I live on the other side of the world, in SE Asia
. I operate Brunei Bay Radio (Brunei Bay Radio - HF/SSB radio email for isolated locations in SE Asia, the North West Pacific and Indian Oceans. The low-cost and reliable alternative to satellite email for isloated or remote locations, islands, communities, tourism, conservation,
) which provides the SailMail service
for this region. My background includes cruising and racing
on the east coast
and around SE Asia
, and a 14 day passage
in the Indian Ocean
. And as a Yachtmaster Instructor with a commercial
Master ticket, racing
and cruising skipper
and crew, and Churchill Fellow studying the operations and safety
at adventure training organisations - on land and water - in the UK, Europe
and North America.
My conclusion - at least for operating on this side of the world where professional, immediate response rescue services are few and far between - follows the the same principles as Yachting Australia's Special Regulations
for Category 2 and Category 1 racing/cruising and also what Royal Hong Kong
Yacht Club uses for their RORC offshore events
1. A modern, marine HF/SSB radio with DSC as the primary communication service
. Because it has the unique features of broadcasting the conversation so all can hear it simultaneously. Therefore many minds, experience and people with varied resources can consider how they can contribute to a solution. And because talking does not cost money
, so communication to solve a problem, get advice or rescue someone cannot be cut off because of credit requirements.
2. A satphone as a (limited) backup for the HF/SSB radio, and to take into a liferaft
; where certainly it is more portable than the HF/SSB, but probably less useful than the waterproof marine VHF
handheld radio (with DSC) that should also go into the liferaft
3. The satphone is NOT listed by Yachting Australia
or RHKYC as a legitimate substitute for a HF/SSB radio. Having a satellite comms system in the yacht is not considered - by people with lots of experience dealing with these topics and who might be asked to explain their decisions in a court - as a reasonable substitute for the marine HF/SSB radio with DSC.
The Yachting Australia Special Regulations
for yacht racing (and recommended for cruising) are based upon years of hard experience - including numerous incidents and deaths - and take into account the reality of yachting operations and search and rescue capabilities once you get beyond the excellent services that exist around North America and Europe/UK.
These Special Regulations can be seen at http://www.bruneibay.net/bbradio/Doc...0Keelboats.pdf
My experience is that if you live and sail where there are ample, quick response, professional S&R facilities, then the combination of a VHF
and satphone of some type will be sufficient. But once you sail beyond the range of professional, quick response S&R services which can solve all problems, the M802 with DSC will be the best option to alert other yachts, commercial
trawlers etc in your vicinity (without knowing they are there, and without knowing their satphone number) to get advice, a tow, some waypoints, spare part, or rescue.
The evidence we see over here is that a lot of cruisers from Europe/UK and North America simply do not realise how lucky they are with all the great RNLI lifeboats and Coast Guard cutters to solve their problems. Many get quite a surprise once they are beyond these facilities and learn that a quick mobile or satphone call can no longer provide a prompt response solution.
The DSC capability of ICOM's M802 or M801 radio is designed to address these differences, by quickly and simultaneously alerting all other vessels in the vicinity which are maintaining a DSC watch on their similar radio.
By way of comparison:
1. MRCC UK does not have a HF/SSB radio, so they can only suggest people use a satphone to contact them when beyond the range of their great VHF networks.
2. MRCC USA - the Coast Guard - has an effective HF/SSB marine system (with an increased focus on DSC calling), because, like Australia, the USA does not have an official (GMDSS) continuous coastal VHF network with DSC, like what exists in the UK and Europe
Terry Sparks ( http://www.made-simplefor-cruisers.c...20for%20us.pdf
) clarifies the Coast Guard's DSC capability and also the preference for using a DSC capable HF/SSB radio before switching on an EPIRB
3. MRCC Australia has a very effective marine HF/SSB with DSC system and they state the situation, limitations and answers very clearly for cruising beyond the range of Coast Guard helicopters, RNLI Lifeboats etc. This means for 90% of the world's oceans and coasts, and especially in the underpopulated, pristine, low-cost and attractive island destinations many people choose to cruise
because of the dual attraction of minimising costs and enjoying the beautiful environment
. Some quotes from MRCC Australia's website:
"The arrangements for search and rescue (SAR) in Australia have been influenced by the physical size of the island continent, the large size of the search and rescue region, Australia's relatively small population and the nature of governmental processes. Dedicated SAR facilities are limited in Australia. When necessary, other facilities are diverted from their primary function by arrangement or request."
