Monday, 5 August 2013

Nautilus lifeline vs PLB

It is getting cold around here and for the next couple of months the water is only going to get colder. I am skinny and get cold easily, specially if in contact with cold water. For that reason in winter I use thin neoprene gloves. They don't last long. Paddling 2 or 3 times a week, before the cold water is replaced by the warmer ocean currents, my gloves start to disintegrate.
I went to a scuba shop to get a new pair. While talking with the saleswoman in the shop I asked her if the scuba divers use PLBs and she showed me the Nautilus Lifeline. She said it is better than a PLB because you can talk with it like a VHF on steroids (she said a range of 20km), it has a small screen showing you the GPS position, it can go far deeper than most PLBs and it has a distress signal that transmits the GPS position. I asked her if that distress is through satelites like a PLB or a line of site like a VHF and she claimed the first.
I was very impressed and when I got home I googled it. It is really a good device but not what she claimed. The range for talking is not 20 km but more like 5 according to some reviews I read and the important bit about the distress signal is not through satelites but line of site. So if you are in problems under the cliffs and no boats within the range (for the distress signal the range claimed is 12 miles) you are on your own. Another thing is that whoever receives the distress digital signal has to have a 'new' radio capable of understanding it.
Bottom line the lady was confused and the Nautilus is a good VHF radio with GPS capabilities not a replacement for a PLB.

While researching about the nautilus I came accross the rescueME PLB. A new device that is 30% smaller than the PLBs I have seen before plus 7 years of battery and warranty (instead of the 3 or 4 usually offered). It also has a new system for deploying the antena that appears innovative. Of course all that comes at price and it is a bit more expensive that the other PLBs.

Disclaimer: I don't own neither of the devices mentioned, except the new gloves that keep my hands warm and wet all day long :-)


  1. Nice bit of investigative reporting Fer; and may your hands be forever warm.

    1. Owen, thanks for the first part and amen for the second :-)