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PostPosted: Wed Sep 30, 2009 7:59 pm 
I just completed a VHF radio course in Canada to get my ROC (M)
(radio operators certificate)
I had never heard of DSC VHF radios before and was interested to find out that there is a portable/floatable VHF with built in GPS
By way of brief explanation a DSC (digital selective calling) radio can be used to send out: mayday, Pan pan calls digitally on channel 70 It can also be used to make general contact calls to other DSC equipped radios/vessels. It gives out the Long/Lat of your location with the call on channel 70 so that the Coast Guard can pinpoint your location
Regular voice communication continues on the usual channels.

Our instructor had a Standard Horizon HX 850S
It looks like a good model to use Kayaking all be it a bit large.
thought it might be of interest.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:26 pm 
It's about same big as many VHF models without DSC. Larger than SH 471S or my Icom M88, but not much larger than my older Icom M1V. Can be carried on a PFD, I think. I'm carrying VHF in cold weather and in multiday trips, in case that I would need to send a distress call, but mostly using it for listening to weather channels (available in USA and Canada, but not in Baja and most of Bahamas, btw). Weather channels (and AM/SW radio) is a good cure for boredom in tent in a bad weather.

It's good that they offer DSC in handheld units now, but... When I think of that scenario of sending a distress call from water - I can usually tell my location with 0.5-2.0 miles accuracy, like 500 meters North of such and such point or island. Might not be enough for efficient SAR in heavy storm or at night, but I don't paddle in those conditions. PLB (about same 5" size) would be more reliable location tool, having practically unlimited range via satellite, as opposed to few miles range of VHF (from sea level and with waves blocking the horizon). OTH, when they will implement a DSC feature in smaller units like SH 471S or Icom M88, this would be enough incentive for people to open their wallets and replace their current non-DSC transceivers.

PostPosted: Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:55 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2005 9:02 pm
Posts: 1035
Location: Astoria, OR
Hugh, I think you also have to gert an MMSI number to complete the package, if memory serves me correctly.

DSC has other features, also. I have thought about DSC as a sure way to get my location to the CG, but I know of no one in the kayaking realm who has put it into use.

As Alex suggests, the limited range of our transmissions from 2 feet off the water limits the value, but in populous waters, other boats will also pick up your distress signal, if close.

Dave Kruger
Astoria, OR
Folbot Kodiak, Cooper, and Edisto; three hardshells; Mothership: Surf Scoter the Bartender; dinghy Little Blue Duck.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 8:52 am 
you are right the MMSI# (Maritime Mobile Service Indentity#) is needed and registers your radio.
In Canada you have to get the MMSI# from Industry Canada. Our instructor had a bit of trouble registering his as the gov't offfice he dealt with wanted a name of a vessel to put with the radio.He is part of a sailing Coop. and is usually on a different boat week to week. For kayakers I suppose you could use your own name or choose a name.

Alex I agree with you on the PLB as the best bet for emergencies and I think a SPOT would serve the same purpose for less $ although from personal experience unless a SPOT is already turned on it does take a while for it to find satellites (at least the I'm OK function takes a bit of time) and in an emergency you may not have time to turn it on.
My own thought is that the screen on the Std Horizon model is small and without my reading glasses I would have trouble selecting the correct messageto be sent IE mayday vs pan ,securite etc.
Of course I'm paddling now with prescription glasses on so that may not come into play.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 1:21 pm 
Glasses, yeah... When wet, especially in sea water, glasses is a pain, when you have to read a regular GPS screen (don't know about this VHF screen). Good thing that to send a regular mayday voice signal, on most VHF units there is a designated bright button for Ch 16, and you don't have to read anything. I don't have PLB yet, US$600 is a lot of money, though the latest ACR Microfix and ACR Microlink are small enough to carry them (but costly, because recent models).
SPOT has another problem beside those that you mentioned - this is email and eventually goes through internet, and may not make it for one or another reason. Hsve seen this more than once with my emails via regular line - gets lost or corrupted. Also, as I understand, SPOT covers only USA and Canada, forget about Mexico or Brazil. PLB, OTH, is internationally recognized emergency beacon, many countries require foreign bush pilots to carry 406 MHZ PLB if you are crossing their airspace.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 4:45 pm 
Alm wrote:
Also, as I understand, SPOT covers only USA and Canada, forget about Mexico or Brazil.

You understand wrong. SPOT uses the Globalstar satellites to send messages. Their coverage is quite extensive, albeit definitely less than global.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 5:33 pm 
Ok, friends and family in Canada receive a distress message from South America. That is, - when they are at their computers. Then they will hopefully contact some consulate if it's not a weekend or late hours, or local SAR services. What if there is no family, or no such friends that would want to receive your messages? Or, will SPOT 911 call (a separate function) be received by emergency services, say, in Mexico, Chile or Brazil? They have different emergency phone numbers. OK, 911 SPOT signal is not exactly being send by dialing 911, but will it be received by anybody locally at all? PLB signals are received directly or automatically rerouted to marine and air traffic control centers, but who and where receives 911 SPOT signals outside North America? They have most of the globe covered, according to their map. But when I clicked on some areas where they suppose to have coverage (through International --> Global Partners) , all I've got was "SPOT is coming soon to this area. For distribution opportunities call the number...".

PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 5:55 pm 
As I understand the distress message is not sent to your friends and family at all, but goes directly to a third-party commercial rescue operations centre in the USA. They will then contact the appropriate authorities based on your location, and also phone your personal contacts. If you have purchased the optional SAR insurance from them they will also authorise private SAR operations in countries where no public services exist.

You are at the mercy of a private company doing its job, but I suspect that once the message gets out you're in pretty good hands. However, there isn't much data that shows how reliable the message is at getting out when you are swimming in heavy seas.

If there's anyone around to hear a VHF "mayday" that's still got to be your best option.

But when I clicked on some areas where they suppose to have coverage (through International --> Global Partners) , all I've got was "SPOT is coming soon to this area. For distribution opportunities call the number...".

I think that means they won't sell you one with an address or credit card from those places.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 6:32 pm 
There is "Ask for Help" button, and this one goes to your contacts. 911 goes to emergency center in the USA. Both routes are using some internet protocol if I'm correct, and this is one weak spot (no pun intended). Another one is that this is an indirect way, once you're not in the USA or Canada - or less direct than PLB. I suspect that "human nature" of 911 response centers will cause an additional delay - imagine an operator lady that used to handle local phone calls, and suddenly a signal comes with GPS coordinates in the middle of nowhere, and she has to figure out what to do with this. Contacting appropriate local authorities sounds nice, but how the heck she will do this, speaking English only?

they won't sell you one with an address or credit card from those places.

Either this, or they have no established procedures of contacting local authorities, except may be a phone number an email for consulate.

Another thing is how good is reception from sea, as you noted. I don't think it makes a difference for a satellite (it's high enough not to be blocked by waves), but what makes difference is the nature of signal - power, frequency and modulation (have no idea how they do it in case of email messages), and also - on the transmitter sensitivity or time to acquire the satellite signal, and on the number of satellites in particular area. As Hugh noted, it's slow to "lock" on satellite (any GPS takes a while, btw, at least 15-20 seconds after you turn it on) - don't know how much slower is SPOT, but this might improve with time.

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