VHF radio Vs mobile phone^

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Harvey.Anderson
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VHF radio Vs mobile phone^

Post by Harvey.Anderson » Mon Nov 14, 2005 10:23 pm

Assuming a mobile phone does have a reception while out in the sea, are there any additional advantages in having a VHF radio ?

Harvey

RichardCree
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Post by RichardCree » Mon Nov 14, 2005 10:37 pm

that old chestnut...

if you want to go sea paddling, and you dont want to get dead then VHF. if you want to potter about near the coast when the sun is shining then VHF. a mobile is great as a back up and not much more.

Reasons, any one else please add to this.

the phone only heard by one person, if it works, probably isnt waterproof, wont help the rescuers find you.

the vhf. is heard by all in the area, even if the coastguard doesnt hear they will pan pan the message (relay it). most of the decent ones are waterproof. Rescuers can use the signal to locate you.

my advice buy a decent VHF

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Mark R
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Post by Mark R » Mon Nov 14, 2005 10:39 pm

Mobile phone - if you have reception, you are talking to one person.

VHF - you do have reception, and you are talking to anyone who is out there listening, all at once. Useful if you are in deep doo daa.
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iannewman
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VHF or Mobile....?

Post by iannewman » Tue Nov 15, 2005 12:11 am

...thats right. After gaining a VHF operators licence for round about seventy quid and a day of your time, you can legally use a handheld VHF marine radio. There are massive advantages over a mobile as previously described...

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Mark McK
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VHF

Post by Mark McK » Tue Nov 15, 2005 9:14 am

Also the VHF would allow you access to free shipping forecasts, fairly handy and you don't have to pay marinecalls expensive rates.

Mark

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atakd
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VHF radio Vs mobile phone

Post by atakd » Tue Nov 15, 2005 10:02 am

This debate has been held many times by the sailing community and the consensus is that the VHF is better. Personally I disagree because:

A mobile battery will last far longer than a VHF.

A mobile, on Orange at least, will always get a signal between 1/2 and 10 miles off shore, a VHF will struggle to transmit more than 5 miles if you are low in the water.

A mobile can send a pre-written text in a vey small reception window.

A mobile is smaller and can easily be used / carried in a waterproof bag around the neck.

Shore contacts can be updated by mobile or contact you.

My experience of calling anyone other than the CG on 16 is you are very lucky to receive a response on the 1st attempt, not the case if you telephone anybody.

WAP forecasts, which are free, can be stored as text on a mobile.

A mobile can be used as an emergency torch.

I do carry both on longer passages but if I had to choose one it would definitely be a mobile.

Andy

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Post by RichardCree » Tue Nov 15, 2005 10:34 am

i think that your advice is misleading


A mobile battery will last far longer than a VHF.
i will give you that one, but not if you are going to call mates and have people calling you.

A mobile, on Orange at least, will always get a signal between 1/2 and 10 miles off shore, a VHF will struggle to transmit more than 5 miles if you are low in the water.
i have spent a bit of time paddling on the west coast, and frankley Orange is a joke, changed to Vodaphone better but not reliable. as for only reaching miles with a VHF the beauty of the system is that your message will be ralayed.

A mobile can send a pre-written text in a vey small reception window.
and the latest VHF GMDSS radios can't?

A mobile is smaller and can easily be used / carried in a waterproof bag around the neck.
my radio is as small as mt phone and dosent need a cumbersome bag to keep it waterproof

Shore contacts can be updated by mobile or contact you.

My experience of calling anyone other than the CG on 16 is you are very lucky to receive a response on the 1st attempt, not the case if you telephone anybody.
Assuming reception, and someone answering.
WAP forecasts, which are free, can be stored as text on a mobile.
Coastguard forecasts are free. as are subfax and imminent warnings. and if you call the coastguard on your VHF anytime they will give you a forecast.

A mobile can be used as an emergency torch.
Fantastic, when you are floating about wondering how long before you die. My VHF will give the coastguard my location, i know which i would prefer.

I would always recommend having both VHF and Mobile with you however if you are in the shit floating about in the water VHF the right tool for the job.

your mobile is great to phone the wife and tell her how many seals you have seen today. but other than that no thanks.

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Re: VHF radio Vs mobile phone

Post by Owen » Tue Nov 15, 2005 10:40 am

atakd wrote:This debate has been held many times by the sailing community and the consensus is that the VHF is better. Personally I disagree because:

A mobile battery will last far longer than a VHF. Not mine, one charge on my VHF will last for two weeks, one charge on my mobile will last three days.

