Originally Posted by geoff
We cruise a lot around the West Coast. I will often call up Clyde Coastguard for a radio check. You can be listening on the radio for a long time before you hear any traffic on any of the frequencies so how else will you know if your radio is working? They always sound happy to help out.
Any comments from members of the coastguard?
I think if you just want to know if your radio is working at the start of your trip, then first choice is to call the local marina (if there is one of course - rare, I know) or another boat on a pre arranged working channel. Even though the airwaves are silent where you are, there could easily be a full scale emergency happening elsewhere that you know not of and the ops room very busy indeed. If you're unsure of coverage in the area you're cruising to, why not give the Coastguard a TR and ask them about it? They generally know the worst areas and they might ask you to help define them more accurately.
Mind you, I speak from my experience of five years working in Oban MRSC ops room - I was on watch on that final day when the station closed :-( . Oban had its own way of doing things and was 'yottie' friendly - not sure about the inland waters based Clyde station these days but there was lots of rivalry then. We occasionally carried out informal surveys of coverage - mainly to try to persuade Spring 'Palace' (CG HQ) to put an aerial on Colonsay which would have solved the significant problems in the Firth of Lorne. Did they listen? What do you think?
It's worth remembering when you cruise the Firth of Lorne, the Isles of the Sea, and the more sheltered Nether Lorne and Sound of Jura, that, if you can raise the alarm, you are about one hour away from help by any means - lifeboat or helicopter, unless there is a nearby vessel capable of assisting. It can be a very long hour.
Most boats that cruise around here regularly - RIBs and sailing boats - are very well equipped and crews prepared to be isolated and self sufficient. And its necessary. The west coast of Jura, full of grandeur on a calm and sunny day, is a daunting and lonely place when the wind picks up and your engine won't start. Believe me, I know. :-)