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Old 19-09-2016, 13:07   #1
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Join Date: May 2016
Location: Isle of Hope GA
Boat: Catalina 42 MKII Pullman
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Crew communication

We are new to cruising and sail boat ownership. Purchased 5/30/16. Catalina 42 mkii. Living aboard and loving the life.

We are still working full time. Plans to take off in 2 years.

We have been out every weekend. With mostly just the 2 of us. With wind noise and hand signal issues, we would like some kind of wireless communication. Weather docking or anchoring would help. Wife says I don't read lips very well.

What have you used and recommend. Seen most online tech stuff. Would like ease of us, comfort and high quality.
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Old 19-09-2016, 13:38   #2
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Re: Crew communication

I would avoid the hi-tech solution completely.
We have tried various radios, and experimented with other peoples headsets with limited success.
The wind can totally destroy your sound. Sometimes you don't have time to put on the gear, and then the batteries are flat. Its too much extra, we like to keep it simple.

We use hand signals, but we have perfected them. We have a fixed and limited vocabulary. This short-form is like a RISC computer, (Reduced Instruction Set) therefore leads to no banter, and idle chat, or confusing signals. Perhaps I should do a video and post it on youtube but for the moment here are some of our "words"

Fist held up = Stop engine, stop, stop belaying, stop! or STOP!
Index finger pointing UP = Go ahead, start, move, do.
+above with wagging = more of the same.
Index finger up and circular motions = Start Engine.
Index finger up, circular motions, then throat-slit = Stop engine
1 or 2 or 3 or 4 fingers, then index finger up = Go ahead for x seconds and return to neutral.
Thumb pointing over shoulder = Astern
above + wagging= more of same.
1 or 2 or 3 etc fingers then Thumb over shoulder = x seconds astern
Index and thumb pinching = a little bit of...
Forearm dangling from raised elbow fingers in claw = Anchor is off the bottom
Flat Palm against right side cheek = Wheel full Stbd
Flat Palm against left side cheek = Wheel full Port
Flat Palm edge away from nose = Wheel Midships
Index finger to nose = Bring boat into wind.
Hand or both hands facing away and frantic pushing = Crash stop and reverse engine.
....and we have a few more but those are the main ones.

At night, we do the same, with a head-light on, the light illuminating the signal NOT looking at the helm.
Tight sheets to ya.
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Old 19-09-2016, 13:48   #3
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Location: Isle of Hope GA
Boat: Catalina 42 MKII Pullman
Posts: 21
Re: Crew communication

Good stuff. We are working on those.

You should do YouTube video!

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Old 19-09-2016, 13:55   #4

Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Pangaea
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Re: Crew communication

Wireless electronic headsets were a disaster when we tried them, hand signals with the helmsman/helmswoman echoing the comands works best.

Example: A raised clinched fist from the crew on the bow means place the engine in neutral. Helmsman calls out "neutral!" You also need to have a way of knowing the comand from the bow was understood by the helm.
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Old 19-09-2016, 14:18   #5
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Boat: Sayer 46' Solent rig sloop
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Re: Crew communication


Jim and I often use children's walkie-talkie toys. The range is good enough for our 46 footer. We cured the wind noise problem partially, by placing some sponge over the microphone, to block the wind. We find them useful in fine weather only, as they are not waterproof. We use them a lot when one of us is aloft, so as to not have to shout to communicate, and also when conning the boat into new places, with Jim in the dinghy ahead, or standing on the bow pulpit to get his eyes higher. Ours came from ToysRus for about $20, and use the transistor radio batteries. Their frequency is close to some AM radio stations, and that can cause interference. Ideally, you'd have something waterproof, but we've never made the effort, because we switch to hand signals.

Hand signals. You could learn gilanas, workmen's signals, or make up your own, which is what we did. What we needed:
Stop the boat
Idle reverse
More power
Forward dead slow
Set the hook
Leave the anchorage
Straight ahead
Turn in direction pointed
Kill the engine

Although the one on the foredeck uses a head lamp for anchoring at night, a head lamp that is watching the chain descend does not illuminate hand signals; therefore, I prefer the foredeck light is on, which illuminates the whole foredeck. The other downside, for me, is that if he looks at me, then I lose my night vision, and, of course, he needs to see on his way back to the cockpit, and there I am in the way of the light!

If comms are difficult, I whistle briefly but loudly, so Jim knows I heard and am complying at the helm, as he is on the foredeck, and with over 45 knots blowing, voices get lost, but the whistle penetrates. Of course, we do prefer quieter anchorages, but we don't always get them.

There are times when we anchor in a mooring field, and then have to leave without fouling the mooring. Sometimes he points towards the clear water, sometimes to the mooring. It is easier for me when he points to the clear water, because the mooring ball is often so close to the side of the boat that I can't see it till it's abeam. Sometimes it is easier to very slowly back away from it till I can just see my own way out.

Who scorns the calm has forgotten the storm.
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