Notifying Coastguards--a dumb question^

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DaveB
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Notifying Coastguards--a dumb question^

Post by DaveB » Mon Mar 06, 2006 12:59 pm

It is suggested fairly often that it is best practice and welcomed by the coastguard that we should notify the coastguard of our proposed route/destination/ETA before setting out. I can see the point of this in the context of a trip in a busy/crowded shipping lane but in the ordinary way what is the point? As I understand it the Coastguard (quite understandably) will not initiate any search or rescue exercise if we fail to report our safe arrival (due to poor radio or mobile phone signal perhaps or plain forgetfulness) and will go into emergency mode only if a shore party reports that we are overdue and presumably in trouble (in which case the shore party could then inform the coastguard of our last known route/timings in any case).
I can see the advantage of geting up to date and local weather info from the coastguard but do they really want us to give details of our journies and if so why?

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Post by Bertie.. » Mon Mar 06, 2006 1:47 pm

I don't always do it - unless I'm running a coaching session or out playing somewhere I know the coastguard might be concerned e.g. tidal race playing.

However, a few years ago a kayak was washed up empty on Bournemouth Beach, and the coastguard did contact me to see whether it was my group or if I knew who it might be as they knew I was in the area. So it's not necessarily as pointless as you might think.

Also, there's a tendency for 'members of the public' to see kayakers in tidal races, panic and alert the coastguard. One particular incident down here near Portland resulted in lifeboat & helicopter being launched to check out a group of L4 sea coaches enjoying a play in the tides - if the coastguard had known who was out there and how to contact them, then they would have attempted to communicate first rather than launch a lot of expensive rescue kit for no reason.

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Post by MikeB » Mon Mar 06, 2006 1:58 pm

I must admit I usually do it - two reasons:

1/ It lets me practise with the radio - which might help me use it when I need it! Perhaps under stress.

2/ I know they won't come looking for me. But if they DO have to come looking for me (I've called for help / my shore-contact has reported me overdue) then they'll know what to look for (numbers, colors, equipment like flares) and roughly where to look, 'cause I'll have told them.

I've never found them unwilling to log the trip details - sometimes they'll chat / ask questions, other times they are clearly busy so I'm short and sweet and go away.

Mike.

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Post by Mark R » Mon Mar 06, 2006 4:00 pm

I never used to. I now do it more and more, especially since reading the story someone posted here of returning to find the emergency services waiting for him after a solo paddle.

In my weeklong Scottish trip last month, I called them every day, sometimes several times a day (e.g."I'm now about to make an exposed crossing, eta 50 mins") with my personal survival at the forefront of my mind.

One thing I did note was a very differing level of interest, depending upon who answered. Having to explain who I was and what I was doing about eight different times was a bit tedious.

A final point is that it is now easy to do, via mobile or VHF. Never used to be.
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Post by Bertie.. » Mon Mar 06, 2006 4:05 pm

MarkR wrote: One thing I did note was a very differing level of interest, depending upon who answered. Having to explain who I was and what I was doing about eight different times was a bit tedious.
It's worth registering your kayak on theCG66 scheme. This gets around some of this, in that once you tell any CG station that you've registered with whatever CG station they don't require too much information on who you are, what you're in, description of boat etc.

Also, if you lodge a trip plan with an initial CG station, you can just refer any additional CG station to that original trip plan, provided you haven't deviated too much from it!

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Post by atakd » Mon Mar 06, 2006 7:48 pm

Althought they don't advertise it many* Coastguard stations will double as your shore contact if you specifically ask them. If you are then late reporting in they will initiate a search.

*I know that Milford Haven , Holyhead, Liverpool and Clyde will, maybe Solent would be a different matter with the weight of their radio traffic.
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Post by runswick2000 » Mon Mar 06, 2006 8:02 pm

MikeB wrote:It lets me practise with the radio.
In my experience they are very happy to note your plans and it gives me a lot of comfort knowing someone knows what you are up to. It's particularly worthwhile and appreciated by the coasties when you will be paddling through tidal races or past NCI coastwatch huts (often 'manned' by twitchy veterans)!

