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Old 13-02-2018, 07:15   #16
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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Originally Posted by zboss View Post
thanks for this link... so using Marine VHF on the Apostle Islands should be cool since they aren't much more than 3 miles across.
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Old 13-02-2018, 07:33   #17
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

That link says the FCC changed the rule a year ago to allow VHF use while communicating with a ship when adjacent to water. Note that if this is accurate, then the Coast Guard documentation is out of date.
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Old 13-02-2018, 08:00   #18
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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Originally Posted by zboss View Post
No kidding! Learn something new every day.

So from this it appears that use of a portable station under circumstances IS permitted in the U.S. (definitely forbidden in the UK; don't know about Canada).

The conditions:

1. One watt transmit power

2. Only discuss "operational and business needs of the ship", and for minimum transmission times.

3. Operation from shore ONLY "adjacent to the waterway (such as on a dock or beach)"

4. Must use ship's call sign

5. Can only communicate with own ship (except for safety purposes).

6. Can only use calling and intership channels.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/80.115


Cool. Doesn't quite cover the OP's purposes, but sure is a camel's nose in the tent. Once it's not per se illegal to use the VHF on land, ever, it's already much less of a violation to do something like what the OP proposes.

Wish they would adopt a rule like that over here.
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Old 13-02-2018, 08:03   #19
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

Thanks for the link. Sounds like there is a limited exemption, but it's not made clear in other parts of the rules. There are a bunch of limits -- you have to be transmitting with 1 watt or less and be adjacent to the waterway.

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-id..._1115&rgn=div8
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Old 13-02-2018, 08:22   #20
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

We ran a cruisers net of an on for a couple of years, honestly... no one cares. People use their VHF pretty much anyhow they want and the coast guard never says anything, except for channel 16 and other reserved channels. The FCC isn't really plying the airwaves looking for recreational violators. Given the rapidly shrinking budget at the FCC I can't imagine it would be getting more enforcement.

I not advocating blatant disregard of the law but the reality is that no one actually pays attention to it. It's quite usual for people to use their VHF to talk to the mothership from land and it always has been. If you are on one watt out in the middle of nowhere with no population that signal isn't going to travel far enough out to be an issue.

If you were in a densely populated area, say NYC harbor, then I could see it being an issue but out in the boonies...?

Just use some other frequency other that 16 and you should be fine.
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Old 13-02-2018, 08:39   #21
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

I recommend Marine VHF non-comm channels. Having dealt with the FCC for many years, let me say they are very reasonable and tolerant. Enforcement actions are almost invariably against egregious violators who cause interference to other users, or are operating way, way over the line.

It always made too much sense for boaters to have more freedom with handheld radios, and folks have been using them this way for a long time. So finally, the FCC has formalized it.

In some parts of the world, marine VHF has turned into a CB style wasteland due to the cost of enforcement. The FCC wants to preserve the service for the intended purpose, particularly channel 16.

So, use the high non-comm channels, be courteous, and don't interfere with other boaters. Don't sweat it.

Chris
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Old 13-02-2018, 08:43   #22
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
No kidding! Learn something new every day.

So from this it appears that use of a portable station under circumstances IS permitted in the U.S. (definitely forbidden in the UK; don't know about Canada).

The conditions:

1. One watt transmit power
I believe most if not all Marine VHF HTs have the ability to have the transmit power reduced to 1 watt.

Quote:
2. Only discuss "operational and business needs of the ship", and for minimum transmission times.
I believe that there's a similar limitation on VHF use in general except for public correspondence stations (which don't exist on VHF any longer, as far as I know).

Quote:
5. Can only communicate with own ship (except for safety purposes).
And other auxiliary stations, which means you could use VHF for coordination between two shore parties, for example, as long as they're both "adjacent to the waterway."