A mobile, on Orange at least, will always get a signal between 1/2 and 10 miles off shore, a VHF will struggle to transmit more than 5 miles if you are low in the water. Orange is very patchy around the west of Scotland.

A mobile can send a pre-written text in a vey small reception window. But how do you if you've got through or not.

A mobile is smaller and can easily be used / carried in a waterproof bag around the neck. My Icom isn't that much bigger than a mobile (well my old brick anyway) and lives in my BA pocket; it doesn't get ni the way there.

Shore contacts can be updated by mobile or contact you. True

My experience of calling anyone other than the CG on 16 is you are very lucky to receive a response on the 1st attempt, not the case if you telephone anybody. Depends whether their in or not, their answerphone isn't much use in an emergence.

WAP forecasts, which are free, can be stored as text on a mobile. Can't get WAP on pay as you go.

A mobile can be used as an emergency torch. Que?

I do carry both on longer passages but if I had to choose one it would definitely be a mobile.

Andy

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Post by RichardCree » Tue Nov 15, 2005 11:14 am

i should also add that having a VHF radio is not enough. it should be part of the kit not the whole kit.

and if you are going to carry a radio you should go and do the course and get a licence. it only takes a day, cost about £60 and is full of information.

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VHF over mobiles...

Post by iannewman » Tue Nov 15, 2005 11:52 am

I am paddling from Shotley Gate this Saturday and one of the Harwich Haven Authority requirements is that all craft maintain a listening watch on channel 71 (VHF). My mobile will be in the car...but I shall use it before getting on the water, as another HHA requirement is that I telephone the VTS (vessel traffic service) to inform them of the trip plan. Horses for courses....

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Defending the mobile

Post by atakd » Tue Nov 15, 2005 12:24 pm

battery-I doubt your VHF lasts 2 weeks switched on all the time, if it does then you have incredible battery technology - use discipline not to waste battery life talking about seals.

Message can only be relayed if you are not in a blindspot which is the basis of my argument.

I have sailed the whole West coast UK, E coast Ireland from Padstow to Skye and would say that VHF has more blackspots than Orange. Your phone alerts you to no signal, you don't know you have lost VHF till you try it. For example, until a couple of years ago Holyhead harbour, within site of the coastguard aerial was a VHF blackspot until Channel 10 was added to the CG safety broadcast. Also this is based on a 25 watt set with the aerial on a 12 meter mast

I cannot think of any VHF as small as a reasonably modern phone.

Who has a DSC Handheld VHF and is it linked with MMSI to a GPS? If not the DSC has no value, especially at the thick end of £500, think epirb.

You can set your phone to a lights on at all times mode, giving a 3 led white lite torch which can be used for reading charts etc.

Can't get WAP on pay as you go -Can't get the coastguard on my Walkman so get the right phone /radio package.

You can try more than 1 phone number - there is only 1 CG.

Most people already have a phone -you can put the cost of a vhf towards an epirb, a true alternative distress system.

Also, the CG can estimate position if mobile signal is received by more than 1 cell, the same as more than 1 VHF aerial is needed for a fix, but mobile does not need to be in use for this to work.
Last edited by atakd on Tue Nov 15, 2005 1:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Mark R
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Post by Mark R » Tue Nov 15, 2005 1:53 pm

RichardCree wrote:subfax
Excuse my ignorance...what is this, please?


The idea of writing VHF out of a paddler's standard kit (whether owned or aspired to) strikes me as daft. At sea, the proper ships and the agencies (Coastguard etc.) use VHF as their communication tool. Want to go to sea? Play by their rules.
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atakd
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Subfax

Post by atakd » Tue Nov 15, 2005 1:56 pm

transmitted by Clyde CG and others about Submarine exercises, to try and stop fishing boats being pulled under water. I am not advocating not having a vhf, I have one, but if you must choose betwen a vhf or mobile then I think the mobile is better in a kayak. As far as proper ships using vhf - try calling one on 16 or listen to Pilots trying to call up ships and how long a ship takes to respond. I'd rather call my local takeaway on the phone and ask them to relay a message to the CG.
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Douglas Wilcox
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Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Nov 15, 2005 4:18 pm

My own experience is as follows. Different VHF handheld units have different abilities to RECEIVE coastguard transmissions in exactly the same location. So I expect they also have different abilities to be heard by others.

In practice, on the west coast of Scotland, a handheld is unlikely to be heard by the coastguard at sea level, you are dependent on it being picked up by a nearby boat and forwarded.

