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I recently traded in my Icom M-1 waterproof radio for a submersible rated
Apelco 520. The Icom had failed once when the water proof bag it was in
leaked. On a second occasion the battery of the Icom shorted from water
exposure and was ruined. I now carry the Apelco with no waterproof bag- just
let it get wet and dry it after sailing.
I got a chance to test the Apelco yesterday at Crissy in 4.5 conditions when I
found a rig floating about a mile off the beach. The rig had a one bolt
universal plugged in but the nut that should have been threaded at the foot of
the base was gone... so was the sailor and the board that had presumably
sailed the rig out.
I recently switched to a uphaul that can be easily detached from my boom after
having seen Ken Hartz use such an uphaul in two different cases to quickly set
up for towing a board ( in one case I caught the free floating board at Rio
but didn't have my tow line and couldn't do any thing but hold onto it). I use
my uphaul to connect the mystery rig to my equipment and pulled the radio out
of my fanny pack. I was glad I had put a wrist strap on the radio given the
swell. I contacted Coast Guard on channel 16 and described the situation. They
quickly asked if I was Greg since a sailor named Greg had gone in to call in
the info from the beach. From that point on I broadcast as "Windsurfer Peter"
to distinguish myself from anyone else who might call in. There was a healthy
amount of confusion as to who was who and who or how many missing, etc.
The Coast Guard immediately started trying to gather info so that they could
locate the sailor or determine if the sailor was onshore. It took quite a
while for that issue to get resolved, and I was getting pretty cold waiting
for them to dispatch a boat for the rig. I noticed that I was not drifting
inbound or outbound and let the Coast Guard know that we were at slack tide in
my area in case it would aid them in knowing where to look. The sailor
eventually turned up on the beach, having been towed in by another sailor. I'm
not sure how the board made it in, but it was recovered. The sailor's
universal slid out of the track in front of a ferry and he lost both board and
sail when he swam for it.
It ultimately took an hour before the inflatable arrived. As I got cold in my
3/2 suit (4/3 suit in the shop for repair), I considered strapping my strobe
onto the rig and letting it go. Many cool Crissy sailors slowed to check if I
was in distress. The inflatable ended up blasting past me well upwind as I
tried to vector them to my location. It seems like the signal going over the
chop is much worse than the communications with Coast Guard at YBI where they
have the antenna well above the water. When the inflatable arrived, the petty
officer in charge told me that they had great trouble understanding me due to
wind noise. A key piece of advice would be to face downwind and shield the
mike when broadcasting.
Greg sailed back to help me de-rig the sail for the Coast Guard. It was
definitely a two man job. I was wishing I had a leash for my radio but
ultimately used the wrist strap to connect it to my foot strap so I could have
both hands free. Only one bozo found it neccesary to sail by 10' upwind of us
and put a wall of water up in our faces.
It was great to have a reminder how much harder it is to do simple things when
you ad the wind and the waves. I'd take a radio that can get repeatedly dunked
over a cell phone any day. I don't think a cell phone would have stayed dry
and operable, or conversly, if I was positioning myself to protect the phone,
I could not have tied off the sail or de-rigged it. Sitting in the water for
an hour also reminds you why a 4/3 is smart. I've been seeing some shorties
and even a guy yesterday with no wetsuit at Crissy. That's probably okay if
you never break down, but gear breaks.
The Apelco 520 ain't cheap ($280) but it worked great and still has good
charge after quite a bit or broadcasting at 5 watts. I'm think the 5 watt
capability is well worth the money since I have had some trouble being
understood on two different occasion like this. If I was at 1 watt, I'm sure
it would have been worse.
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