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Old 24 June 2017, 02:10   #1
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VHF or PLB

Hi.
Think my little handheld is on the way out and looking to replace.
Was thinking what would be best.
A DSC handheld
Or a PLB with either a new battery for my old VHF or a new plain one for 80 or so. I'm in a thundercat so looking for small wearable stuff or something to go in a bag on the boat.
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Old 24 June 2017, 02:21   #2
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VHF, neither is a substitute for the other. For someone in a zapcat presumably not going miles offshore, a VHF would be more useful.
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Old 24 June 2017, 21:13   #3
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Does the PLB have the VHF built in.
I have one for diving which can be used has a vhf but in an emergency i can switch to evac.
I find it not as user friendly has a vhf due to its two buttons only and no display.
http://www.nautiluslifeline.com/radio-support

The PLB I have is not a replacement for vhf on board.

I have a hand held which works very nice and is not that expensive.
It's old so no DSC.
Uniden voyager.
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Old 25 June 2017, 05:31   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lachanpb View Post
Does the PLB have the VHF built in.
I have one for diving which can be used has a vhf but in an emergency i can switch to evac.
I wouldn't describe that Nautilus as a PLB, although technically it will locate you and is personal!

There are several products that fall into these sorts of category and you need to work out what each does, what you might want and try and build a ven diagram to work out which best fits you needs.

Quick summary:

Standard Voice VHF - Cheapest, Waterproof and Floating Options Available. Will transmit line of sight. In theory you might hit a CG mast up to 15NM away with it but add any obstructions and you are probably trying to hit other vessels 3-5NM away, and they can relay or come and help you. With a good Li battery you should get decent battery life. If you get a NiMH one it may come with a battery pack that can also take AA's which could live in a grab bag for when things get messy. Think how you will store it. On the boat or on you? Hint: Will you only ever need it if you are still on the boat.

DSC VHF Does all of the Voice VHF, plus adds DSC. DSC should increase your range in an emergency. It should also make people on boats near you (with DSC) aware there is an important message. In built GPS on the HH units, but if its on all the time it drains battery. If it is off expect a lag while it gets a fix. That 2 minutes while you are trying for a fix will be tense if you are in distress and you'd presumably want to just go to voice. Understand what it does from the manual if no fix received (it may send an old fix. On a boat of your speed I'm not sure how helpful that is - but it depends on your use)

AIS PLB Useful for offshore sailors - for MOB recovery where other rescue services unlikely to be involved and what you want is an up to the second position showing on your plotter. In my opinion this has no use for a Zap Cat - you presumably don't have a plotter. It shouldn't be expected to appear on a CG station plotter (although in the right place it will, and once someone reports you overdue they will find you). It ONLY puts a marker on a screen. There is no voice message etc.

I think there are some AIS come VHF Voice systems coming. Not been paying too much attention as I still don't think for small, short handed boaters its the right solution.

I think these could have a use for divers, much like the Nautilus

Satellite PLB Firstly the Older ones don't have a GPS - so they tell someone you are missing but then the CG gets a 5 mile grid square to search, and it takes 90 minutes to get that much! Modern ones almost all have a GPS unit in built and send the position once its fixed. Its not as quick as you might expect - delays from satellite fix for GPS, satelilite possition to receive signal, antenna angles, then relayed to shore in spain/portugal, then transferred to Falmouth CG then to the local MRCC. Plus a protocol is followed to exclude accidental activations - so they will call your shore contacts etc.

No voice, no selecting a type of incident. So CG knows some brown stuff hit a fan but not what.

Others in area will know nothing of your predicament until CG issues a Mayday Relay.

Diver rescue systems Designed to be waterproof at depth. Designed to allow a diver to surface and call his diver boat and or send an alert. Fairly basic settings to select from. Really designed to talk to dive boat but can call others in range.

- OK thats the 'solutions' -
- So what are the problems -

You might reasonably create a list of things that can go wrong on your boat:

Sinking
Capsize
Collision
Man Overboard
Fire
Mechanical Failure (Fuel, Electrical, Engineering failure)
Medical Emergency

For all but the Mechanical Failure - a Sat PLB could well be appropriate. But remember that the CG don't known what the issue is or what they are looking for. So a helicopter may pluck you from your upturned zap-cat and save you but leave the boat. Or a lifeboat might come to you when a chopper would have been better.

Mechanical Failure is you most likely reason to want help I suspect. The diver rescue system might in theory work for you - but if you ever need to change radio channel I don't think they let you.

Unless you are part of a fleet AIS and someone has a plotter is not going to help.

Assuming you are in range of CG then DSC or Voice would cover all of the above. It would also get the right resource sent.

DSC on a big boat has a lot of logic to me. You are sinking. 5 seconds and its sending. DSC on a handheld - which you can take with you to the water - less obvious if those seconds count. So the advantages are it sends position, it will work if you can't speak, it attracts attention of other stations. If it was Free - it would be a no brainer: if you could be sure about the battery life. I've seen people post here and say the battery life is OK - getting a days sailing out of a DSC with position switched on. I'm the kind of guy who does that then goes out the next day and discovers he left it on overnight... My LiIon Voice only VHF seems to last about 96hours in a cupboard left on by accident

There will be plenty who will say "what price for safety" - but the reality is most people have to make some compromises. Bear in mind there are plenty of people who have sailed across oceans before radios. If you spend all your time saving for the very best safety kit you never get to experience the boat. (Thats not me saying I wouldn't have a VHF though).
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Old 25 June 2017, 13:25   #5
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New vhf with AA batteries and carry spares if buying new no recharging issues
Save for a PLB as soon as
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Old 26 June 2017, 18:15   #6
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If you're in a cove / close to a cliff / long way from coastguard antenna then don't get complacent about a handheld VHF. The range can be lousy - particularly *at* sea level i.e. swimming.
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Old 26 June 2017, 18:19   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShinyShoe View Post

DSC on a big boat has a lot of logic to me. You are sinking. 5 seconds and its sending. DSC on a handheld - which you can take with you to the water - less obvious if those seconds count. So the advantages are it sends position, it will work if you can't speak, it attracts attention of other stations.
I think the key element of DSC is that it sends a data burst to all other vessels in range, and those vessels then will absolutely know about it, rather than a brief mayday that may well not get heard.
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Old 26 June 2017, 18:29   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simonl View Post
I think the key element of DSC is that it sends a data burst to all other vessels in range, and those vessels then will absolutely know about it, rather than a brief mayday that may well not get heard.


There's no doubt that DSC comes into its own in a mayday situation. But for routine traffic it's a faff.
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