In July we decided to stay out at the mouth of loch Roag on the west coast of Lewis for an extra night during some reasonably rough weather. As we had told locals in Bhaltos when we would be back I decided to let the Stornoway Coastguard know we were OK. I tried my handheld Icom EuroM1 VHF (a unit with very good reception) at sea level on full 5W power. No response. I went 30m up a hill, no response. I tried all 3 sim cards, Vodaphone, Orange and O2 in my waterproof brick PAYG mobile (WAP enabled) and got a signal only on Orange: straight through to Coastguard (who had been listening on 16).

One problem with mobiles in remote areas with a high tourist density is you might get a strong signal but not be able to use it because the cell is at full capacity.

One thing I was struck by, on the West coast of the Outer Hebrides, is how few fishing/commercial vessels are about to hear a potential MAYDAY on VHF (or see a flare).

So for a life a life threatening situation, I dont rely on flares, mobiles or handheld VHF. I have one of these.

Image
Only thing is, it might not work fully under a cliff. So perhaps it is best to approach things with a bit experience and skill in reserve so that you don't rely on technological gadgets and ultimately on the RNLI and Coastguard.

Douglas
Last edited by Douglas Wilcox on Tue Nov 15, 2005 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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ChrisS
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Post by ChrisS » Tue Nov 15, 2005 4:50 pm

Since February 2005 it is no longer mandatory for shipping to keep a listening watch on Channel 16. Some ships may still do so but it is less likely than before that a voice only distress message will be picked up and relayed. The Coast Guard continues to monitor Channel 16.

If you have a DSC VHF with GPS the system is better than before - but hand-held units equipped with DSC and on-board GPS are hard to find. As far as I know the Uniden Mystic is the only one and only obtainable from the US. An EPIRB/PLB with on board GPS would be worth having as well, but rather expensive.

I think the VHF course is worth going on but I think anyone can legally make a genuine distress call.

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Post by Organic Ginger » Tue Nov 15, 2005 4:59 pm

How many paddlers actually do the course and get the licence? I'd be interested in a poll.
OG

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Post by RichardCree » Tue Nov 15, 2005 5:09 pm

I did

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ChrisS
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Post by ChrisS » Tue Nov 15, 2005 5:24 pm

Yep.

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Post by Owen » Tue Nov 15, 2005 5:36 pm

Me to.

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Post by John C » Tue Nov 15, 2005 5:36 pm

Organic Ginger wrote:How many paddlers actually do the course and get the licence? I'd be interested in a poll.
There's 2 bits to VHF licensing:

You do the course and get a license to operate radio equipment (done)

You are also supposed to license the VHF equipment (not done)

I think there's probably plenty of leisure users who do the same as me. When I did the course I enquired about this and was told they'd rather me have the kit and no license than not have it at all.

John

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atakd
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vhf v mobile

Post by atakd » Tue Nov 15, 2005 6:12 pm

Douglas has the experience which bears out my own. VHF existed before mobile technology was widespread but the "vhf culture " continues. Any practical attempts to use seabourne comms in a coastal scenario(<20 miles from shore) supports mobile phones over VHF.
Andy

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MikeB
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Post by MikeB » Tue Nov 15, 2005 6:42 pm

Organic Ginger wrote:How many paddlers actually do the course and get the licence? I'd be interested in a poll.
Done both - and I'd recommend the course, if only to get the protocols right. We've discussed this at length before of course, and I'm strongly of the view that vhf is well worth having, and using. The Coastguard who ran our course stressed not relying on a mobile. Now that I tend to regard as solid, informed advice.

Yes, anyone can make a distress call. The CG also stressed that they would far rather people had "illegal" VHF's if they needed them rather than not having them at all.

I also take my mobile but I can point to the West coast of Jura as an area where the mobile won't work, but the vhf allowed us to get a forecast. Once from a passing CalMac ferry and once via a call to the c/g as soon as we had the ability to get vhf contact. There are lots of other areas as well.

I also know that the call to the CG was monitored by a local tourist boat, the driver of which had considered calling us to ask if we needed a pick up as the conditions were so bad. (He'd taken us out and therefore knew the group was "out there"). It was kind of comforting knowing that had happened!

Finally, if I'm ever in trouble and there's a ship passing, I like to know that a Pan Pan or Mayday is highly likley to be picked up. I can't really phone him can I?

