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Old 08-03-2021, 15:40   #1
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Does anyone actually use DSC?

I know how DSC on a marine VHF works, it is set up on my radio, I have tested it.

With the exception of a few (always false alarm) DSC distress calls NEVER has anybody placed a DSC call to my radio.

NEVER have I placed a VHF DSC call to anybody else’s radio.

NEVER have I talked to anyone who has actually placed a DSC radio call, or received one.

NEVER have I been in a real world situation where I thought, “Gee, DSC would really help right here...”

Am I just not one of the cool people who hang with the “in” crowd? Or is this a VHF radio feature that has never received any actual user traction?

Is there a broad base of use in the commercial shipping world I have just never heard of?
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Old 08-03-2021, 16:11   #2
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

Usually DSC is used with AIS system when you get the mmsi number from the AIS system. If you do not have AIS then dsc is almost useless.
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Old 08-03-2021, 16:15   #3
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

I've never been in a sinking boat, or a crashing plane, doesn't mean it doesn't happen
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Old 08-03-2021, 16:26   #4
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

You mean I'm not alone?

I'm totally in your camp BillKny. I've had DSC radios for well over a decade, maybe close to 20 years now (when did it come in?). I've never made a DSC call, nor have I received one.

I've certainly had the occasional DSC Distress call come through (scares the crap out of me every time ). And I've tested the DSC functions myself, but I've never had reason to program in MMSI addresses, nor to make a direct DSC call. I've never received one either.

I've always thought these functions would be useful to make group calls, but I don't travel in a pack. I think the distress functionality is useful, but I've never had to use it (thankfully).

So I'm in the same boat. Nice tool, but I've never used it -- so far.
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Old 08-03-2021, 16:29   #5
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

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Originally Posted by sagablu View Post
I've never been in a sinking boat, or a crashing plane, doesn't mean it doesn't happen
Pretty sure he’s referring to DSC hailing not for distress.
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Old 08-03-2021, 16:35   #6
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

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Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
You mean I'm not alone?

I'm totally in your camp BillKny. I've had DSC radios for well over a decade, maybe close to 20 years now (when did it come in?). I've never made a DSC call, nor have I received one.

I've certainly had the occasional DSC Distress call come through (scares the crap out of me every time ). And I've tested the DSC functions myself, but I've never had reason to program in MMSI addresses, nor to make a direct DSC call. I've never received one either.

I've always thought these functions would be useful to make group calls, but I don't travel in a pack. I think the distress functionality is useful, but I've never had to use it (thankfully).

So I'm in the same boat. Nice tool, but I've never used it -- so far.
Same here. The only scenario outside Using AIS to get mmsi# would be meeting someone dockside for instance and getting their mmsi and writing it down. It would be easier to simply use dsc to contact them. Outside that even using AIS, getting the mmsi, entering it etc etc, you could have hailed them and be halfway through a conversation in the same time. But you’re still guessing if they’re within range, but at least you’d know they’d get the call without having to repeat hailing. Neat idea anyways.
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Old 08-03-2021, 16:36   #7
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

Yes I have hailed ships when they have not responded on Ch16. Their bridge lights up.
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Old 08-03-2021, 16:45   #8
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

I have used it a few times for both calls and position polling.

For calls the benefit can be that you are actually "ringing" someone and they're more likely to notice, especially if they're the sort where the radio is down below and hard to hear.

If you're in a group it can be a convenient way to send or request a position, particularly if the boats lack AIS transponders. The "why" could be anything at all; perhaps the other boat has a less experienced crew or conditions are really poor, and everyone is more comfortable being able to keep tabs on, or perhaps the cook made a phenomenal beef wellington and they're willing to meet up to pass some across.
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Old 08-03-2021, 17:43   #9
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

I used it three times to inquire as to their intentions and to verify they were aware of my presence before I installed AIS Class B. Being on a collision course on a stormy night is when it comes into its own. It’s easy for a small sailing vessel to be lost in wave clutter and those large commercial vessels need a lot of time to maneuver. Since I’ve had Class B I’ve noticed they stay clear of the small guys like me.
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Old 08-03-2021, 17:43   #10
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

DSC may be a convenience anyone can do without, but the Distress Calling function depends on having the MMSI number programed. That feature is worth the effort, when the button is hit your info and location is broadcast and another vessel or the Coast Guard can DSC back to you. If your hands are full with some emergency you may save time not repeating boat info and location (might not stop some from asking for it though).
Here in the US the MMSI number is free, programming it into the radio is easy and a one time operation. Without the MMSI number nobody can DSC call you, they wouldn't know your ID or position when you are calling.
Maybe you won't use DSC, hopefully you won't need the Distress function, but if it available on the radio why not enable it? That function might become invaluable some dark and story night.
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Old 08-03-2021, 17:46   #11
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

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I have used it a few times for both calls and position polling.
[...]
I think position polling is a really cool feature if you do not have AIS transmitter on board. For example, a group of boats is going to the islands for the weekend, you exchange MMSI's at the dock and then poll each other's position. I did it once and never repeated it.

The problem with DSC (both HF and VHF) is that the design of the menu system needs to follow a pretty specific workflow to be type approved. This creates a really unfriendly menu system that confuses the average sailor. There is no simple way to call, pickup or answer a phone. I have walked people over the steps on my radio (Link-8) and they do not get it and lose interest or they forget. It was a great idea but really badly executed. Or may be the GMDSS people wanted to prevent recreational use, so they deliberately designed it this way.


In the HF world, there are better signalling systems, Selcall and ALE that hams use but they all require that you exchange information beforehand.

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Old 08-03-2021, 18:08   #12
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

Used it with a couple of friends; it was great in those cases.

But unbelievably most I know don't even seem to understand what a MMSI # is (and haven't programmed their radios -- which IS allowed to be carried out by individuals here in Canada). Getting them to DSC calls... nope.

Too bad, 'cause it IS nice.
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Old 08-03-2021, 18:39   #13
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

Great when buddy boating, especially if you don't want the entire fleet to listen in.
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Old 08-03-2021, 19:51   #14
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

Yes I use it frequently, but only in certain parts of the world where I have found it to be effective. Our radio has built-in GPS, DSC and an AIS receiver so I just select an AIS target and press 'call'. It makes their radio light up and beep at them. To stop the beeping they have to wake up, walk over to the radio and press a button. If they know what the beeping is (North Atlantic and Europe) they might as well answer the call. If they don't (most other places in the world) they just hit 'mute'. Either way it wakes them up so that if you have to call again using ch.16 and the name of their vessel they will almost always answer, even if they don't speak English!

Fortunately, the days of saying over and over "freighter with position approximately...... heading....... this is........" and getting no response.
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Old 08-03-2021, 20:37   #15
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Re: Does anyone actually use DSC?

Well, I just bought two VHF-DSC radios, and have them programmed with each other's MMSIs so I can use position polling.


In remote areas, coordinating where and when to stop for lunch has been a recurring problem. Easy for someone to end up one bay over or to be unsure of an ETA. Not everyone who I share my boats with is fantastic at navigation and communication.
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