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Old 18-09-2012, 07:55   #1
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Radio Communications

Depending on your cruising area, VHF radio communication can be little to none or absolutely esential. One of my cruising areas requires me to get on the ICW in La. and its Gulf outlets. There are times that radio communication is absolutely essential for safety. For those of you that are not familiar with this area, all I can say is that it can be one big cluster. There are times where boats are literally only a hundred feet apart in single or double file. There are very large Cargo Vessels (Work Boats and Supply Boats) that travel about 8-10 kts. There are many many crew boats that travel at 15-25 kts. There are push boats about 5-7 kts, jack-up barges about 4-6 kts and shrimp boats with their out riggers down at times which is illegal in the channels, but exists and they travel about 6 to 8 kts. Private recreational boats are around but are way out numbered by the commercial vessels. With everyone traveling at different speeds, there is a heck of a lot of passing situations. Some commercial vessels, due to draft, need to stay as close to center as possible but most do not.
The radio is full of very short communications for passing signals. It can be confusing because you want to make sure they are or are not calling you.

There were times that I had 3 radios on at the same time - all on different frequencies. Usually for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port and Vessel Traffic Services in Morgan City, La.

From habit, my radio is always on. Twice in Missisippi, we answered distress calls and rescued people on pleasure craft.

Do you use your radio, is it really needed for safety and where do you cruise?
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Old 18-09-2012, 08:27   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony B
Depending on your cruising area, VHF radio communication can be little to none or absolutely esential. One of my cruising areas requires me to get on the ICW in La. and its Gulf outlets. There are times that radio communication is absolutely essential for safety. For those of you that are not familiar with this area, all I can say is that it can be one big cluster. There are times where boats are literally only a hundred feet apart in single or double file. There are very large Cargo Vessels (Work Boats and Supply Boats) that travel about 8-10 kts. There are many many crew boats that travel at 15-25 kts. There are push boats about 5-7 kts, jack-up barges about 4-6 kts and shrimp boats with their out riggers down at times which is illegal in the channels, but exists and they travel about 6 to 8 kts. Private recreational boats are around but are way out numbered by the commercial vessels. With everyone traveling at different speeds, there is a heck of a lot of passing situations. Some commercial vessels, due to draft, need to stay as close to center as possible but most do not.
The radio is full of very short communications for passing signals. It can be confusing because you want to make sure they are or are not calling you.

There were times that I had 3 radios on at the same time - all on different frequencies. Usually for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port and Vessel Traffic Services in Morgan City, La.

From habit, my radio is always on. Twice in Missisippi, we answered distress calls and rescued people on pleasure craft.

Do you use your radio, is it really needed for safety and where do you cruise?
Singapore, monitored occasionally. Used periodically to call immigration or a marina. Never used to hail a ship or even another boat. In 6 years I have never heard anyone one on a pleasurecraft hail a commercial ship. The radio chatter is usually two Indonesians, stepping on two Filipinos stepping on two Malaysians all talking in different languages about where they are gonna go to get laid when they get shore leave.
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Old 18-09-2012, 08:34   #3
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Re: Radio Communications

In Belgium, 2 VHF sets on board are a strict requirement for B registered vessels.
A special exempt is made for (Dutch) registered yachts.

Radio com is required for added safety. It takes for a big com vessels between half an hour and 45 minutes from horizon to reach you.
Being selfrighteous and claiming all the world' s sailing knowledge can be fined severly by British, French and Dutch authorities, as has been found out personally by a Dutch sail magazine editor who thought knowing all.
Lapsing all rules he was fined 10K Sterling and impounding his little vessel. When he got finally his vessel back, he showed again his know all ability by grounding the boat somewhere in the Minkies.

So Tony I agree with you. In spite of what people in general may think, seamen on the bridge of a large vessel would be very pleased if you let them know that you are aware of their presence, not leaving any doubt of what your next move will be. When approaching the course of a big vessel and making sure that you are not an obstacle, take the VHF. It is the reason for having this type of communication on board.
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Old 18-09-2012, 08:45   #4
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Re: Radio Communications

here in mexico in busy ports, is necessary to know from port captain when port is closed, also when merchant ships are expected to use the narrow harbor openings. they use channel 16. the cruiser nets come onto vhf so folks can hear any emergencies that pertain to us, and so we know if there is a lost soul to find, or whatever other bits are interesting.. is not mandatory, unless you are going to vsc--then they look for your radio and it must be installed, i was advised..the one in my ericson isnt installed...
..is the best way to learn where that huge ship in your way is going and how to remain out of his way--the tug n tows in icw on gulf coast use em to contact you when they dont know where you are going --they cannot maneuver well, and take up a lot of room. also--how does one have a bridge operator raise a bridge if you havent a radio--the horn blast thing only works so well. the csx rigolets guy liked my voice, so he would always open for me..lol..
if buddy boating, is good to have vhf to communicate with your friends so as to know where the stopover may be.....what the anchorage looks like, should we go to another spot...etc...and for the entertainment always inplay on channel 16-- we heard folks complaining of being bent under water, possible collisions, all kinds of interesting stuff on vhf.....
i cannot see cruising without a vhf...isnt an expensiv piece of equipment and is soo functional.
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Old 18-09-2012, 08:53   #5
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Re: Radio Communications