Mike

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Post by Pelagic » Tue Nov 15, 2005 7:35 pm

I cannot think of any VHF as small as a reasonably modern phone.
I can

Image

Interesting debate , I love the "who would win in a fight " game. I think you are all really stating the obvious though, its both. Funnily enough I was visiting Liverpool coasties a while back (they send their regards by the way Mark) they are solid advocates of VHF, and in fact were trying to get us all to carry one of Douglas`s EPIRBS. Probably a good idea too really, they also showed us the sattelite tracking system for shipping in the Irish Sea, now that is the future!
They are not fans of mobiles because of the fairly obvious one to one communication problem, in other words the difficulty of co-ordinating rescue etc.
Interestingly Douglas was party to a rescue (thankfully successful) that occurred in the Summer Isles which was a pretty textbook use of VHF to co-ordinate and communicate. This involved several sea-kayakers, a ferrys fast rescue boat, the ferry itself a helicopter and a lifeboat. I understand Douglas could monitor events from quite a distance away, although obviously he couldnt hear our handhelds, everyone else involved certainly could. Just to add grist to the mill I believe the original distress call was from a mobile phone.
I presume the main aurgument would be if the poo hit the fan, in which case a carrier pidgeon would probably get the job done as an initial distress alert, but for co-ordinating actions after, VHF is the daddy!

Phil

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Post by Dave Thomas » Tue Nov 15, 2005 8:01 pm

Organic Ginger wrote:How many paddlers actually do the course and get the licence? I'd be interested in a poll.
Yes - course done and operator's licence held, and set licenced as well. And I carry a mobile!

Incidentally, I have always received courteous treatment as a presumed competent person when logging a trip with the coastguard by VHF. I have been party to one case where a trip was logged by mobile phone and the response was along the lines of 'are you fit to be going out there, do you know what you are doing, have you got proper kit, etc, etc'. Has anyone else experienced this form of 'techno-elitism'?

Incidentally, the MRC(S)C concerned was Portland - the Lyme Bay incident didn't seem to have led to an improvement in their style of communication with paddlers!

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Mark R
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Post by Mark R » Tue Nov 15, 2005 8:33 pm

My wife and I did the VHF course, but have never licensed our set.

I will certainly go down the EPIRB route some day soon - for various reasons, my most serious sea paddling is almost always done alone. I have long since got past the attitude that a few nifty paddling skills can conquer all the sea can throw at me...so any backup is fine by me, up to and including being followed around by a lifeboat with a big scoop net.
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Post by CaileanMac » Tue Nov 15, 2005 10:40 pm

Watching this thread with some interest. We are mixing up two very different communication scenarios;

1 - Day to day communications with family to report how many seals where spotted, ordering take away curry so its ready to pick up, texting loved ones to say we are OK and phoning for forecast.

The easy and simple to use option is the mobile phone and we make those calls when we are getting changed in the car park or hiding in our tents. Using a mobile phone whilst floating around on the ocean in your kayak - well really defeats the point of going sea kayaking for most people, eh?! Mobile phone coverage was designed and laid out for the land and any coverage at sea is just a by product.


2 - I'm in the 'poo zone' with Thor & Njord (nasty Viking mytical gods) about to plup my sea kayak to sand grains.

I want as many people as possible to hear my plea's for assistance pronto and when the lifeboat or helicopter is on it's way help them fix on my position by using my VHF radio. (They both carry direction fixing gear which doesn't work with mobiles but does with VHF Radios). Remember when we are in the water, with our heads bobbling around are like football size and we can't phone the lifeboat coxswain or helicopter pilot directly to guide him in.

So one piece of kit I'm afraid folks isn't going to be the best for both communication tasks I have outlined here, which are the two communication dilemmas faced by sea kayakers



Add my tuppence to a few points:

- The Coastguard have an instant fix on VHF radio signal's location so long as it's A) heard by their masts B) it is heard by two but if it's only heard by one then the coastguard have at least one bearing to send a helicopter / lifeboat along to find you. Don't know that the coastguard yet have the technology to direction fix mobile phone locations from their screens in the stations. Bear in mind they need literally seconds to get a fix on a VHF radio signal.....

- Orange and the West Coast of Scotland.

I have lived and worked on the West Coast since I literally was a lad and Orange would not be my first choice. Their reception is very poor - compare online their coverage map with vodafone's. The historical perspective - Vodafone got a large chunk of funding from the Highlands & Islands Enterprise when mobiles became 'the thing' to put masts up in the Highlands and the Islands and hence got the best sites to put them up. The Enterprise Company likes to make sure that the crofters and local business's aren't left behind in the misty glens and isles. So since they were the first to have decent coverage, they got the local customer base and year on year have put more masts up in the Highlands. ATAKD is the coverage you have experienced with your orange phone on the west coast from a yacht or sea kayak (height of aerial height and one cruises offshore and the other by cliffs/coastlines).

