Saturday, September 22, 2012

FCC Licensing - Clear as Mud

As we started to tackle the FCC licensing for s/v Honey Ryder, more questions and confusion popped up than answers.  We needed to get a Ships Stations license and a Restricted Radio Operator license.  Two items, big deal.  But wait, don't we already have an MMSI number that we got when we installed VHF with AIS.  Yes, but we discovered that the MMSI number we got was a free one from BoatUS - like the Standard Horizon manual said to get - in the instruction manual. does that work with the FCC licensing.  It DOESN'T!  Let me repeat DOESN'T.  If you never plan to leave US waters then a free BoatUS MMSI is just fine and dandy.  However, if you ever have future plans to sail over to The Bahamas or Bermuda or down island, then the BoatUS MMSI is worthless.  The FCC does not recognize the free BoatUS MMSI number. 
VHF with AIS
Ok, simple enough.  Just get a new MMSI through the FCC and program it into the VHF with AIS.  MOST VHF units allow two different MMSI numbers to be programmed in before the unit has to be sent back to the factory for reset.  Whew!  We already used one on the first go so that leaves us one more.  Whew, again.  But wait.....further reading of the instruction manual it said BE VERY CAREFUL ENTERING THE MMSI NUMBER BECAUSE IT CAN ONLY BE ENTERED ONCE.   Did you get that, ONCE... as in one freaking time.  What genius thought this up!  I am told it's to keep theft of VHF radios down.  What F'ing ever!  I called Standard Horizon.  "Is there really only one time for MMSI entry?"  The guy said "No, (hope rises in me) but......(ugh, hope is dashed) you have to enter the MMSI twice thus using up both times."  WTF!  Argh!  So we had the unit yanked out and shipped back to the factory for clearing.  Double ARGH!!  I strongly suggested they add to instruction manual the item about any boat going offshore should get an FCC MMSI vs a free BoatUS MMSI - dumbasses! - general site
Now the fun of registering with the FCC.  I used Captain Marti Brown's book Marine SSB Radio For "Idi-Yachts" to guide me through the licensing online.  BUY this book!   Nothing else I have read during my research made the licensing process as clear.
Step #1 Register with the FCC's Universal Licensing System - get a number and password
Step #2  Apply for Ship Station License and pay the fee $100
Step #3 Apply for Restricted Radio License and pay the fee $60
Easy, right?  For the most part it was but I did have a bit of a search on the web site to find what I needed.  And I ended up calling the FCC twice to ask what I should or shouldn't be checking on the ships station license.  Both times I got right through to Dixie.  She was super helpful, nice and patience.  I got all the steps completed, printed off the confirmation numbers and then figured I would have to wait until at least Monday at the earliest to get my assigned licenses.  This is the government after all.  I logged on this morning just for fun and much to my surprise, we now have an official Ships Station License with FCC issued MMSI number and a Restricted Radio Operators License.  Woo Hoo!  Official at last.  Now we will get the new MMSI number programmed into the VHF and we can check all those items off the TO DO LIST.   

Monday, September 10, 2012

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen

Do you say "Good Bye" to people that move away?  Or do you say "So Long for Now?"  Super sailing chick Charlene got herself a promotion (cheers and applause) and is leaving here for new challenges abroad.  We wish her the very best.  However we are pretty confident we will see her again somewhere, someday.  Perhaps in some far flung port over the horizon.  So for now......"Adieu!  XOXO from crew of s/v Honey Ryder."
*For more info on this fascinating sailing chick, buy her book "Alone to Alaska and the Magnificent Inside Passage."  It's a good read.  Hopefully she will write about her other sailing adventures!
**Are you singing the song in your head?  You know, the song....."So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night.  I hate to go and leave this pretty sight."  Ok - name that musical. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SSB Mysteries Revealed

