DSC VHF Radios^

Places, technique, kayaks, safety, the sea...
Post Reply
Cockney Kayak
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:27 pm

DSC VHF Radios^

Post by Cockney Kayak » Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:57 pm

Best Advice please

I have a VHF operators licence and have been operating a normal VHF marine handheld ( standard push to talk ) as a kayaker for some years.
Please can anyone tell me (in English) -

1. What is DSC ?
2. Why as a kayaker I would need it ?
3 What I need to do if I buy a DSC VHF handheld before I can use it legally.
4 Any more information I need to know if I spend £300 on a important bit of safety kit to get the most out of it.

Simple Answers to these questions would be most useful


Posts: 373
Joined: Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:42 pm
Has thanked: 8 times
Been thanked: 20 times

Re: DSC VHF Radios

Post by pathbrae » Fri Feb 21, 2014 10:38 pm

DSC- Digital Selective Calling

( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Selective_Calling )

Basically - it's a semi automated distress calling function using digital transmission on CH 70 All DSC sets in range will receive a distress message which will include the location of the alert (if you have a GPS set, which most of them are) your own ID (which you program in as the MMSI number and which the coast guard can use to identify you and the type of craft you are likely to be in)
You can also send an individual or a group DSC message - a bit like sending a text - to, for instance, paddlers in your group. (although it's such a faf to do and it depends on everyone else having DSC that I've never bothered.

All the usual VHF limitations in terms of range etc are still there however, as it's a digital transmission, it is much more likely to be clearly received than a voice may-day, especially if conditions are less than flat calm.

The big advantage in a kayak is that it only takes 5 seconds to send a distress message - just uncover the DSC button and hold it in until the set beeps to tell you it has activated the DSC transmission and then the set will continue to repeat the transmission until the coastguard turns it off - so you can concentrate on rescues, staying upright, etc. rather than going through the May-day call. There is a menu for "type of emergency" and you can select the usual sinking, medical, fire etc..... or even pirates!

You simply register the set (free) on line in exactly the same way as you regester any other VHF and as you already have a VHF licence then you don't need to do anything else (reading through the DSC chapters of the current "Short Range Radio" handbook from the RYA would quickly bring you up to speed with how DSC works.)

The down-side?

Battery life is greatly reduced compared to a non-DSC (non GPS) set and it tends to be a fair bit bigger. My Standard Horizon battery will last for 3 paddling days (just) if I remember to switch off the GPS when I'm not paddling but using it to listen in to the inshore forecast in the evening.

If you already have a working VHF then it might be a better option to buy an EPIRB to use in emergencies with the standard VHF for communication. (Mcmurdo Fastfind or similar) Even if the VHF is needing replaced - a waterproof handheld and a EPIRB compare pretty closely with a DSC handheld these days.
So much sea - so little time to see it.

Cockney Kayak
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Feb 19, 2014 8:27 pm

Re: DSC VHF Radios

Post by Cockney Kayak » Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:46 pm

Thanks for that.


User avatar
Posts: 8045
Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2003 9:44 pm
Location: Scotland
Has thanked: 9 times
Been thanked: 9 times

Re: DSC VHF Radios

Post by MikeB » Sat Feb 22, 2014 10:55 am

Superb summary David!

Post Reply