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Old 21 September 2006, 16:28   #1
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Cruising in remote areas

I was cruising around the west coast of the Isle of Jura earlier this week. It is an amazing place but it felt very remote. The worry was that I was not convinced that a VHF would reach a coastguard aerial and there was no mobile reception, and as far as I could see, no other boats in the area. Potentially the only way of raising help if it had been required would have been an EPIRB. Any suggestions as to the best type of EPIRB/alternative for this type of cruising.
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Old 21 September 2006, 16:48   #2
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SSB radio or an essex girl
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Old 21 September 2006, 17:09   #3
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Originally Posted by Paul
.. Potentially the only way of raising help if it had been required would have been an EPIRB.
Can't help with the EPIRB but a Sat phone would work. You might have found you were able to contact Clyde CG. If you're not sure, you can ask for a radio check to give you peace of mind....or not.
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Old 21 September 2006, 17:19   #4
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I was thinking about a radio check but on my VHF course I was told that the coastguard were not too keen on such calls in the "real world."
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Old 21 September 2006, 17:25   #5
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Originally Posted by Paul
I was thinking about a radio check but on my VHF course I was told that the coastguard were not too keen on such calls in the "real world."
That probably depends where you are and where you're going. A busy weekend in the Solent and I should think they get pretty fed up with incessant radio checks from boats that only need to wave at another one to get assistance.

Equally, if you're in a remote area, you can always post a passage plan with the coastguard before you go and let them know when you return (and DO let them know!)
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Old 21 September 2006, 17:29   #6
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Fair point
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Old 21 September 2006, 17:32   #7
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I was thinking about a radio check but on my VHF course I was told that the coastguard were not too keen on such calls in the "real world."
I don't know about that. I've done it a few times and they've been fine. I've even been asked where I am so they had an idea of coverage. In some areas the coasties are not particularly busy. Listen first on 16 and 67, if it's quiet, you're either out of range or they are not too busy.
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Old 21 September 2006, 17:41   #8
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Thanks for the info, will give it a go. The only thing that I have noticed is that if there is a big mountain in the way of the Torosay coastguard transmitter the radio goes quiet,
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Old 21 September 2006, 18:53   #9
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It's not just really remote areas that are the problem. There are places along the South Wales coast where there is no VHF or mobile phone signal.

Sat phones are the answer - as cheap as an EPIRB but more versatile - you can bhe talked through probs by a doctor for example. Look on EBAY - sat phones for less than 300 - you can get prepaid cards to use with them.
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Old 21 September 2006, 19:29   #10
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I can see the sat phone argument but in fairness though epirbs do have some advantages over sat phones:

(1) ability to automatically transmit position
(2) waterproof
(3) ability (depending on model) to be automatically triggered on sinking
(4) ability to provide a homing signal (on 121.5MHz) for the SAR units to find you
(5) likely to work over much wider temperature range
(6) battery won't be flat (if you service it) - because you used it to call someone earlier in the day

but obviously they are one way only, and give no idea of distress. Non-GPS models may have a delay in getting a response, and you can't use it to call home!
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Old 21 September 2006, 23:26   #11
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Fortunately never been in the position to use either in a distress situation but having listened to people who have - for example Alan Priddy - then I would choose the sat phone first - just make sure it's waterproof or kept in a plastic bag.
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Old 22 September 2006, 05:25   #12
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Radio Check

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?
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Old 22 September 2006, 07:38   #13
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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. :-)

Cheers Tony
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Old 23 September 2006, 14:51   #14
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Very useful information. I carry a liferaft, DSC VHF, a handhed VHF, flares (and a mobile for what its worth). Is there anything else I should have if I cruise in these areas or are they out of bounds solo. I would also be interested to know the poor coverage areas as I cruise these waters 4-5 times a year.
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Old 24 September 2006, 04:36   #15
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We do a lot of cruising around the Inner Hebrides (Rum Eigg and Muck) and carry a sea anchor. I have never had to use it fortunately but if you were out in rough sea with engine failure and no back-up it would keep you head to sea.
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Old 24 September 2006, 06:04   #16
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The EPIRB is a one way device.so I guess that means the helicopter or nothing, bit harsh for an engine problem. I would recomend carrying an EPIRB but as a last resort of communication not the first.

VHF DSC (GMDSS) wouldn't that relay to the nearest DSC set, do you think there might be a commercial vessel within 8 miles or so that could pick it up.

I agree the CG can be a bit busy but I would think in your areas they would olty be to happy to establish comms during your Journey, you could arrange to have a check in with the CG at the remotest part as part of the filing of your passage plan. while you're at it look in the Almanac and find the CG's working channel they are always a lot happier to talk on that channel. you could also give em a call (no not on 999) and ask them their views on comms in that area. They are there to help as well as enforce and they definitely inclined to prevent aproblem rather than cure

Sat phones cool and groovy and they work and I think you can rent em by the day
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Old 24 September 2006, 06:46   #17
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...you could arrange to have a check in with the CG at the remotest part as part of the filing of your passage plan.
Ben, you'd need to be sure that your arranged call would not coincide with a reception shadow area. It might be a bit tricky if you've not got prior experience of the area you're boating in. And you wouldn't want the Coasties to think you'd sunk because you were unable to call in.

By chance, this morning I was reading the article in the latest RYA magazine concerned with EPIRB's and PLB's. I appears the the PLB has become equivalent in sophistication to the EPIRB. The ones with a built in GPS appear to give a position accuracy of about 0.1miles. At least, with one of these, the emergency service will be looking for you rather than your boat.
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Old 24 September 2006, 15:24   #18
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2's not a crowd.

When we were up there in July, we chose to cruise in company and having a second rib along made for big....big......smiles in the peace of mind stakes. We had excellent weather when we were up and i'd hate to think what it could be like in a howling wind when the seas are up and the lights fading, even if the boat is performing 100%. I'll go with your comment that it can be a very lonely place - isnt there a chance of a buddy to take a second boat out?
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Old 24 September 2006, 16:42   #19
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I agree that it is reassuring (possibly falsely) and good fun to have two boats cruising in company but to play the devil's advocate I would suggest that two boats doubles the chance of a technical problem with one of them eg engine failure. If there was such a problem and the seas were calm then granted you could tow the other boat home but if you happened to be on your own you are not in a life threatening situation.

If you are cruising in company in heavy seas and one boat fails then that boat becomes a liability as people will be reluctant to abandon it. Further, having two boats does not improve your chances of alerting the coastguard unless one of the boats has suffered an electronic failure.
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Old 25 September 2006, 12:02   #20
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I agree that it is reassuring (possibly falsely) and good fun to have two boats cruising in company but to play the devil's advocate I would suggest that two boats doubles the chance of a technical problem with one of them eg engine failure. If there was such a problem and the seas were calm then granted you could tow the other boat home but if you happened to be on your own you are not in a life threatening situation.

If you are cruising in company in heavy seas and one boat fails then that boat becomes a liability as people will be reluctant to abandon it. Further, having two boats does not improve your chances of alerting the coastguard unless one of the boats has suffered an electronic failure.
Technically - yes.

But having 2 boats - the chances of both going wrong at the same time are slim. If one goes u/s and/or the unthinkable happens, if there are 2 boats, you could probably get everyone onto one boat, and get somewhere instead of bobbing around in a liferaft and hoping to get a signal with a handheld!! Your options are multiplied with more than one boat. It has to be safer.

D...
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