However, if possible you should really use a mobile or landline number rather than VHF as it keeps 16 free for urgent useage and calling...
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Post by Rich Best » Mon Mar 06, 2006 8:04 pm

A few weeks ago four of us camped on the beach for one night. For the first time we did notify the coastguard: because we were worried someone, having seen us paddle off and not come back by nightfall, would alert the CG. They were very happy we'd bothered to contact them.

BUT, after that they asked us to radio in again when we were off the water, and again the following morning, etc. My intention was to let them know we were going to be out there for 24hrs, and personally I found it a bit of a pain to then have to give them a blow by blow account. That might sound a bit over the top, but it just seemed we'd effectively gone from one extreme to another.

That said, in similar circumstances I'd certainly do the same again.

Richard

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Post by Tim Pickering » Mon Mar 06, 2006 8:34 pm

Can I tell you a little story:

There was a car parked at Aird Uig on the West Coast of Lewis and some of the locals saw the paddlers get on the water. They rightly became a little concerned that night when the paddlers didn't return. So they called the coast guard. The coast guard then called round all the paddlers they knew - one being the coxwain of the lifeboat. He suggested due to the reasonably settled weather they might have paddled to the Flannans. So the helecopter was duly dispatched to discover the paddlers on the Flannans...

I have no doubt the pilots were glad of the practice but not a good use of resources?!? All for the want of a quick call.

Tim

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Post by Dave Thomas » Mon Mar 06, 2006 8:37 pm

runswick2000 wrote:However, if possible you should really use a mobile or landline number rather than VHF as it keeps 16 free for urgent useage and calling...
I have overheard evidence (ie was in a group but not making the call) which suggested that one south coast MRCC not too far from your home base tends to question the all-round competence of paddlers calling by phone - presumably because they are assumed not to be equipped with VHF ( "are you sure you are really fit to be going out on the sea in kayaks" sort of stuff). Conversely, I have never had any ill reaction to establishing contact by ch16 and waiting to be redirected to a working channel. I have twice been unlucky enough to intrude on "emergency working" - a down-side of not always keeping the set on while paddling - and simply been asked courteously to call back later.

As an aside, I always add the words "routine traffic" to a ch16 call (assuming it is!) - I haven't seen/been 'taught' this, but it seems to make sense in helping prioritisation of the call ASAP. Anybody else do anything similar?

As another aside, you have only to listen to the volume of traffic experienced by Solent and Portland, compared with other centres, to see why they might be hassled at times!

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Post by MikeB » Mon Mar 06, 2006 8:52 pm

Dave Thomas wrote:I have never had any ill reaction to establishing contact by ch16 and waiting to be redirected to a working channel. I have twice been unlucky enough to intrude on "emergency working" - a down-side of not always keeping the set on while paddling - and simply been asked courteously to call back later.

As an aside, I always add the words "routine traffic" to a ch16 call (assuming it is!) - I haven't seen/been 'taught' this, but it seems to make sense in helping prioritisation of the call ASAP. Anybody else do anything similar?
Ditto, on all three counts. I usually tell them it's "routine traffic, passage report" - I'm then usually (but not always) directed to a working channel.

I find Liverpool will tend to be fairly"short", Clyde can be "chatty" - in fact I once spent nearly 10 mins with them as I was asked just about everything they could possibly ask about, except the color of my paddles - and for brevity, Stornoway holds the crown.

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Post by CaileanMac » Mon Mar 06, 2006 10:43 pm

MikeB,

Would have disagree about Stornoway Coastguard holding the crown for brevity - my experiences calling in with them is quite the opposite. On Friday they reminded me not to fall into the water as they had just had a report that the one remaining RAF Lossiemouth SAR chopper was grounded until they cleared the snow off it. The other one has been grounded for several days but is now back at base.

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Post by Douglas Wilcox » Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:16 pm

I dont call the coastguard every trip but this summer we left the car at Valtos on the west coast of Lewis. We told locals we would ne away for three nights. The wind blew up a bit and we decided to stay out on the islands a 4th night. Stornoway CG were very friendly and very pleased to get our call and we slept easy knowing a search would not be started.

I could not raise them on VHF (out of range) but fortunately had put the tel number in my mobile.

Douglas

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Post by CaileanMac » Mon Mar 06, 2006 11:50 pm

When I complied this list it was correct (mid 2005) - numbers may well have changed? A laminated copy of this list lives in my mobile phone drybag so that if my mobile phone dies (accidential immerison or battery death) I have written note of the coastguard phone number to save a potential false search along with a few twenty pence pieces for using a payphone.

