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Old 17 November 2008, 19:02   #1
DJL
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Coastguard and VHF Radio

I went to visit Portland Coastguard Ops room today Ė as well as reinforcing a lot of what I already knew, a few interesting points were clarified. So I thought Iíd share some info.
  • Make sure all your paper work is up-to-date. If you donít already have a radio license, ie the piece of paper from Ofcom with your callsign/MMSI number on it, go and apply for it online now Ė itís free. http://www.ofcom.org.uk/licensing/

    If you already have a license make sure the details held by Ofcom are correct and that your MMSI number is programmed into your radio.

    Also, if you havenít already, register your boat on the CG66 register Ė itís free. If you have registered, login and make sure that all the details are up-to-date and you have filled in all the information they request + uploaded a photo. https://mcanet.mcga.gov.uk/public/cg66/login.asp

    Providing all the information above makes the coastguards life much easier and allows them to effect a more efficient rescue. Itís also important that you are issued with a unique call sign/MMSI number and that you provide it when logging passage plans and in distress situations. Itís much easier for them to find all your details on the system using your callsign/MMSI than searching by vessel name. Searching for my boat by name resulted in several pages of search results Ė remember that spellings of names arenít always obvious, in my case it could be bumblebee, bumble bee, bumble-bee. They therefore have to search for ďbumbleĒ to cater for all options, which invariably brings up more results.

    Also, make sure that when youíre filling in your CG66 you provide all the information they ask for. We were shown a Ďtypicalí form which was missing loads of information and described as useless.

  • Passage plans. I know this has been discussed here before. The official standpoint is that the coastguard does nothing with passage reports. If you fail to report in on arrival they wonít come looking for you. They are logged on the system and only used if for example a wife later contacts the coastguard, worried that their husband hasnít arrived home.

  • If you have a DSC radio, use it. We were played some recordings of Mayday and Pan Pan calls Ė actually hearing the mayday/pan pan call in amongst all the other traffic is a feat in itself, let alone deciphering any of the details. By using DSC the coastguard get a nice audible warning as well as your position, assuming your GPS is connected to the radio.

    It also reinforced how well using the standard format for the Mayday/Pan-Pan calls works. Especially the Mayday, Mayday, Mayday or Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan, Pan-Pan bit. It gives everyone time to react and focus in on the transmission.

    Itís also really important to speak clearly, slowly and get all the required information across. Use the radio as much as you can while youíre out boating, so as to become more comfortable using it Ė where you can, use the VHF instead of a mobile to call marinas, harbour masters etc.

  • When giving your position in a Mayday/Pan-Pan call, if you can, give both Lat/Long and general position, ie Poole Harbour entrance. The coastguard like Lat/Long, but itís much easier for other boats to quickly assess whether they can help if you give a general position Ė so give both.

  • If you donít get a reply from the coastguard when calling them Ė wait for a while and try again Ė donít keep constantly calling them. It maybe that they are communicating with another boat at the other side of their area and you canít hear either side of the conversation.

  • Remember, when doing a routine DSC call to the coastguard, once they have acknowledged your DSC call and the radio has tuned to the channel of their choice, you are the one who has to speak first. Donít wait for them to call you.

Its all stuff that's taught on the VHF and other practical courses, but its always worth remembering.
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Old 17 November 2008, 20:32   #2
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Thanks for the info.

I checked my details on the MCGA website and updated a few things. Not least the photo of my RIB as for whatever reson the old one wasn't there.
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Old 17 November 2008, 20:34   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DJL View Post
....Itís also really important to speak clearly, slowly and get all the required information across.
I'll second that and add...DON'T SHOUT INTO THE MIC, please.
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Old 18 November 2008, 10:54   #4
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excellent information DJL.
have now registered and filled in the CG66 form and updated myself with Ofcom.

cheers Lewy
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Old 18 November 2008, 11:36   #5
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Quote:
When giving your position in a Mayday/Pan-Pan call, if you can, give both Lat/Long and general position, ie Poole Harbour entrance. The coastguard like Lat/Long, but itís much easier for other boats to quickly assess whether they can help if you give a general position Ė so give both.

Thanks for this one.

I often hear requests for assistance, but don't always manage to jot down lat/long numbers as they're relayed. In case I do miss them, having a general area goes a long ways in determining if I can respond faster than the CG can scramble their boats and arrive on scene.

BTW, it's also good to have something handy to write those things down. I have what is basically a dive slate on the console, with a pencil velcroed to it. Comes in handy on occasion.

OTOH, many of the requests are from boaters without GPS. Often they use odd, non-standard location names (i.e. fishing spots or whatever.) If you need to relay your position without coord's, make sure you use standard names that can be found on charts. "Rockfish Ridge" may be known to you and your friends, but probably not anyone else in a position to help.

And I agree with the not shouting into the mic. [One of my boating/dive buddies tends to do this when she gets excited. All that I hear is a high pitched noise with a bunch of popping.] Talk normally, perhaps a bit slowly, with the mic an inch or so away from your lips and it'll get through fine.

jky
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Old 18 November 2008, 11:46   #6
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I noticed with my updated GPS that when a DSC Mayday is put out, that the position and Long Lat are displayed on my plotter. I guess this is pretty standard, but my old one didn't have this feature.

With a voice May Day might it be a good Idea not only to give Lat/Long and description with a distance and bearing from a known feature, to give a general aproximation of where you are too? ie: South of the IOW or South of Brighton Etc? It might well assist those wanting to help to quickly determine whether they can help or not that either haven't managed to get the Lat/Long down or know where the feature is.
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Old 18 November 2008, 11:56   #7
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I'd suggest that in a full on 'real' emergency being calm enough to read out LAt/ Long is a big ask . A general location - 2miles SE lymington etc 'should' let the right people start to get towards you & then more specific info can be asked for by the CG.

I've never had to do it for real myself , but again oftern hear calls fro mCG asking if anyone can assisit in the local area. If I hear the call & I am close enough to think I can be any help I have always called & assited, even on one occasion just taking over radio from a passing yacht who was trying to sail in circles ( single handed) to stay close enough to a boat to hear them shout to him !
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