Quote:
Originally Posted by MacG View Post
In Belgium, 2 VHF sets on board are a strict requirement for B registered vessels.
A special exempt is made for (Dutch) registered yachts.

Radio com is required for added safety. It takes for a big com vessels between half an hour and 45 minutes from horizon to reach you.
Being selfrighteous and claiming all the world' s sailing knowledge can be fined severly by British, French and Dutch authorities, as has been found out personally by a Dutch sail magazine editor who thought knowing all.
Lapsing all rules he was fined 10K Sterling and impounding his little vessel. When he got finally his vessel back, he showed again his know all ability by grounding the boat somewhere in the Minkies.

So Tony I agree with you. In spite of what people in general may think, seamen on the bridge of a large vessel would be very pleased if you let them know that you are aware of their presence, not leaving any doubt of what your next move will be. When approaching the course of a big vessel and making sure that you are not an obstacle, take the VHF. It is the reason for having this type of communication on board.
First, the British have no rules for vessels under 18m so won't fine you for not having a VHF onboard. Though if you have a VHF you should have both an operators and ships license.

Communication via vhf for collision avoidance is fairly heavily frowned upon. Many ships round the north sea/english channel will just ignore you.

Guidance & Regulations

To the OP, nearly always mine is on 16 plus whatever the local harbour authority uses, if there is one. Usually the local yachty channel, 72 round UK. Offshore usually turned on, on 16.
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Old 18-09-2012, 09:26   #6
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Re: Radio Communications

Southern California I keep it on all the time. It's integrated with the AIS receiver so it's also part of the navigation electronics to some extent. Really handy to spot a freighter, have the closest-point-of-approach calculated already, and call their bridge with a button press to arrange a safe passing.

I use the squelch a lot to cut down on noisy transmissions when in busy places (off Los Angeles).

The fishing boats around here all monitor 72 and a lot of them don't even know about 16; it's weird. The Navy is on 10, islands and USCGA are on 9, and bridge-to-bridge for commercial is generally on 13.

When going ashore I'll grab a handheld and keep it on 77 with the boat's vhf on the same. It's a low power inter-boat channel that rarely has traffic.

All in all it's currently my most used piece of electronics, especially considering the AIS receiver and that it reads out speed/course/position. The GPS that's hooked to it just sits there side mounted; I never look at it anymore since I have everything I need on the vhf.
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Old 18-09-2012, 09:37   #7
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Re: Radio Communications

Great question.

I always keep my VHF on when underway, monitoring 16 and whatever VTS channel may be applicable - as we are required to do. I use it to talk to other yachts, file passage plans with the CG when making an international passage, discuss berthing with harbormasters. I also communicate with my dinghy using it -- I try to always keep a handheld in the dink. The CG once did a practice with us -- landing a guy on our deck from a helicopter. The VHF obviously was essential for that. I use DSC calling whenever possible (whenever I know the other party's MMSI number) which is so much more convenient.

I sometimes call to discuss management of crossing situations with ships, but usually get the feeling that the bridge doesn't really want to chatter on the radio. Once I called to verify that one ship had made a slight course change, and the officer on watch read me off his calculated CPA. Of course, he has an accurate ARPA system and I don't get reliable CPA data from the MARPA on my crappy recreational radar set. I'm not sure they realize that. That information was useful to me.

A huge problem with using the radio to deal with traffic is that by the time you can read the name of the ship, you are already way too close! Usually. So how do you call them? "Big gray ro-ro barelling down the Dover TSS at approximately position ___ by ____"? And how do they know who I am? "Little white yacht five miles off your starboard bow?" By the time you are sure you are talking to the right ship, you've lost a ton of time. Of course, AIS changes all of that radically, so maybe the radio will become more useful.

