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Thread: VHF protocol

  1. #1
    Member tlingitwarrior's Avatar
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    Default VHF protocol

    Planning on being out in PWS this weekend. My cell phone doesn't have coverage around Knight but would like to relay message to wifey that all is well. what's the protocol for hailing someone on the VHF to see if they have a cell signal and can relay the message?
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    Member Ak Bird Brain's Avatar
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    I don't think there is any signal much past the harbor. From Knight you would have to relay through 2-3 people to get back to the harbor. You might Try the marine operator but I'm not sure what channel that is.
    I usually just tell my wife the exact bay I'll be staying in which route I'll take to get there and when I'll be back. I also give alternate bays along the way to use in case of bad weather or mechanical problems.
    And of course I call as soon as I get back to the dock, usuall during the long walk to get the trailer.

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    Member tlingitwarrior's Avatar
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    I've had guys on the boat who get signal out around Naked Is. I think he was MTA or AT&T
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    Member Ak Bird Brain's Avatar
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    I'm with AT&T so its not them!

    Anyone else?

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    Member akjeff's Avatar
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    Default ACS

    I have ACS & I get good signal out in front of Main Bay.

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    ACS HERE, ALWAYS GOOD SIGNAL NEAR ESHAMY. CAN'T TALK USUALLY (HAVE FROM ROOF OF MY OLD BOAT WITH EXT. ANTENNA) BUT CAN TEXT BACK IN ESHAMY COVE / BAY. FRIEND SAID HE HAD SIGNAL EAST SIDE OF KNIGHT LAST WEEK. NOT SURE WHO HIS SERVICE IS WITH BET IT IS ACS. THEY SEEM TO HAVE BEST COVERAGE THAT IS WHY I SWITCHED FROM ATT YEARS AGO.
    ? IF MARINE TELEPHONE STILL WORKS OUT OF JOHNSTONE POINT? HAVE NOT HEARD THEM ON RADIO IN YEARS SO I DOUBT IT.
    GUESS YOU COULD GET A SPOT???AND HOPE THERE IS A SIGNAL
    OR JUST HAIL SOMEONE ON CH. 16 THAT CAN RELAY MESSAGE BY CELL PHONE FOR YOU. HAIL ON 16 MOVE TO OTHER CHANNEL, IE 14, TO TALK AND ASK THEM WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO DO.
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    Member jrogers's Avatar
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    ACS has some sort of sharing agreement with the Copper Valley phone company, who has a repeater on Naked Island. You have to have either one of these providers or a satellite phone.

    The coast guard has repeaters almost averywhere, and they have phones, but they don't want to relay messages for obvious reasons (like it would be a full time job). I did have a situation a few years ago when I beached the boat on an outgoing tide and had to wait it out for about 4 extra hours when I was going to meet my wife and guests. I was just a few miles north of Pigot point and trying to reach someone headed in when the coast guard responded. I asked them if they could call her and tell her I would be delayed. They did not want to do it at first, saying they would only do it regarding a missing vessel report. I said if they didn't that she would be calling me in as overdue and they would have their missing vessel report, and this was enough to get them to relay the message on my whereabouts and that I was going to be delayed on the return but all was OK.
    Last edited by jrogers; 07-16-2009 at 21:54. Reason: more info
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    Thumbs up Signal from Eshamy

    I had a great signal last week from right outside Eshamy Bay. Alaska Digitel

  9. #9

    Default To answer the original question

    I don't think there is a protocall so to speak, if you can get some one with coverage and they will call your home great, you may want to call the USCG as they will be the only one consistantly with a phone in front of them. If you where getting over due they may call so she don't start a search & rescue! Guess they don't want to start or open that can of worms, renting a Sat phone or SPOT is option 2.

  10. #10

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    I second the SPOT recommendation.

  11. #11
    Member GOT TOYS's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tlingitwarrior View Post
    would like to relay message to wifey that all is well.
    This is exactly what SPOT is for.

    ACS has good signal "out in the middle". Line of site to the tower on Naked, which is what you are hitting from Main, Night, and others. Found out a couple weeks ago it doesn't support ACS internet air card though.
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  12. #12

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    Hail on VHF Ch. 16. switch to another channel to pass traffic. In PWS avoid using VHF Ch. 13 and 18 as well. Ch 13. is VTS and Ch. 18 is tanker escort frequency (assuming a tanker is in the system). When it comes to cellular in PWS, ACS is where you want to be. There may still be VHF marine radio operators, but most closed down about 3 or 4 years ago. In any case they are expensive. Spot is probably the best option going if you don't mind the initial outlay.

    We usually get good cell coverage from Decision Pt. in to Whittier and then nothing between Decision Pt. and Perry Pt. then we're able to pick up the Naked Island cell tower and have a reasonable signal across the sound pretty much to Knowles head and even to Gravina Pt. If you are on the east side of Knight Is. you may get cell coverage with ACS, but not likely on the West side.

