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  #1  
Old 12-30-2010
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MMSI registration and DSC

I got a really cool handheld VHF for Christmas (an HX850S, IIRC). It has DSC features. I was going to take the advice in the manual and register for a free MMSI from BoatUS, but after reading up on it a bit, I wonder if that's a good idea. It seems these free MMSIs aren't any good in foreign waters. I currently have no plans to go to foreign waters, but I imagine in the not too distant future I will want to go to Canada, Bermuda, or the Bahamas. The licenses seem to cost $160. Should I just bite the bullet now and get an FCC MMSI?

It also seems that they're attached to a particular boat, so if I buy a new boat I need to do it again (and get a new MMSI for the new boat), is that correct? If so, perhaps I should just go with the free one, since I don't know if I'll hang on to this boat long enough to go anywhere other than Canada, and it seems the rules aren't enforced there, and are in the process of being lifted.

Lastly, this is a handheld radio and I fully expect to use it on other people's boats. Is that a problem? I can't very well reprogram the MMSI every time I go out on someone else's boat. How should this situation be handled?

Thanks.
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Old 12-30-2010
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I went the free route, I'll change it if my status changes. Unless the radio has a GPS in it (not familiar with that model) you will just be using the DSC function so I don't think using it on different boats will be a problem. When connected to GPS and you send an emergency broadcast it also sends out your location and boat info.
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Old 12-31-2010
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You can always get the main boat MMSI from the FC, and get the handheld one from Boat/US.
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Old 12-31-2010
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The DSC feature is great when others use it as well; the main feature is indeed the emergency MAYDAY feature which sends a digital text message that you enter when making your MAYDAY and your MMSI. If there is no recent GPS signal you can also manually enter your coordinates when making a DSC MAYDAY/PAN-PAN/SECURITE message. The radio will automatically repeat sending out the distress message until cancelled, which is a nice feature if you need to do something (bail water, assist people, enter a liferaft). The DSC allows people to "call" you directly via the digital channel and your MMSI, sending a text message and optionally choosing a working channel so that the whole world doesn't hear it on 16.
If you program your boats MMSI into the handheld and are aboard another boat you can either just not use the DSC functionality or program in your GPS coordinates and use it as an emergency backup. Remember, this is just VHF line-of-sight and not a 406Mhz EPIRB satellite system.
I've had my DSC radio on in the Caribbean for a good 6-9 months now, and have just checked my DSC log and have a couple of message (distress, mayday relay, distress acknowledge, many "all ships urgency") but they are months old - very few ships have DSC and those that do are commercial ones. I use my AIS to get a ship's MMSI and can then call them directly, instead of calling on Ch. 16 "Supertanker approaching me at 30 knots, do you you see me?"
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Old 12-31-2010
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This VHF does have a built in GPS. That was one of the key features I asked for. The theory is that if I keep it clipped to my life jacket at all times, if I fall overboard, not only can I call for help, but I can tell people exactly where I am. I wasn't expecting to get a radio that also had DSC capabilities. This little handheld is far more featured than the built in radio in my boat.

windward54, I don't know if that is actually possible to do legally. I believe your boat may only have 1 MMSI assigned to it, so if I get the FCC one, it requires the invalidation of the BoatUS one.

I think I'm just going to go with the free one from BoatUS and assume that I won't be going to out of the country in the near future. Thanks everyone for your help.
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