Quote:
Cool. Doesn't quite cover the OP's purposes, but sure is a camel's nose in the tent. Once it's not per se illegal to use the VHF on land, ever, it's already much less of a violation to do something like what the OP proposes.
In practice that will work for me, which is great. I was unaware of the exemption. While I can be sure my shore party is adjacent to the waterway while transmitting, it is hard for me to believe that an enforcement action would result from otherwise compliant, non-interfering communications solely because someone was a short distance inland.

There have been some high-profile prosecutions with large fines ($10,000) in cases where people have used channel 16 on handhelds for purposes wholly unrelated to any maritime activity, such as coordinating a deer hunt.
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Old 13-02-2018, 08:59   #23
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Indeed. FRS has extremely limited range, and I wouldn't use it, myself, for the OP's purposes. I have a pair of hand-me-down bubble-pack FRS radios on board (not legal in the UK, I realize), and they are useless over any kind of distance, even with clear line of sight. 1/2 watt and carpy antennae by design. The practical range is not much greater than shouting distance.
I've also experimented with FRS. Practical range is a little better than shouting and that's it. There's stuff it's perfect for, like talking to spotters when backing up a trailer, or coordinating a plumbing project on two floors of a building without sending a runner up and down stairs to turn the water on and off. For two groups walking in opposite directions and trying to keep in touch, it's useless.

<<< GMRS vs. VHF >>>

While I think, given the helpful links to the regulatory exemptions, I will proceed with a VHF handheld for this situation, I'll point out that GMRS would probably work better in practice, at the cost of more gear.

The main drawback of VHF is antenna size. On a handheld, you need a 1/2 wave antenna to be effective, and that's 36" long in the Marine VHF band. So the small antennas are very much a compromise. On the GMRS frequencies a half wave antenna is 12" long, or so, large, but usable. In the same light, it is possible to run a 5/8 wave 5 dB gain antenna on the boat, as these are still smaller than the customary marine VHF antenna already at the top of the mast. With a good installation, that should make a substantial difference in range and clarity. Not at all sure it's worth it, though.
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Old 13-02-2018, 09:09   #24
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
Despite the ready availability of marine VHF handhelds, their use on shore is technically a violation of FCC regulations (at least in the USA).

So, what to do in situations where there is no cellular phone coverage available, and there's a need to stay in touch with crew ashore? Ignore the rules and use VHF? Do people get GMRS licenses and radios? Ham radio? Something else?

Serious question since we have an upcoming trip to the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior. There's no cellular coverage in the islands, and we'll have some people camping ashore overnight while others stay with the boat.
Get a couple of CBs. No license no hassle.
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Old 13-02-2018, 09:34   #25
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

An amateur "technician" class license is easy and cheap to acquire, and is all that is needed to operate on VHF (2 meters) and UHF (70 centimeters). I know of 12 year-olds who have passed the test after a weekend of study. There is a wide variety of handheld radios available, and you have additional capabilities, like APRS to track crew ashore and often land based repeaters with large coverage areas. Your masthead antenna will work adequately well on 2 meters. You can use the ham bands for any communications that aren't commercial in nature.


Ask a ham where the exams are given. You'll probably find one being given nearby at a restaurant. Holding a ham license will open you up to a whole new community of friendly people who can be a real information resource in a new location.
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Old 13-02-2018, 11:09   #26
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

I used early FRS to talk between two sailboats. With no obstructions, FRS/GRMS works very well over water. I was able to get the specified distance (and more) with excellent long battery life using an inexpensive waterproof FRS. I would expect the newer GMRS to be even better. I would suggest you get some of the FRS/GMRS low power radios that require no license. Not only do they work well, but they are also a ton of fun. They give a huge number of channels, which gives a certain degree of privacy.

However, having said that, a real handhald marine radio is really excellent. You can get weather forecasts, marine warnings, and speak with other boats. In an emergency, a VHF is much better.

