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Old 12-02-2018, 21:59   #1
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GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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.
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Old 12-02-2018, 22:28   #2
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

Most people use handheld VHF and try to be discreet. Don't hail on 16, use a pre-agreed working channel, or DSC. Don't chatter. It's not legal, so I'm not advocating it, but people do it.

To be legal, use FRS (no license) or GMRS ($70 license). Note that you are now (since September, 2017) allowed to use some GMRS channels without a license so long as transmit power doesn't exceed 2 watts. But you are limited to talking between two handhelds and lose the advantage of having a good, high antenna and 25 watts of transmit power on one end.

UNLESS you decide to get fancy with it, and install a mobile GMRS radio (up to 50 watts!) with a high antenna. One like this: https://midlandusa.com/product/mxt40...e-2-way-radio/. That would be a terrific system, but would you use it enough to justify the cost? You could greatly mitigate the cost, if you're only going to use it occasionally, by hauling up the antenna on a halyard instead of fixed installing it (but be sure the antenna is a dipole or other type which doesn't need a ground plane).

A ham VHF/UHF handy-talky is a great thing for this, but both operators need to be hams, and you can't discuss business. You could, however, use a ham mobile VHF/UHF radio with fixed mount antenna (up to 50 watts!) on the mother ship on the GMRS channels, with a GMRS license (might be a slight violation if the radio is not type certified), to communicate with your shore party on a 5 watt GMRS handy talky (and their own license). That would work well, and you can use a ham VHF/UHF radio for lots of other things, if you're a ham, including using repeaters, APRS, etc.
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Old 12-02-2018, 22:57   #3
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

We use cheap programmable VHF/UHF handhelds. Chinese Brand - Biofeng (sp?)
I have programmed them with the normal marine VHF frequencies, plus the main open to use UHF frequencies.
In general use we have them set up to dual watch VHF 16 and a designated UHF channel between the handhelds. By default we talk over the UHF frequency, but can use the extra power of the boat VHF to get attention if required.
We also have a 'named' dinghy. So the name of the dinghy is always used as the call sign of anyone away from the main boat... even if they might not actually be on the dinghy any more.

Seems the best way for us to have comms without disrupting any of the VHF channels.

Mike
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Old 12-02-2018, 23:06   #4
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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.
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Old 12-02-2018, 23:36   #5
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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Originally Posted by MLOI View Post
We use cheap programmable VHF/UHF handhelds. Chinese Brand - Biofeng (sp?)
I have programmed them with the normal marine VHF frequencies, plus the main open to use UHF frequencies.
In general use we have them set up to dual watch VHF 16 and a designated UHF channel between the handhelds. By default we talk over the UHF frequency, but can use the extra power of the boat VHF to get attention if required.
We also have a 'named' dinghy. So the name of the dinghy is always used as the call sign of anyone away from the main boat... even if they might not actually be on the dinghy any more.

Seems the best way for us to have comms without disrupting any of the VHF channels.

Mike

lol now you are breaking multiple laws. You are better off just using a marine vhf. Then you are only breaking one law.
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Old 13-02-2018, 03:44   #6
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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".
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Old 13-02-2018, 05:28   #7
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Most people use handheld VHF and try to be discreet. Don't hail on 16, use a pre-agreed working channel, or DSC. Don't chatter. It's not legal, so I'm not advocating it, but people do it.
..nod..

Quote:
To be legal, use FRS (no license) or GMRS ($70 license). Note that you are now (since September, 2017) allowed to use some GMRS channels without a license so long as transmit power doesn't exceed 2 watts. But you are limited to talking between two handhelds and lose the advantage of having a good, high antenna and 25 watts of transmit power on one end.

UNLESS you decide to get fancy with it, and install a mobile GMRS radio (up to 50 watts!) with a high antenna. One like this: https://midlandusa.com/product/mxt40...e-2-way-radio/. That would be a terrific system, but would you use it enough to justify the cost? You could greatly mitigate the cost, if you're only going to use it occasionally, by hauling up the antenna on a halyard instead of fixed installing it (but be sure the antenna is a dipole or other type which doesn't need a ground plane).
Missed rendezvous can be pretty expensive though you pay in time, frustration, and love lost rather than cash. I'm probably a little oversensitive due to some bad scars from long-ago relationships.

I'd thought of the halyard trick, too. There are half wave and 5/8 wave types available.

Quote:
A ham VHF/UHF handy-talky is a great thing for this, but both operators need to be hams, and you can't discuss business. You could, however, use a ham mobile VHF/UHF radio with fixed mount antenna (up to 50 watts!) on the mother ship on the GMRS channels, with a GMRS license (might be a slight violation if the radio is not type certi fied), to communicate with your shore party on a 5 watt GMRS handy talky (and their own license). That would work well, and you can use a ham VHF/UHF radio for lots of other things, if you're a ham, including using repeaters, APRS, etc.
..nod.. How many radios to bring. I already hold an amateur radio ticket but have family members who don't and won't. Radios sold commercially as amateur radios will not transmit on GMRS cahnnels, but it would be possible to repurpose a (used) business band UHF radio to do both.

