Thousands on boats, but nothing on distress beacons: Rescuer marvels

The key benefits of a GPS equipped EPIRB, are faster detection by the geo-stationary satellites, typically less than ten minutes.
Three men who were eventually rescued, one in a life-threatening condition, could have been rescued within an hour if only they'd had a distress beacon, according to a New Zealand Rescuer coordinator, who described people's actions as 'extraordinary'.

'It's extraordinary,' Rescue Coordination Centre officer Michael Roberts told http://www.radionz.co.nz!Radio_New_Zealand, 'that people will spend thousands of dollars on boats and yet will not spend a few hundred on a distress beacon.'

The three men capsized while sailing off Wellington's south coast and were separated from their boat. The men, in their early 30's, were taken to Wellington hospital where one was in a critical condition and another was in a serious condition the following day, from being in the water for so long.

Their boat capsized off Sinclair Head in heavy seas at about 6.00pm, which was noticed by another boater who reported the incident. One of the men then managed to make it ashore by 3.30am the next morning unaided after over six hours swimming, but told rescuers that he thought one of his companions had died.

A second man, who had been in the water for over 16 hours, was found by the police launch about two-and-a-half nautical miles south of Sinclair Head at 10am and was able to point rescuers in the direction of the third survivor.

That man was picked up shortly afterwards by the Westpac rescue helicopter and is in a serious but stable condition.

After the incident was reported a full search had been mounted, involving helicopters, maritime police, the Coastguard and other vessels.

While all the men were wearing lifejackets which saved their lives, an officer from the Rescue Coordination Centre Mike Roberts says the men had no communication equipment.

They didn't even have a cellphone on board.