Big picture vs one off stories. Reach your own informed and reasoned viewpoint.

For the record I carry both and tend to use my mobile phone for day to day communications and my VHF is spared for listening to forecasts on multi day trips and busy harbours / firths and the battery life left for the 'kayaker's day from hell'.

MarkR - EPRIB I too will follow in buying one but when the price drops here in the UK or source one from the States (one good reason we shouldn't join the Euro, but that's a thread not for the UKSKGB).

Crofty - you're a coastguard agency employee, would care to coment but I would understand completely if you don't want to get involved in this thread.

CaileanMac

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Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Nov 15, 2005 10:54 pm

Phil>
I understand Douglas could monitor events from quite a distance away
We were paddling in very lumpy conditions but with an offshore wind in Loch Bracadale Skye.
Image

I had my VHF on monitoring channel 16 when I heard the Calmac ferry and Stornoway coastguard very clearly discussing the ferry turning back to look for some kayakers to the west of the Summer Isles. Both the ferry and Stornoway coastguard were 100km away. across the hills of Skye, later but much more faintly I heard the RNLI lifeboat. I also realized there was a helicopter involved but I did not hear it. I could not hear any of the kayaker's hand helds. It took a long time until everone was apparently accounted for in the apparent confusion of the coastguard not being able to talk to all the members of the distressed kayaking party.

It was very worrying because I new Phil and Jim were in the Summer Isles and it was a long time until I discovered they had not been in trouble. I was helpless to do anything but to be honest was pretty fully engaged in paddling in pretty challenging conditions myself.

It was at that moment that I decided to buy an EPIRB, Tony Wood the Kircudbright coastguard had previously tried to convince me of its merits but the £550 put me off. But being out on a cold windy sea at Easter knowing that a fellow kayaker was lost in the water made me realize £550 is actually very cheap.

My boat is always the heaviest, its not just the cameras but all the safety gear. I don't mind and most of my paddling buddies now seem to accept struggling with a heavy boat, if I am on the water with them.

You have no idea how good it felt when I got home and heard no one had drowned. It was a surreal experience, being so close and yet so far.

Some people have said that kayakers should not bother listening in on 16 as there is not much we could do, maybe, maybe not, but we could relay on the message if we were nearer to another more powerful station.

Dave>
Has anyone else experienced this form of 'techno-elitism'?

Incidentally, the MRC(S)C concerned was Portland - the Lyme Bay incident didn't seem to have led to an improvement in their style of communication with paddlers!
Not from Clyde or Stornoway CGs. I have contacted both by phone and VHF and been received with nothing but courtesy and interest.

Mark>
I will certainly go down the EPIRB route some day soon - for various reasons, my most serious sea paddling is almost always done alone.
Christmas is coming up Mark! I also do a lot of solo paddling, not as far as you, but it is very comforting having the EPIRB.

Douglas

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Post by Zoe Newsam » Tue Nov 15, 2005 11:05 pm

I haven't done the course, and don't have a license, but in my line of work I'd say my RT and standard phraseology is probably up to the job! Joking aside though, I have spoken to several CG officials about this and they really don't mind us being unlicensed as long as the set is used properly and responsibly.

As Cailean said, a big advantage of VHF is 'VDF' or VHF Direction Finder. This is the same kit used by the RAF Distress & Diversion cells to locate lost aircraft- it is extremely fast, simple and effective.

I carry VHF, mobile phone and flares. They complement, not replace, one another.

Zoe

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Post by ChrisS » Wed Nov 16, 2005 12:47 am

MarkR - EPRIB I too will follow in buying one but when the price drops here in the UK or source one from the States (one good reason we shouldn't join the Euro, but that's a thread not for the UKSKGB).
Don't source one from the States! It won't work here. I can't remember exactly why not but I looked into this a while ago when I saw the price of them and getting one from the US is definitely a no-no.

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Post by sub5rider » Wed Nov 16, 2005 11:26 am

Douglas Wilcox wrote: was a helicopter involved but I did not hear it.
When "on station" as it were the heli & lifeboat seemed to be using using the S&R channel 0, which your average marine vhf doesn't recieve.

And, yes, I passed the VHF test and licenced my set too.

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