Henry Gilbey
Cape Cod - 1010.jpg


Henry Gilbey blog

Do any of you carry a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) for your shore fishing?

I am going to make no apologies for talking some more about increased angler safety issues, so please feel free to come back next week if this particular topic is of no interest. I don’t mean to try and tell anybody here what to do, but this is a subject that increasingly interests me for any number of obvious reasons.


How many of you here have ever come across a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), and do any of you carry one for your shore fishing? As with lifejackets I will admit to initially dismissing these tiny little handheld devices as completely unnecessary - until that is I had a chat with a guy at Crewsaver lifejackets who properly explained how they could actually be useful for a lot of what we might get up to out on the coast…………..

Here is a definition of a PLB that I found online: “A small transmitter device designed to provide a distress and alerting capacity for use by the general public in life-threatening situations in remote environments, after all other means (e.g., telephone and radio) of notifying search and rescue responders have been exhausted.” As it stands with my knowledge levels of these things so far, if you get into serious trouble and you need to be rescued, you set your PLB off and a distress signal is pinged to the relevant rescue services, and most modern PLBs will also give your position via GPS. You need to register your device which is very easily done. Wait until the relevant rescue services get to you and thank your lucky stars you had one with you.


The guy I have been talking to at Crewsaver lifejackets has kindly sent me a McMurdo Fast Find 220 PLB to try out - I can see them online for around £160-180, so whilst they are not exactly a cheap as chips item, in some respects I am now thinking about a PLB almost as a must have because of how they work and the potential options they give me if one day I am on my own especially and do actually need to be rescued from whatever situation I can’t get myself out of. There seem to be plenty of PLBs on the market, and from my basic understanding of them you want one that connects to the Global 406 MHz international search and rescue system, covers 121.5 MHZ as well, AND has a GPS facility. The Fast Find 220 that I have here is waterproof and has a six year battery life. There are no subscription fees by the way.

Oh come on Henry, you’re getting all worried and health and safety on us here. Well I’m not, and as ever it’s each to their own, but in fact I look at myself and wonder why on earth I have chosen to bury my head in the sand for so many years now and not look at all this. We take risks because we love what we do, but how about giving yourself the best possible chance of coming home to your family? I don’t consciously do anything differently because I’ve got kids these days, so perhaps it’s just something inside that has finally recognised that there are some easy ways to make what I so love doing a whole heap safer - and there’s a big difference between getting a little hurty in a workplace environment and getting washed into the sea.

So why do I like the idea of a PLB now I better understand what they can do for me as an angler? Well first off, and I think this is very important - I can’t see myself ever trusting a mobile phone as a means of contacting the rescue services, not with how they never bloody get a signal far too often for my liking. If I am fishing on my own especially and I get washed in, 99% of the time my mobile phone is in my rucksack anyway, because I don’t want to be making or receiving calls when I am actually fishing - so how do the rescue services firstly even know I am in the water, and secondly where I am? I break the seal on my PLB which of course is attached to my lifejacket and the rescue wheels are now in motion. Of course I am not guaranteed to survive whatever conditions I might be facing when in the water, but at least my chances are greatly increased.

If the above is the obvious scenario when a PLB is vital, have you ever thought about when you are out shore fishing on your own, you’ve trekked along a deserted bit of coastline or scrambled down some cliffs, there’s nobody around and you have no mobile phone signal. Next thing you slip on a bastard boulder and break your leg - what the hell do you do now? You can’t walk, your mobile phone is useless (ok, you could always listen to a bit of music while you ponder your fate and wonder if you’re going to need to eat the dog in a few days time), and nobody knows where you are. I don’t know about you, but it’s very rare that anybody knows where I have gone fishing or when I expect to be home.

I can think of numerous places I fish where I would never expect to see anybody out walking etc. - at least not in the time period when I’m having to think about eating my dog, chewing on a camera battery, and drinking my own urine! So what do you do? I grant you that this scenario is most likely pretty damn rare, but as an angler who has recently torn both calf muscles and struggled to get back to my car (and if there had been serious climbs involved instead of the long walks then it could have been emergency services time), I can see how easily something can go wrong when you least expect it.

Lucky dog!

Lucky dog!

So let’s say we’ve got a broken leg, you’re a long way from the car, the dog’s looking a little scrawny and I don’t have any matches to light a fire and roast her over anyway - what do I do? I break the seal on my PLB and wait to be rescued. Lucky dog and lucky me. The way I see it is this - you or I buy a PLB and it sits in our rucksack or it’s secured to our lifejacket and hopefully you never have to use it. Either you look at it as a complete waste of money, or else it’s the best money you ever spent even though you don’t get to use it - and then out of the blue you are very suddenly in a situation when you are incredibly thankful that you did actually have this little handheld device that can alert the rescue services and tell them where you are. I hope I have explained why a PLB now makes a lot of sense to me. You all have a good weekend. My youngest girl is 11 today and I am wondering where the time went since she came into this world!