Stornoway 01851 702013/4
Clyde 01475 729988
Belfast 028 9146 3933
Liverpool 01519 313 341
Holyhead 01407 762 051
Milford Haven 01646 690 909
Swansea 01792 366 534
Falmouth 01326 317 575
Brixham 01803 882 704
Portland 01305 760 439
Solent 02 392 5521 00
Dover 01304 210 008
Thames 01255 675 518
Yarmouth 01493 851 338
Humber 01262 672 317
Forth 01333 450 666
Aberdeen 01224 592 334
Shetland 01595 692 976


Hope this is of some use to someone?

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MikeB
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Post by MikeB » Tue Mar 07, 2006 1:40 am

CaileanMac wrote:Would have disagree about Stornoway Coastguard holding the crown for brevity -
Naturally - - you sound like a local, I don't!

;-)

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Post by active4seasons » Tue Mar 07, 2006 7:39 am

Some interesting points here.

Firstly we need to be carful of calling up if we have not had any radio training, we may end up annoying the coastguard and also making the sea kayak fraternity look amature by our lack of radio procedure and etiquette. I know quiet a few who have done the vhf course but I also know a few who have not (me included).

The point about having to change your plans is the most important here I think. The hand held radios we use do not have a good range and therefore it is often difficult to make contact when out on the remote Island after your plans have changed. For years I spent hours planning trips for the weekend and finding by Fri that the weather has changed. I now base my journeys on my prediction of the forthcoming weather based on all the information I can collect and don't get set on a location. I will often have to make a new decision when waking up the next day based on pressure changes and the weather from the met office. Often I cannot relay this to anyone on land. As we all know weather can be predicted for about 6 hours ahead with some certainty but after that things change so we should not be too ridgid with our plans.

Lastly I think there may also be a case of encouraging adventure without responsibility here. I am sure a few of you have been skiing in the last couple of years - I have noticed that the people wearing helmets are often the ones out of control and racing round like lunatics - my opinion only! I am certain they would not be doiung this without the helmet!

Discuss,
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Post by Bertie.. » Tue Mar 07, 2006 9:28 am

active4seasons wrote: I am sure a few of you have been skiing in the last couple of years - I have noticed that the people wearing helmets are often the ones out of control and racing round like lunatics - my opinion only! I am certain they would not be doiung this without the helmet!

Discuss,
Ollie
It's known as risk compensation theory - everyone has an 'appetite' for risk. THe more protection we use, the more 'risk' we seek to get the same kicks.. The flip side to consider would be how much safer people would drive if they had a 6 inch spike coming out of their steering wheel.

It's worth remembering Channel 16 is't as manned as it used to be. In some places, there is little or no dedicated headset watch on Channel 16. I have never encountered any suggestion from the Coastguard that phoning in by mobile infers lesser ability on to me. The flip side to it is routinely demonstrated in the Weymouth area where Portland Coastguard regularly have to remind people calling with 'routine traffic' or 'radio check' that they are in the middle of handling a pan-pan or mayday and radio silence has been called!

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Post by atakd » Tue Mar 07, 2006 9:47 am

Douglas Wilcox wrote: I could not raise them on VHF (out of range) but fortunately had put the tel number in my mobile.

Douglas
Not wanting to open old wounds and go off at a tangent but....
when I suggested mobiles were better than VHF a few months ago on this forum I was flamed. QED.
Andy
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Post by MikeB » Tue Mar 07, 2006 9:58 am

Different context! Calling in on a routine call isn't the same as "making that MayDay call".

Mike

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Post by Dave Thomas » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:07 am

Bertie.. wrote:It's worth remembering Channel 16 is't as manned as it used to be. In some places, there is little or no dedicated headset watch on Channel 16.
True, but I've not yet had a problem getting through as a result - has anyone here had difficulties?
Bertie.. wrote:I have never encountered any suggestion from the Coastguard that phoning in by mobile infers lesser ability on to me.
The instance I quoted earlier involved Portland.
Bertie.. wrote:The flip side to it is routinely demonstrated in the Weymouth area where Portland Coastguard regularly have to remind people calling with 'routine traffic' or 'radio check' that they are in the middle of handling a pan-pan or mayday and radio silence has been called!
As I implied in my earlier post, this has to be one argument for monitoring 16 while afloat. Unfortunately, Portland and Solent are so 'cluttered' - particularly with 'radio checks - on a fine summer weekend day that one loses much of the peace and quiet we go out to seek (or what remains of it once the jetskis, speedboats etc have had their fun!).

