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PLB comes through off Africa

Jan 14, 2008

In the upcoming issue of the magazine, we have a piece on personal locater beacons (PLBs) and how they are becoming the cell phone of the search and rescue sector. Here is another story of an at-sea rescue prompted by a McMurdo PLB (at left).

From the press release: A yachtsman was rescued on 4th January after activating his McMurdo FastFind Plus GPS Personal Location Beacon off the coast of Africa when his yacht got into difficulties in severe storms.  The 1929 gaff rig cutter Mina was extensively damaged by waves leaving the yacht stranded.

22-year-old boat-builder James Baker was sailing from Portimao, in Portugal, to the Caribbean.  He activated his McMurdo FastFind Plus PLB at 0053 which alerted the MCA (Maritime Coastguard Agency) and Falmouth Coastguard in Cornwall.  The latter then coordinated the rescue operation and contacted the authorities in Morocco, Portugal and Spain. Following alerts to a number of vessels in the vicinity, an Orion aircraft from the Portuguese Navy found the yacht 74 miles west-north-west of Casablanca. Naval staff then directed the German commercial vessel, the MV Wappen Von Bayern, which recovered James around midday.

The information that the EPIRB (emergency positioning indicating radio beacon) registry had on file (all PLBs and EPIRBs must be registered at the time of purchase) enabled the MCA to contact James’s parents immediately and establish vital information about his passage plan.

Mark Thomas, Falmouth Coastguard watch manager, praised the PLB, saying, "This is another incident where the use of an EPIRB to call for help proves to be immensely valuable. We would advise all sailors to have one."

James, an experienced transatlantic sailor, had been restoring the boat for the past two years while living on board, and has now lost not only his beloved yacht but all his possessions. 

His father told the South Devon Herald “The Coastguard was fantastic. You read about rescues in the news but you do not realise how far away they can coordinate a rescue and how efficient they can be."