The authorities discourage the use of VHF to discuss crossing situations:

http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/mgn167.pdf

The theory is that if everyone knows what he's supposed to do, there's no need to chatter about it. But probably some professional mariners are skeptical, in an encounter with a yacht, about whether we have any idea of what we are supposed to do, and will be grateful for a call, as others have suggested here.
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Old 18-09-2012, 09:41   #8
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Re: Radio Communications

Even on this forum there are people with blatantly incorrect views on colregs (I'm reminded of "commercial vessels always have right of way over recreational vessels"). So using cruisersforum as a barometer for the rest of the waterways, we have a long way to go until everyone knows what they're doing without talking to each other first.
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Old 18-09-2012, 10:03   #9
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Re: Radio Communications

Most of what I hear on the four channells I scan excepting VTS is idle prattle from bored fisherman or yachtsmen. I rarely turn it on anymore unless hailing another boat or bridge operator.
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Old 18-09-2012, 10:34   #10
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Re: Radio Communications

Quote:
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Great question.

.....I try to always keep a handheld in the dink. Extrememly Important. Outboards are know to just crap out at times. Tony B......

...... So how do you call them? "Big gray ro-ro barelling down the Dover TSS at approximately position ___ by ____"? And how do they know who I am? "Little white yacht five miles off your starboard bow?". I'm laughing because funny as it sounds, that is the way it's done on the Gulf coast.

The authorities discourage the use of VHF to discuss crossing situations:
I guess each area has its own peculiarities as to how they operate. If the authorities discourage VHF communications then it would be safe to assume that that have a zero collision record.

Radio communication on the hailing frequencies should be extremely short.
"sailing vessel 'Island Mistress' to the tow 'Jolly Roger'. "Jolly Roger, go ahead'". "sailing vessel Island Mistress back. One whistle?" "Roger that"


BTW, in Louisiana, we talk backwards. We use our own name first. Wrong, but thats the way its done.
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Old 18-09-2012, 10:38   #11
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Re: Radio Communications

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.....the tug n tows in icw on gulf coast use em to contact you when they dont know where you are going --they cannot maneuver well, and take up a lot of room. also--how does one have a bridge operator raise a bridge if you havent a radio--the horn blast thing only works so well. the csx rigolets guy liked my voice, so he would always open for me..lol...
I didn't realize that you were familiar with the Gulf Coast especially La.
We were up the Rigolets on Ponchartrain in Oak Harbor Marina for a few years untill Hurricane Katrina.
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Old 18-09-2012, 10:41   #12
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Re: Radio Communications

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony B View Post
I guess each area has its own peculiarities as to how they operate. If the authorities discourage VHF communications then it would be safe to assume that that have a zero collision record.

Radio communication on the hailing frequencies should be extremely short.
"sailing vessel 'Island Mistress' to the tow 'Jolly Roger'. "Jolly Roger, go ahead'". "sailing vessel Island Mistress back. One whistle?" "Roger that"


BTW, in Louisiana, we talk backwards. We use our own name first. Wrong, but thats the way its done.
Indeed.

I think it also depends on what kind of waters you're navigating in. On inland waterways, the ICW, the HSC, etc., you would simply have to communicate, I think, due to overtaking situations in close quarters. In the open sea, communicating might really be more harm than good, for the reasons stated in the MCA brief. I don't think the MCA are talking about rivers/inland waterways which is a totally different environment.
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Old 18-09-2012, 10:49   #13
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Re: Radio Communications

I agree, that is why I asked for responders to name their cruising area and they did. So far I have not found anywhere near a wild as the Louisiana coastal areas. If you have never been there, it is hard to image all of the offshore oil field traffic-non stop day and night. No different at 3 am as it is at 3pm and holidays mean nothing.
When we used to travel to Florida, I don't remember ever using my radio for communications other than a radio check when out of La. waters
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Old 18-09-2012, 10:57   #14
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Re: Radio Communications

West Coast of Canada

I monitor 16 and the appropriate VTS channel via dual scan. Our ferries issue a Securite message on 16 when they transit Active Pass asking that concerned traffic contact them on 16 or 11 (Victoria VTS).

At night I let VTS know I am out there and request info about other traffic, but we do not usually participate in the VTS, i.e., we do not report in at reporting in points. I have used the VHF to make arrangements about passing or head-on situations, including passing "green-to-green".

When sailing at night on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, occasionally I have been asked to report in hourly.

Listening to the VHF weather is essential, not only for the conditions and forecasts, but also for notices to shipping, especially when they close military exercise areas.

I was once asked by the Coast Guard to check an area for a flare sighting (it was nothing) and another time VTS asked me to check out an unidentified radar target (small sailboat under power, poorly lit).
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Old 18-09-2012, 18:35   #15
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Coastal sailing , my VHF is on 24/7 , wouldn't dream of having it turned off. Offshore in the deep briney, f I'm out of shipping lanes I might turn it off.

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