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Old 26-05-2024, 06:02   #1
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a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

First, I should make it clear that this is a small complaint. I am glad to have the Coast guard there!

I spent two summers sailing in Canada, and here in the US I have noticed a couple of differences in how our Coast Guards operate.


The first is locations. When US Coast Guard gives locations for a vessel in distress or a missing vessel or a hazard to navigation, they helpfully give latitude and longitude to a high degree of accuracy. The Canadians also give latitude and longitude, but they supplement that with geographic references. In the US, I never even listen to them, because I am not going to get out s chart and figure out where that latitude and longitude are. In Canada, if it's near something around me, I'll listen. (Of course, since I was passing through in Canada, I really didn't know any of the geographic references either....)


The second is radio checks. Knowing that your VHF is functional is a fairly important piece of information. In the US, it is practically impossible to test your radio, at least legally. You could in theory get on the telephone and call a friend and ask them to turn on their radio and listen for you. Many people do a radio check on 16. The US Coast Guard then helpfully responds with a 30-second admonition not to do that - effectively confirming your radio check. In Canada, if you do a radio check on channel 16, the Coast guard responds with about four words confirming your signal. For a wonderful, but brief period of time in the US, SeaTow had set up autotresponding radio check stations, but that did not last long.

Grumble over. I just had to vent.
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Old 26-05-2024, 06:09   #2
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

My biggest complaint about the US Coast Guard is their radio operators do not speak slowly and clearly! They need to choose speakers who have very good diction and are taught properly to use a radio voice appropriate for non-perfect reception conditions. I don't know how many times I have listened to a CG report of something that was unintelligible, and when it comes to the position they are expert at garbling that. In Southern New England there are enough harbormasters and such on channel 09 that radio checks usually work on that frequency, and in some harbors other channels are good like 69. Still, I hear radio checks all the time on 16 and the CG seems to mostly be ignoring them for the moment. I expect they will start admonishing people as more get out on the water in Southern New England.
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Old 26-05-2024, 06:23   #3
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

Some of those complaints are regional. Sector Eastern Great Lakes (formerly sector Buffalo) often gives a geographic reference (but not always). And I've only heard them complain about radio checks when 2 or 3 people ask in short succession.

That said, they do really need to work on speaking a bit more slowly and clearly (some of the new guys try to go so fast they end up tripping over their words). And general radio technique would help. I can't count how many times I hear one of them say "break" and pause for a moment but not un-key the mic, completely defeating the purpose. Or they say it without pausing at all.
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Old 26-05-2024, 06:32   #4
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

You have to see the larger picture.

I think the US Coast Guard is a fine organization manned by people of the highest caliber and checking radio signals is not high on their priority list.

I've been stopped, boarded, inspected, etc, by the US CG on several occasions over the years and each time the occasion was as pleasant and professional as one could ask for.

Asking the CG for a radio check, I'm sure can be annoying for them, especially so when requested countless times a day. There are so many other opportunities to do this without contacting them.

Not even sure why so many people request a "radio check", usually requested by folk for whom boating is a once a year thing.
Add to this, the number of people that use Channel 16 as a "talk" channel.

Head over to the Bahama and channel 16 is used to announce the daily lunch specials at area restaurants.

Any vhf has multiple channels monitored by all sort of people. Much simpler to get on....for instance...channel 69 and ask for a radio check and you'll likely get a half dozen responses.
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Old 26-05-2024, 08:26   #5
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

Here on the west coast, radio checks are quite the opposite ... the USCG will respond on 16, but the CCG will reply only to say that 16 is for hailing and distress only and radio checks should be done on 83A in BC.

The biggest problem I have with the USCG radio is the length of their name "United States Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound" which they have to repeat 3 times for even the smallest securité announcement ... no wonder they talk fast.
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Old 26-05-2024, 08:54   #6
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

Yesterday they were broadcasting a report advising to look out for an "overdue" north bound powerboat with 8-12 people aboard including passengers named "Fernando, Ricardo and Catalina". A most curious and unusual announcement, the 3 children onboard may have been those named. Turns out it was 25 people in an open outboard boat, a cutter passed me enroute to the area. They stay pretty busy in our area as well as CBP has some fast patrol boats with 4 350HP outboards, fully armed at all times.
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Old 26-05-2024, 09:02   #7
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

My big gripe is they make all those announcements on radios with a range of 300 miles. I really don't care if they are looking for a missing kayak 200 miles from my location. Coming into the West Coast US, I start picking up CG radio stations 24/7 from 400 miles north and 400 miles south of my intended destination, and I just turn the radio off.
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Old 26-05-2024, 09:16   #8
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

In this thread: A bunch of people griping about nothing much, who probably have no idea what's going on in the Coast Guard or how much they manage to do with the limited resources available. Most of the people serving are probably young and doing the best they can with the limited training and experience they have. If you want to nitpick, why don't you join up and make a difference yourself?


