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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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Old 10-31-2008
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VHF Etiquette

The vast majority of my boating until now has been either on powerboats or small sailing dinghies. I recently realized, that I have never had the need to use my VHF to hail a bridge or the coast guard....

What do you do if your boat doesn't have a name? All the procedures say to state the vessel's name, but my boat doen't have one (yet). Do I just read my off my numbers? Also what if a boat has a name, but isn't officially documented?
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Use the existing vessel name if it is painted or marked on the hull...otherwise, use the vessel's new name and get it put on the hull ASAP.
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The boat currently doesn't have any name. I plan on naming it, but have some hull work to do once I get the boat back home. It seems like a waste of time and money to put on a name just to move the boat, then have to take it off. That being said, getting the boat back home involves 5 locks and a number of bridges, and I plan on having to use the VHF often.
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Just say..."bascule bridge this is northbound sailboat approaching requesting an opening" or similar. IF asked for a name, give the name you plan to use. A boat does not have to be named to go through a bridge!
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On a small un-named vessel I'll generally use something that seems to fit & is descriptive, "Runabout Whaler" is one I've used or S/V Compac in your case, just for ease in communicating.
Also, nothing says you have to be documented to have a name, tho' I've never felt the need to name a boat that wasn't big enough to document.

Last edited by capttb; 10-31-2008 at 11:40 PM.
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Thanks, that helps a lot.
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Old 11-01-2008
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If you do not have a name - but the boat has sail numbers - use the sail numbers. Otherwise - use "Unmarked Sailing Vessel - [make, length, color (if non white)]"...(preferred in your case).

The other option is just use "S/V John (or Jane) Doe"..synonymic with "no name"...

the whole purpose of using a name or something to identify a vessel is so that one can be hailed or acknowledged by either party.
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When encountering naval vessels you may simply refer to yourself as "target at..give your bearing and range here". They'll understand. (g)

Seriously, it is a good idea to learn VHF protocol and the regulations. There are many threads on it here. It's a great tool and safety aid, properly used.
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You forgot about the part where you tell them you're carrying 2000 lbs. of ANFO.
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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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