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Old 08 October 2005, 15:38   #1
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VHF Course

Just done my VHF course at Saltash college, great instructor, lifelong mariner, his dad was a Captain, done Fastnet, transatlantic etc. etc. Real mine of nautical information and a nice friendly teaching style

But - we used the PC simulators, which at first glance looked great but in use often malfunctioned and after about 10 mins left me wondering if I was still learning. End result I'm now VHF qualified but without ever speaking into a radio or even touching one!
So yes learnt plenty (the course was 1 1/2 days) but hands on radio experience would have been better!
Kernow
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Old 08 October 2005, 16:09   #2
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Just done mine - we used REAL radios(simrad) and the bloke who ran it was a coastguard.

Course was 1 day and was very good BUT way too much stuff on DSC and not enough real radio speak.

We were lucky in that one of the people on the course was a fisherman who had been caught so HAD to get a licence!!! He confirmed all I have read about DSC being a waste of time and that people just turn it off as the alarms keep going off. The only reason they keep pushing it is to reduce manpower!!!

The protocol is also rather silly - in a distress situation how many people will be able to read out an MMSI number - half the people on the course couldn't even SAY MMSI without getting muddled!!! Also what are the chances of hearing such a long number if the reception is bad???

The coastguard privately felt the same but of course he had to stick to the syllabus.

It definitely helped using real radios instead of pc sims though.

Did you find there were some people on your course who had no intention of going to sea??? About half our class fell into that category - think they were doing courses just for fun as they weren't paying!!!
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Old 08 October 2005, 16:35   #3
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Codders,
I know what you mean the course certainly assumed DSC usage. Happily all on the course were boat users, 3 or 4 of them were also doing Yachtmaster courses together.
I'm now going to acquire a DSC set, to my way of thinking a set that can send out a distress message for me and give my position at the same time all by pressing the same button twice is a big step forward, not sure what you mean about reading out the MMSI no's in a distress situation, surely it does that for you?
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Old 08 October 2005, 18:17   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kernow
Codders,
I know what you mean the course certainly assumed DSC usage. Happily all on the course were boat users, 3 or 4 of them were also doing Yachtmaster courses together.
I'm now going to acquire a DSC set, to my way of thinking a set that can send out a distress message for me and give my position at the same time all by pressing the same button twice is a big step forward, not sure what you mean about reading out the MMSI no's in a distress situation, surely it does that for you?
Regards
Kernow

Well unless we did different courses.....

The NEW proper procedure is to say mayday 3 times followed by vessel's name etc as before - but now you are also SUPPOSED to say - "my MMSI number is 123456789 etc" apparently this is to confirm who you are if there are mulitple shouts going on!!!

Personally if the situation was that urgent I would hit the red button and sod the rest!!!
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Old 08 October 2005, 18:29   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by codprawn
Well unless we did different courses.....

The NEW proper procedure is to say mayday 3 times followed by vessel's name etc as before - but now you are also SUPPOSED to say - "my MMSI number is 123456789 etc" apparently this is to confirm who you are if there are mulitple shouts going on!!!

Personally if the situation was that urgent I would hit the red button and sod the rest!!!
This is really a two part issue.

The sending of the DSC Distress Alert (Don't forget that DSC can also be used for routing calling) only lets stations that have DSC capabilities know of your situation. Therefore, it is important to send your Distress message out on channel 16, so that vessels without DSC (who might be able to respond) are aware of the situation. Also, the Position information sent in that digital burst does not have a high degree of accuracy, as it covers a square nautical mile. So, when you transmit your distress message on 16, you can give your position to a far greater degree of accuracy (remember, strictly speaking it is Lat and Long, or bearing from a known object) than the digital burst, and you can drop in far more information about the type of vessel you are on, number of people on board, what action you are taking etc.

Secondly, if you bang off a DSC Distress Alert, and follow it up with your voice call, without including your MMSI, who is to know that the 2 are one and the same, and that there aren't 2 distress situations ongoing? Including your MMSI is how the controlling station can tie in your voice call with the DSC alert they will have recieved.

