Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon 

EPIRB in action

“Are you the owner of Spalax 2?” wanted to know the official-sounding voice on my iphone at three o´clock in the morning, as I was trying to get a good night´s sleep in my bed somewhere in Germany.

“Yes, I am,” I replied.

“This is Sgt. Major Yablonsky of the US Coast Guard Joint Response Coordination Center in Honolulu. Your distress beacon is transmitting a signal from New Caledonia. Are you in distress?” wanted to know the Sgt. Major. 

I explained to the Sgt. Major that I was safely tucked in my bed in Germany and that my boat was on the hard in New Caledonia, so no stress and no distress. 

Just to make sure, I called Raoul, who takes care of my boat in New Caledonia, and asked him to see what was wrong with the EPIRB on my boat. He reported back that he had reset the EPIRB but the damn thing kept triggering, so he had to remove the batteries to completely deactivate the device. 

Then I called the Sgt. Major of the US Coast Guard to confirm that Spalax 2 was safe and sound on the hard and that it had been a false alarm. I also asked the Sgt. Major why, in his opinion, the device had triggered and his replay was unambiguous: Either someone manually activated the EPIRB or it came into contact with water.

Both possibilities were ruled out, as the device was kept in the driest spot on the boat, inside the stool at the navigation station, and Raoul assured me that the EPIRB had not been activated manually.

The only explanation was that the device malfunctioned. What is even more intriguing is that the Honolulu Coast Guard received a fix of the vessel, even though the EPIRB was completely hidden from “a clear view of the sky” when it triggered the emergency signal.

Nevertheless, it is comforting to know that he American maritime distress response service is on its toes day and night.

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