s/v Honey Ryder came with an Icom m710 SSB.  Kewl.   Nice when equipment is already installed and working.  One less thing to buy and add to the boat thus saving $$$$.  However learning to use it has turned out to be a whole other adventure.  Step One - turn it on and play around with it thus figuring it out.  Oh no.  Not that simple.  We got nothing.  Not a sound other than static.  The buttons were NOT intuitive at all.  We couldn't even figure out how to tune it.  Many acquaintances and friends said "just tune in the channels and start listening."  Seems like a D-uh thing but we soon found out, not so easy!  Okay.  Step Two - get out the instruction manual and read.  WOW!  Might as well be written in some ancient lost tribal language.  Clear as freaking mud.  *Seriously who writes these manuals as most are gibberish!  Hint - if you are a manual writer, once you have completed whatever manual, done all the edits and it's perfect....take it home to your significant other and have them read through it (provided they aren't a manual writer as well).  If they can't easily understand and recite back what to do in plain English, start over!  Step Three - get my HAM license.  Yes, it's not the same as marine SSB but I thought it would help me understand the SSB.  A little but not much.  Step Four - hang out with JoCo Ham club/guys to learn and get advice on our marine SSB.  It helped a little.  Great group of people but once I started asking Marine SSB questions, they would say....."uh, don't know about marine SSB".  Step Five - find a fellow cruiser with SSB for help.  Enter - Bob from s/v Shazza.  HUGE help!
Step  Six - read "Marine SSB Radio For Idi-Yachts" by Captain Marti Brown.  OMG - terrific book.  She writes in plain English all about SSB - especially the confusion of licensing.  I would HIGHLY recommend Captain Marti's book.  I emailed her to let her know how much I appreciate her book and to ask her a couple of additional questions.  She was quick to respond back.  She also has a web site you should check out as well.  Finally, thanks in part to this book and help from Bob, we are getting it.  Now we just need to go back to the manual and work through it together to figure out what channels have already been pre-programmed in by Icom and the previous two owners, check the receive and transmit channels, simplex/duplex,  and practice tuning into various net and such.  It's been a steep learning curve and we aren't done yet but it's getting better and we are excited to start using this valuable tool.

Fall Sailing Season

It felt good to have the helm.
Yes it's still warm but somehow fall is creeping in.  Crisp mornings, warm afternoons and cool evenings in the fall always signal the start of football season for me.  Go K-State Wildcats!  It also signals the beginning of fall sailing.
All this teaching this year yet I rarely get the helm.
Here in Kansas, fall sailing is some of the best sailing of all three seasons.
Happy crew
We were able to sneak out Saturday afternoon for a delightful sail on s/v Riot. 
Check out this little beauty
We weren't the old ones.  A handful of other sailors have discovered the magic that is fall sailing.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back in Brunswick

Look at all the pretty boats
It's nice to be back here.  Since it was 9:30pm when we arrived, we simply tied up to the fuel dock for the night vs trying to find and get into our new slip in the dark after a long day.  We went for a nice walk and where only two docks down before security stopped us to inquire who we are and determine whether we belong there or not.  It is good to see they are serious about the job.
Bill & Tom look for more blue crab
The next morning we easily got into our slip and immediately started meeting fellow sailors/boaters.  Most of the marina inhabitants are cruisers holed up in Brunswick for hurricane season.  It's so fascinating to hear where they have been, the adventures they've had and get some great advice.  Everyone is friendly and eager to help.  Bob on s/v Shazza spent a good part of Saturday morning helping us through the mysterious world of SSB and our Icom m710.  Thank you SO much Bob!    Court and Cindy, fellow sailors down the dock offered up one of their cars if we needed to run any errands.  Yeah, Grog Shop run!  Fellow dockmate and sailor Bill shared is knowledge of crabbing, oyster hunting and sea bass fishing.
Island Packet Pack?  Flock?  Gaggle? 
Reports are that the economy has really hurt the boating industry, especially boat builders.  However you can't swing a length of dock line without hitting an Island Packet.  The place is just thick with them.  We also noticed boat's in this marina have gotten bigger overall since the last time we were here.  So maybe things are getting better.  Sadly, we found downtown Brunswick restaurant's Cargo and the local brew pub were closed down.  Hum?    
Looking good!
We wrapped up the holiday weekend with a ton of boat chores and little projects.  Somehow the worst boat chore is still better than the best house chore!