The other night I received one of those late night phone calls. You know the one – you can just feel the problems coming through the line. This call was from the L.A. Coast Guard looking for the vessel and owner of the boat I had sold a couple of weeks back.
“Mr. Bose, this is Lt. Jones from the Coast Guard Station in Marina del Rey. The EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) for the yacht TOMTOM has been activated and we have been informed by the previous owner that you might know the location of the vessel.” Lucky for me the boat was on a mooring in front of the Newport Beach Coast Guard Station. “Yes sir,” I replied. “If you call your Newport Beach office and have them look through their window they can see the boat.”
Len Lesson #15. It’s easy to complete the transfer of registration of one's EPIRB. All you need to do is call (301) 817-4515 and have the serial number of the EPIRB, previous owner's name, and the previous name of the vessel. The helpful person on the phone will instruct you to register the EPIRB in your name at the Beacon Registration Database System at http://beaconregistration.noaa.gov/rgdb/. It's free and it's very simple.
I had never realized that you could go into this system and update your account at any time, including new phone numbers (cell and satellite), an email address, the color of your boat and how many people you have onboard, along with a short float plan. Just make sure you update your information regularly.
Speaking of updating, unless you are a speed reader with good comprehension in panic situations, take the time to read the manual a number of times and check your EPIRB monthly. You should follow your manual step by step. Check the battery, run a self-test and make sure you note that you have properly installed your EPRIB onto your vessel. It's so simple to complete a self-test; even I completed the task without error. Now don’t take me wrong, I also had the manual in my lap and had read it five times. I called the manufacturer on my cell phone instructing me step-by-step, and after about my fifth time and knowing the manufacturer's rep. on a first name basis I felt confident to complete this task on my own.
There are a couple of other things you should look at while inspecting your EPIRB. Check the housing of your device so that it's not obstructed or damaged and look at the expiration date on your EPIRB. There are a couple of features that need to be updated every two years, and make sure your lanyard is secured. The true yachtsmen will log all this maintenance. I'd also suggest that during your yacht club's opening day inspection ask members if they have inspected their EPIRB and have logged their work.
Should you ever be in the very unfortunate position of “stepping up” to get out of your yacht, remember this one piece of information: “Once the EPIRB is turned on, leave it on … the satellites will hear you! There have been cases where people have kept turning the EPRIB off in an attempt to prolong the life of the battery.
Len Bose is the owner of Len Bose Yacht Sales.