radio test - dsc or channel 16? and can we not bother the coastguard?

Burnham Bob

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I test my radio every year at the beginning of the season and sometimes before I'm off on a passage - just to make sure. I always feel I'm bothering the coastguard although round here Thames Coastguard are without fail, helpful, polite and always seem intersted in the wellbeing of leisure sailors.
Should I use Channel 16, call them on 67 routine traffic orcall on DSC? - I have their MMSI programmed in just in case.

Plus if we don't want to bother the Coastguard how do other forumites get a radio check? Obviously nearby boats might help but the coastguard are several miles away and I know my radio is transmitting at full power.

Any advice?
 

MoodySabre

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They won't mind once a year. Channel 16. Don't have DSC but if voice works then DSC should.

Having said that I usually call friends or the marina once I've got up the river a bit.
 
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Heckler

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They won't mind once a year. Channel 16. Don't have DSC but if voice works then DSC should.

Having said that I usually call friends or the marina once I've got up the river a bit.
Nokia, 999, hello police, fire or ambulance whch service do you require? Umm I would like a telephone check please! I know the answer to that!
Really, why do peeps do it? Radio check I mean?
If you have been playing with your radio arial etc then call a mate! The coastguard is the last one you need to call with his network of ultra powerful "antennas" His eqipment makes anything look good.
Stu
 

Searush

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Hmm, and what will you do if you don't get a reply?

Turn round & go home, or carry on, aware that you may need to get yourself out of any trouble you get into & sail accordingly?

If the latter, you might as well do that anyway. Put the radio on listening watch & you will know if the receiver is working. The chances of the transmit not working when the receive does are probably about 30/70 ish. Now what are the chances that you will need to rely on calling for help? Every trip? I doubt it, 1 in a 100? That's probably every couple of years for most people.

Do you see the logic yet? Sail as if your radio isn't working & it is unlikely that you will need it. Sail as if there is always someone there to rescue you when things go wrong and the chances are you will need your radio. In the latter case, you will need a radio check every time you go out.

At the start of the season a low power call to the HM, Marina or a visible boat will prove the transmitter is working. For a serious passage, book a passage plan with the CG as you set out, but don't forget to complete it when you arrive - and watch out for radio black spots at your destination!
 

wooslehunter

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If you have DSC, use it. That way you test it. If in your area coastie use 67 as a working channel, use that. If not, use 16. They will not mind a check call. You and they will have a bigger problem if you are in trouble & the radio doesn't work.

As for the comparison with cell phones. Most people use a cell phone regularly & know pretty soon that it has a problem. Many people hardly ever use their VHF. Anyone who complains about radio checks is IMO crazy. The time you find out your radio has a problem is not the time when you need it. Second, on land if you need help & the cell phone fails their are a multitude of ways to get help. On the sea it's not so simple. You can't just run next door & use their phone etc etc.

Do your test. Like others have said, yu can easily use a marina. Don't howeve sit in the marine & call them. At least use someone a reasonable distance away.
 

gshaw

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If you are doing work on the antenna YOU SHOULD ALWAYS check the radio. If you have access to the kit then you should also check the SWR (standing wave ratio) BEFORE prolonged transmission on any channel as a high SWR reading can and will damage your radio and dramatically reduce the power leaving the antenna.

SWR meters are reasonably priced but you can get a local radio amateur to help out usually for a beer or burger.

Testing the SWR assures you that the radio is transmitting at its peak. A quick call to a handheld receiver (again the local amateur radio guys will help out) will prove the audio quality. A call to a mates TxRx will prove the whole system.

It is a license requirement to assure that your equipment (radio) is working and not causing interference to others.

"The Licensee must ensure that the Radio Equipment relevant to each Licence is constructed, established, installed and used only in accordance with the provisions specified in the individual Licence schedules."
 

stav

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I very rarely do a radio check as the boat is up and running all year and invariably every now and then need to talk with the local harbour crew. Having said that a call once a year if the boat has been winterised does not seem unreasonable, only difficult in the solent and other similiar busy places. I guess if you can do it at a quieter time that would be better. I use DSC all the time to call the coast guard for passage info etc and would recommend giving it a go. Obviously you still need to listen first and put in the right working frequency (not16). As for power I tend to have it on high power as I feel there is more likely hood of showing a fault in your transmission, but I am no radio engineer!
 

