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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Consider this a bit of a survey. In addition to being an avid sailor, I'm also a product guy. I do most of my sailing on a Beneteau 49. Most often, this is done short handed. We also race occasionally. I'm sure we are all experienced with attempting to communicate from cockpit to foredeck or to someone below decks. Coordinating driving and spinnaker operations on the foredeck are challenging when communication is hampered. Things get worse when you are bundled up head to toe in foulies. Remote radio handsets for VHF, typically found above decks, don't have the best audio clarity, especially when conditions are dicey.

I've certainly tried Family Radio Service (FRS) devices, but they basically suck and are uncomfortable to wear for long.

Am I alone in wanting a device that allows easy crew-to-crew VOX based communication while also enabling each or one crew member to communicate over VHF?

Would you use a device like that? What do you use now? How about communication between couples who sail?

Happy Sailing

Gary
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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Coordinating driving and spinnaker operations on the foredeck are challenging when communication is hampered.
First off, the AHITB *ahem* afterguard needs to let the foredeck do their job. Once we pass the mast you can't change your mind. We know our weight is slowing down the boat so STOP YELLING AT US. If you don't like how I'm running the foredeck I'll drive and you can do it.

Okay. I feel better now.

I've certainly tried Family Radio Service (FRS) devices, but they basically suck and are uncomfortable to wear for long.

Am I alone in wanting a device that allows easy crew-to-crew VOX based communication while also enabling each or one crew member to communicate over VHF?
There are lots of "marriage savers" targeted at the couples cruising market. Some are better than others. Most of them have an ear piece wired to a belt or pocket box. I'm not impressed.

There are some interesting products in the motorcycle market, including a couple of Bluetooth products. I saw one (which I can't now find with Google - sorry) that had a wired in Bluetooth server that multiple ear pieces connect to.

Would you use a device like that? What do you use now? How about communication between couples who sail?
No. A combination of planning and hand signals works for us and is portable from boat to boat.

Editorial comment: part of the problem with anchoring and docking is that people leave the cockpit too soon. Sure you can walk around the boat and get everything ready early, but get everyone back to the cockpit as you make your approach. You can have a civilized efficient discussion and then wander up to the foredeck (anchoring) or midships (docking) in ten or fifteen seconds. Better for communication, nerves, and performance.

The same applies while racing. The foredeck should be ready as part of tidying up so the foredeck should not be foreward of the mast until immediately before they are needed. Of course the afterguard has cooties so we don't want to be too far aft either. *grin*
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
First off, the AHITB *ahem* afterguard needs to let the foredeck do their job. Once we pass the mast you can't change your mind. We know our weight is slowing down the boat so STOP YELLING AT US. If you don't like how I'm running the foredeck I'll drive and you can do it.
Can't argue with that. Still, **** happens.

All your other points are good ones as well.

What about the VHF aspect? I suppose a lot depends on where you are sailing and how much radio communication is relevant to your sail. Would you find it convenient to be able to transmit and receive through a headset if it were small and unobtrusive?
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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What about the VHF aspect? I suppose a lot depends on where you are sailing and how much radio communication is relevant to your sail. Would you find it convenient to be able to transmit and receive through a headset if it were small and unobtrusive?
No.

For communication off the boat, the boat should speak with one voice. I don't want to hear from the foredeck and the cockpit of a boat I'm trying to communicate with. Practically, if things are busy and I'm on the foredeck I'll have a handheld VHF so I can listen to what Janet is saying to others and what others are saying to us.

For communication within the boat using the limited resource of marine VHF frequencies is not considerate to those you share those frequencies with.

There are lots of alternatives for communication within the boat: wired headsets, GMRS, FRS, and Bluetooth come to mind. Most commercial ships use GMRS UHF frequencies. For recreational boats a little FRS radio on your hip and earbuds work. That is essentially what the "marriage savers" are.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
For communication within the boat using the limited resource of marine VHF frequencies is not considerate to those you share those frequencies with.
That's clear. I wasn't suggesting the use of VHF for intra-ship comms. I was just asking about the desire to use a handsfree set when it comes time to communicate off-ship.

Thanks for all the input.
 

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Old soul
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No. A combination of planning and hand signals works for us and is portable from boat to boat.