Thanks for the advice.
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Old 13-02-2018, 06:13   #8
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

Quote:
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.


All the solutions involving carrying extra handheld radio equipment seems like overkill to me. Correct me if Iím wrong, but it seems to me having crew ashore would be a proper use of Marine vhf channels.

I have never been to the Apostle Islands, but I canít imagine you are ever very far from the water. If your boat is a voluntary ship station you could use the non-commercial channels 9, 68, 69, 71, 78, 79, and 80. Call with DSC on channel 70 so you stay away from the hailing channel. It is a proper use of these non-commercial working channels to schedule berthing and rendezvous, and I assume you will be talking on the radio for these types of things and not just doing chitchat.

If you want the radio for chitchat between Boat and Shore then you would need to be on the CB or GRS.

Sailing to the Apostle Islands sounds like a fantastic trip. I am jealous of your agenda. Fair seas and watch out for the mosquitoes. :-)
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Old 13-02-2018, 06:21   #9
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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. . . Correct me if Iím wrong, but it seems to me having crew ashore would be a proper use of Marine vhf channels.. .
This is entirely logical, but unfortunately it's not true. According to the law, marine VHF can be operated from shore ONLY by base stations with special licenses and for particular purposes, and not by mobile stations under any circumstances except a bona fide emergency.
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Old 13-02-2018, 06:27   #10
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

A set of perfectly legal walkie talkies from any online vendor is less than $50. This shouldn't even be a question.
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Old 13-02-2018, 06:36   #11
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
. . . Missed rendezvous can be pretty expensive though you pay in time, frustration, and love lost rather than cash. I'm probably a little oversensitive due to some bad scars from long-ago relationships.. . . .
I hear you!

I think discreet use of marine VHF is what most people do. As someone above suggested, using the dinghy name for the portable station and following proper radio procedure is a very good thing to do, besides avoiding 16 and avoiding all unnecessary chit chat, avoiding discussing where you are in easily understandable terms (you can use code words), etc. You can get away with a lot if you are simply careful to avoid bothering anyone, but the risk of getting caught is yours, of course. A well installed 25 watt marine VHF with a good and high antenna, and a good 6 watt handheld, can communicate over quite a long distance if there are no major obstructions. You can also use DSC position polling and position reporting to wordlessly find out where your shore party is, if the handheld is DSC. This works over an even longer range than phone comms.

Otherwise if you really want to nail the issue in an effective and legal way, a GMRS base station with 40 or 50 watts and some 5 watt GMRS handhelds, all with appropriate licenses, would be the way to do it. I have VHF/UHF ham gear which can be used on those frequencies -- I think modern ham gear can be opened up easily to do that. That's another violation without type certification, but I think much more minor than using marine VHF on land, provided you obey the power limits and have a GMRS license. And that way you can use ham gear which is useful for some other purpose.

Or you could just buy a couple of sat phones.


In any case, only you can know how much it's worth to avoid comms problems! Maybe a lot! Could even be priceless!



I am facing this same issue planning a trip to Greenland this summer. But Greenland is a funny place -- you are actually OBLIGATED to carry a marine VHF handheld when walking around in remote places. Like in the Caribbean, marine VHF is used in Greenland as a kind of universal communications system in the absence of mobile phone coverage, so the normal rules are just completely ignored.

So my job is simpler than yours, and that's what we will be doing -- everyone will have a handheld marine VHF, and someone will be on board doing anchor (and ice) watch and relaying traffic if necessary.
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Old 13-02-2018, 06:41   #12
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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A set of perfectly legal walkie talkies from any online vendor is less than $50. This shouldn't even be a question.


Very limited range though. You almost have to be in visual range, not quite that bad, but itís not five miles for example.
FRS anyway
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Old 13-02-2018, 06:44   #13
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

Wow, Greenland! very jealous of that destination, Dockhead.

speaking of dinghy - here's a solution for the Apostles: walk from campsite to dinghy or beach. stand in dinghy or touch water. call mothership on VHF 70 with DSC and switch to a working channel for status or rendezvous.
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Old 13-02-2018, 06:53   #14
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

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Very limited range though. You almost have to be in visual range, not quite that bad, but itís not five miles for example.
FRS anyway
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.
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Old 13-02-2018, 07:01   #15
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Re: GMRS or VHF for communications with crew ashore?

https://forums.sailboatowners.com/in...ashore.184713/
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