Saturday 31 January 2009

406MHz EPIRB Beacons Only, Monitored for Sailors from 01 February 2009

Boaters worldwide be reminded that tomorrow, 01February 2009 is the cut-off date for the monitoring of all 121.5MHz analog EPIRBS(Emergency Position Indicator Radio Beacons) by the Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System.

We have been working up to this date since the turn of the century largely because the reliability of the 121.5MHz units have been questioned on many occasions and generally these units have not been recognised since January 2007.

The following is an extract from an article published by the US Coast Guard:

Following this termination date, only the 406 MHz beacons will be detected by the International Cospas-Sarsat Satellite System which provides distress alert and location data for search and rescue operations around the world.

The regulation applies to all Class A, B, and S 121.5/243 MHz EPIRBs. It does not affect 121.5/243 MHz man overboard devices which are designed to work directly with a base alerting unit only and not with the satellite system.

This change, in large part, was brought about by the unreliability of the 121.5/243 MHz beacons in an emergency situation. Data reveals that with a 121.5 MHz beacon, only one alert out of every 50 is a genuine distress situation. This has a significant effect on expending the limited resources of search and rescue personnel and platforms. With 406 MHz beacons, false alerts have been reduced significantly, and, when properly registered, can usually be resolved with a telephone call to the beacon owner. Consequently, real alerts can receive the attention they require.

When a 406 MHz beacon signal is received, search and rescue personnel can retrieve information from a registration database.

The signal is fifty times more powerful than the 121.5MHz units and pin point accuracy of the search area is down to a hundred square metres instead of twenty plus square miles.

The signal includes the beacon owner's contact information, emergency contact information, and vessel/aircraft identifying characteristics. Having this information allows the appropriate rescue organisation to respond far more quickly and effectively.

In the U.S., users are required by law to directly register their beacon in the U.S. 406 MHz Beacon Registration Database at: or by calling 1-888-212-SAVE. Worldwide users can register their beacon in their country's national beacon registration database or, if no national database is available, in the International Beacon Registration Database at

Reproduced courtesy of the US Coast Guard

Note that this does not affect in any way 'on board' personal EPIRBS which respond to an on board/base not connected to the satellite system.

For NSW Australia Boaties it is compulsory to carry a 406MHz EPIRB when planning on sailing beyond two nautical miles offshore. There is a short video you can watch on click on 'Essential distress beacon information', which also shows you how to register your 406MHz beacons.

There is a wide range of 406MHz units to select from your faourite marine supplier but be warned that there may be shortages at present due to the normal human foible of leaving these important things to the last minute.

You can read more about safety at sea in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Thursday 8 January 2009

GribUS Weather System for Sailors

Back in March 2008 I posted a blog about this FREE weather service available to all sailors worldwide, no matter where you are, or where you may be sailing.

Like all web technology, it has been improved and I draw your attention again to this excellent service. You can find it on

There you can download the software FREE and place it on your 'desktop' or include it into your 'favourites' list. It is very simple to use just by boxing the area you want weather information for. You have a pan facility, zoom in and out and it gives you wind strength and direction along with isobars, plus rain areas and intensity. It is updated every six hours.

A new feature enables you to animate the reports so you have a moving image for a twenty four or forty eight hour period at whatever speed you set.

Here is an extract from their website:

Grib is the format used by the meteorological institutes of the world to transport and manipulate weather data and is the foundation of the forecasts we see around us in our daily life. In the past, accessing and viewing GRIB weather data has often required a tricky combination of technical knowledge and expensive software.

Now there's GRIB.US. A company that empowers you, the end-user, to interactively extract your own custom GRIB weather files tailored to your needs. We also provide you with our - easy to use- Ugrib software to view this data so that you can look at weather data for anywhere in the world when you want to, where you want to. Best of all, this is all for FREE!

How to get the GRIB data:

The Ugrib software: our own windows software will let you view the GRIB files you have just downloaded, animate them, display meteograms and much more!

It also allows direct access to our backend servers without the need to open a browser. Ideal for use either ashore or on a limited bandwidth connection e.g. onboard a yacht. Ugrib will let you choose your resolution, timesteps, variables etc. Also you can save these settings for future use.
All this tightly integrated into one simple to use program.This website: in the Grib data section it has a graphical selection tool that allows the immediate download of surface GRIB data with 10m Winds and Sea Level Pressure. There are no preset areas and you can select exactly the area you need.

Extract and images courtesy of GribUS.

You can read more about weather systems when sailing, extracting data and weather forecasting for your own use on passage in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana', downloadable from my website