Editorial comment: part of the problem with anchoring and docking is that people leave the cockpit too soon. Sure you can walk around the boat and get everything ready early, but get everyone back to the cockpit as you make your approach. You can have a civilized efficient discussion and then wander up to the foredeck (anchoring) or midships (docking) in ten or fifteen seconds. Better for communication, nerves, and performance.
It's fun when reading something so in-sync with how I understand the world should be. This is EXACTLY how my partner and I have been anchoring for years.

We went through the yelling stage, and the Marriage Saver stage. Now we do how you outline here. As we come into an anchorage, deck crew (we alternate) prepares foredeck and readies anchor for deployment. Then we reconvene in the cockpit as we close in on the anchorage so we can discuss the next steps. Once we've laid out a plan the deck crew goes fore as we get close. As we approach the target zone the foredeck crew takes control with hand signals. When ready he/she deploys the anchor and then manages the set, all without saying a word.

I guess if a vessel is large, or has multiple crew doing multiple things, then perhaps a different approach need be taken. But for the typical small crew on the standard cruising vessel, I think relying on radio communications is unnecessarily cumbersome and inefficient.
 

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Am I alone in wanting a device that allows easy crew-to-crew VOX based communication while also enabling each or one crew member to communicate over VHF?

Would you use a device like that? What do you use now? How about communication between couples who sail?

Happy Sailing

Gary
No, I wouldn't use VHF to communicate with someone on our boat. We're only on a 30 footer but even during anchoring (my automatic anchor windless has two legs), hand signals are sufficient and don't require batteries or good propagation.
 

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For a cruising couple or family, hand signals are great. Not only does it give you an incentive to practice and talk things through, they work even when it's windy and wet. I've always been proud to pull into an anchorage and have the foredeck calmly (and silently) control the operation with just a few waves and thumb signals.

That said, if there is often guest crew, I suppose headsets would be nice. "No, the other main halyard . . . ".
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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That's clear. I wasn't suggesting the use of VHF for intra-ship comms. I was just asking about the desire to use a handsfree set when it comes time to communicate off-ship.
Ah. I see. For me (YMMV) that only really applies when I'm single handing. Generally speaking I'm out of the cockpit for anchoring, docking, and reefing. None of those take long and I can separate communication from the task at hand.

I do highly support a microphone for your VHF in the cockpit. That's just too handy not to have. A handheld is a substitute but not nearly as good as a fixed radio installation.

This does bring a story to mind. T37Chef, another SNer, single handing his sailboat came across a bunch of people in the water. He called the Coast Guard as he approached and started fishing people out of the water. His radio response to rapid fire queries from the Coast Guard (I was several miles away heading toward him as fast as I could) has become a classic story: "I'm a little busy right now, I'll get right back to you." The moral is you can prioritize your activities even in an emergency.

It's fun when reading something so in-sync with how I understand the world should be. This is EXACTLY how my partner and I have been anchoring for years.
So you're smart. *grin*

I guess if a vessel is large, or has multiple crew doing multiple things, then perhaps a different approach need be taken. But for the typical small crew on the standard cruising vessel, I think relying on radio communications is unnecessarily cumbersome and inefficient.
On superyachts I see small handhelds. They use them mostly so that deck crew fore and aft can act as an extra set of eyes for the skipper who often can't really see the corners of the boat or even the dock as s/he gets closer. When it's time to put lines ashore the radios get put down. Priorities.

That said, if there is often guest crew, I suppose headsets would be nice. "No, the other main halyard . . . ".
Or let the guest steer.
 

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Every time foredeck comms comes up, the ludites poo poo the idea of modern communication. You also navigate with compass, sextant and paper charts and denigrate chartplotters right? You use oil lamps for nav lights because you dont have any of those stupid batteries with all their charging nonsense like solar panels. And of course you dont have an alternator because you dont have an engine.

Having headsets brings much more capability to communicating. Yes, I have used hand signals. Verbal communications have evolved quite a bit since og first used grunting and jestures a few years ago. And tell me how I am supposed to signal back to the cockpit when I have one hand on the washdown hose and one hand on the manual windlass? Perhaps I should drop trou before and wave my weenie for instruction?
 

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Would you use a device like that? What do you use now? How about communication between couples who sail?

Happy Sailing

Gary
We've never been too fond of docking as a couple and family. We don't do it a lot and take it very cautiously. With the engine at dead slow, it's usually easy to communicate with soft voices.

The only times I can think that we'd need the extra volume on our 38' boat, is if the wind was high. In that case, we'd probably not be docking. At any rate, I can't think of much we could say that wasn't said before we headed in. We don't have any hand signals but do eye signals like rolling them at each other.

