Following is a stripped down letter I sent to the magazine.
Let’s review what a semi-serious paddler has invested in:
$3,000 kayak- or at least that would be the replacement cost
$400 mapping GPS- plus the mapping software
$200 for top quality PFD
$400 graphite paddle
$200 spare paddle
Total value of the hardware is $4,480, not counting the other “gotta haves” that we all fall prey to. Gentlepeople, are you going to entrust all that and your life to a $10 set of flares and a signal mirror? These devices should be part of a signal package; they should not be your only means of contact.
If you plan on using flares, strobe lights, even VHF radio there is an assumption that there will be someone close enough to see or hear you. A properly cared for and maintained PLB is practically guaranteed to be heard and result in a rescue.
A PLB with a GPS will announce your location and id number beginning on the first transmission. If you have updated your registration to NOAA via the internet with a proper float plan, that information is given to the first responders. The USCG knows where you should be, how many people are in the group, and what kind of vessel(s) to look for. Esteemed colleagues, isn’t your life worth $450 for a basic PLB?