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Old 07-09-2016, 10:59 PM   #1
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Handheld vhf w/gps sufficient?

Hubby and I have been discussing our safety and emergency supplies and preparation.
We'll only ever be doing coastal cruising, probably never out of sight of land.

Would a handheld VHF radio wi GPS be sufficient or should we also purchase a couple of PLB's as well?
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Old 07-09-2016, 11:28 PM   #2
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We decided to purchase one PLB for our ditch bag.

With our PLB we are adding two additional layers of communication - transmission of our distress/position to the satellite, plus a 121.5 beacon for (hopefully) the responding aircraft. They are not very expensive in consideration of what it can do.

Don't forget to think about first aid for the big things that can get you fast (bleeding, airway) and protection from cold water (maybe not in the Gulf?). You can take a good medical class and outfit yourselves with a kit AND procure some decent cold weather gear for within one boat unit $$.

Proper preparation means more confidence and less stress - more fun.

Good for you for leaning forward on the PLB issue!

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Old 07-10-2016, 06:39 AM   #3
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PLBS were just on sale with rebate for around $200, for $50 more you got the aquarium k which I believe is a bit more waterproof.

While a handheld is a great tool in the ditch bag, I would still get the PLB.

One is great, two is super.

A PLB or EPIRB is the single greatest survival tool you have other than a well experienced, resourceful human brain.
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Old 07-10-2016, 08:11 AM   #4
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I have 2 EPIRB's, a SPOT, and a DeLorme inReach, along with a beacon on the upper deck that automatically goes off if it falls below the water surface.

Safety devices that get put in a ditch bag or stuffed in a drawer are second-rate in my mind unless you're doing far offshore cruising. A much better strategy for coastal cruising is to use devices that you'll actually use every time you're out. Then they're powered, checked to be working, and you'll know exactly how to use them if an emergency ever really happens.

So it's fine to get a PLB. But what makes much more sense, especially if you're really cruising and not just going out for a weekend here and there, is to get a DeLorme inReach. It becomes a satellite messaging system and more importantly, actively tracks your boat as you're moving. This allows friends and family to see where you are by using a variety of websites and tools. If there's an emergency, you can set off the 911/SOS mode and also send a short message about the actual emergency. That is so critical especially when you receive a response knowing that someone is coming.

Contrast that with an EPIRB or PLB. You hit the emergency button and the thing blinks. You have no idea if anyone is receiving the signal. Chances are, the batteries are out of date because you didn't feel like spending the money to update them, thinking they'd last another season. That type of thing never happens when you're using the device every time you go out.

Imagine sitting clinging to debris as your boat is sinking, 10 miles from shore. Do you want to know that someone is coming? Or just hope they are?

So my advice for coastal cruising - if you only want to spend money on one type of device, make it a DeLorme inReach and really use it every time you're out.
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Old 07-10-2016, 09:01 AM   #5
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Good advice from everyone.

Same here. We carry a Plb that is velcroed near exit of the boat and grabbed on way out.

The ditch bag has a floating Vhf with GPS and AIS enabled. The bag also has the usual safety items.

I also carry one more VHF in addition to the OEM VHF on the helm console.

Check your batteries before a trip and do a Radio check. Instead of calling for a radio check on 16 which I don't believe the Coast Guard is crazy about, there is now an automated radio check. I don't recall the number to punch in but perhaps someone knows that.
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Old 07-10-2016, 09:32 AM   #6
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Good advice from everyone.
Instead of calling for a radio check on 16 which I don't believe the Coast Guard is crazy about, there is now an automated radio check. I don't recall the number to punch in but perhaps someone knows that.
The USCG actively discourages radio checks on VHF 16. To test your radio Sea Tow has an automated VHF test system usually found on Channel 27. Check locally because it is not VHF 27 in all locations.
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Old 07-10-2016, 09:42 AM   #7
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For the life of me, I don't understand why anyone does a radio check. It seems to be the staple of guys in little fishing boats that go out once a month. I have never heard a long distance cruiser do one except if they just installed a new radio.

If your VHF is under 5 years old, it works or it lets you know there's a problem. Have a handheld backup and save us from all the radio checks.
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Old 07-10-2016, 09:50 AM   #8
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The USCG actively discourages radio checks on VHF 16. To test your radio Sea Tow has an automated VHF test system usually found on Channel 27. Check locally because it is not VHF 27 in all locations.
Here in the Seattle region, the USGC spends a lot of time on busy summer weekends reminding boaters that channel 16 is not to be used for radio checks. I almost have their mantra memorized I hear it so often. They do encourage the use of 22A for radio checks however.

I have not heard about the automated radio check. Anyone from the PNW know about its availability? I don't check my radio's transmission capability very often even though it is the most important safety device I have on board.
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Old 07-10-2016, 10:07 AM   #9
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Thanks, I watched my buddy use that channel for an automated check a couple months ago, but forgot the channel.

Agree, I don't check on 16, but a lot of folks do, and are periodically reprimanded for it.

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The USCG actively discourages radio checks on VHF 16. To test your radio Sea Tow has an automated VHF test system usually found on Channel 27. Check locally because it is not VHF 27 in all locations.
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Old 07-10-2016, 10:12 AM   #10
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For the life of me, I don't understand why anyone does a radio check. It seems to be the staple of guys in little fishing boats that go out once a month. I have never heard a long distance cruiser do one except if they just installed a new radio.

