Hand-held VHF - Various questions

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HarryWats0n
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Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by HarryWats0n » Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:16 pm

Should you bother with dsc?
Which model/ brands to people reccomend?
What range approximately would I get from one?
What call sign would you use from a kayak?
How long does the battery last?


I think thats everything, thanks.

action_girl72
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by action_girl72 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 5:31 pm

HarryWats0n wrote:Should you bother with dsc?
If you can afford it why not? I bought a car that came with ABS once I could afford one, it offers me a better margin of safety
HarryWats0n wrote:Which model/ brands to people reccomend?
Standard Horizon have been getting good reviews, Icom not so good reviews, search the forum.
HarryWats0n wrote:What range approximately would I get from one?
Depends on the model (different power levels), atmospheric conditions, height of cliffs.
HarryWats0n wrote:What call sign would you use from a kayak?
Sea Kayak Harry?? Capella 1 ? Nordkapp 1? Broadsword? Danny Boy?
HarryWats0n wrote:How long does the battery last?
Again A lot of variables, different models, different power levels, different temperatures, how long you spend talking, how long you spend with it on receive....

HarryWats0n wrote:I think thats everything, thanks.
You're welcome.
;-)
X

Owen
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by Owen » Sat Nov 20, 2010 6:34 pm

If you know lots of people also with DSC sets and you also know their numbers then you can call them using the DSC bit. This will alert them to your call and display which channel to use. If you press the red panic button it will set of the alarm of anyone within range. The problem is a handheld has a range of 4 - 8km at best, that's a lot of money for no one to hear your call.

stewh
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by stewh » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:11 pm

I would agree with most of Action Girl's answers, but not the one about power. A difference of a couple of watts has no significant effect. You need to quadruple the transmitted power, i.e. 6Db, to improve reception by one S-point (1 bar or dot on the screen)at the receiver.
The best way to increase effective range is to use a more efficient antenna instead of the very inefficient rubber duck antenna usually supplied with the radio, and to get it higher. At VHF frequencies every time you double the height of the antenna you get an apparent gain of 6DB, i.e. four times the power.
So, buy or make a full-length quarter- wave whip antenna, and get it as high up as you possibly can. If you can safely stand-up, e.g. when rafted-up, that will make a big difference. You could also carry a fibre glass Marine VHF whip + coax. cable, strapped down somewhere on deck, and deploy it if necessary. You could attach it to one end of your paddle with Duct tape to get it even higher.
Propagation enhancements due to weather conditions can not be relied on, so forget that one as well.


Regards, Stewart

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:51 pm

VHF for local chat
EPIRB/PLB for distress
DSC on a handheld is a waste of money, ABS is different, like a PLB it works.

Douglas

MattB
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by MattB » Sat Nov 20, 2010 7:56 pm

DSC might be a waste of money, but it might also save your life.

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:10 pm

Matt, A PLB is much more likely to save your life. I think DSC on a handheld anywhere there is dodgy VHF reception is just going to give a false sense of security and raise false hope. Handheld PLBs have been demonstrated to save lives all over the world and can now be bought for just over £200. Couple that with an £80 non DSC handheld VHF and for under £300 you have a great combination. Also what are you going to do when your VHF radio battery is flat? A PLB battery is always charged waiting for an emergency.
Douglas

ian johnston
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by ian johnston » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:12 pm

Hi Harry,

I Agree with Douglas' points above. VHF is a very useful medium for local chat, intership communication and weather forecasts. PLB or preferably an EPIRB for distress situations. They work, period. (I'm slightly wary of "PLB's" which rely on a subscription service)

DSC is fine for base stations and mandatory for most professional applications (I'm a maritime Comms officer and use it a lot) but fiddly and of limited use on a handheld. You will also need to get a T-number or MMSI for the set. Just about everybody still listens to channel 16 as its the Calling & Distress channel as well as monitoring channel 70 for DSC alerting.

As has been mentioned above, there are many variables in play when considering what sort of range and battery life you'll get.

As for callsigns; if your boat has a name, use that. If not you'll have to think up something else. You'll need a licence for non-distress use (search the forum and the Almanac for lots of info on this), and you should register with OFCOM - it's free. Also very well worthwhile registering your boat on the MCA small boat scheme (CG66).

Just to redress the balance on manufacturers (and I know that Douglas amongst others has had issues with Icom battery connections) - I've found Icom equipment to be very good. Of the many makes of VHF handheld I've looked after at sea, they seem to outlast most. The battery connection issue seems (hopefully) to have been resolved in newer models. I bought an Icom on the strength of my experience with them at sea in a constant working environment. Standard Horizon are getting good review, Motorola can be very hit and miss depending on model, NIROS are expensive for the recreational user.

Hope this helps

Ian

tg
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by tg » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:40 pm

Do you need a license for EPIRB?

By the way I bought a Midland Pacific and it packed up pretty quickly, because it got WET!

Tim
"I sink therfore I am".

