Quite a few people said they were also interested in buying a PLB and asked me to pass on what I found out so I thought I should post back to the LCC email list.
Here’s a summary – thanks to the replies I got from Bob Hamilton, Kris D’Aout, Pete Burgess, Mike Alter and Simon Webster.
I want a PLB – these are small enough to fit in a BA pocket (EPIRBs are much bigger and are designed to be attached to a boat and they are registered to the boat whereas PLBs are registered to the individual). Most PLBs need manual activation.
PLBs are registered to Falmouth coastguard and you can specify which sports you are doing eg walking plus kayaking.
Nobody had used them in anger so there was no feedback on that but you should test the batteries every 3 years or so.
People used two different PLB manufacturers:
McMurdo – FastFind / Find Me / FastFind 220 – (Kris, Pete, Bob) fits in BA/PFD and can be used inland as well as at sea. Waterproof so doesn’t need to be in a case. The 220 floats when it is in its neoprene cover and needs to be sent away to replace the battery but battery lasts at least 3 years.
Ocean Signal – rescueME – (Simon, Mike) easily fits in your PFD, has a funky neoprene case that makes it float, but still allows easy activation. Good battery life. Requires manual activation including pulling out aerial. Getting the aerial out with cold hands might be a bit fiddly. £194 via Amazon.