There has been some really interesting advancements in the technology behind personal locator beacons (PLB) which could speed up the discovery and rescue of sailors and paddlers at sea.
Finnish defence company Patria, Tampere University of Technology and the European Space Agency have partnered together to develop a new type of rescue lifejacket with an integrated PLB antenna that dramatically reduces the time it takes for the distress signal to be picked up by satellites.
The new antenna design itself is quite a step forward in technology. Before this the units were always restricted to long whip-like antennas as it was the only type of antenna that reliability transmitted the very low frequencies that the satellite system uses. Whip antennas also overcame the problem of the human body disrupting the signal by getting the transmitter up and away from the body via the antenna.
The new patch antenna design is still fairly large (about the size of a washcloth) but it allows the PLB and antenna to be sewn directly to the lifejacket. It’s made of a waterproof, salt proof and flexible material so it will stand-up to the rigors of the shipping/sailing worlds.
The problem with attaching the antenna directly to lifejackets is that they won’t transmit below the waters surface but by attaching multiple antennas to various sides of the lifejacket they also overcome the problem of transmission signals getting disrupted by the body.
So far the new vests are still in the testing and SOLAS certification stage but testing is looking very positive. Recent trials showed that the test subject’s exact location was determined by satellites within minutes which was considerably faster then the cumbersome whip-antenna beacons.
How long until we can possibility see these at your local sailing or paddling shop is difficult to tell. Right now it’s mainly being developed for the industrial shipping industry but word is that Suunto is developing and integrating the technology into their diving rescue vests to assist divers who become lost at sea.
Photo credits: A. Le'Floch, ESA
North Water has just announced a new throw line specifically aimed for people looking for boat owners looking to meet the Coast Guard requirements. The Mirco Throw Line is 50 feet of 1/4 inch floating polypro line. It comes with a whistle and a tie-down strap so it won’t get lost.
The Micro Throw meets Coast Guard regulations for the required heaving line and at only $24.95 it’s economical enough that rental companies could use it. It sure beats the crappy orange container/yellow plastic rope/whistle kits you get a big box stores and its way better than the old Nalgene stuffed with old rope chunks that a couple rental companies in my neck of the woods use.
It’s available now so look for it soon at your local paddling shop.
The waterproof zippered bag comes with 3 lubricated condoms, 2 packets of lubrication, 4 wet wipes, 4 compressed towels, and one disposal bag.
I love the fact that the bag has reflective piping on it so you can quickly find it with a head lamp and that the package says that it’s for, “2 People for Up to 2 Nights.”
Get in on the action for $14.95.
I always listen with amusement when I hear people complain that new life jackets or PFD’s are uncomfortable, hot and therefore better off strapped to the back deck of a kayak or thrown in the bottom of the canoe.
To help appreciate the technology advancements keeping us afloat, let’s look back at we would have had to use while on the water...
This photo was taken around 1890. Back then life jackets were made from pieces of cork sewn together. Though it kept you afloat, it wasn’t very practical for anything else. Since many would have only used them in an emergency, I can imagine a good number of sailors would find them rotten, crumbling and useless when they needed them most.
Photo Credit: Sean Sexton/Getty Images
Here is an integrated life vest and early version of a survival suit taken by Harris & Ewing in 1916. I don’t think I would have fit in my kayak with it on.
Photo Credit: old-picture.com
Life vests took a big step forward in technology in 1925 but clearly a huge step back in fashion. These are made from inflated bicycle inner tubes.
When wearing this you can be guaranteed of two things, severe chafing and the fact that everybody will be staring at your crotch the whole time.
Photo Credit: davison.com
On a different note, If you are interested in cool war history stories, here is a good one where somebody found a very old German life vest from the 2nd world war and worked to try to unite it with the pilot over 60 years later.
I recently saw photos of the new colours and design changes available for Kokatat’s new dry suits which will be available in Spring 2012. You will want to save your pennies over the winter as you will be able to order dry suits in lichen, azul, cedar, graphite, mango, radish and black. Of course they have been offering mango and radish for several years so this will be a nice change to help break up the sea of yellow suits that often show up at paddling symposiums.
Keen eye Joes out there will notice that several of the suits now come with contrasting dark pants which I have got to say is a nice improvement. You will also be able to custom order color combinations to get the exact suit of your dreams.
Sadly I will need to keep dreaming as I’m waiting for the day that the suits are available in any of these colours and patterns above so I can look dapper like these guys. Common Kokatat, get on it pronto as I think that would be dynomite!
For those who want to look awesome at the boat launch can order the limited edition Gore-Tex Meridian dry suit which is based on the Rogue dry top colour pattern. It is only available in cedar/black and it has reinforced cordura patches and extra reflective piping in the arms.
Finally, those poor souls who don’t get the pleasure of paddling in ice cold water but need just a bit of insulation, Kokatat is rolling out their new WoolCore line. It is a lightweight Polartec® Power Dry® polyester/wool blend fabric so you get the warmth of wool with the moisture wicking and dry time of polyester.
The WoolCore pants and tops are also designed to be as green as possible. The wool is chlorine-free and grown in the Rocky Mountains while the 100% recycled polyester is from New England and the whole thing is assembled in
Look for all this stuff at your local paddling shop in Spring 2012.