Robin

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Sorry chaps but doing a radiocheck with a local station is not at all informative because they are too close even usually the nearest CG. Whilst you may well be heard OK at short range you may not be at long range, especially if there is a fault with the on board aerial. We once fitted a new VHF aerial, did a radiocheck from Poole to Portland CG which was OK, but 25mls out in the Channel on a Bank Holiday weekend all was eerily silent, yet the handheld (and later main set with the emergency aerial) was non stop gibberish, AKA Solent radiochecks and invites for cocktails. In our case the fault was within the new aerial itself which as I said gave 'loud and clear' to Portland through their nearest aerial still 10mls away.

The only real test is at proper range. In the case above we could normally receive Solent and Portland when just off Cherbourg and many times even transmit to them from there, if they could hear over the other stuff. One way to do a surreptitious test in our area is to give a TR to the CG on departure say for a return trip from Cherbourg, calling them as you leave and if no reply try 10 mls closer.

This really is like the fridge interior light syndrome however. If the set was working last time out, it probably is now and even more probably if you can receive and yet more probably still if you can receive at really long range, like in Poole when we hear Joburg Traffic Control 60mls away on Cherbourg peninsular.
 

Elemental

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Imagine if every yacht called the CG "at the beginning of the season and sometimes before I'm off on a passage", say 5 calls per yacht per season - that would be a huge number of CG calls. Why on earth do you feel the need to check so often. Indeed, why would a properly installed VHF suddenly stop working (particularly if it's receiving OK)? If you don't trust the gear, then you should acquire equipment you can trust - or get your installation properly installed. Calling the CG with their huge, high gain, antennae is probably not a really sensible test of your unit anyway.

Searush had it right - just sail like you haven't got one and all will be well. You can get hold of a decent handheld for use as a backup or close quarters communications if you feel the need. If you're still uneasy then a better question to ask is "why do I feel the need for a working VHF so strongly?". If the answer to that is that you have doubts about your ability or knowlege, then perhaps some training would be a good investment. Really, a VHF is not essential to sail your boat safely - nice to have, but not essential.
 

ProDave

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I would second the sentiment about checking the SWR

When we got our boat we did a radio check and it aparantly worked.

But over winter (at home on the trailer) I've checked things out thoroughly and found the SWR was appauling. On checking, 3 out of the 4 RF connections were done completely wrong, one not even being soldered.

Now it's all re done, I have a near perfect SWR, so don't really fel the need to call up for a radio check, but will do next time the sailing club safety boat is out, I will call them.
 

ghostlymoron

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I'm afraid I disagree with the previous poster.
It's all very well to say 'sail like you haven't got one and everything will be OK blah blah blah' BUT its easy to foresee occasions when, despite sailing responsibly, you need assistance - hooking a lobster pot, crew member accident. Then a working radio is essential. Aerial connections degrade and it must make sense to make sure that the radio is operational when you set off. In my area traffic is light and I'm sure the CG doesn't mind giving radio checks if you have no other way of checking it and a call to them before setting off on a serious passage is always met with a positive response.
Also checking with the CG means that you have checked comms with the people you are most likely to call in an emergency.
 

Burnham Bob

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I must admit I'm surprised by the opinion that some respondents have expressed that - and i paraphrase - "if you were any kind of a sailor you wouldn't need a radio".

When I took my radio exam the examiner said their job was to make sure we could use a vital piece of safety equipment.

Yes I carry a spare - a handheld - but its range is not as good as the fixed set.

Cruising off the east coast I've heard genuine Maydays from craft within sight of land but in real trouble. Some pan pans could obviously be coped with by sailing skills but having given one boat a tow after a pan pan when their engine broke down, I'm not tempted to say that had they been better sailors they shouldn't have called and fought their way home up the Crouch tacking against the tide.

I think the RNLI would agree with me that having a working radio is a sensible safety measure. I'd also hate to find it wasn't working and I hadn't heard Port Control telling me about the movement of the ferry that suddenly appeared alongside as if from nowhere.

Do the advocates of 'better sailing skills means no radio' use a sextant as opposed to gps? Maybe they also drink their own urine as soon as they are past Outer Crouch.............
 