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:54 pm

Hello Tim , in the EPIRB box there is a form to register it with the MCAwho then send you a sticker for the back of it to confirm registration. You register things like contct details, vessel type, vessel name callsign etc.
Douglas

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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by Summit to Sea » Sat Nov 20, 2010 9:08 pm

As Douglas said, you need to register your EPIRB with OfCOM.

We've just started to stock the McMurdo Fastfind 210 EPIRB. We're probably not the cheapest place to buy it, but we've squeezed the price as far as we can and if you buy direct (just give us a call/email rather than through our ebay shop), we'll supply these delivered to anywhere in the UK for £212.

To follow the car analogy a little further, my own opinion on these is that they're fully comprehensive car insurance and breakdown cover rolled into one. Nice to have in an accident or emergency, but you hope never to make a claim.

Pete

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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by tg » Sat Nov 20, 2010 9:20 pm

Thanks Douglas, thanks Pete,

I bought the handheld for emergencies and somehow never got round to doing the course although I am familiar with their use. So an EPIRB might be the right thing for me. I have my moby for inshore and the areas where I am more likely to meet traffic.

Tim
"I sink therfore I am".

sleepybubble
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by sleepybubble » Sat Nov 20, 2010 9:36 pm

tg wrote:Do you need a license for EPIRB?

By the way I bought a Midland Pacific and it packed up pretty quickly, because it got WET!

Tim
you might want to consider sending that back under Warranty, I have a Midland Pacific because it was affordable (okay Cheap!) and it has been fine. It gets wet very very regularly and has never ever had any water inside it.

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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by tg » Sat Nov 20, 2010 9:40 pm

sleepybubble,

I've considered it! I probably will! But would I trust another one... probably not!

Tim
"I sink therfore I am".

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nickcrowhurst
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by nickcrowhurst » Sat Nov 20, 2010 11:29 pm

Douglas Wilcox wrote:VHF for local chat
EPIRB/PLB for distress
DSC on a handheld is a waste of money, ABS is different, like a PLB it works. Douglas
I totally agree with Douglas. My PLB Fastfind Plus (get the GPS position transmitting version) fits in a small hidden pocket in my PFD. I carry it on the sea and on white water rivers. I show it to my paddling partners before each trip and remind them how to operate it. It's just superb, and the cost is less than a decent paddle. I have another PLB in the USA for exploring the Gulf of Mexico, and one in the UK. My Standard Horizon VHF is very very good, and great value, but because of the inherent nature of VHF I rarely get a reply on it. To rely on it in an emergency would be hopeless where I paddle.
It's just remarkable that for 200 pounds I can press a button anywhere in the world, and someone knows I'm in trouble, my name and contact details, my position within a few yards, and a rescue is initiated. It even transmits a VHF homing signal so that rescuers can home in on me using VHF. When a new glass sea kayak, paddle, deck, dyrsuit etc, etc can cost over 3000 pounds, a "get-out-of jail-card" for 200 is extraordinary.
Nick.

bastonjock
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by bastonjock » Sun Nov 21, 2010 5:07 am

i did my RYA VHF radio course a couple of years ago and from what i gathered,all new VHf radios have to have dsc,the old style radios are being phased out.I never rely on one safety device,i carry on my person,a VHF handheld,an Epirb,a safety knife,One set of flares and a strobe,this is backed up by a spare battery pack,i also have a clear plastic hood that covers my face and chest,cold water being blasted into your eyes and face will wear your resolve down very quickly.No single safety device is bomb proof,VHF radios,Epribs and flares have all been known to fail.

if you are going into the water,you do not have time to grab anything,otherwise you would grab your Kayak or hand rail in the case of sailing

I did a test of my gear in a harbour in a controlled situation,i did not fire off any flares or epirps etc but i made sure that i could get my hands on them and to be able to use them,incidentally my Icom vhf was lost as it had floated out of my pocket,so i made sure that the next one had a lanyard attached to it

covering your face against the cold salty spray is very important IMHO,the salty spray burns your eyes and makes it very difficult to see

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MikeB
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by MikeB » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:15 pm

bastonjock wrote:I did my RYA VHF radio course a couple of years ago and from what I gathered,all new VHf radios have to have dsc,the old style radios are being phased out.
Not strictly the case. SOLAS ships (over 300 tonnes / 12 + passengers) are now required to have GMDSS (which include DSC), but it's still a voluntary fit to all other craft. While most (if not all) the fixed base sets available are GMDSS / DSC there's very few hand-held DSC sets available which have been approved for use in UK waters.

But like bastonjock, I got the same impression when I did my course, and that was way back - - the problem is these courses are run mainly for yaucties and are predicated to teaching DSC users how to press the red button, while also covering the requirements for actually using a VHF set generally.

All that said, why not have a DSC hand-held if you want - just don't rely on it as your primary means of calling for help, for the reasons mentioned. If I was buying one today, I'd certainly consider the extra added functionality as a useful feature while not wanting to rely on it in the way I would an EPIRB or PLB.

Mike.

