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  #1  
Old 04-17-2011
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VHF Radio License

Hello. I'm going this week to write my VHF radio license and was curious as to whether most sailors have and use a VHF radio. I have an older unit and if all goes well, I'm thinking of getting a DSC version. Is this pretty common now. Like I said, I'm just curious to how prevelant this is amongst pleasure sailors.
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Old 04-17-2011
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Most sailors have a VHF radio. In the US, and I believe Canada, a license is NOT required. However, if you go abroad, the license will probably be necessary for the countries that you visit.

DSC is very common. You need to register your MMSI for it to do any good. Also, if your VHF does not have an integral GPS, you need to connect the GPS to the VHF.
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Old 04-17-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by weephee View Post
Hello. I'm going this week to write my VHF radio license and was curious as to whether most sailors have and use a VHF radio. I have an older unit and if all goes well, I'm thinking of getting a DSC version. Is this pretty common now. Like I said, I'm just curious to how prevelant this is amongst pleasure sailors.
Good idea to get your VHF license although it does not appear to be a strictly "enforced" requirement. The test does give a nice refresher for radio protocol.
I recently replaced an old VHF radio with a DSC and AIS compatible radio. I have not used the DSC nor AIS function but the new radio is great, of particular benefit is the multi channel scan function which means that you can monitor all radio traffic without having to physically switch channels.
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Old 04-17-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eherlihy View Post
Most sailors have a VHF radio. In the US, and I believe Canada, a license is NOT required. However, if you go abroad, the license will probably be necessary for the countries that you visit.

DSC is very common. You need to register your MMSI for it to do any good. Also, if your VHF does not have an integral GPS, you need to connect the GPS to the VHF.
Not sure about US and Canada but in Aus a "set" licence is not needed for VHF ie the installation is covered by a blanket VHF radio licence, a UHF radio requires a specific installation licence as well as operator MROCP. However a Marine Radio Operators Certificate of Proficiency is required by anybody who makes a transmission on a VHF radio unless that transmission is an emergency message.
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Old 04-18-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eherlihy View Post
... and I believe Canada, a license is NOT required. However, if you go abroad, the license will probably be necessary for the countries that you visit.
A quick Canadian clarification as I see you're a fellow Canuck.

In Canada...
1. You do not need to be certified to purchase or own a VHF radio (called a 'station')
2. You do not need to be certified to use a VHF radio in a distress situation.
3. You DO need to be certified (ROC-M) to use a VHF radio in all other situations.
4. If you operate solely within Canada, non-territorial waters and countries with which we have a treaty, this does NOT include USA, then the actual VHF radio does not need a licence.
5. If you operate in foreign waters, this includes USA, then you need a station licence from Industry Canada.
6. To use DSC, you must register (free) for an MMSI number before you can use the features.

There are some really stiff penalties for breaking the rules of usage so you'll want to take a Canadian Power Squadron course to obtain your "Restricted Operator Certificate - Maritime" (ROC-M) certificate.

There is very little reason to not have a VHF radio on board and many reasons to have one (even if you do not have your ROC-M); Almost every boat I know has one.

DSC is the way to go if you are out on the Great Lakes or beyond but may be less useful if you're just on the river; The key being that you must, by law, have a GPS connected to the device or manually update your position every 4 hours. The latter defeats a key feature of the system.

Be sure to check out Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons or call 1-888-CPS-BOAT for details.
(I have no affiliation to the above)

My wife is taking the VHF course as we speak so if you have any questions, I have the manual right here.
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Old 04-18-2011
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Jordan, you beat me to it, when it comes to Cdn licencing. I also understand that the fines for non-distress usage can be quite heavy.

As for DSC vs non-DSC, my understanding is that while non-DSC radios are permitted, most radio manufacturers are now required to make DSC radios only. So the only way to get a non-DSC radio is to buy it second hand.
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Old 04-18-2011
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Yes Mark, you are correct. When I said that breaking the rules of usage had stiff penalties, I was perhaps understating it. For example, swearing on the radio carries a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 12 months in jail.
I would be curious to know how often these fines and incarcerations are handed out in the real world.

As for DSC, it's a non-issue about the radio; New, fixed marine radios will have DSC regardless while mobile/handheld units won't. The decision is whether you pay extra to get your DSC endorsement on your ROC-M certificate as well as go through the hassle of enabling your MMSI on the radio if you don't have an attached GPS.

The "no brainer" answer.
Yes, get a VHF radio.
Yes, get your ROC-M.
Yes, get your DSC endorsement for the ROC-M.
Yes, register for your MMSI.
Optional, get a station license for your radio hardware if you plan to visit the USA.
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Old 04-18-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailjunkie View Post
As for DSC vs non-DSC, my understanding is that while non-DSC radios are permitted, most radio manufacturers are now required to make DSC radios only. So the only way to get a non-DSC radio is to buy it second hand.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JordanH View Post
As for DSC, it's a non-issue about the radio; New, fixed marine radios will have DSC regardless while mobile/handheld units won't. The decision is whether you pay extra to get your DSC endorsement on your ROC-M certificate as well as go through the hassle of enabling your MMSI on the radio if you don't have an attached GPS.
I'm surprised to hear it costs you more for DSC endorsement - it's a no-option part of the package over here, Down Under.

Note that noboby's forcing you to enable DSC even if your radio is fitted with it.. for now at least. Your choice.
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Old 04-18-2011
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No license needed for VHF as long as you stay in the US.
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Old 04-18-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hartley18 View Post
I'm surprised to hear it costs you more for DSC endorsement - it's a no-option part of the package over here, Down Under.
Hi Hartley, as SailJunkie and I mentioned above, today's fixed marine VHF radios all come with DSC.

In Canada, you must not confuse operator certification with station licensing. A user may have their Restricted Operator Certificate (ROC-M) from prior to DSC existence. In that case, they must pay another $50 for the course to upgrade to their DSC endorsement. This is an endorsement that is tagged on to their ROC-M certificate and allows the person to operate a DSC radio.

Therefore, if you have your ROC-M from years ago, you do not *need* to upgrade to DSC.

FWIW, we are straying from the OP's question. I realize I have been answering questions about licensing when he asked about how prevalent VHF radios are. The answer is "Everybody's got one."

Jim, the OP has his location listed in Ottawa so we've made the assumption he would be boating in Canada. Canadians *do* need a station licence when we operate in the USA; I am unsure if we need a ROC-M while down south but I believe the ITU states that we must.
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