If you wonder whether 406 EPIRBs actually work, the following is a pretty convincing example that they do. It was compiled by ACR the manufacturer of the EPIRB used in the rescue.
From the press release: “Everything we depended on was eliminated in two seconds. The wave came out of nowhere and slammed the boat. The only thing we had left was the EPIRB. It would’ve been a complete disaster if we hadn’t had it. Everything weˆd put on board was essentially gone,” Greg Venable said in describing his harrowing survival during a capsizing 40 miles off the coast of northern California on October 25.
Venable, 56, a newly retired police officer, was on a trip of a lifetime, traveling with crewmate Kevin Dolan on his 36-foot boat Passing Wind II. Their yearlong journey was from Seattle, WA to Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska, ending at the boat’s homeport in Seattle. They were on the trip’s first leg heading to San Francisco when bad weather moved in fast, kicking up waves to 12 feet with occasional 30-foot swells.
At 9:45 a.m., they were in the pilothouse when suddenly the vessel rolled all the way over onto its top and Venable was thrown across the room. The rollover took off the mast and filled the boat a third full of water.
The two sailors discovered their equipment was totally disabled except for their Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). The life raft and dinghy on back were sheared off. We had no radio, the Satellite phone was drenched and dead, and all electrical pumps were useless, Venable said. In addition, his shoulder and neck were injured.
Immediately, they threw out the sea anchor and began hand pumping water from the vessel. They cut the rigging away because it was dragging the boat over. Realizing their efforts were futile and there was no means of self-rescue, they activated the ACR Electronics GlobalFix 406 EPIRB that Venable had just purchased for the trip.
At approximately 10:15 a.m., Coast Guard Group Humboldt Bay was notified of a 406 MHz distress alert from the boat and launched a HH-65C helicopter. A C-130 aircraft took off from Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento to aid in the search. At about 1:20 p.m., the helicopter located the foundering sailing vessel 40 miles west-southwest of Shelter Cove, CA.
By then the helicopter had only 12 minutes of fuel remaining to carry out the rescue. A two-way radio was dropped down to the sailors. They were instructed to jump overboard one at a time once the Coast Guard swimmer was in position with the rescue basket. They were hoisted aboard the aircraft and flown to Point Arena where they were evaluated for hypothermia.
Interviewed at home in Barrow, AK, Venable said they were fortunate to have the EPIRB. “I wouldn’t live without one. You know, you prepare for the worst. You buy all this stuff and hope it’s for naught. You hope you just carry it around with you. If we didn’t have the EPIRB, we’d still be out there.”
His wife, Marilyn, said if her husband goes sailing again, she©ˆll make sure he gets another EPIRB. “We thought we had everything planned for this trip. But when everything got wet, it was just the EPIRB that worked out,” she said.
LT. Scott Parkhurst, USCG Surface Operations Officer, Group Humboldt Bay, CA, said, “This Search and Rescue (SAR) case demonstrated just how important it is that mariners have the proper safety equipment aboard and that it is in operating condition. If this vessel did not have an EPIRB that was operating properly, the SAR case might have turned out much worse.”
A video of the rescue is on YouTube.