundrum. It did cost the ship something in fuel and time, he did initiate the request and it was not an emergency. There should be a bill to pay, but not one of the crazy high dollar ones like full scrambled crews doing nothing but the rescue cost IMO.

DSC VHF radio

– Last Updated: Jan-28-14 10:58 PM EST –

"If a DSC equipped VHF does not also contain GPS capability, it is NOT capable of sending a DSC distress signal from a kayak. Some radios have DSC, but no GPS, which is fairly useless for kayakers (these are intended to be integrated into a larger yachts nav system).

I'd hate for someone with a red DSC button on their radio to falsely believe they are carrying a DSC distress transmitter when they're not!"

I guess I'm not understanding your post, Nate. Regardless if you have a GPS built into your radio or one is hooked up to it, it will still transmit a DSC distress signal. With the exception of Alaska, the Coast Guard Rescue 21 system has directional finding (DF) capabilities on 98% of their radio antennas, called RFF's, and can get a line of bearing (LOB) on your DSC distress alert. If your signal comes across two or more RFF's, those LOB's meet and it gives the R21 System a position.

One LOB can extend for miles and miles though, so the soft rule of thumb for R21 is 24 miles out. Not exactly a swift rescue if that CG asset is going 238 degrees on that only line of bearing your handheld is transmitting at 12 kts, 24+miles out and you're in 42 degree water.

There are several DSC capable handheld radios out now that have built in GPS and they have gone down in price considerably over the years. I highly encourage purchasing a DSC capable handheld radio with a built in GPS! I have a Standard Horizon HX 851 and it rocks! No reason not to have a radio without DSC and GPS capability. It will give a more faster, more accurate search area for those rescue assets.

The bottom line matter if you have a GPS on your DSC capable radio or not, your DSC distress alert will always be transmitted.

Now, if I misunderstood your post, I sincerely apologize. Guess the way I'm reading it is that you're stating that a DSC distress alert will never go out of you don't have GPS.

It’s good to be back on It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Good to see some old posters here. :slight_smile:

Yukon SPOT

– Last Updated: Jan-29-14 8:39 AM EST –

SPOT devices are required equipment on the Yukon River races. It was first made mandatory on the first Yukon 1000 mile race in 2009, then added to the 440 mile Yukon River Quest a year later. On the Y1K, it gave race officials knowledge of each racer's location, and also proof of compliance with the 6-hour required "night" stops during the week-long race.

My pit crew could know where we were in near-real time, and continuously update calculations to our expected finish time. Folks back home could follow each racer online with Google Earth with the automatic SPOT location transmissions at 10 minute intervals. I was told by many at home that it was addicting to follow.

In automatic track mode, a location signal is sent out every 10 minutes. Or, I could press one of 3 buttons... "I am OK", "Help", or "SOS". The OK button was to be pressed when we arrived at our nightly campsite, and again not less than 6 hours later from the same location, to prove that we stopped for the required 6 hours of rest during "nighttime" hours (it never gets dark there).

In case of a true serious emergency, the SOS button would send a signal to initiate SAR.

But the Help button, pre-coordinated with our pit crew, meant we are NOT in a critical emergency status, but are unable to finish the race- Please meet us at the next available (pre-coordinated) take-out and we will make it there (which could still be a couple hundred miles or more downstream). The Help button does not initiate formal SAR, unless those who you have pre-designated to receive the message decide to make further contact with SAR authorities or anyone else.

The help button if pushed
contacts whoever you have designated to receive that info…There is a message sent… that can read however you wish. Mine gives my local to the area contact to send a vessel or a plane. Of course I don’t know what the kayaker in question wrote in his Help message.

SPOT and ResQLink+
SPOT and PLB have different uses in our paddling group.

SPOT is to let folks know how you’re doing and to let them follow your progress. It is not an efficient way to notify the coast guard that you need rescue.

The ResQLink+ is a small, highly specialized PLB to be used when you need emergency rescue.

We typically have one or two people using a SPOT–everyone back home else follows along. Most of use the ResQLink+ as a PLB–mine sits in a PFD pocket; others keep it in a ditch bag on the PFD or in a deck hatch.

For your purposes, you’re likely to be best off with a VHF radio to contact folks within range and to communicate with each other; a SPOT to let folks at home follow your progress; and a PLB for emergencies.