Communication System ~ VHF Radio and DSC

One of the problems of many communication devices is learninghow to use them effectively. There is a standard protocol for using VHF radio so that your message is clearly understood and you are using the correct channel for the message you are delivering. The only legal channels that boaters can use to communicate among themselves ot shore services are: 9, 16, 68, 69, 71, 72, and 78, channel 16 can be used to initiate a conversation that will then immediately move to one of the referenced channels usually 68 or above. The spoken sequences are inportant, starting with the station name being called twice and then Rua Fiola twice, finishing with "Over" to signify your transmission end. The responding station will give a go to channel number and the conversation will proceed on that channel. When finished the final response will be ... back to 16.

DSC is a paging system that uses data signals to automate the transmission and reception of calls on VHF marine radio channel 70. A DSC message is a brief burst of digitised information transmitted from one station to alert another station or stations. The DSC message automatically indicates the identity of the calling station and the priority/purpose of the call. Every DSC radio has a unique number, which you use to call other radios, just like a mobile phone. However, unlike mobile phones, DSC allows you to call every other radio in range at the same time if you are in trouble. Following an alert by DSC message, communications are established between the transmitting station and the receiving station(s) by radiotelephone on a different channel to that used for the DSC call. DSC is used by ship and coast stations for sending and relaying distress alerts and for other urgency and safety traffic. It can also be used for routine calls. DSC when you set it up should include the ability to send and receive GPS positions - the Garmin VHF200 is connected to GPS via the NMEA2000 backbone.

Communication System ~ SSB/HF & SW Radio

We have not used SSB radio in the past,so why install one now. There is not a good answer other thanthe ability to have global coomunication and Weatherfax. We regularly use Predict Wind, Windy and other apps on an iPad to keep up with the weather, but they require Internet access. It may be thought that with 7 and 10 day windows the information downloaded would be good enough - totally wrong. We have been of the coast of Florida between Jacksonville and St Augustine when a perfectly calm 2ft waves forecast changed over 4 hours to waves of 6 to 8ft. At 35 miles offshore all of the usual forcasting methods were not available to us. Would Weatherfax have helped? The thing about it is the scale of the barometric charts and the frequency of update may have helped us to find some shelter. We made a decision to go to SSB at that time.

Now we are in a quandry, because along came XM satellite weather. In the demonstrations we have had it is even more timely than SSB / Weatherfax, so we have built it into our NMEA 2000 Garmin system. XM only has a 24 hour window so trying to look 3 and 4 days ahead is not a function of XM. We are therefore still left with SSB and taking the time to learn Weatherfax. What we need is an app that feeds Weathefax data from SSB to an iPad for display. It turns out that HF Weather Fax by Black Cat Systems is available from the iTunes store for $4.95, we will acquire, test and learn how to use it. The principle is to use the audio input on the iPad and listen to the Fax tones coming from the HF receiver - 2 tones, black or white when displayed.This really sounds awsome. If it does well we will rely on Predict wind for trip planning and finding weather windows whle in port. Use XM for the immediate 24 hours ahead, and keep an eye on HF Weather Fax for a longer term view.

Communication System ~ Cell Phone & WiFi Extenders

In the Work Plans page on communications we made a lot about the need to make Cell phone and WiFi connectivity as extensive as possible. The difficulty for most people is that although they know what a router seems to do at home, stting one up is usually the task of the Telco or the Cable people. They really act like a fish out of water if you ask them to come to a marina and set you up on board your boat. This is why the PDF links below are here. Even if you decided never to use Alpha equipment you can still buy the hardware suggested for under $80.

To do this you need a few things. Your laptop or PC with an RJ45 ethernet port is commected through a cat5 cable you can get for $5 from an computer store (or Amazon), you plug this into the R36 router LAN port. Connect the AWUS030H extender and antenna to the router. Now open an internet browser and type into the address bar of the browser and follow the Alpha instructions. You will need to be in a place where the range extender can recieve a WiFi signal - on your boat or maybe at home.

The Wilson460108 cell phone range extender PDF below is only about 4 pages and leads step by step for an installation in your car. A nice easy place to try out the hardware. Once you have set it up (without trying to hide wire) and the green light glows you know what to do when you take the unit to your boat. Purchasing a better marine antenna and mounting it higher up is your decision. We went back to Wilson and bought their marine antenna. Model numbers change all the time so a search for a 460108 will probable lead you to a 470108 or something even newer. No concern as long as you read directions carefully.