Man overboard – every captain’s nightmare scenario, when seconds can mean the difference between life and death. The point, of course, is to locate the man overboard absolutely as quickly as possible and then start the recovery effort. Now three new high-tech systems make it possible to find that person faster and easier.
Developed by a French start-up, the Sea-Tags MOB wristband alarm system starts with downloading a free app to all smartphones on board the boat to monitor the wristbands. When anyone wearing the wristband goes overboard and the wristband is submerged, the smartphones will sound an alarm and save the GPS location and the time. The app also can be enabled to send a text message to someone who could notify emergency services. The wristbands cost $79 each, and the app is available in iTunes and Google Play stores.
Fell Marine has a different approach, aimed at stopping the boat if the skipper falls overboard. The Fell system is designed more for solo cruisers or people cruising at night. It’s called the MOB+ and it involves a wireless electronically controlled kill switch that turns off the engine if the wearer of its special FOB falls overboard. It uses WiMEA protocol for fast reaction time. The MOB+ with a base unit and a FOB costs $199.
The McMurdo system is designed for boats with AIS, the digital, VHF radio-based Automatic Identification System originally designed to prevent collisions at sea. It’s called the McMurdo Smartfind S20 AIS MOB, and it turns the man overboard into an AIS target, transmitting his position and identity number back to the boat’s chartplotter so you can recover the person quickly. The Smartfind device can be fitted to a lifejacket, it transmits continuously for 24 hours, and it has a flashing LED light for night rescues. An option allows the Smartfind to be automatically activated when the life jacket is inflated. The McMurdo S20 AIS MOB costs $299.