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How long do you really need an EPIRB?

by BoatUS 27 Mar 15:02 PDT
The BoatUS Foundation also rents PLB's starting at $45/week, plus $25 for shipping © Boat Owners Association of The United States

The majority of the nation's nearly 12 million recreational boaters don't often travel far offshore, beyond cellular or VHF range. But for those who only do on a rare occasion, having an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is important, allowing you to summon rescuers if there's a dire emergency.

However, with beacons priced at around $600-$700, the device may not always be within the family budget. That's where the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water EPIRB/PLB rental program fills a critical safety gap.

According to Foundation EPIRB rental program statistics, the average beacon rental length is 10 days, with peak season May through August.

"Our typical customer is the recreational boater who seldom travels out of sight of land but now needs a beacon, typically for a weeklong sailing race or fishing tournament, or they've selected a route that takes them far from the safety net of standard communications means. They usually add on a few days to the rental for round-trip shipping," says BoatUS Foundation Director of Boating Safety Ted Sensenbrenner.

A 10-day EPIRB rental costs $120 and includes shipping. Added Sensenbrenner, "Maybe it's a boater's first trip to the Bahamas. We've also had renters entered in the Newport Bermuda Race, Newport to Ensenada, CYC Race to Mackinac, WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, R2AK and other adventure-type races on water as well as ashore, as we also rent Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)." A Foundation 10-day PLB rental is $91 with shipping included.

The Foundation maintains and tests beacons to U.S. Coast Guard and manufacturer standards. Renting units is simple: Go to and provide the vessel registration and description, trip itinerary, and emergency contact information. EPIRBs are registered to BoatUS Foundation so there is no need to contact NOAA. In case of an activation, Coast Guard watchstanders and search agencies are provided this critical information by the 24-hour BoatUS Emergency Dispatch Center. Since 1997, the BoatUS Foundation rental program has had 28 EPIRB activations and 69 lives have been saved.

Sensenbrenner adds that beacons are a critical lifesaving device, and for boaters planning to go offshore more frequently, buying your own EPIRB is a better option.

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