Bilgediver

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I test my radio every year at the beginning of the season and sometimes before I'm off on a passage - just to make sure. I always feel I'm bothering the coastguard although round here Thames Coastguard are without fail, helpful, polite and always seem intersted in the wellbeing of leisure sailors.
Should I use Channel 16, call them on 67 routine traffic orcall on DSC? - I have their MMSI programmed in just in case.

Plus if we don't want to bother the Coastguard how do other forumites get a radio check? Obviously nearby boats might help but the coastguard are several miles away and I know my radio is transmitting at full power.

Any advice?

Use the DSC and make an individual call. The coastguard have the software installed now so they can switch your radio to channel 67 when they reply....If it works:):) YOu can not do this in some radios as 67 is not ship to ship.
 

Searush

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Thank you all for completely mis-quoting me & distorting what I said. :rolleyes:

Yes a radio is a useful bit of safety eqt, I never said otherwise. All I asked was, "Would you sail without one?" If not, then stay in your marinas if in doubt.

Personally I sailed for many years before I could afford a radio. In 30 years of all sorts of sailing, I have not used the radio for an emergency (bearing in mind, I've only had a radio for 20 years!) Yet I have dealt with mooring & pot entanglements, going aground on a lee shore, hitting rocks & wrecks in shallow water, I have aborted trips for bad weather, broached in overfalls, had anchor snags that kept me trapped for a tide, engine & gearbox failures, r/r genny jams, all the usual mishaps that happen from time to time. All I am saying is that we have a responsibility to look after ourselves & try to avoid getting into situations from which rescue is required.

So it's not about "Good sailors don't need radios" it's about taking responsibility for one's one actions & whether the radio is proven or not DON'T RELY on it (or your mobile phone) to get you out of trouble. Too many of us seem to see the CG & RNLI like the AA & RAC etc breakdown services.

Wasn't it Blondie Hasler that said he wouldn't want to call for help, he'd rather die like a gentleman! :D
 

Burnham Bob

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Sorry you feel you've been misquoted Searush. I don't rely on the radio and I don't see it as a guarantee of safety that allows me to relinquish responsibility for the safety of myself, my crew and my boat.

A radio, as you agree, is a useful piece of safety kit and I would rather sail with a working radio than without. Testing it seems to me a prudent move.

My original post was to see if anyone had any suggestions as to the best way of testing that involved minimal effort for the Coastguard and maximum reassurance of technical integrity.

You list the emergencies you've dealt with and I'm impressed. However one day a radio might get even the most experienced sailor out of trouble.
 

fireball

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As for the comparison with cell phones. Most people use a cell phone regularly & know pretty soon that it has a problem. Many people hardly ever use their VHF. Anyone who complains about radio checks is IMO crazy..
with the sheer volume of radio check requests in the solent there are regular 'complaints' about them. And for the majority of them they're not going out of the solent - so their mobile phone will still work just as well if they are in trouble - if by a 1 thousand to 1 chance their VHF isn't working that day.

By all means - do a check with the CG if you've had a set change or re-done the wiring to the antenna - but please do it when it's quiet.

Better still - if you've got a mate with a boat then you could always telephone them to find out where they are and do a test that way - I do that sometimes with another guy - usually we're 20Nm apart - so a reasonable test ...
 

johnalison

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I suspect that I am not unusual in generally relying on calling fellow club members and my marina office from time to time as a substitute for making test calls. As long as I am rceiving distant traffic and communicating normally locally I feel I have little to worry about.

Also, my DSC set has the facility of performing both internal and "external" self-test calls which I presume don't include the aerial but at least give me some extra confidence.
 

agurney

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Nokia, 999, hello police, fire or ambulance whch service do you require? Umm I would like a telephone check please! I know the answer to that!
Really, why do peeps do it? Radio check I mean?
If you have been playing with your radio arial etc then call a mate! The coastguard is the last one you need to call with his network of ultra powerful "antennas" His eqipment makes anything look good.
Stu

I've regularly heard Clyde/Stornoway/Belfast/Liverpool coastguards call each other for radio checks. If it's good enough for them ...
 

lenseman

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And for all you guys who need to to check your VHF radios before you set out from shore, how about setting off your EPIRB and PLB, just to make sure? :confused:

You never know, they might not work either and you really, really need to make sure that they too are fully operational won't you? :eek:

You only have to wait until the RNLI or CG helicopter arrives and you will then know it is save to proceed from the marina?
 
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