Switch to Digital Beacons Begins in February 

Mariners are being urged to buy new

digital emergency distress beacons for the upcoming arrival of the

digital age at sea.

Beginning Feb. 1, satellites that scan the Gulf of Maine and

other ocean waters for emergency distress signals will stop

listening for analog tracking transmitters.

That means the older analog beacons that are mandatory on

ocean-going fishing boats and other commercial vessels will become


The Coast Guard says the changeover to digital has been in the

works for years, but officials are concerned that some mariners

have put off the expense of buying the newer digital beacons until

the last minute.