"Distress beacons should only be used when there is a threat of grave and imminent danger
. In the event of an emergency, communication should first be attempted with others close by using radios, phones and other signalling devices. Mobile phones can be used but should not be relied upon as they can be out of range, have low batteries or become water-damaged."
"Even once a position is obtained (from a distress
beacon), response times then depend on the time for a search and rescue (SAR) unit, such as a helicopter, aircraft or ground party to be readied and transit to the search area. The more remote
the location of the distress
incident, the longer the response time. In all instances, be prepared to survive."
The key phrases are "communications should first be attempted with others close by using radio" because if you depend on the official S&R response in places beyond the great support services available around the USA coastline and in Europe/UK, it could be a long time coming and you will need to "be prepared to survive."
A recent solo sailor in the Pacific with a problem was lucky, the ship which MRCC New Zeraland sent to him was only 200nm away. A French solo sailor in the southern ocean in 2012 had to wait 3 days -for the only ship in the region which MRCC Australia could find - to reach him.
If this is what it is like in NZ and Australian S&R territory, you can imagine what it must be like elsewhere, were resources, money
and trained staff are more limited. Here is an example. An amazing satphone call to someone thousands of Kms away raised the alarm
, which was subsequently passed to an MRCC, and from them to the local S&R authority. But official resources were not successful, see these articles for an insight into some of the limitations:
A DSC distress call via HF/SSB radio to alert nearby yachts or commercial vessels (maintaining a 24/7 - silent - DSC watch for distress, group or individual MMSI calls) might have been more successful in alerting nearby resources and generating prompt response from like-minded mariners; as recommended by MRCC Australia.
A DSC capable HF/SSB radio has the ability to simultaneously send an alarm
to all vessels in the vicinity, either anchored on the other side of an island or along the coast or at sea fishing
or on passage nearby.
The more yachts that have a similar marine, DSC capable, HF/SSB radio, and maintain a (silent) 24/7 DSC watch - like nearby commercial vessels do - the better the chance that cruisers with a question or problem will have to gain access to the extensive knowledge, experience and wisdom of other cruisers. Like-minded cruisers will be more likely to respond appropriately and effectively to an urgent call for assistance, some advice about fuel
blockages, a spare part or tow, or some waypoints into the sheltered anchorage; so a problem for a fellow cruiser does not become an incident that requires an S&R response.
Most people with a HF/SSB radio - without DSC - will be very reluctant to keep their radio on standby 24/7, with the speaker blaring, so they can listen for Distress or General calls from other yachts. The modern DSC capable HF/SSB radio addresses this problem; it is noiseless. It can scan for Distress or General calls 24/7 without disturbing the crew, the peaceful anchorage or the spectacular sunset. It only makes a noise
when a DSC alert is received.
Once installed, this same radio can be the foundation for low-cost HF/SSB radio email
via a subscription to the not-for-profit SailMail Association (see SailMail
). SailMail is a convenient and low-cost service developed specifically for yacht owners by other yacht owners. Taking advantage of SailMail's services is possible simply by adding a Pactor
controller to the existing modern, marine, DSC capable HF/SSB radio.
Apart from emails with family, work etc SailMail provides access to valuable weather information so prudent sailors can have fun, plan passages to maximise the benefits of the the wind
, organise a marina berth or spare part delivery
on arrival, choose the optimum beautiful anchorages
based on the expected wind
, and send position reports to be displayed on the web. All free with a SailMail Association membership
And when cruisers are involved in a rally or race
over here, the organisers will appreciate the fact they can be conveniently contacted - by voice or email
- via the marine HF/SSB radio; so everyone gets the same identical information, reliably, for free, without needing to charge all participants extra money for participation fees
to pay for expensive individual calls to those participants only equipped with satphones.
I hope this information is useful.