RIB Electronics

In our free Guide to Buying a RIB here, we touch on some of the equipment you might need for your RIB. Lifejackets, fire extinguishers and flares topped this list and we also recommended buyers looked at spare VHF radio sets and an EPIRB  if budget and your cruising range warranted this kind of investment.

With more and more RIB owners venturing further afield and increasing numbers of RIBS crossing the English Channel, I thought it worth looking at what electronics would be on my “must have” list of items for the typical RIB user who enjoys a mix of harbour pottering, coastal cruising and occasional trips further afield.

Well, lets kick off with one of the big ticket items and one of the most talked about –  EPIRBs. With EPIRBS (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) starting at around £300 (dual frequency – 406MHz/121.5MHz) and  £400 for those with added GPS functionality, this is surely money well spent for those who do more than just coastal cruising. Incidents at sea invariably happen suddenly, without warning and can escalate rapidly – in such situations, a timely and accurate distress call via VHF may not always be possible – in my eyes, this makes an EPIRB a vital piece of offshore kit.

If, like me you only cruise offshore occasionally, consider hiring your EPIRB from a reputable supplier such as Mayday Marine in Portsmouth and Adec Marine in Surrey. If buying an EPIRB,  remember that EPIRBs must be registered – you can do this here.

An even more talked about item is radar. I definitely sit on the fence when it comes to radar on a RIB –  I’m not 100% convinced about it being a cost effective investment for recreational RIB users, but at the same time have used it in anger on several occasions and have been glad I”ve had the option there.

So, what are the benefits? Radar is extremely useful for collision avoidance in restricted visibility, an additional method of position fixing and a way of setting up clearing ranges when navigating in confined waters –  for these reasons alone radar is a valuable addition to your RIB from a safety point of view. What are the drawbacks? Well, its not a cheap option, with a scanner adding around £800 alone to the price of your nav gear and for some this will be a deciding factor. It’s also worth bearing in mind too, that a radar’s effectiveness depends upon the power of the scanner (normally only 2kw for recreational scanners), the size of the antenna (small on a 2kw scanner) the ability of the user to view the display, (size and clarity of screen and the conditions at sea) the height of the scanner and the proficiency of the user.

In benign sea conditions, faced with an entry into an unfamiliar harbour, Radar is a great tool to have at your disposal but it is no more important than the golden rules of proceeding at a safe speed, making the right sound signals and keeping a good look out. In rough seas with a relatively inexperienced user, I’m not sure your average recreational radar is the most useful item to have onboard a RIB.

Broadband radar which claims to deliver higher target resolution, low power draw and much less radiation looks like a step in the right direction, but at over £1500 for  the scanner alone, it may be worth waiting until it becomes more affordable for use on a RIB.

So, in summary, would I buy a radar for my RIB? Probably not is the answer, unless I upped the amount of offshore cruising I did considerably.  For the serious offshore RIBster and commercial RIB operator, it moves from the “nice to have” to the “need to have” on the wish list. That said, if you already have a radar compatible plotter, you often spot special offers or boat show deals on scanners and I’ve seen reasonably priced second hand scanners appear on eBay – and if you can grab a bargain, radar can be a great aid to getting more out of  your RIB and traveling further afield. What do you think? We’d love to know your thoughts on EPIRBs and radar on a RIB.

Part two coming soon – next time looking at VHF sets and Plotters

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