But on a larger boat or one that often sees new crew, I think a headset communication would be a helpful system.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
No.

For communication off the boat, the boat should speak with one voice. I don't want to hear from the foredeck and the cockpit of a boat I'm trying to communicate with. Practically, if things are busy and I'm on the foredeck I'll have a handheld VHF so I can listen to what Janet is saying to others and what others are saying to us.

For communication within the boat using the limited resource of marine VHF frequencies is not considerate to those you share those frequencies with.

There are lots of alternatives for communication within the boat: wired headsets, GMRS, FRS, and Bluetooth come to mind. Most commercial ships use GMRS UHF frequencies. For recreational boats a little FRS radio on your hip and earbuds work. That is essentially what the "marriage savers" are.
Every time foredeck comms comes up, the ludites poo poo the idea of modern communication. You also navigate with compass, sextant and paper charts and denigrate chartplotters right? You use oil lamps for nav lights because you dont have any of those stupid batteries with all their charging nonsense like solar panels. And of course you dont have an alternator because you dont have an engine.

Having headsets brings much more capability to communicating. Yes, I have used hand signals. Verbal communications have evolved quite a bit since og first used grunting and jestures a few years ago. And tell me how I am supposed to signal back to the cockpit when I have one hand on the washdown hose and one hand on the manual windlass? Perhaps I should drop trou before and wave my weenie for instruction?
Personally, I find that the right technologies, done correctly, can serve to effectively augment my situational awareness. I also fly and I have seen a dramatic evolution from the old steam gauges to modern glass cockpits in small planes. I wouldn't mind some of that stuff in my sailing life. On the other hand, I get the purist point of view - just me, my crew, and the elements. That's part of what's appealing about sailing.
 

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Old soul
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Personally, I find that the right technologies, done correctly, can serve to effectively augment my situational awareness. I also fly and I have seen a dramatic evolution from the old steam gauges to modern glass cockpits in small planes. I wouldn't mind some of that stuff in my sailing life. On the other hand, I get the purist point of view - just me, my crew, and the elements. That's part of what's appealing about sailing.
Just to be clear, my comments are not about being "pure", or about some luddite perception of the old ways being the best ways. I carry lots of technology on board, and would not want to be without.

What I, and others of like experience are telling you (and xort) is that the use of radios to communicate on a typical cruising boat is both unnecessary, and in most cases, a worse option than more direct approaches. I'm sure there are those who come to the opposite conclusion, but most long-term cruising couples I know of usually end up with some combination of pre-planning/verbal/hand-signal approach to managing anchoring and docking.
 

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this guy also hit Sailing Anarchy... he's spamming, or whatever this kind of thinly veiled advertisement is called.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Just to be clear, my comments are not about being "pure", or about some luddite perception of the old ways being the best ways. I carry lots of technology on board, and would not want to be without.

What I, and others of like experience are telling you (and xort) is that the use of radios to communicate on a typical cruising boat is both unnecessary, and in most cases, a worse option than more direct approaches. I'm sure there are those who come to the opposite conclusion, but most long-term cruising couples I know of usually end up with some combination of pre-planning/verbal/hand-signal approach to managing anchoring and docking.
Thanks for pointing that distinction out Mike. An experienced couple should indeed be able to manage the boat as you describe. As others have pointed out, there are times when other folks who are on the boat less often are on board and while nothing takes the place of good briefings for the crew, I wonder if this time of comms would be helpful in those situations.

I also have mentioned that part of my thought process is focused on handsfree communication while using the VHF radio. I can also see tying a cell phone in for music or handling phone calls, which in my opinion should be ignored for the most part, but I'm certain others may need to be reachable.

Thoughts on that aspect?
 

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^After you've been out awhile there are less surprises. The helmsmen knows what to expect, the deck crew know what to do. Not rocket science anymore. Tried the little radios, wind noise usually made the things worthless. If we don't like the look of things we'll go around for another try. No dramas. Hardly a word spoken anymore when anchoring or docking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
this guy also hit Sailing Anarchy... he's spamming, or whatever this kind of thinly veiled advertisement is called.
ad28, while I did post the same question there, I am not spamming nor is this a thinly veiled ad, I am not in the business and I have no product to sell. My sailing buddy and I have been debating the usefulness of this idea and have had some lively discussions with others in our marina. I thought the topic was interesting - that's it.
 

