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Old 05-14-2009
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Use of hand-held VHF when not on board

OK, here are a few questions I've not been able to find satisfactory answers to, which pertain to international regulations about maritime VHF radio licensing, identification, and usage.

I've asked the Finnish radio licensing authorities, but am still waiting on a reply, and while there may be some local Finnish twists to the answers, I'm interested in getting input from you folks...

(I know what common practice is in the US, and also since a license isn't mandatory in the US, the questions aren't relevant to US practices, so these questions are specifically for folks with experience/understanding of international use of maritime VHF)


1. Can a VHF hand-held radio which is licensed for a particular boat be used elsewhere than on the boat for which the license is issued?

E.g. can one crewmember use the hand-held while in a dinghy or from a dock or the shore, to communicate with another crewmember in the boat, e.g. when transiting to/from the boat, or when performing tasks such as setting a second anchor, etc. ?

Or can one use a VHF hand-held radio on the shore or dock to communicate with a vessel on the water?

The regulations, depending on how you read them, seem to limit use of a hand-held radio to the boat itself, relegating it to being nothing but a backup to the main radio (or serving as simply the primary radio) such that the benefits of its portabiliity are greatly reduced; yet one could also interpret them in a manner which allows one to use a hand-held VHF radio for any maritime related communication required, whether on the boat, or in other locations such as a dinghy, dock, shore, marina, etc.

If the answer to the above question is 'yes', then:

2. How does one identify oneself if/when using a licensed hand-held VHF radio elsewhere than on the boat for which the license is issued?

Is there any convention similar to that used by Amateur Radio operators where a qualifying term such as "mobile" (or "maritime mobile", though in this case the 'maritime' would be redundant) would be appended to the call sign or boat name when using the hand-held off of the boat in question?

E.g. if a crew member is calling their boat named "Marie" from the dinghy, would they say "Marie this is Marie mobile"? Clearly, it would not be very useful or clear to say "Marie this is Marie" or "OF1234 this is OF1234". But maybe that's what is expected, however ambiguous.

Likewise, if in an emergency situation, the crew is forced to abandon ship, and is using a hand-held from a life raft or dinghy, wouldn't it be useful to know that they are transmitting from a location other than the boat itself, based on their identification? I.e. "... this is OF1234 mobile" clearly communicates that the station operator is not aboard the vessel.

3. If one is a guest aboard another vessel A, different from the vessel B for which the hand-held radio is licensed, and one wishes to use one's own hand-held radio aboard vessel A, and one is not acting as captain or crew of the other vessel A nor does the communication concern the other vessel A, but is between crew of the vessel B and the licensed vessel B, does one identify themselves with the name/callsign of the vessel A they are a guest on, or with the name/callsign of the vessel B for which they hold the license?

(i.e. "Hey Bob, come over in the dinghy to pick me up"...)

Or are they disallowed from using their own hand-held radio at all on other vessels?

What if the vessel A has no ship's radio license?

Thanks for all input clarifying the above,

Patrick
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Last edited by patrickstickler; 05-14-2009 at 04:51 AM.
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Old 05-14-2009
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In Canada the marine license for the VHF is limited to being on the water. It may not be used when on land.
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Old 05-14-2009
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Using your handheld in the dinghy to the boat is not a problem as the dinghy is part of the ship's equipment. Use a low power setting. If you are making a call from the dinghy to the CG for Mayday or pan or securite purposes, you could add the fact that you are in the tender to the body of your message.

In Canada, as stated above, only the is allowed to use a VHF on shore. That being said, no one is going to clip you if you call from the dock to the boat to get a lift. VHF has been around a lot longer than a cell phone and has been used for exactly that purpose for just as long. As long as you make the calls briefly and on the rihght channels.
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Old 05-14-2009
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Quote:
1. Can a VHF hand-held radio which is licensed for a particular boat be used elsewhere than on the boat for which the license is issued?
That's commonly practiced in the U.S. and Canada, typically when the tender is communicating with a licensed vessel.

Quote:
2. How does one identify oneself if/when using a licensed hand-held VHF radio elsewhere than on the boat for which the license is issued?
If I'm on the dink, talking to the wife on our boat, we use first names.


Listen to your hand held while out for a few weekends to hear what is commonly practiced in your area. The radio police are typically other boaters or the C.G. telling someone to move to a working channel. Use low power and don't gab about the lint in your naval and you'll fit in with the rest of the users.

As Noreault said, radios aren't supposed to be used on land in Canada, but every marina we've checked in with communicated from land, so it doesn't appear to be a law that is enforced.
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Last edited by erps; 05-14-2009 at 10:31 AM.
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Old 05-14-2009
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Yes, pretty well all Canadian marinas use VHF to communicate with moorage customers, in fact there is now a dedicated channel for that purpose (66A). We have often used our handheld as a 'walkie talkie" when ashore for various purposes.

As erps stressed, keep it short, relevant and low power - can't see any real problem there. I'm sure the powers that be have more pressing needs than to arrest someone calling for a lift.....
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Old 05-14-2009
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Handheld VHF's can be a murky area when it comes to regulations, and even more so when it comes to actual practice.

What is generally clear is that handheld VHFs (and fixed VHFs, too) cannot be used on shore without a special fixed-station license.

It's common practice to use handheld VHFs in the dingy to communicate with the mother ship. Many users use the name of the mother ship, and append, "Mobile 1", to identify. E.g., "Sunflower, Sunflower, this is Sunflower Mobile 1."

If I were to use my VHF handheld on another vessel, which I sometimes do, I'd use the name of that vessel when aboard, and append the "Mobile 1" if in a dingy.

Obviously, as you travel around you'll encounter lots of different practices, some of them strictly illegal but still the local "norm". Hey...the taxis in Bequia monitor Channel 16!!

Bill
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Old 05-14-2009
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In the US, a coast station license is available for stations associated with businesses or organizations that directly support maritime trades. I've seen the licenses posted near the fixed radio in the office of many marinas.

There isn't any issue I am aware of communicating between the licensed ship or boat and a tender to that vessel. My dinghy has a name of its own which eases calling; if called upon to do so I would use the ship station call sign for all radios.

My understanding is that there is reciprocity between countries through the IMO, so if you license and operate in accordance with the requirements of your home country you should be fine *except* that some countries allocate particular channels to official functions and one should carefully honor those allocations.
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Old 05-14-2009
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Most countries that I've been in Do Not allow portable radios to be carried ashore. The best bet is to have a cell phone for that area for when you are ashore.
Now if you have a way to lock up that portable on your dinghy and only use it while transiting to & fro to your yacht is fine. But don't carry it ashore.
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Old 05-15-2009
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common practice here in the midwest US is to use the handheld on the dingy. I would not personally use one on shore as technically that is illegal, but like others have said it is tolerated if not over used. Motel up on the Northeast coast a few years ago had a vhf base unit to converse with the local sailors. Strictly illegal since they did not have a shore license, but nobody said anything until one day they accidently laid the mike down in the keyed position and went to town shopping. FCC fined them 10,000 dollars for that.
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Old 05-15-2009
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We used FRS radios for land communication before we had so many cell phones in the family! This was in the US only. I don't know about international use.
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