The Latest Tech in EPIRBs

United States 406 MHz Beacon Registration
McMurdo SmartFind G8
McMurdo SmartFind G8

What started out decades ago as a military tracking device has become standard equipment on offshore cruising vessels: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs). Fortunately for today’s coastal and offshore cruisers, numerous manufacturers compete to give us the best EPIRB technology, battery life and ease of use.

When we sailors go shopping for marine products, we have the advantage of choice and competitive pricing, and the same goes for EPIRBs. McMurdo, RescueME and ACR Electronics are among the leaders in both technology and competitive pricing.

The McMurdo SmartFind G8 Automatic EPIRB is a revolutionary device, the first to combine both AIS and GPS, in addition to tracking and homing signals, for faster tracking by ships and satellites offshore. This combined technology makes sure your location is being tracked not only by satellites but also by passing ships as soon as the unit hits the water. And to top it off, its lithium iron disulphide battery will last ten years before requiring replacement.

Without question, you have a great chance of being plucked from the deck of your stricken vessel with the McMurdo SmartFind G8. The Rolls Royce of EPIRBs, this device is competitively priced at just over $600.

For about $250, you can choose the McMurdo FastFind 220, a GPS-enabled EPIRB designed to fit in your pocket. As long as you are awake to switch it on, this slightly smaller EPIRB provides the same advantages as the automatic version.

If you want peace of mind with a long-lasting battery, take a look at the RescueME EPIRB1 with its 10-year battery life. Billed as “the world’s most compact EPIRB,” this device will easily fit into your ditch bag in that rare moment if bad goes to worse.

RescueME’s features include 48-plus hours of operational life; fast, accurate positioning with its 66-channel GPS; a quick release bracket and a secure lanyard so you can attach it to your life vest. This device requires manual activation but is waterproof to 33 feet, so you can count on steady transmission of the emergency signal after a brief plunge in the brine.

ACR Electronics’ 2852 Global Fix AIS EPIRB is the flagship of ACR’s line of vessel and personal EPIRBs. The Global Fix’s AIS technology permits you to link your EPIRB with the vessel’s AIS and GPS to ensure the first signal burst transmits your GPS coordinates to surrounding vessels and geostationary satellites via 406 MHz signal and 121.5 MHz homing frequency.

This EPIRB also features an LCD digital display of your GPS coordinates, along with step-by-step operator instructions, a far cry from the “beep” prompts and LEDs of yesteryear. You can use your cellphone to apprise yourself of the 2852’s battery life, activation history and number of GNSS tests performed. At about 800 bucks, ACR’s Global Fix AIS EPIRB offers great value for the price.

After purchasing a new EPIRB and installing it on your vessel, remember international law requires you to register your beacon code with your own country. In the U.S., you may register the device online at

By Bill Morris