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TechnoEngineer
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by TechnoEngineer » Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:26 pm

bastonjock wrote:I also have a clear plastic hood that covers my face and chest
Sounds interesting - what's the make and model?
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by Owen » Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:47 pm

TechnoEngineer wrote:
bastonjock wrote:I also have a clear plastic hood that covers my face and chest
Sounds interesting - what's the make and model?
http://www.marinesuperstore.com/posit/s ... rtno=12692

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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by mick m » Mon Nov 22, 2010 8:44 pm

the most relivant safty featur of a hand held is the ability to talk to resque helecopters when ther overhead , after thayfolow your eperb signal , in a wild sea wer still hard to see even from the air, hear on Bass Strait , Australia we have a good cuvarige of VHF , I can reseave wether forcasts from most places , but not transmit well, the coast gard now have a brilant digatal repeter sistem set up , dont ask me how it works its all smoak and mirors to me . dse is good om shps but not so good on hand held.

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Jim
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by Jim » Mon Nov 22, 2010 8:58 pm

bastonjock wrote:I did my RYA VHF radio course a couple of years ago and from what I gathered,all new VHf radios have to have dsc,
Fixed sets maybe but I'm fairly sure there is no intention to do the same with portables. In the wider commercial sense, portable VHF is used to communicate from one end of a ship to the bridge, from a rescue boat to the bridge etc. There is no reason any vessel would need more than one DSC equipped set, yet lots of reasons for a vessel to have a secondary portable set.

DSC is about a lot more than the distress button, but I certainly wouldn't pay more for a set with DSC if it didn't also have an built GPS receiver to make the distress button useful. I have seen USB and SDcard based GPS receivers the size of a fingernail (smaller if you have big fingers), the technology is there....

DSC is great you can call a specific vessel directly without contacting it on 16 first. What if you don't know it's MMSI? 16 is an incredibly useful channel to have access to even if reception is patchy from a kayak - if a vessel is close enough to be a problem, you will be able to contact it. Yesterday I had to turn the volume down because the static was distracting me - didn't hear a single word all day, but plenty of static broadcasts - there were no vessels moving for miles around us :)

bastonjock
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by bastonjock » Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:36 pm

As had been posted by Owen,the face hoods are available at most online marine chandlers,they are an accessory that accompanys most of the inflateable type of life jackets favoured by yachties.Part of my kit is also a set of clear screen Ski goggles,if you find yourself in a situation where you have to paddle against an unexpected wind especially in a wind against tide scenario,then the top of the water can turn into a spray.

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TechnoEngineer
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by TechnoEngineer » Tue Nov 23, 2010 9:45 am

I find that a pair of swimming goggles is also helpful against a stiff wind.
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adrian j pullin
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by adrian j pullin » Tue Nov 23, 2010 12:48 pm

Had a club visit to Liverpool Coastguard in Crosby a couple of weeks ago. Top chaps. Very helpful, excellent tour and gives a much better idea of what is at the other end when talking to them.

On DSC they were not at all convinced. It seems that the plan to switch to DSC and drop listening watch on ch16 has gone. They didn't particularly rate DSC, particularly for kayaking.

What they did rate were EPIRB. Guess what's on the Christmas list!

On call signs, do NOT use "sea kayak 1" or similar. Around Anglesey on a summer Sunday, there are about 27 "sea kayak 1" call signs. Use a unique, or at least not common, call sign that can easily be understood and heard. Since all other vessels pre-fix their type, use "sea kayak ..." so the coastguard know what they are talking to. Personally, I use my first name: "sea kayak Adrian". I will hear my own name over most things (programmed since childhood!) so if anyone calls me I will pick it up. It is clear for listeners. It is unlikely (Big Ade not withstanding!) that there is another "sea kayak Adrian" out there.

The other thing (in fact the biggest thing by far) from the CG was "Talk to us". This is a common question on this forum. "Should I call the CG on every trip?" They would be delighted if every sea kayak trip called in at the start and end, and also if anything changes - delays, reroutes etc. They want to know what we are doing so that they can provide appropriate help if needed. Also, calling in a trip via VHF gives a radio check as well.

I thoroughly recommend getting a visit to your local coast guard.

Cheers
Cheers

Adrian J Pullin
-------------------------------------------------------
"No! Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try." - Yoda
Kayak lore: "He who capsizes must also roll".

bastonjock
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Re: Hand-held VHF - Various questions

Post by bastonjock » Wed Nov 24, 2010 12:06 am

It is very usefull to have a chat with your local coastguard/RNLI guys,i think that its also good for them as they are the "Knights" of the sea.I have also registered my details online and although its for my sailing boat,i intend to do the same for my Kayak once ive bought one, this give the rescue services a lot of very usefull information,on the listing there will be contact details,an itemisation of all safety equipment,an accurate description of your Kayak.

I had a situation unfold in a Force 7 off of Gt Yarmouth when my steering system on my boat packed in,to my left were great big lumps of Norwegian granite and a windfarm on my right,after managing to use the sails to turn the boat(not easy in confused seas) i dropped anchor in the shipping lane as i was been blown onto some sand banks,i called the coastguard and they came out and towed me in.I spoke with one of their officers afterwards and he told me that they had pulled all my details etc of of the data base and that i had done the correct thing.

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