This is part of a series describing some of our common boat systems and their operation.
We refer to these often not only for our own use, but also when asked specific questions about systems on Denali Rose, and when participating in discussions on various forums.
We aren't implying our choices are the best or only way to go; they just happen to be the decisions we made [...or sometimes what came with our boat...] and we try to explain why...
And since we are talking about electronics, in the future our choices in this post may become dated and/or obsolete, so we will endeavor to keep this information current regarding what we have and use, and what we are researching/considering for the future.
––––––––– Updated 8-Jan-2019 [by Bill] –––––––––
Marine Radios: VHF w/ DSC
Since the marine VHF radio is the primary method for contacting other [nearby] vessels and the USCG [and other authorities in some countries...] we have more than one.
We also consider a radio a very important part of our on-person survival kit in case one finds oneself separated from the mother ship unexpectedly... [POB; Person Overboard...]
Therefore we have waterproof [and floating...] hand held DSC VHF radios [with built-in GPS] attached to our PFDs. When turned-on, they can be polled for location from the mothership, used to contact any vessel via voice hail or DSC call. ["Denali Rose; Awash crew: please save my lunch for me..."]
Our hand held VHF DSC radio choices:
For Christmas 2016 we acquired a pair of Standard Horizon MX870 handheld [VHF DSC] radios- which we wear on our PFD belt packs. These work great, float, and not only turn on, but flash if dropped in the water to help you find them. These also come with a 5AA battery pack [1 watt Tx only, however with AA batts] but this is handy for the survival kit...
They are programed with the same FCC issued MMSI number [i.e., international; this is important! More below...] Likewise with all the other electronics and radios on Denali Rose.
This way an emergency call from any radio will lead responders to the same boat... [We can even track one portable radio from the fixed mount VHF radio using DSC position polling- despite both radios having the same MMSI. e.g., Follow the away team in the dinghy.]
Before the SH MX870s, we used an ICOM M92D. But we found the screen a bit small, so are subsequently the fonts. [It would be difficult to read bouncing around in the water...] This radio now serves as the dedicated dinghy radio.We also have two VHF-DSC radios permanently installed below deck. Both are integrated with GPS and both have remote mikes, separate antennas on different masts, and both are connected to seperate power supplies. One is a back-up and is off unless needed. [i.e., normal opps have only one built-in VHF radio on at a time...]
All of our DSC radios [4-VHF; 1- MF/HF/Marine SSB] have our International [i.e., FCC issued] MMSI number programmed. This allows the all important Distress function [Red Button] built-in to each radio to work properly in an emergency anyhere in the world.
Wondering if you have an international MMSI number? [i.e., Can the rescue authorities in another country find your vessel information if they receive a distress call that includes your MMSI number... e.g., When you push the SOS button on your VHF Radio, etc.]
Quick check: USA FCC issued international MMSI numbers end in zero.
If you can find it here you do: ITU MMSI Vessel look-up [Works for any international MMSI issued by any country.]On deck [including the cockpit] we use the wireless remote mike [H50] that came with our B&G V50 DSC VHF. [Watch for specials; we bought the radio bundled with the remote mike for under US$300 on sale. Always make sure to update to the latest firmware release...]
Update Nov-2018: B&G has released their next models of the B&G VHF Radio [V60] and remote mike [V60]. We are still very pleased with our V50 and H50, but would likely purchase the current generation models if we had a need to refit/upgrade.The remote wireless mike is waterproof and includes a waterproof induction charging cradle [i.e., no exposed contacts on the radio or cradle...] The cradle is mounted on the outside steering pedestal so the wireless mike is always being charged when not in use, and is conveniently accessible. The cradle holds the mike as securely as the traditional wired remote mike mount does.
The B&G V50 also has a built-in AIS receiver. This is important to us as a back-up AIS receiver to our AIS transceiver because our PFDs also have an AIS transmitter with GPS to sound the alarm and show the location of a POB.
Additionally, we wanted the hailer/listening and electronic sound signals capabilities.
We can select which AIS source to use on our various navigation systems, so the redundancy is welcome. This also allows us to visually compare the results from the two AIS receivers [and they always match...]
Our back-up DSC VHF [ICOM] has a wired ICOM remote mike in the cockpit [ICOMs version of a RAM mike...] also mounted on the steering pedestal. We have grown fond of the wireless remote mike now that we can use both to compare. It provides up to 25 watts [compared to our 6 watt handhelds...] of power from anywhere on the boat, works flawlessly, and has no wires to get in the way when things get sporty...
The wireless mike is also a handy intercom for communicating with crew below decks from anywhere on the boat- not just in the cockpit... And it mirrors the AIS display from the main radio if desired...
As we do with our hand-held VHF radios, we keep a camera wrist strap permanently mounted to the wireless mike with the habit of putting our hand through the strap whenever using them... We also mounted a clip within reach of the induction charger so the mike hand strap can be clipped as a safety while in the cradle in inclement conditions...
The bottom line is we spend the majority of our time underway in the cockpit, and have both wired and wireless VHF remote mikes at our cockpit steering pedestal, and VHF handhelds attached to our PFDs.
Give us a hail, or better yet call us using DSC using either our MMSI number or the appropriate Global MMSI number [VHF and HF/Marine SSB].
- Great explanation of DSC with examples [Cruiser's Forum Post]
- Making legal VHF DSC test calls to USCG
- ITU MMSI Vessel look-up
- Wondering if you have an international MMSI number? If you can find it here, you do.
- Works for any international MMSI issued by any country/authority
- US boats: Need an FCC issued MMSI number?