If your VHF is under 5 years old, it works or it lets you know there's a problem. Have a handheld backup and save us from all the radio checks.

OT, sorry, not meant to hijack:

Oooooh. New boat, new avatar... nice!

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Old 07-10-2016, 10:14 AM   #11
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Would a handheld VHF radio wi GPS be sufficient or should we also purchase a couple of PLB's as well?

Can't say, about PLBs, but were it me, I'd still prefer a fixed mount VHF installation with a very good antenna even for coastal cruising, and with a handheld VHF as back-up.

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Old 07-10-2016, 10:26 AM   #12
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Can't say, about PLBs, but were it me, I'd still prefer a fixed mount VHF installation with a very good antenna even for coastal cruising, and with a handheld VHF as back-up.

-Chris
We have two fixed mount vhf radios on board. One on the lower helm and one on the flybridge. We will be replacing the one on the flybridge.

The handheld would be in addition to those.
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Old 07-10-2016, 01:05 PM   #13
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Here's my take ...

EPIRBS and PLBS have been certified under strict supervision to work as advertised to save your butt. They are manditory now in some places.

While other gizmos are useful in more ways and claim to work great....well...so do PLBS and EPIRBS....but I don't know how much certification they actually go through.

Having a PLB pinned to your lifevest doesn't mean out of sight out of mind...unless your life vest is also.

Plus, for most coastal cruisers, at least on the East coast, the VHF is a great tool, especially with DSC distress enabled. To get a radio check on the automated system provided by Sea Tow, enables you to actually hear how clear your transmission and reception is from a known distance. Pretty valuable in my mind. Plus the automated system doesn't bother a soul and gives you peace of mind to a degree.
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Old 07-10-2016, 01:34 PM   #14
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I do radio checks anymore by doing a DSC Test call to the USCG. Quick and easy and tells me the important (to me) pieces are working.

From http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=DSCTesting:

Quote:
For VHF DSC radios equipped with the Test Call feature, test transmissions should be made to the US Coast Guard MMSI 003669999 to receive an automated VHF DSC test response. You must use the “Test Call” category of your radio because “Individual” category calls to this address will not receive an automated response.
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Old 07-10-2016, 01:54 PM   #15
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OPer, I'd get a PLB and/or EPIRB. I have a handheld VHF in addition to two on-board mounted standard-wattage VHFs. There have been times when my handheld won't reach out to a fellow boater within a mile...! At those times, I'd give it the float test, but the darn thing floats.
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Old 07-10-2016, 02:05 PM   #16
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A hand held VHF will naturally have a limited range. It has a short antenna and transmitting from a low height. Since VHF is a line of site transmission, its limited range is understandable. That being said, when lightning struck the hand held was all we had left. We were not sinking and not on fire so it was not a mayday situation. I called in a Pan, Pan and the USCG answered from 35 miles away. They could receive my radio even though 25 of the 35 miles was over land. It is nice to know that when you need it, it has that much range, though I guess the power was all on their end.
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Old 07-10-2016, 02:26 PM   #17
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We have two fixed mount vhf radios on board. One on the lower helm and one on the flybridge. We will be replacing the one on the flybridge.

The handheld would be in addition to those.

Ah. Fair enough, hadn't realized you had fixed radios already.

In that case... a waterproof, floating handheld with internal GPS and DCS distress calling ability seems like a good thing. (Have had my eye on that idea for a while, myself, since our current handheld is old school "brick" in nature.)

Still can't comment on PLB, but they look good on paper. And more protection is often better than less.

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Old 07-11-2016, 07:11 AM   #18
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I have two high quality self inflating PFD, while being in the ICW most of the time while cruising in this area and with all the commercial traffic in the ICW I would think you would be seen. You can never have to much safety equipment, IMO
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Old 07-11-2016, 07:51 AM   #19
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I have two high quality self inflating PFD, while being in the ICW most of the time while cruising in this area and with all the commercial traffic in the ICW I would think you would be seen. You can never have to much safety equipment, IMO
Yes to the never have too much (within reason and obviously prioritized)...

But nope to the not being seen, many have been almost run over and not seen by the craft even out looking for them let alone people who do the ICW to sightsee, not be search units.

Signaling is one of the major components of any survival plan.
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Old 07-11-2016, 07:59 AM   #20
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For the life of me, I don't understand why anyone does a radio check. It seems to be the staple of guys in little fishing boats that go out once a month. I have never heard a long distance cruiser do one except if they just installed a new radio.

If your VHF is under 5 years old, it works or it lets you know there's a problem. Have a handheld backup and save us from all the radio checks.
I rarely bother with radio checks but realized a couple of weeks ago that the VHF was listening just fine but I wasn't transmitting worth a darn. I am new to the boat and figured I would give it a check because I needed to request a bridge opening within 30 minutes. I tried calling the automated seatow system on the appropriate channel and their closest station was less than 5 miles away but I could not get a response when transmitting on high. It was good to know and I had time to pull up the phone number prior to reaching the bridge. I was able to reach him on the VHF when I got within 100 yards but still need to find the bad connection.

By the way, I saw a boat (nearly a ship) that looks just like yours headed south just above the Cove Point LNG dock on July 1st, was that you?
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