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  #1  
Old 11-14-2012
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Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

Just before Hurricane Sandy, haulout, and winterization made my fall sailing a distant memory, I had a very disappointing experience with TowBoat US. It had been a long time since I had done a radio check, and the automated checks from SeaTow are not possible from my marina because their nearest stations are 20-30 miles away. But we have nearby TowBoat US stations, so I decided to try their service, especially since I pay $125/year for their towing service. While on the boat, I pulled up this press release on my cell phone.

So, following their directions exactly, I called their local number on my cell phone to tell them that I wanted to do a DSC radio check. The phone rep said "huh?" and when I explained more fully, she connected me to a guy on one of their tow boats. He told me he could do a verbal check, but he could not take DSC calls because they don't have any of their DSC radios connected to GPS. I explained that BoatUS had issued a press release saying they offered DSC checks on all their tow boats, and he tried his best to sound too busy to bother with me. I told him that I thought it might be possible for him to receive incoming DSC calls even though his GPS is not connected to his radio, and he insisted it isn't possible. This claim surprises me, since the radio shouldn't need to know its own position to receive the other boat's incoming digital GPS coordinates, but I don't know for sure either. (Obviously, GPS needs to be connected to DSC to automatically send out your boat's coordinates to other boats.)

This guy actually had the nerve to ask me why it was so important for him to receive DSC signals. I told him that if I ever had an emergency, the red distress button would send out my exact GPS coordinates automatically. Then he asked, "why wouldn't you just read the coordinates to me over the radio?" Incredulous, I told him that if I had an emergency situation, the last thing I want to do is have to read off a bunch of numbers, especially when DSC can automatically send them instantaneously and accurately while I attend to injured passengers or other critical items.

I find this especially ironic, since BoatUS has been trumpeting the importance of connecting GPS to DSC radios, such as this article. Here's a quote from that article:

Quote:
The DSC operating mode that is a feature of all fixed-mount marine radios built since 1999 can, with the push of a single button, send out an automatic distress call to the Coast Guard's Rescue 21 system as well as to all DSC-equipped radios on vessels within your transmission range. That transmission can include your exact position, provided you have connected the radio to your onboard GPS. Unfortunately, as of 2011 the Coast Guard estimates that 90 percent of boats have not made this connection. The message here is that if you have a DSC radio and a GPS on board and they are not connected to each other, making that essential connection should be your highest priority.
Too bad TowBoatUS does not follow its own advice! And if you ever have an emergency and press the red "distress" button, don't count on TowBoatUS answering your call directly. You'll have to hope that USCG picks it up and relays your coordinates for you.
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Last edited by TakeFive; 11-15-2012 at 07:59 AM.
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Old 11-14-2012
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Re: Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

I don't think Towboat would answer your DSC call directly even if they had the GPS and VHF wired correctly. They would wait for the USCG to answer the DSC distress call, then wait for instructions if needed. If the USCG didn't answer your DSC call in five minutes, they probably would respond as is protocol. At least that is the way I remember what is suppose to happen. See here.
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Old 11-15-2012
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Re: Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

Quote:
Too bad TowBoatUS does not follow its own advice! And if you ever have an emergency and press the red "distress" button, don't count on TowBoatUS answering your call directly. You'll have to hope that USCG picks it up and relays your coordinates for you Takefive.
Rick,

I think it is the CG responsisbility to respond. Is your vessel equiped with an onboard GPS which your DSC is connected to?
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Old 11-15-2012
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Re: Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

CG are the only people who answer/acknowledge a DSC distress call since the acknowledge cancels the alert automatically. Anyone however can make/receive a DSC call (i.e. a ship-to-ship call), you just need to know their MMSI. TowBoatUS vessels should know what their MMSI is so that you can call them, try asking for that specifically.
GPS connection is only necessary to be able to automatically update your position information into the DSC, you should manually enter your position into the DSC at a minimum of every 4 hours otherwise, this position info is then sent as part of the distress call.
I'd suggest if you have a ROC(M) or whatever your equivalent is that you get the additional DSC module.
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Old 11-15-2012
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Re: Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

OP is referring to 'radio check procedure' I believe.
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Old 11-15-2012
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Re: Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne25 View Post
I don't think Towboat would answer your DSC call directly even if they had the GPS and VHF wired correctly.
This is not correct. It is contradicted by BoatUS's own press release (which I linked in my original post):
Quote:
The TowBoatUS 0-338-04000 MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) number is available to boaters hailing from the Gulf Coast at Mobile, AL, Florida and the Atlantic coast up to Sandy Hook, NJ. When this number is “dialed” on a DSC-VHF radio keypad, a boater will automatically be connected to the closest TowBoatUS port or response boat within radio range.
Quote:
Originally Posted by chef2sail View Post
...Is your vessel equiped with an onboard GPS which your DSC is connected to?
I have a Garmin 18xLVC GPS receiver that is hardwired directly to my Standard Horizon 2150GX VHF/DSC/AIS receiver. I also have Bluetooth transmitters that broadcast the GPS coordinates and AIS sentences to any laptop, tablet, or cell phone. This allows me to verify that the GPS has a good fix. I posted the details of my setup here a couple years ago, and it was featured in the Summer 2011 issue of Catalina's Mainsheet magazine.

I have made successful DSC calls in 2011, but had not gotten TowBoatUS to respond to any during 2012 when I attempted to hail them on their MMSI #0-338-04000.
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Old 11-15-2012
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Re: Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

Having made a PAN-PAN after hitting a rock in the 2010 ARLI race i can assure you that Marine Salvors were all over 16 to the point of being a PITA while trying to get setup with the CG to monitor us in case things made a turn for the worse while we motored home

I was astounded at what the CG allowed in LIS
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Old 11-15-2012
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Re: Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

I think it would be worth a call to BoatUS. It may just be your local operator.
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Old 11-15-2012
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Re: Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

Merely a call to BoatUS? I think I would get this info to the CEO. I'm certain he would love to know how his ideas are being drowned.
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Old 11-15-2012
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Re: Boo TowBoatUS! They don't connect their own DSC

Rick,

I will test this out this weekend when I go down to the boat. Hopefully it is only a localized issue.

Dave
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