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As to the original complaint, I often hear USCG stations give geographic locations when broadcasting emergency notices. 'In the vicinity of"



Why is the Coast Guard also responsible for helping you and every other boater test their radio equipment?


Again, why not get off the internet and go volunteer to make it better?
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Old 26-05-2024, 09:16   #9
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

I agree with the original post. After spending the last two summers cruising Nova Scotia, the Canadian Coast Guard has much more effective radio communication on average. Voice was always clear and understandable with the message expressed meaningfully. USCG can be nearly impossible to understand. Too often I've heard USCG say 'Go to channel 22A for important information", without giving any clue as to where the information would be relevant. I've heard a US mayday "this is a 35' sailboat on fire under the Baltimore Key Bridge" (last fall when that bridge still existed) and the USCG asked for lat/lon. Really- they don't know where the bridge is? Another boat called to tell the CG that they knew the boat on fire, and the caller wanted to alert the CG that it was a gasoline engine, not diesel. The CG radio operator didn't seem to realize why that might be important.

The Canadian CG radio operators almost always had excellent radio skills, clear communication abilities, and were knowledgeable enough to correctly address the situation without resorting to reading a script. The USCG too often fails in all these respects. It seems to me the USCG doesn't consider communication terribly important, and I wish it would get more attention.
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Old 26-05-2024, 09:20   #10
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

Quote:
My big gripe is they make all those announcements on radios with a range of 300 miles. I really don't care if they are looking for a missing kayak 200 miles from my location. Coming into the West Coast US, I start picking up CG radio stations 24/7 from 400 miles north and 400 miles south of my intended destination, and I just turn the radio off.
That isn't a problem here on the East Coast. I do pick up stations maybe 50 miles away at times, but there isn't a lot of yacking most of the time unless they are actively involved in dealing with a distress situation. And, going the other direction I have acted as a relay several times when the CG couldn't hear someone in distress. One time they asked me to figure out what was going on since I could hear them and they couldn't. I found a small boat that had run out of gasoline, and they had very little radio range.
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Old 26-05-2024, 09:25   #11
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

Quote:
Most of the people serving are probably young and doing the best they can with the limited training and experience they have. If you want to nitpick, why don't you join up and make a difference yourself?
It's not nitpicking to want the CG to communicate clearly when lives are at stake. If they are transmitting important information they need to do so in a manner that recipients can understand what they are saying.
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Old 26-05-2024, 09:25   #12
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

some people just like to gripe about anything and anybody..

but when the chips are down the USCG will come to your assistance regardless of your attitude..
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Old 26-05-2024, 09:28   #13
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

On the radio check thing, I never hear the CG respond to one unless they're specifically asked to. It's always another boat or 2 that responds. The CG only steps in if a bunch of people think "good idea!" and clutter up 16 with a bunch of back to back radio check calls.

In general, the USCG does a great job. The radio related nit picks are minor, but also something they could improve on easily.
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Old 26-05-2024, 09:47   #14
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

To be fair, I don't believe the CCG encourages "radio checks" on 16. But I've never heard them respond negatively to a request.
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Old 26-05-2024, 09:54   #15
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Re: a small grumble about Coast Guard comms.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingharry View Post
First, I should make it clear that this is a small complaint. I am glad to have the Coast guard there!



I spent two summers sailing in Canada, and here in the US I have noticed a couple of differences in how our Coast Guards operate.


The first is locations. When US Coast Guard gives locations for a vessel in distress or a missing vessel or a hazard to navigation, they helpfully give latitude and longitude to a high degree of accuracy. The Canadians also give latitude and longitude, but they supplement that with geographic references. In the US, I never even listen to them, because I am not going to get out s chart and figure out where that latitude and longitude are. In Canada, if it's near something around me, I'll listen. (Of course, since I was passing through in Canada, I really didn't know any of the geographic references either....)....

Local practice. Around here (Cheasapeake Bay) the USCG leads with landmarks and then gives long/lat, if available. I'd send a letter to the local office. More effective than venting here. You reasoning is very sound.
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