What About Spot?
Spot offers one-way satellite messaging through private Globalstar satellites (findmespot.com). Messages are written and addressed online, before heading offshore, to multiple e-mail or text message recipients. When activated, the Spot device simply sends those messages along with its current GPS position. Most Spot devices include four buttons. The "SOS" button alerts Geos (geosalliance.com), a private company that initially fills the role of the U.S. Coast Guard's rescue coordination center to determine distress validity based on information in the Spot registration form. Geos then contacts the Coast Guard or appropriate rescue organization — including private rescue resources in countries where government rescue might not be ideal — and provides that agency with continuous position updates, registration information and any other assistance needed. The "help" button can be programmed to contact roadside assistance and TowBoatU.S. or e-mail and text trusted friends. The "OK" button sends a different message to a separate list of 10 contacts, and the "track" button drops a GPS position onto a Google Map every 10 minutes, available online for instant or future viewing. Spot can update Facebook and Twitter accounts. Some devices include a fifth button that sends yet another preset message, and the new Spot Connect pairs with a smartphone to allow 41-character type and text one-way messaging and social media updates.
Handheld AIS Rescue Beacons
The worldwide Automatic Identification System broadcasts information about a ship or boat — vessel name, position, speed and heading — over VHF radio frequencies. Nearby AIS-equipped vessels display this information right on their plotter screens. New in 2010, handheld AIS rescue beacons broadcast a unique distress signal along with their GPS coordinates. Any AIS-equipped vessel within about 10 miles will see the signal and respond immediately. AIS systems are required on most commercial vessels and are increasingly common on yachts. Look for this feature to be built into EPIRBs and PLBs within the next three years.
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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org.