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Old 24 February 2019, 08:02   #1
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VHS legal small RiB

OK - sorry for the idiot questions but slightly playing catch up.

Background is took my VHF cert of comp many years ago - did include GMDSS (although quite new at time!) since then either been on other peopleís larger boats or in kayaks. For latter have been using old non DSC radio - which I am pleased to say has never been used for anything other than the occasional radio check and listening out for regular safety/weather updates.

This year moving to small RiB (sub 3m) - so still only going to be looking at portable unit - letís face it I will either be incident such as engine failure or I (solo) have fallen off the back of boat. In the latter a mobile unit on me more useful!

What I am thinking of is whether to replace old unit with VHF/DSC? Just because when bobbing about with head barely out water not convinced how effective voice coms are - also range of low power unit at wave height.
Been re-reading - with non fixed unit do I need a ships licence? Is a 2.75m open boat too small for one anyway (canít find any details on Ofcom website)? The problem is at the time of the course - and most of books all written assuming you are in a taught with chart table below!
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Old 24 February 2019, 09:20   #2
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VHS legal small RiB

Yes, if you have a fixed VHF on a boat of any size, you require a ships licence. Itís free & can be done online.
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Old 24 February 2019, 09:50   #3
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If you are getting a handhel DSC unit then you still need a licence but there is a specific one for handhelds. Free and easy on the ofcom website
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Old 24 February 2019, 11:52   #4
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I would suggest a better investment of 200 odd quid to upgrade to a DSC handheld from non DSC would be better spent on a PLB like this one:

https://www.marinesuperstore.com/saf...1-with-gps-plb

DSC absolutely is a useful element in an emergency, but is hugely limited to other boats or shore stations picking up and responding to your DSC alert (I wonder how many leisure boaters actually know what to do on picking up a distress DSC alert, and indeed how many would actually do anything). On a handheld unit you're limited to 5 watts of transmission power which isn't very much and very much limits the effectiveness of the system (DSC was a nice idea when originally thought out, in reality it is seldom used for the purpose it was originally designed for).

A PLB attached to your lifejacket will send your GPS position to the coastguard; they respond to every transmission so you are much more likely (in my opinion) to be sure of receiving assistance. Of course you could buy both and be totally covered!

PS. In any case, sounds like you may need to re-do your VHF Short Range Certificate. Easy enough to book onto an RYA course and get the right paperwork and knowledge of how to use it correctly just in case the worst does happen!

PPS. You'll also need a ships radio licence for the boat which covers your radio, or a portable radio licence which covers just the radio (and can be used on any boat). All available free for instant download/print off from the Ofcom website.
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Old 24 February 2019, 12:27   #5
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I guess, it depends whether you are looking for:
a) a communication device to contact Coastquard, harbour authorities or to alert arrange of potential issues - engine failure etc...
b) a pure distress alert / location beacon

Even if b) I'd suggest a comms device to communicate with the rescue services once alerted would be useful.

May be better off keeping the non-DCS handheld (still need a licence free from Ofcom, as others have said), but invest also in a PLB, instead of new DSC handheld so if you do go overboard you can initiate your location.
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Old 24 February 2019, 12:45   #6
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Recently a friend of mine had to respond to a single handed sailor who had a handheld VHF and fell overboard near Coverack in Cornwall. He could not raise Falmouth Coastguard which was about 3 miles away. My friend acted as a relay for him to the Coastguard. It gfoes to show that a VHF has very limited range (and that includes any DSC distress call) when one is in the water.

A satellite based PLB may be the best option.

The incident is documented at the end of an article in February's Practical Boat Owner magazine, regarding fishing nets being wrapped around props.

The skipper, David, was having a bad few days, but the sailor did get rescued!
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Old 24 February 2019, 12:55   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobg View Post
Recently a friend of mine had to respond to a single handed sailor who had a handheld VHF and fell overboard near Coverack in Cornwall. He could not raise Falmouth Coastguard which was about 3 miles away. My friend acted as a relay for him to the Coastguard. It gfoes to show that a VHF has very limited range (and that includes any DSC distress call) when one is in the water.

A satellite based PLB may be the best option.

The incident is documented at the end of an article in February's Practical Boat Owner magazine, regarding fishing nets being wrapped around props.

