Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Digital Selective Calling - DSC

It is time again to talk about DSC.  Yes, we have discussed this before DSC.  However, it seems we need to discuss again as not enough cruisers are taking advantage of DSC.  In fact, only a small percentage seem to know what it is and a smaller percentage don't know how to use it, leaving the tiny population using it.  How do I know this?  Because we have been in place name removed to protect the guilty for six weeks now.  We keep our VHF on 68 when we are on the boat.  This is the hailing channel.  The same group of boats keep hailing each other multiple times each day without using DSC.  One particular guy is driving us nuts!  If he is on his boat, he is hailing 10-15 times a day!  It is not just us.  He is driving everyone in the anchorage nuts.  And I know I really shouldn't be sharing this with all of you but it's just between us, right?   

By the way, if you are around me personally, you may hear me call it DCS in error.  You will just have to "know what I mean and not what I say" as my mother says.

As a reminder for us all - what is DSC?  In simple terms, it is a method for calling one ship to another directly vs hailing over an open channel for everyone to hear.  All modern radios for the past 10 years and probably 12-15 yrs have DSC capability.  You must have a MMSI number.  You get the MMSI number from FCC or equivalent authority (in non-USA countries).  The MMSI comes on your ship's radio license.  It must be programmed into the radio.  You only get two tries.  After that, the radio must be sent back to the factory to be cleared or a professional marine radio tech has to be brought in.  Stupid I know, but that is just how it is.  Note - our particular brand of vhf requires you enter the MMSI number two times thus sucking up BOTH chances.  What does this mean?  It means if we ever sell our boat, the next person will have to send the VHF back to the factory to get their MMSI in there.  Stupid, I know.  BTW - why can't someone figure out a hack for this two time MMSI thing?!  Russian hackers......get on it!

This brings me to some of reasons people don't use DSC.  1). They bought their boat from someone and never filed for their own ships radio license. 2). They never programmed in the DSC into their VHF radio. 3). They don't use their main VHF radio but instead a handheld (no MMSI #).  4). They don't know another boat's MMSI.  Btw - easy fix.....ask or if they have AIS and you receive AIS, get it off your chartplotter.  5). They don't know how to use it AND have never learned.  The last one is where I suspect most cruisers fall.  At least that has been our experience.  

Next let us refresh the WHY you need to use DSC.  1). Safety and security.  I give you a common scenario - average Caribbean anchorage, hailing channel 68 that every cruisers and many locals monitor..... "Tango, Tango, Tango, Honey Ryder here."  "Tango here."  "Shall we go to channel 72?"  "Switching channel 72."  Of course anyone listening and interested can switch to 72 and listen along.  Continued on channel 72....  "Good morning.  How are you two?"  "We are fine.  How are you?"  "We are good.  Are you ready for our grand adventure today?"  "Oh yes."  "Ok.  Let's take one dinghy into the dinghy dock because it is so crowded.  We will drive since you are on our way.  We went ahead and got the rental car for two days.  It is a big island and I think it will take two full days.  Which reminds me, I am going to take the dinghy lights because we will no doubt be out very late each night but can you bring a torch as well?"  Do you see the safety and security concern here?  You have just announced to anyone listening that there will be two boats with no one aboard.  I know you might think this is not a big deal during the day time, only a worry at night.   No - in an anchorage in broad daylight, no one is going to say a word if someone gets on your boat.  They might think it is odd but they won't say anything because you just don't know.  It might be a friend or workman or even the owner or new crew, you just don't know so no one says anything if they even notice at all.  

Second safety reason to use DSC. - ships, bigass ships.  When we have crossing situations with big ships, we usually hail them to be sure that they know we are out there with them.  These huge ships have such small crews and we are a tiny boat in a big ocean.  Often times when we hail them on vhf we don't get a response on the first or second attempt.  They respond better if I hail them - something about hearing a woman's voice in the middle of the ocean prompts them to answer quickly.  With DCS, we can call them directly.  This call is logged on both sides (unless erased) just in case.  Additionally, these big behemoths often have odd or complicated names.  Hailing them directly, eliminates butchering a ship's name so badly that they don't answer.  The crews can also be multi nationality with limited English so if you don't say the ship name correctly when hailing, they may not answer.  But DSC eliminates all that hassle because it "rings" them directly.

Finally and most important reason to use DSC - because the constant hailing throughout the day is driving everyone in the peaceful anchorage up the wall!!

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