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Old 07-08-2015, 10:55 AM   #1
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Sea Tow/Towboat US towing companies

I have a Towboat US membership and just had a thought...

When I was crossing from Key West to Marco, about 80 miles or so, I didn't have cell service for much of the trip and I don't think my VHF was picking anything up either for much of the trip.

How does one call for a tow when doing these longer crossings with no service? I do have one of those personal locator beacons (ACR resQlink) so I guess I could activate that if I had to.

Is there better cell service when doing the Clearwater to Carabelle crossing?
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Old 07-08-2015, 11:16 AM   #2
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You ask for VHF relays at first....


The USCG and the towing agencies (especially Sea Tow with the old ship to shore stations) can hear quite a ways out if you have a 9db, 17' plus antenna. USCG aircraft over south Florida can relay for you and they can hear you hundreds of miles away sometimes.....they will probably divert and pinpoint your position and relay as long as they can stay on station...unless more pressing things come up.


When out of options and as things deteriorate...sure EPIRB/PLB is great too.


For all the supporters of other "rescue type" devices out there...sure they can be used too.
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Old 07-08-2015, 11:17 AM   #3
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With all the boat traffic running that same route you should be in VHF range of a few boats at all times. If not the Coast Guard can pick up your transmission from a considerable distance.
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Old 07-08-2015, 11:22 AM   #4
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Got it. Didn't think about relays.
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Old 07-08-2015, 11:27 AM   #5
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Got it. Didn't think about relays.
If you routinely venture past the 50 mile line....if you don't have 2 VHF antennas (actually 3 as you should have at least a handheld and they can broadcast pretty well with an adapter and to a 3db fixed antenna)....you should set yourself up with a 9db antenna.

While some will flutter about height...punching power has it's benefits too...even past the horizon.
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Old 07-08-2015, 11:32 AM   #6
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I have a handheld but have not been happy with it. It seems so weak.

Only have one VHF antenna and I'm not sure of DB gain or length.

I need multiple antennas for one VHF radio?
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Old 07-08-2015, 12:16 PM   #7
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I have a handheld but have not been happy with it. It seems so weak.

Only have one VHF antenna and I'm not sure of DB gain or length.

I need multiple antennas for one VHF radio?
I think for boats like ours...3 VHFs are a good idea.

1 hooked to a 9db gain ant for long range.

1 hooked to a 6 db gain ant for close communications.

1 handheld with adapter as a back up to either of the above.

The handheld is also for the ditch bag or abandon ship bag and can backup the other radios and is a great abandon ship backup for coastal cruising to an EPIRB/PLB.
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Old 07-08-2015, 12:45 PM   #8
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Cell service will be non existent for almost all of the Clearwater to Carabelle trip if you are going there in a straight line, and for most of the way if you are taking the Bend, depending on your carrier. I too am a big believer in VHF redundancy for a variety of reasons, some merely convenient. Two "big" Standard Horizons with 16 foot antennas (see avatar) and an Icom handheld in our case, with a "big" Uniden as a spare.
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Old 07-08-2015, 01:08 PM   #9
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For those that don't get the db gain on antennas...here's my philosophy as a rescue guy.


db is going to punch the distance.If you have much greater height but a lower db antenna...then it is a push...say a low gain antenna on a 60 foot mast against a high gain antenna just 20 feet up (base of antenna at sea level).


The real trick is when it is rough and you are rolling like crazy...if nothing else...too high a gain and when the rescue guys get in close comms may be difficult...lowering the db will allow for better comms much of the time.


Once withing 5 miles or so, a decently charged or good batteries in a handheld will do the trick.


I have a 9 db antenna to a good radio at my lower helm. If things are starting to go wrong...that's where I will be close to. A Mayday will start from there.


As things progress as in fire or abandon ship...I might be working it from the flybridge as I can direct a rescue better from there.


the handheld will be on my neck or clipped to me as things get progressively worse right up to abandon ship where I hope it will be a great backup to my PLB.
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Old 07-08-2015, 01:24 PM   #10
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Ok. I understand the three different radios now.

I think my antenna is only about 4' on top of a 4' mast so that could be part of my range problem.

My handheld is a West Marine unit that struggles to work calling bridge tenders when the bridge is in sight.
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Old 07-08-2015, 01:32 PM   #11
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Theory is a great thing to use as a guide....practical experience can make it work.

Many people I know have been sold all sorts of gear through the years, even some here expound on what has been told to them and what they think works for them....but in many local and many boats under many conditions I have experienced....


The theories about VHF are as complicated as what is a trawler...
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Old 07-09-2015, 10:08 AM   #12
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You would be surprised how far the CG can reach and as others have said relaying works as well.
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Old 07-09-2015, 03:08 PM   #13
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I've heard the coast guard from Miami on the radio when offshore of marathon, so I'm sure they can pick up your transmission anywhere offshore.
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Old 07-09-2015, 04:14 PM   #14
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I've heard the coast guard from Miami on the radio when offshore of marathon, so I'm sure they can pick up your transmission anywhere offshore.
They have many remote stations all up and down the coasts....and are controlled from a "sector" HQ.

The trick to comms way offshore is a decent antenna set up...with one....50 miles offshore should be routine and 100 miles might be common.
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Old 07-09-2015, 06:10 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cardude01 View Post
I have a Towboat US membership and just had a thought...

When I was crossing from Key West to Marco, about 80 miles or so, I didn't have cell service for much of the trip and I don't think my VHF was picking anything up either for much of the trip.

How does one call for a tow when doing these longer crossings with no service? I do have one of those personal locator beacons (ACR resQlink) so I guess I could activate that if I had to.

Is there better cell service when doing the Clearwater to Carabelle crossing?
When I do that leg in the trawler (from Clearwater to Carrabelle) I do the long route for just that reason. Of course I have an older boat, with 40-year old engines, so am just a tad shy about being way out there.

And let me lay a wrong impression to rest, while I am at it. There is a gracious plenty of water (6 feet or more) traveling the Northern route from Anclote Key to Steinhatchee and then heading from there over to Carrabelle. Frankly, anyone who claims there is not apparently has never made the trip. I have.
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Old 07-09-2015, 10:31 PM   #16
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I had heard the USCG Jacksonville sector VHF communications could reach out to the Apalachicola - Anclote Key direct route. So, one night I hailed them from about midway, sure enough they responded. That antenna of mine is a whip type mounted on my mast antenna tip approximately 19' above the waterline.
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Old 07-10-2015, 09:46 AM   #17
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I will give that a try. Thanks.
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Old 07-10-2015, 10:33 AM   #18
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Dot think you'll have a problem. I received a TX from boat us in Fort Lauderdale all the way from the abaco's a couple times.
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Old 07-12-2015, 10:33 AM   #19
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Just did crossing from Bradenton direct to carabelle and when out the farthest I tried to raise the coast guard. It was a no go. I have a Delorme "In Reach" satellite communicator which allows me to send 150 character text messages from anywhere as well as sending ten minute bleeps in so anyone can see where I am at any time. Real piece of mind. I'm going to look into my antennas on board to see if I can increase my vhf range though . Good info.
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