If you don't currently have a handheld VHF, you would only need to buy one radio (assuming your sailboat already has a working VHF). If you go FRS/GMRS you would have to buy at least 2. And while handheld VHF have become quite reasonably priced lately ($100-$200), FRS/GMRS are even cheaper. I've seen a "4-pacK" around $50 (walmart I think). After your trip, the handheld VHF will still be very useful...in the dinghy or as a backup to the sailboat VHF.

So, if you are talking about family members, and children especially, go with the FRS/GMRS. But if you are a group of adult adventurers, use VHF with discretion. This means the ship based set should be on low power.

If money is no object (Elon Musk, Bill Gates, etc) then you could look into Sat Phones...they work anywhere.

Other fun options....flashlight morse code at night, and semaphore during the day. I personally tried CB radios without much success.
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Old 13-02-2018, 12:40   #27
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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Originally Posted by IslandHopper View Post
Most i know have UHF/CB Radios, work and play.

We have 4 of these, no licence required.

https://www.jbhifi.com.au/phones/UHF...-radio/843549/

If the distance is going to be greater we use a VHF on a pre-determined channel and keep it short, no pointless chit chat.
You can go CB SSB and get significantly more range and get away from all the good buddies.
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Old 13-02-2018, 13:42   #28
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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If you already have a couple cell phones or tablets look into GoTenna Mesh. It turns your cell phones into comm devices and require no license at all. It offers an encrypted text platform that acts off the cell grid which is awesome.

The mesh version which we have will create its own mesh network. So if we leave one gotenna mesh aboard the boat, leave with the wife and one with me we have pretty good distance. The one on the boat can act as a repeater of sorts and you have pretty good range. I hope my description is good enough to give you an idea. Oh one other thing, the regular gotenna will suit your need as its point to point, but the mesh allows greater ranger through the mesh network. So beyond your own network of two or three or however many units you buy. It will allow you to send messages through other gotenna mesh units which in remote locations your going to is useless unless you have three or four units. BUT in a city or traveling it will send your private message through any other units and at a much greater range, very cool and still keeps the messages private.


But you download the app on your smart phone or tablet and pair it with the gotenna mesh and away you go, very simple. It also allows for sending gps grids if you so choose. Battery life is good and the design is sleek and simple. You can drop it into your ditty bag and forget about it.

Here is a link to the mesh version, if you can afford it I would suggest getting two sets so you have four units total for more distance.
https://www.gotenna.com/pages/mesh?m...11753ffc1e0a3a

Here is what the product description says about them:

"Pair to your phone and create your own signal. goTenna Mesh lets you send texts and GPS locations, no service required. Revolutionary mesh networking privately and automatically relays messages through other devices to extend beyond point-to-point range; the bigger your network, the stronger your communications".
Thanks for the info. This is definitely cool! I like that the communication (even voice) is encrypted and full-duplex. Way better than typical radio tranceivers.
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Old 13-02-2018, 13:47   #29
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

I looked at the gotenna, but actual range is limited. You'll get much better with a VHF marine handheld.
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Old 13-02-2018, 13:50   #30
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

Re: device proliferation. This is why it's so convenient to illegally use the cheap Baofeng radios in ways that they can but shouldn't be programmed. Not robust or waterproof, but they're practically disposable.

West Marine (Uniden) used to sell a dual-band handheld that worked on both Marine VHF and FRS frequencies for just this purpose. They can still be found on Ebay (WM VHF 250). I have one right here, using it as a desktop scanner. Sadly, replacement battery packs are no longer available, although they do come with an accessory pack that you can load up with AAA's. At the cost of carrying a pocketful of spare batteries everywhere.

We've been through the whole progression of handhelds on the ranch. CB's were great, when there was nothing else, but too bulky and awkward. A soon as I spent a ton of money getting base stations set up and mobile units in the vehicles, everybody switched to FRS. We still keep a DSC FRS family net open, but nobody uses it except during harvest. Or kids playing. People just use cellphones now.

For shore parties, we've always just discreetly used handheld VHF and used the dinghy call sign. Just tactical use - not chatting.
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