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NMEA Boater Blog

Best marine EPIRBs and PLBs for 2020

Convincing boaters that onboard emergency signaling equipment should be on their must-have list has always been a difficult sell. It’s usually way down the list following new entertainment electronics and that cutting-edge multifunction display with all the whistles and buzzers. Not having such a device onboard could be a real bad decision if the day ever comes when you’re somewhere offshore and a semi-submerged log you hit at cruising speed punched a large hole in the hull.

There are two major categories of emergency signaling devices that transmit signals via satellites to rescue centers. One is EPIRBs, which is short for Emergency Positioning-Indicating Radio Beacons. They can either be activated by hand or automatically if the boat sinks. The other is Personal Locator Beacons, or PLBs. They are smaller and often attach to clothing. PLBs notify rescue teams at the press of a button and offer other useful functions also.

Below are the pick of the litter. The lineup is part of an exercise we do at MEJ every year—we call it the Best & Brightest Boating Electronics. We ask manufacturers to tell us which model in 19 categories of marine electronics products they consider to be their best—not necessarily the most advanced or latest but the one than delivers the highest marks overall. That could be their most popular model or the one that has passed the test of time.


ACR Electronics GlobalFIX V4

The award-winning GlobalFIX V4 EPIRB is available in both Category 1 auto-deploy (GMDSS--Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) and Category 2 manual brackets. Designed to incorporate the latest in marine lifesaving technology, the GlobalFix V4 uses its high-efficiency electronics to directly send a survivor’s distress alert to search and rescue services around the world. Features include a user-replaceable battery pack, which has a 10-year replacement interval, reducing the overall ownership cost. It also has an energy-efficient, four LED array strobe light and a wrist strap for hands-free carrying in an emergency evacuation. Manual activation of the EPIRB is simple and there is a protective keypad cover to help prevent false alarms. The GlobalFIX V4 has two functional self-tests to monitor the beacon’s transmission, power and battery performance and GPS acquisition.

Ocean Signal SafeSea EPIRB1 Pro

Providing an essential link to emergency services for recreational and commercial vessels, the EPIRB1 Pro is an exceptionally compact Category 1 (auto-deploy) EPIRB, with a 30% reduction in size compared to other EPIRBs. Featuring a huge 10-year battery life, the affordable EPIRB1 Pro complies with IMO (International Maritime Organization) regulations that require an automatic release housing to be provided for mandatory-fitted EPIRBs. The Ocean Signal EPIRB is designed to release automatically from the supplied Category 1 auto deploy bracket once submerged in water and float free from a sinking vessel. It communicates the location of survivors to search and rescue services in three ways: the designated 406MHz Cospas-Sarsat satellite system with position provided by an integrated GPS receiver, a 121.5MHz homing beacon, plus a high-brightness LED strobe light.

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Unichip Marine selects Actisense as NMEA 2000 data partner

Unichip Marine are using their decades of experience in endurance motorsport engine tuning to help leisure boaters enjoy a safer, higher performance boating experience. In creating their Unichip Marine System, their team turned to the experts in NMEA data – Actisense – to help build their state-of-the-art engine control module.


SEVERNA PARK, MD—Manufacturers scored big at the 2020 National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) Business Meeting held on September 26, following the NMEA Virtual Education Week held last week. A total of 19 products received the top award, and the NMEA Manufacturer of the Year was named. "On behalf of the NMEA Board of Directors, staff, and membership, we congratulate all 2020 award winners,” said Mark Reedenauer, NMEA President & Executive Director.

"The member voting count exceeded our expectations. This certainly sends the message to the market that manufacturers have focused on producing top quality products for the boating public, even during a pandemic. NMEA members, installers, and manufacturers have surely kept their eye on the ball.”

Boaters benefit from peace of mind on land and sea with Garmin OnDeck Remote Connectivity Solution

OLATHE, Kan./Sept. 15, 2020/Business Wire – Garmin® International Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ:GRMN), the world’s leading marine electronics manufacturer1, today announced its new OnDeck™ System, a remote monitoring and management solution that gives boaters 24/7 access to critical and timely information about their vessel2. When paired with the ActiveCaptain® app, OnDeck keeps users connected to their vessel by monitoring the boat’s battery status, bilge activity, door/hatch sensors, GPS location and more. For extra peace of mind, configurable notifications can even let the user know of changes that may threaten the boat, including if it has moved into or outside of a custom geofenced area. In addition to the GTB 10 OnDeck Hub, the system includes a door sensor, temperature sensor, shore power sensor and relay switch.