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Marine Electronics Journal Blog

Best personal survival devices for 2018


One of the hardest concepts to sell to mariners of all stripes is the need for safety and survival equipment. The resistance goes way back, at least to the days of the Georges Bank tub trawlers who rowed their cod fishing dories far from the mother ship, hauling back longlines by hand in often terrible weather. Despite spending most of their time at sea, very few of them ever learned to swim---if they went overboard or their boat sank, these hardened fishermen wanted to drown quickly rather than prolong the agony of waiting for rescue in the frigid waters off New England.

Ironically, safety and survival gear is among the most affordable marine electronics you can buy. With any luck you’ll never have to use it, but if an emergency occurs that threatens your life or those of your guests or crew, that piece of equipment will be worth its weight in gold. Here’s a half-dozen that come highly rated.

The lineup is part of an exercise that Marine Electronics Journal does every year. We call it the Best & Brightest Boating Electronics—it works like this:

We ask manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category that they consider to be their Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters.

There are 17 categories in all­, ranging from autopilots and fishfinders to vessel monitoring systems and multi-function displays---MFDs. Last week we rolled out satellite TV and VSAT systems that provide full onboard connectivity no matter where you are. Click HERE to check it out.


Garmin inReach Explorer+

Explore anywhere. Communicate everywhere. The Garmin inReach Explorer+ is the rugged satellite communicator and GPS navigator that uses 100% global Iridium coverage for two-way text messaging and tracking, anywhere in the world. Navigate with detailed, preloaded TOPO maps, follow routes, mark waypoints and find your way back with a high-detail bread crumb trail. Using GPS tracking, you can easily share your location with family, friends, social media or emergency responders. In case of emergency, the interactive SOS allows you to communicate back and forth and receive confirmation that help is on the way. For added capability, use the free Earthmate app to pair your inReach Explorer+ with mobile devices.



Weighing just 5.4 ounces and measuring 4.5 inches in length, the ACR ResQLink+ uses GPS positioning, a powerful 406 MHz signal and 121.5 MHz homing capability to quickly and accurately relay the user’s position to a worldwide network of search and rescue satellites. The buoyant device with super-bright LED strobe is small enough to be carried in a pocket, clipped to a backpack or stored inside an inflatable life jacket. Two built-in tests allow you to routinely verify that the ResQLink+ is functioning and ready for use. If you use it, ACR Electronics will replace it free of charge if you submit your story to the ACR SurvivorClub, a testimonial-based initiative to raise beacon awareness.



The SAILOR SP3520 portable VHF GMDSS is a handheld VHF radio for craft operating under GMDSS regulations, such as workboats or fishing vessels operating in A3 sea areas, but can be used by anybody. With a ribbed grip design, it fits comfortably in the palm and can be operated easily even with gloves on. It features large tactile buttons and control knobs, a high-quality screen to match and a user-friendly interface and red backlight to protect night vision. IP67 waterproofing makes it suitable for use outside in all conditions as well as on liferafts in emergencies. Coming from Cobham’s line of portable radios for commercial users, it features a powerful transceiver, excellent audio, Dual Watch, Tri Watch and Scanning, and user programmable channels.


GOST Personal Tracker

The Personal Tracker from GOST is a unique ultra-rugged portable device that transforms a smartphone into a satellite tracking and messaging device. When used in conjunction with a smartphone and via Bluetooth connection, the fully configurable Personal Tracker app supports SOS initiation, interactive SOS messages, location, waypoint, trip info, tracking, text messaging settings editing and alert information, all on the phone’s LCD touch screen display. Rated C1D2 and IP67, the compact, ergonomic and rugged Personal Tracker is ideal for individuals and teams who need a dependable communications solution in challenging environments.

Ocean Signal rescueME MOB1

Selected for use by all crews taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 edition and Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race, the award-winning Ocean Signal rescueME MOB1 is the smallest AIS man overboard device with integrated DSC. The device easily integrates into life jackets and is automatically triggered the moment the life jacket is inflated, sending the first alert within 15 seconds. Once activated, the MOB1 transmits an alert to all AIS receivers and AIS-enabled plotters in the vicinity up to a range of about five miles, plus it will also activate the DSC alarm on the vessel’s VHF radio to alert crew. Its integrated 66-channel GPS provides accurate position data of a person in the water for at least 24 hours.

Weems & Plath CrewWatcher

CrewWatcher is an app-based crew overboard alarm system that is the fastest way to rescue a person who is overboard. The system works like a virtual lifeline and is made up of two components: a smartphone app and a small beacon that can be comfortably worn by each crew member (including pets). The beacon does not require complex manual activation. The alarm will trigger automatically in a Man Overboard (MOB) event. Should someone go overboard, the app, after sounding the alarm, will automatically provide lat/long coordinates of the point of loss, the time of the MOB event, and it will visually guide the rescuer back to the point of loss. One smart device can watch up to five crew members. It activates with water immersion or separation from the vessel.



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Comments | Leave a Comment
Page 1 of 3 ( 13 comments)

Jp:(8/11/2018 5:28:29 PM) "I have a 2018 Yamaha f40 la and Humminbird helix 7 di , I would like to leverage the nema 2000 capability of the helix 7 to display engine info, what do I need , Humminbird does have a gateway and lowrance makes a Yamaha nema cable, but I'm reading connectors are proprietary . How can I get what is needed?

Since these products are not NMEA 2000 certified there is little assurance that they will share data with each other.

1. Here is the link to see all NMEA 2000 certified products:

2. The NMEA 2000 cables and connectors are from many manufacturers: Here is the link for approved cables and connector manufacturers:

AC/DC grounding distance:(8/2/2018 1:29:35 AM) "What about the grounding points of AC /DC systems? can they be grounded at the same point?
If one system has both AC and DC can they both be grounded to a common buss-bar that has only one conection to the hull?

Here's what Ed Sherman, electric tech guru at the American Boat & Yacht Council, said:

The ultimate goal should always be to tie ac and dc grounds together on board at a single point. In ABYC Standard E-11, it is described as “the engine negative terminal or its buss.” It is most commonly done at a buss."
Hard-Over with Brushed APilot Pump:(12/18/2017 5:37:05 PM) "Jim.
What do you mean by ...."Garmin GHP 20 with SmartPump...Because it is a brushless system, it is fail-safe and won’t execute a hard-over turn the way a brushed pump can."

Thanks for the note. Since the description came from Garmin I contacted the company for an explanation. Here's what one of their engineers told me:

On brushed DC actuators, a single-point failure in the drive circuit (shorted wire or blown component inside the controller) could cause the motor to run full speed in one direction and take the rudder all the way to one rail. A brushless actuator relies on timing-controlled commutation, so a short or component fail would cause the actuator to stop moving rather than moving at full speed.

Hope this helps,

trawlerdeejay:(10/13/2017 3:46:51 PM) "Excellent article. I had no idea what the differences were between o183 and 2000, Thank you so much."
Darryl:(3/27/2017 10:17:15 PM) "Putting the MSRP with each unit reviewed would have been helpful. If each unit was actually tested, the reports on each unit would have been helpful too.

Thanks Darryl---we generally don't mention prices due to confusion over so many variations---MSRP (mfg. suggested retail price), MAP (min. advertised price), MRP (min. resale price) and then there are internet prices on some websites that go their own way. But your point is well taken--buyers need to know if something is in their price range. We'll work on it.
There is independent testing of some of these products on sites like but the information we receive from manufacturers rarely cites the results of any shootouts they may conduct against the competition's products. "
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