Runswick2000 earlier mentioned NCI coastwatch huts. Again in my experience, they can be (a) overzealous (anyone in a sea kayak must be in need of advice and/or assistance), and (b) not in good contact with their MRCC/MRCSC, so don't necessarily know of logged 'passage plans' for kayaks and likely to over-react as a result. Anyone else experienced this?

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Post by runswick2000 » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:12 am

Dave Thomas wrote:I have overheard evidence (ie was in a group but not making the call) which suggested that one south coast MRCC not too far from your home base tends to question the all-round competence of paddlers calling by phone - presumably because they are assumed not to be equipped with VHF ( "are you sure you are really fit to be going out on the sea in kayaks" sort of stuff). Conversely, I have never had any ill reaction to establishing contact by ch16 and waiting to be redirected to a working channel. I have twice been unlucky enough to intrude on "emergency working" - a down-side of not always keeping the set on while paddling - and simply been asked courteously to call back later.

As an aside, I always add the words "routine traffic" to a ch16 call (assuming it is!) - I haven't seen/been 'taught' this, but it seems to make sense in helping prioritisation of the call ASAP. Anybody else do anything similar?
Dave Thomas
Clearly there is a lot of scope for 'interpreting' coastguard reactions to various methods of contacting them. Nevertheless, give them the benefit of the doubt, allthough some may occasionally overstep the mark, the majority are not in the business of making judgement calls based on scanty information.

However, based on my experience (which includes spending several watches in the ops room in Portland), I have never come across any negative reactions to people calling via landline or mobile phone. By contacting them you are helping them to build a picture of what is happening on their patch at any particular moment (in my experience people are always greatful when you help them do their job) and this is much appreciated.

Of course if you are paranoid about being thought a numpty you could always let them know in the course of your call that you will be listening to channel 16 on a handheld for the duration of your trip.

That said, there is certainly nothing wrong as such with using the VHF, just be aware that for the duration of your call a person in distress will call and not be heard.
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Post by runswick2000 » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:19 am

Dave Thomas wrote:
Bertie.. wrote:It's worth remembering Channel 16 is't as manned as it used to be. In some places, there is little or no dedicated headset watch on Channel 16.
True, but I've not yet had a problem getting through as a result - has anyone here had difficulties?

Runswick2000 earlier mentioned NCI coastwatch huts. Again in my experience, they can be (a) overzealous (anyone in a sea kayak must be in need of advice and/or assistance), and (b) not in good contact with their MRCC/MRCSC, so don't necessarily know of logged 'passage plans' for kayaks and likely to over-react as a result. Anyone else experienced this?

Dave Thomas
In answer to the first question, Portland still keep a headset watch on 16.

As to NCI! They are undoubtedly overzealous......... However, they can't 'initiate' anything as such. If something worries them they will call the MRCC who will have your plan. Indeed in a recent call to Portland they recommended that I didn't call St Alhelms and Peverill for fear of confusing them! Bless......
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Post by Dave Thomas » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:25 am

Glad to hear that my 'experience' re use of a mobile phone seems to have been a 'one-off'.

A further thought - does anyone know whether yachts and other pleasure boats tend these days to use mobile phone in preference to a (presumably 'fixed') VHF when filing 'passage plans'?
Runswick2000 wrote:That said, there is certainly nothing wrong as such with using the VHF, just be aware that for the duration of your call a person in distress will call and not be heard.
4 seconds initial call on 16/3 seconds response giving working channel/2 seconds acknowledgement. Probability of co-inciding with a 'mayday' call - pretty low.

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Post by Douglas Wilcox » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:28 am

Andy>
Douglas Wilcox wrote:

I could not raise them on VHF (out of range) but fortunately had put the tel number in my mobile.

