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Old 09 May 2007, 06:39   #1
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the point of VHF....

Hi all, i'm sure it's been asked before but do you think there is much point to have a VHF if you are within mobile phone coverage? i mainly stay solent side of I.O.W? Just wondering if all the hassle of having to take a test etc is worth it? (i am assuming that you need to have past the test in order to use it? or can you get by just knowing the basics?) If it turns out that you guys think that it is a must have i'll get a hand held unit so suggestions on make and model that woudn't break would be great....


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Old 09 May 2007, 07:00   #2
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Personally I would not go out without a vhf.
I only got an operators license last year though, before that we only took one for emergencies and never used it. It was there as a backup only.

So, if you want to use it to contact people, get the operators license.
If you only want it for emergencies, you don't need the operators license.

Irrespective of use, the unit needs to be registered.

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Old 09 May 2007, 07:17   #3
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Absolutely essential.

A few reasons why -

If you are in urgent need of distress, a mobile phone can only call 999 and therefore connect you with HM Coastguard. This takes time, which may not be available if you are on fire / sinking / seriously injured. However, a Mayday call made on VHF will be heard by all surrounding vessels, some of which may well (esp. in the Solent) be close enough to render immediate assistance. Equally, you may be in a position to render assistance to another close by you.

Position - if you are lost in fog, or not sure where you are, a mobile cannot help you. VHF however is instantly shown on the HMCG systems as a bearing and distance from the caller, thereby enabling assistance to be sent to you without delay.

Range - mobile service providers have no requirement to provide a signal - if a mast goes down, you're stuffed in that area. VHF coverage in the Solent runs off more than one aerial - HMCG will nearly always pick up your call (some local geographical locations may "shadow" the signal, but this is rare).

Information - VHF allows you also to hear weather information, large ship warnings, etc which I would consider especially valuable in a crowded area such as the Solent.

Getting a VHF licence isn't much "hassle" - you will learn an amazing amount on the one day course, which will benefit your boating generally. The second licence, for the unit itself, is free and lifelong and can be obtained online.

A good VHF, preferably a 25w installed DSC set, is about as valuable on a boat as the engine, and will usually work when the engine doesn't!!

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Old 09 May 2007, 07:25   #4
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Beyond what Neil points out, the new VHFs offer some useful features that cell phones don't have. Specifically, the new ones have the ability to broadcast an emergency signal, including your lat/long (assuming you have it connected to a compatible GPS) with the push of a button. At best, the rescue services can triangulate a broad area to search from a cell signal...

And finally, I just think that it's a good idea to have more than one way to communicate! Over here, the government dropped the radio station license requirement, although an operators license is still required...
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Old 09 May 2007, 07:43   #5
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Absolutely essential! Like Neil says, if you're using it for strictly emergency comms only then you can get away without getting a licence (although TECHNICALLY you should have one anyway - the fines are pretty hefty if you're caught broadcasting without).

If you're going out in a group then it makes a huge difference being able to talk ship to ship, but you deffinately need a licence for that. Contact Jimbo (RibNet member) for training - we did ours with him and it really is simple.

Handhelds have limited range so keep that in mind, but if you don't have room for a fixed unit then it might be your only option.
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Old 09 May 2007, 08:19   #6
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All of the above plus h/held vhfs are usually waterproof now - so much more robust than mobile phone. Many of them also can take AA or AAA batteries so helps avoid disaster if you forgot to charge.

Some harbour / VTS expect (or require) you to report movements, seek permission, ask for locks to be open or at the very least listen out for the bloody big ship coming your way.

And finally, if you need to talk to the bridge of a ship (e.g. to make sure they know your position, to point out you are a hazard (perhaps you have broken down in their way) then Mobile will be virtually impossible.
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Old 09 May 2007, 09:49   #7
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Handheld VHF

Originally Posted by psychopic View Post
If it turns out that you guys think that it is a must have i'll get a hand held unit so suggestions on make and model that woudn't break would be great.
I see the case for getting one is being well made.

You can't get better value than the Standard Horizon HX-270, very well built and full of features but perhaps most important on a RIB - properly waterproof.

Let me know if I can get one for you?

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Old 09 May 2007, 10:49   #8
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Originally Posted by psychopic View Post
Hi all, i'm sure it's been asked before but do you think there is much point to have a VHF if you are within mobile phone coverage?
A mobile phone will allow you to reach one person. A VHF will allow you to reach everyone within range, whether you know them or not.

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Old 09 May 2007, 14:10   #9
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The VHF should always be considered as a major part of the safety equipment and ideally have a fixed and backup hand held unit. Also if you are unfortunate enough to need assistance from the RNLI/CG helicopters etc whilst broadcasting they can direction find you to home in.

It makes my stomach turn when you read Ebay type adverts saying "boat fully loaded and all ready to go, all you need is a mobile phone and you are off..."!!

Like most things you'll only know its true worth when things start to go wrong, or when ordering the Cowes water taxi to get to the pub!
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Old 09 May 2007, 14:15   #10
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A mobile phone is a great backup - put it in a plastic freezer bag and if you go in the drink then you will still have something with you. Obviously a vhf strapped to your lifejacket or stuck on your head would be better but it DOES happen people find themselves in the water with the vhf on the boat and the hand held in a locker or on the dash!!!

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