The skipper, David, was having a bad few days, but the sailor did get rescued!
Thanks that was just the issue I was thinking about
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Old 24 February 2019, 13:48   #8
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I agree up grade to PLB first for when the s--t hits the fan fixed to lifejacket along with the handheld VHF you have.
Suggest the coast guard 66 scheme to registrar your boat and safety kit too helps to find you easer
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Old 24 February 2019, 16:15   #9
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Originally Posted by jeffstevens763@g View Post
Suggest the coast guard 66 scheme to registrar your boat and safety kit too helps to find you easer
They've replaced CG66 with the new "Safetrax" app.
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Old 24 February 2019, 16:29   #10
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VHF rules and regs are mainly based on larger vessels face it on sub 3m open boat under anything but perfect conditions vhf relay is going to be really tough. The advantage of vhf over a PLB is the boat 1 mile away will hear your call where the PLB won’t....ideally carry both... however note a dsc vhf needs an MMSI to function...
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Old 24 February 2019, 17:18   #11
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They've replaced CG66 with the new "Safetrax" app.
I updated mine early last year is that recent Tim
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Old 24 February 2019, 17:37   #12
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Quote:
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On a handheld unit you're limited to 5 watts of transmission power which isn't very much and very much limits the effectiveness of the system
You've been around here and boats long enough to presumably know that:
  • there are 6W H/Held radios around
  • the power isn't the limiting factor for a h/held - it is the height of the antenna
However your general point that range is not great is valid, and for someone with a functioning H/Held VHF, a PLB may be a better "addition" that the DSC "upgrade".
Quote:
(DSC was a nice idea when originally thought out, in reality it is seldom used for the purpose it was originally designed for).
Probably true that mobile phones have usurped a lot of the anticipated need for DSC, but I do have much more confidence in my crew correctly following the hit red button approach than voice comms in the panic situation that my incapacitation would surely bring.

Quote:
In any case, sounds like you may need to re-do your VHF Short Range Certificate.
does it?

Quote:
A PLB attached to your lifejacket will send your GPS position to the coastguard;
eventually! the time from magic button to someone in the "local" ops room getting it is considerably longer for a PLB than a DSC.

Quote:
they respond to every transmission so you are much more likely (in my opinion) to be sure of receiving assistance.
To be clear to the unaware, by "respond", Tim means investigate, not that the person in distress gets any direct feedback (which means you have no idea if the signal did or did not reach someone). They also won't necessarily send the cavalry to every alert immediately, they are likely to make some phone calls to see if it could be a mistake, put out a VHF call to you (or others in the area)...

They also of course respond to every DSC distress message they get too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob57 View Post
.with non fixed unit do I need a ships licence? Is a 2.75m open boat too small for one anyway (canít find any details on Ofcom website)?
If you mean is a 2.75m boat too small for a fixed VHF then technically no - you could fit one if you have a battery and either use a stubby aerial or mount a long aerial on a pole*. The former will have no better range than a handheld though. Personally though, in your shoes I would be following the others advice and going PLB. If they haven't convinced you enough then keep in mind that the battery life of DSC radios is much worse than their simpler cousins.

(*I get a massive improvement in range/quality from a roughly 1m aerial on a pole about 2m above the deck compared to a h/held being used sitting on the "tubes".)
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Old 24 February 2019, 19:13   #13
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In an emergency situation it is not illegal for anyone to use a vhf radio, licensed or not. In my 41 years of owning boats, working on comercial vessels, being a marine rescue volunteer etc I have never heard of one single person being asked to provide proof of a radio operators licence both here and the majority of my life in the UK. My state here alone has over 250,000 registered boat owners ( not all vessels need registration).

Personaly I have an operators licence as it was part of a comercial operators licence, I don't know of anyone recreational that has bothered this side of the pond to get a licence. Most vessels heading offshore here log on with marine rescue groups stating how many people onboard, location heading, boat rego details and return time, anything between 200-400boats per day locally.

Plb's are not considered as good an option as epirbs and don't meet the legal requirements we have to carry when heading offshore, I know they are popular in the UK but there are reasons why they don't meet safety boating standards. I carry an epirb plus plb only because I own a plb for remote inland hiking trips, where they are recommended for use.

Another item you might consider simply because epirbs and plb's are considered to only be used as a last resort in emergency situations is something like a Garmin inreach, or inreach mini. These have two way messaging which is far better to simply ask for a tow back to shore rather than the full response of life boats and aircraft from plb or epirb activation. The Garmin inreach does have a full dedicated emergency button which works simular to the other beacons in notifying full emergency services. These may seem expensive but they do have the ability to do two way communication anywhere on the plannet and are able to used over and over again.
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