How Do I Get An MMSI if I Don't Own A Boat? - SailNet Community

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Old 07-25-2008
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How Do I Get An MMSI if I Don't Own A Boat?

Hello All,

Does anyone know how I can get an MMSI number for my new hand-held DSC marine VHF radio if I don't own a boat?

I have been sailing now for four months (at least once if not twice a week) in Marina del Rey, CA, and am progressing up the levels of ASA certification. I belong to a boat club and only sail on boats I rent. I'm going farther from port each trip so I invested in a nice hand-held VHF radio. It's a Standard Horizon HX850S with DSC and GPS.

For the DSC feature to have ANY functionality, I need to enter an MMSI number, which is available free from BoatUS. But their website stipulates that I need to enter my vessel's name and info, and that the MMSI is actually registered to the vessel, not the radio itself.

Without the MMSI, I can neither send nor receive DSC messages. The DSC simply does not function at all without that number. I not only can't send a DSC distress, I can't RECEIVE someone else's DSC distress call. I can still use channel 16 of course, but a big part of this radio's functionality is completely disabled.

Now here are my questions:

1) Can I register an MMSI number to a vessel I don't own? I always use the same boat at the boat club (a Merit 25) and will continue to do so for several more months.

2) In the future, can I either update my vessel info or get a new MMSI for a different rental boat? Once again, when I do move up to a larger boat it will always be the same vessel.

3) And what if I did own my own boat? Am I allowed to take my DSC radio with me if I crew on another boat?

I have searched and searched for these answers all over the BoatUS website, the Coast Guard website, and even here on these forums, and I don't find anything remotely relating to my problem. So I'm hoping you fine folks here at SailNet can help me out.

Santa Monica, CA
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Old 07-25-2008
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Have you tried asking BoatUS directly. They're very good about responding to questions.
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Old 07-25-2008
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Have you tried just putting your name in the boat name space and 'human' in the model/make space?
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Old 07-25-2008
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BY DEFINITION YOU CAN'T GET AN MMSI FOR YOURSELF. The MMSI is tied to a specific boat. You aren't a boat.

You might be able to use the MMSI for the specific boat you're using, but that presents problems if you should happen to be on a different boat and then have to use the DSC function of your handheld, since they'll be looking for Boat X, but the boat that is needed the help is Boat Y... and could possibly get you into serious legal trouble for creating a false distress call or something like that.

If you crew on another boat and have a DSC radio tied to your boat's MMSI, using it on another boat to call for help could complicate things. Say you own a dark blue Tartan 37... and the boat you're on for the day is a red Catalina 400 with BBQ grills on the stern rail. If you were to get into trouble and trigger your DSC radio, the USCG would get a message indicating that a dark blue Tartan 37 was in trouble...and would be looking for that, not the BBQ platform you're actually on, and might actually over look you during the initial part of the search due to the misinformation.

Using a DSC radio on a boat other than the one it has the MMSI information for kind of defeats the whole purpose of DSC. DSC is supposed to help identify what boat is in trouble and make it easier for the SAR people to find the boat by locating it fairly precisely. Using the wrong MMSI in your radio will probably confuse search efforts in a real emergency.

BTW, be aware that most radios will only allow you to change the DSC MMSI number a limited number of times. After that, they need to be sent to the factory to have the MMSI number cleared and the counter reset so that another MMSI can be entered.

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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Last edited by sailingdog; 07-25-2008 at 08:38 AM.
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Old 07-25-2008
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What he said.

I think the best solution for now is to forget the MMSI. When you get a boat of your own THEN get yourself an MMSI. Until then just use it as the portable VHF that it is.

Good luck!
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