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Old soul
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Thanks for pointing that distinction out Mike. An experienced couple should indeed be able to manage the boat as you describe. As others have pointed out, there are times when other folks who are on the boat less often are on board and while nothing takes the place of good briefings for the crew, I wonder if this time of comms would be helpful in those situations.

I also have mentioned that part of my thought process is focused on handsfree communication while using the VHF radio. I can also see tying a cell phone in for music or handling phone calls, which in my opinion should be ignored for the most part, but I'm certain others may need to be reachable.

Thoughts on that aspect?
I'm sure there are scenarios where unobtrusive radio communications tools could be effective. Certainly as vessel size goes up (say into the 50-foot+ range), and temporary crew come into the picture, then sure ... it might be useful there. I just don't think there is much of a market in the sailing couple world.
 

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Mermaid Hunter
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Every time foredeck comms comes up, the ludites poo poo the idea of modern communication.
Oh man. If you think I'm a luddite you are barking up the wrong tree. *grin* I definitely err toward the "more cool stuff" side of the technology equation. Add a radio to the options mix and I want it, whatever "it" is. I've been a ham radio operator since I was a kid. Heck, I have a wireless doorbell with a portable plaque for the button that hangs on my lifelines or on a dock piling. I see wireless comms for intra-boat communications as technology for its own sake.

Having headsets brings much more capability to communicating. Yes, I have used hand signals. Verbal communications have evolved quite a bit since og first used grunting and jestures a few years ago. And tell me how I am supposed to signal back to the cockpit when I have one hand on the washdown hose and one hand on the manual windlass? Perhaps I should drop trou before and wave my weenie for instruction?
I disagree with your assessment. Just how much instruction do you need on the foredeck? The task is straightforward and the same every time. Even the failure modes are generally predictable.

On the other hand, adding wireless comms adds complexity and additional failure modes: dead batteries, wind noise that means using your hand to press the headset against your ear(s), dropping the headset overboard, dropping the headset on deck and stepping on it, dropping your VHF or belt device, snagging the headset wire (if there is one) on something, catching the belt device on something, .... This is not Luddism or purism. It is a thoughtful cost-benefit analysis (mostly non-financial costs) that concludes that there is little value.

Personally, I find that the right technologies, done correctly, can serve to effectively augment my situational awareness. I also fly and I have seen a dramatic evolution from the old steam gauges to modern glass cockpits in small planes. I wouldn't mind some of that stuff in my sailing life.
I absolutely agree. Thus chartplotter, AIS, radar, autopilot, WiFi, cellular booster, HF/SSB with Pactor, satellite phone, computer network, and more on my boat. Generator, air conditioner, refrigerator, freezer, electric toilet, Electroscan, multi-source TVs. I have what may be the highest tech holding tank level indicator you have ever seen because I liked the technology.

What I, and others of like experience are telling you (and xort) is that the use of radios to communicate on a typical cruising boat is both unnecessary, and in most cases, a worse option than more direct approaches.
Exactly. There are certainly some people who describe "marriage savers" as wonderful technology (thus the name) but the number of people who buy them to end up leaving them in a drawer somewhere is more significant. I see piles of them at marine flea markets.

As others have pointed out, there are times when other folks who are on the boat less often are on board and while nothing takes the place of good briefings for the crew, I wonder if this time of comms would be helpful in those situations.
In my delivery work I get a lot of crew I haven't sailed with before. Establishing baseline expectations and hand signals takes a couple of minutes.

I also have mentioned that part of my thought process is focused on handsfree communication while using the VHF radio. I can also see tying a cell phone in for music or handling phone calls, which in my opinion should be ignored for the most part, but I'm certain others may need to be reachable.
I can see some benefit to hands-free with VOX for VHF as either a supplement to a remote mic. There is value to everyone in the cockpit hearing radio traffic so I don't think it makes a good replacement for a remote mic. Taking handsfree comms forward is more likely to cause trouble than avoid it. See above. *grin*

I definitely do not take my phone out of the cockpit. If something were to happen to it (comms, to-do, contacts, back-up nav, ActiveCaptain and other databases, and utility apps) I'd really be in a bind. Not worth the risk to me.

Tried the little radios, wind noise usually made the things worthless. If we don't like the look of things we'll go around for another try. No dramas. Hardly a word spoken anymore when anchoring or docking.
Agree about wind noise. Standing ovation for going around.
 
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