Cool radio tricks
Ainulindale, Ainulindale, Ainulindale… this is Zero To Cruising, Zero To Cruising, over…
–>Zero To Cruising, Zero To Cruising… this is Ainulindale, over…
Ainulindale, switch and answer on channel 71, over…
–>Switching to 71.
We both change channels, hopefully having already confirmed that channel 71 is available!
Ainulindale, Ainulindale… this is Zero To Cruising, over…
–>Zero To Cruising… this is Ainulindale, over…
Conversation can now commence. Note that all bored or nosy people can also follow you both over to channel 71 to eavesdrop. There are no secrets on the VHF!
That seems like a lot of steps just to have a brief pow-wow with someone, doesn’t it? Of course, it can be abbreviated, especially by boats which are nearby and speak often, but that’s basically what goes on every time a boat hails another vessel on the VHF radio, unless…
Someone’s radio needs to be cleaned!
Unless both vessels are equipped with DSC radios, are familiar with how to use them and know the MMSI number of the party that they wish to hail.
Wikipedia describes DSC or Digital Selective Calling as “a standard for sending pre-defined digital messages via the medium frequency (MF), high frequency (HF) and very high frequency (VHF) maritime radio systems. It is a core part of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS).”
In addition to being valuable as a distress system, DSC allows one vessel to call another almost as easily as dialing a telephone, especially if the vessel to be called’s MMSI number is already programmed into the caller’s radio. Trading MMSI numbers and programming our radios with them is exactly what Kirk on Ainulindale and I did yesterday. It’s ironic too as, after hanging out with one another for the past few months, we only get around to doing this just as Kirk and Donna are getting ready to start heading up island and will soon be out of VHF range.
In order to accomplish this, I admit that I did have to pull out the manual for our Standard Horizon GX2100 Matrix radio as I couldn’t really remember the steps. We got it working though and now all we need to do to hail them is to scroll to their ship’s name in our radio’s directory and push send. On the other boat the radio will start ringing like a telephone does and when responded to, will have already switched to a working channel. It’s pretty cool, and a time saver. It also does away with the busy-bodies switching channels with you to follow your conversation!
There are some other nice things that DSC allows you to do including finding out specifically where your friends are located. Having tied our Matrix radio into our Garmin 546, this is really cool! If you are getting ready to head out cruising, make sure that your boat is equipped with a DSC capable radio and that you register a MMSI number. You’re going to want to have the ability to do all of these things!
Here are some useful DSC related links. Credit to Silverheels 3 for compiling the list.
Americans will find that their MMSI number has been included with their call sign on their 10 year paper FCC radio license for international travel. An American MMSI assigned by Boat US is not recorded in the ITU database. The US government-issued FCC MMSI always ends with a zero.
Pleasure craft owners from the UK who already have a vessel radio license can apply for their MMSI here.
Log in and fill in your details, one of which will be your radio license. While you are doing this you can also register the rest of your marine electronics. Once you submit this information, you will be provided with a confirmation page with the following details: MMSI, Call Sign and License Number. Your new MMSI can then be entered into your VHF and away you go.
Search here with a ITU three digit country prefix for MMSI to determine a vessel’s country of origin, e.g. 316 would be Canadian.
Once you have the three digit prefix from above you can then:
- Search the international MMSI database
- Search for US flagged vessels
- Search for Canadian flagged vessels
Information pages for DSC and MMSI: