Yesterday while my wife and I were having our cuppa and a snack on the beach we heard on VHF radio what turned out to be a search and rescue exercise carried out by the local volunteer marine rescue organisation in Port Stephens. The scenario was a small craft calling "faintly" for help of an unknown nature from an undisclosed location ie. They were lost with an injured person on board and a failed motor. The rescue people were unable to establish a solid fix using RDF and therefore had 3 boats perform various search patterns in different locations on the bay. The bay is not huge it measures about 10 Nm from heads to back but has many bays inlets and islands in it, it also has 2 major rivers empting into as well as many smaller creeks. Check it out in Google earth by plugging Port Stephens, Australia in the search bar.
We do the majority of our weekly paddling in this area and up until yesterday I was fairly confident that carrying a mobile phone in dry storage and a waterproof marine VHF radio of good quality and with the max 5 watts of power in my PFD were going to be enough if we needed assistance. Our greatest threats are more likely to sustaining injuries like snake bite or twisted ankles etc then on water risks although we still train regularly for these and the risks do still exist.
Now I understand that this was a training exercise and in a real emergency the help of other craft would be sought also a rescue helo may have been brought in and perhaps a more experienced co ordinator would be in charge but on the day this search went on for more than an 1.5 hours before the craft was found. During the week there is very little recreational traffic on the water and the commercial dolphin watch boats do their thing in the eastern end.
Now carrying a handheld radio as my primary means of emergency contact seems totally inadequate and when we return from a paddling holiday in Scotland in June a PLB is going to be the very next purchase.
Anyone else have some thoughts on this.