I agree with the comment than in some distress scenarios you will do whatever you can, however it is important to understand the reasoning and advantages of following the procedure, as it might just help you out! No CG will refuse to attend a mayday because you got the call in the wrong order, but they like to know all the information for a reason, and that's why we practice in a classroom, and do the course!

If anybody wants one, I have some handy MCA stickers which you can fill in all your boat details on (including MMSI) and stick them near your radio for easy reference. They also include the preffered Mayday call format, so that you don't even have to think about it. Just pm me your address, and I'll sort it all out (although there better not be many of you after one, or I'll be bankrupt through stamps and envelopes!)
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Old 08 October 2005, 18:48   #6
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Did mine about ten years ago, it was so funny I ached with laughter. The group fell into roughly two catagories, yachtie wives afraid that the old man might have a heart attack and would have to radio for help and knackered old fishermen who'd been pulled up by the licensing authorities for not having a license. and me. We had a morning of theory, lunch then hit the simulated radio conversation in the afternoon before the exam. The cox of the Falmouth lifeboat was the teacher and examinor. The fishermen consisted of an old boy in his early sixties whom had been fishing for ever and his early 30's crewmate. The old boy had probably barely ever been to school in his life but had plenty of CB experience. The prob was whenever he keyed the mike, out would spurt a heap of "10-4 good buddies"! He couldn't stop himself. The scenario that he was given was a yacht in distress radioing Brixham coastguard. He was giving it "Yeah, come on back Brixham coastguard"! I was pissing myself! I had to leave the classroom twice to try and pull myself together. I buried my face in my lunchbox,I tried everything to stop shaking with laughter. The 30 something crewmate looked as if he was going to kick the crap out of me. The lifeboat cox was getting more and more fustrated with the old boy which was making him worse.Funnily enough we all managed to pass.
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Old 09 October 2005, 05:05   #7
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Kernow

Some interesting points you made.

The RYA are actively encouraging schools to use "live radio" simulators in place of or along side the software.
The over all feeling is that the software is great but students need to "play" with real radio's.

They are suggesting that it is ok to run with PC's and radio's but would prefer schools not to run PC only.
They are happy for you to run real radio simulators only.

Not just because we make them but I fell learning and using real radio's is the only way to go.
There are a huge number of people who have never used a radio before when them come on a course and one of the biggest fears is picking up a mic pushing the PPT and talking into it.

My suggestion to anyone looking to take the SRC course is to ask if they have live radio simulators before signing up.
By live radio's I mean specially modified marine DSC radio's not just walkie talkies!

A number of manufactures make these now not just us and Simrad.
At the moment, I think, we are they only company that will supply you, as a school, direct and not supply through a dealer.

Regards
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Old 09 October 2005, 06:21   #8
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very interesting. Thanks Jon.
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Old 09 October 2005, 08:03   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimbo
Secondly, if you bang off a DSC Distress Alert, and follow it up with your voice call, without including your MMSI, who is to know that the 2 are one and the same, and that there aren't 2 distress situations ongoing? Including your MMSI is how the controlling station can tie in your voice call with the DSC alert they will have recieved.
It's funny you should say that but HMCG should quickly and easily be able to tie the two up in about a second. That is why MCA is supplied with the details form the Ship Radio Licensing database. On receipt of the DSC alert they can identify all the boat details from it (including Callsign, type of vessel, tonnage, max possible persons on board, owner details, Emergency Contact ashore details, EPIRB Hex IDs etc etc).

I did raise questions when the MMSI was inserted into the RT procedure but no one seemed to understand the possible issues of a nine digit number being recited in an Emergency as it's not like rattling off your phone number.

Mike
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Old 09 October 2005, 08:54   #10
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Quote:
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It's funny you should say that but HMCG should quickly and easily be able to tie the two up in about a second.
How?

I was told the same thing - the CG can't/won't/shouldn't treat a DSC distress and the voice distress call as one and the same thing - just incase there are two emergencies at the same time in a similar area. I was told that the only way to tie them up was if the voice call specificially identified themselves as the same DSC number - hence why it is in the 'new' mayday call procedure.

It does sound a bit weird - but that's what I was told.........



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