    It might take a bit to find someone to pass a message, but you will eventually find someone to do it for you, just be patient use proper radio procedure. Depending how far south you go on Knight, you may be able to pick up some one in the village of Chenega, they almost all have VHF's in their houses and also have land lines. Same applies to Tatilek in the North East end of PWS.

  13. #13
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    Default Communications

    This is a good thread! The posts hit on some key problems that don't always have simple solutions. Communications is always an issue and a critical component in any situation...usually the comms go bad; either through faulty/marginal radio components, terrain or even the inability for people to understand what the message means. There's a generally understood 'ratio' of communication effectiveness; Words alone are 7% effective, tone of voice about 55% and body language is worth about 38%.

    Put yourself in tlingitwarrior's position; you are out at Knight Island and have no means of communicating your situation to your home. The marine operators were shut down (funding, I believe) years ago, there's no cell signal and you can only transmit a few miles on your VHF. Sure, there's always SPOT and satellite phones, for those with the foresight and means to get them. You can always call the Coast Guard in an emergency, but this is just a routine communications message.

    You might be able to contact someone on VHF that could relay, or you could get to one of the known land line locations such as Chenega. But, you'll likely not go to much more effort....unless the family is expecting a call. If they don't get one, they'll likely call the CG, who will then try and call you.

    The non-distress overdues are common in Alaska; I personally worked a case in Juneau last weekend. We were notified that a 12' skiff with a 3 hp black Suzuki outboard was due back by noon on Saturday and had not shown up. It was expected that they might be camping on a nearby island. The Coast Guard launched a small boat and proceeded to the area. The overdue party was located in no distress. After talking with them, we found out one guy had a girlfriend who was looking for him and he'd not been back to work as he'd promised, so he was reported overdue. No float plan was filed and no communications equipment aboard the boat. As you can imagine, if they had gotten into trouble, their situation could have gone from bad to worse very quickly.

    Lessons learned: Carry a reliable means of communications; both for emergencies (VHF recommended) and for non-emergencies (VHF, cell or sat phone; SPOT). In tlingitwarriors' situation, I'd likely go with SPOT and ensure that both homebase and I had full understanding of SPOT operation and limitations. I'd also file a float plan; here's an easy form http://www.floatplancentral.org/ BOAT SAFE AND HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND! Mike

  14. #14
    Member sbiinc's Avatar
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    Default ditto on SPOT

    I'll ditto the spot suggestion for anyone that doesn't have one... I just got one and formerly did have a worried wife, now she watches my movements (spend the money on the optional tracking feature) via the spot as we move. I send in "OK" messages before I camp for the night and when I get up in the AM.

    I'll be glad to share a website to anyone wanting to see how it works if they send a PM (sorry won't share until after this weekend at Valdez due to having sheep scouting trip on the latest shared site).

    The spot is actually cheaper now than what I had been spending every year on sat phones, my plan runs $157ish a year for basic service, tracking, and rescue insurance (the SPOT had a 100% mail in rebate with it).

    B

  15. #15
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    Default Changing horses a bit!

    Reading this with interest, it amazes me how few people utilize the float plan as a viable tool. In our case we rounded up one from Seward, Whittier and the C.G sample and then put together one that is specific to our boat. It includes EVERY important detail and is computer generated so it's legible! No more fumbling with forms at the ramp while chewing the end of their pencil to expose the lead with everyone tapping their foot for me to hurry up (in the rain). It's an excell type document that is easily modified and easily filled in to meet any particular trip's requirements.
    Over the years it has evolved into something harbormasters compliment and even has a full color picture of the boat, truck, trailer printed on the back!
    This year it will get another small mod, as we find ourselves in similar regions a lot of the time. If held up due to weather, were gonna head for this or that bay depending on our location in the sound, south west, north west or north central. By listing these "favorites", search parties have a very exact place to look.That way we don't have to be so very detailed in our discription of exactly where we are during the whole trip! No one is looking for you till your over due, be where you told them when that happens and it's a better deal.
    The most important thing for us is not to be back on the date mentioned as a tenative return but absolutly to be back on the CONSIDER ME OVER DUE ON ______ date! This is the one everyone watches and in our case, it's always 3 or 4 days later than the "expected" return date. That can be so variable if the weather is great we may stay a couple days, if the weather is really crappy we may stay a couple days, either way we are covered and no one has their shorts in a wad till "D Day"!

    I have been fairly far afield over there and NEVER had a situation where I could not radio someone if real assistance were needed ie, a medical situation etc. WIth this knowledge, we are real comfortable most all of the time and can relax, which is what were there for!

    Lastly, if you take that wife with you she won't worry so much about where your at!
    Mike

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