Douglas


Not wanting to open old wounds and go off at a tangent but....
when I suggested mobiles were better than VHF a few months ago on this forum I was flamed. QED.
Andy
Hello Andy, when making a Mayday on a handheld VHF you are often relying on it being picked up by a nearby prawn or lobster boat. In the Oban area there are lots of work boats. This is why am always extremely polite to these guys! However, I have gone out to the west coast of the Outer Hebrides for the last two summers. The thing that struck me on the first visit was the absence of other boats. On our second trip I took an EPIRB.
Douglas

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Post by Zoe Newsam » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:37 am

MikeB wrote:
CaileanMac wrote:Would have disagree about Stornoway Coastguard holding the crown for brevity -
Naturally - - you sound like a local, I don't!

;-)

Mike
Not at all! On an 8-day trip around Barra & Mingulay in 2004 I radioed (no phone reception, & scant VHF in some places!) Stornoway CG every day with our plans & location- they were very friendly and helpful. At the end of the week I called them to say 'thanks for looking out for us' and they invited me over to the CG station for a coffee and a look around! I took them up on it and was looked after very well for a couple of hours, and shown how all the gadgetry works.

Full marks to them- lovely people!

Z

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Post by MikeB » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:48 am

Never said they weren't lovely people! Of the stations I call, I have the shortest conversations with them tho!

Mike.

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Post by Dave Thomas » Tue Mar 07, 2006 10:50 am

runswick2000 wrote:Indeed in a recent call to Portland they recommended that I didn't call St Alhelms and Peverill for fear of confusing them! Bless......
I remember it well!

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Post by Jim » Tue Mar 07, 2006 12:39 pm

atakd wrote:
Douglas Wilcox wrote: I could not raise them on VHF (out of range) but fortunately had put the tel number in my mobile.

Douglas
Not wanting to open old wounds and go off at a tangent but....
when I suggested mobiles were better than VHF a few months ago on this forum I was flamed. QED.
Andy
Thats funny, the way I recollect that thread I thought it was decided that it was worth carrying both as there are areas where one will work and the other won't? Don't recall any flaming, just plenty of discussion as to what the pros and cons of each are. I'm sure at that time Douglas not only commented that he uses his mobile extensively at sea, but that he has come to different conclusions regarding "best" networks than many of us!

JIM

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Post by atakd » Tue Mar 07, 2006 2:16 pm

MikeB wrote:Different context! Calling in on a routine call isn't the same as "making that MayDay call".

Mike
Err, it is if you have no vhf response, isn't it?.

I would ask the question

"Has anyone on this forum ever monitored or made a distress or urgency call that has been responded to by other than the Coastguard?"

I have never heard of it and the reason is that HMCG have 30 metre masts at strategic locations and are far more likely to pick up calls than the local prawner.

Douglas, I agree that other vessels are good to "keep on side" but they cannot be depended on to respond. The CG can and I still contend that in coastal waters, a mobile phone is a more reliable and longer range link with the CG than a H/H VHF.

Andy
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Post by runswick2000 » Tue Mar 07, 2006 3:06 pm

atakd wrote:I would ask the question

"Has anyone on this forum ever monitored or made a distress or urgency call that has been responded to by other than the Coastguard?"

I have never heard of it and the reason is that HMCG have 30 metre masts at strategic locations and are far more likely to pick up calls than the local prawner.

Douglas, I agree that other vessels are good to "keep on side" but they cannot be depended on to respond. The CG can and I still contend that in coastal waters, a mobile phone is a more reliable and longer range link with the CG than a H/H VHF.

Andy
I've certainly been in the situation on shouts where I have had to relay messages through other craft in order to get through to the coastguard.

It happens a lot close in to the cliff between Durlston head and St Aldhelms on the Dorset coast. In this situation you almost have line of sight to Portland coastguard in Weymouth but they are often using their Hengistbury head (30m) which is blocked out by the cliffs.

It would be easy to imagine a situation in a sea kayak where you were close in and got into trouble under the cliff. In this situation it would almost certainly be necessary to relay messages through another vessel.

Also, don't forget, it doesn't matter what size their aerial is, if you are transmitting on a puny handweld at 2.5 or 5 watts, distance from the aerial will be crucial. Any more than about 30 miles and you are buggered. This is where a yacht with a mast mounted antennae and a fixed radio comes in!
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