Kayaker Missing off Everett WA

alexsidles

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And even in the US, I think it's a case of: Vessels not required to carry a marine radio (e.g. recreational vessels less than 20m length), but which voluntarily carry a radio, must maintain a watch on channel 16 whenever the radio is operating and not being used to communicate.

So it's not a requirement to have the radio turned on all the time.
I think that guidance is mistaken. I think the requirement in the US is to maintain a radio watch if the vessel has a radio. I don't think you escape the requirement by switching off your radio.

Here is the language from the actual regulation, 47 C.F.R. § 80.310:

Watch required by voluntary vessels.

Voluntary vessels not equipped with DSC must maintain a watch on 2182 kHz and on 156.800 MHz (Channel 16) whenever the vessel is underway and the radio is not being used to communicate. Noncommercial vessels, such as recreational boats, may alternatively maintain a watch on 156.450 MHz (Channel 9) in lieu of VHF Channel 16 for call and reply purposes. Voluntary vessels equipped with VHF-DSC equipment must maintain a watch on 2182 kHz and on either 156.525 MHz (Channel 70) or VHF Channel 16 aurally whenever the vessel is underway and the radio is not being used to communicate. Voluntary vessels equipped with MF-HF DSC equipment must have the radio turned on and set to an appropriate DSC distress calling channel or one of the radiotelephone distress channels whenever the vessel is underway and the radio is not being used to communicate. Voluntary vessels equipped with a GMDSS-approved Inmarsat system must have the unit turned on and set to receive calls whenever the vessel is underway and the radio is not being used to communicate.​

The coast guard also restates the requirement in plain language here: "In general, any vessel equipped with a VHF marine radiotelephone (whether voluntarily or required to) must maintain a watch on channel 16 (156.800 MHz) whenever the radiotelephone is not being used to communicate."

This issue actually comes up from time to time in kayak discussion circles (including here on WCP at least once, if memory serves), because, under a strict reading of this rule, a kayaker would have to run his or her VHF all the time while paddling, which is obviously unworkable for a multi-day paddle.

EDIT: Ah, I see the source of confusion. The original version of the regulation did, indeed, say that voluntary vessels only needed to maintain a radio watch "whenever the radio is operating and is not being used to communicate." Source: 51 Fed. Reg. 31249 (Sept. 2, 1986).

But the FCC is clear that the changed language was, indeed, intended to compel radio-equipped vessels to maintain a watch at all times while underway, not just while the radio was in operation. "Since the Report and Order clearly reflects a Commission intent that voluntary vessels maintain a Channel 16 watch whenever the vessel is underway (except when the radio is otherwise being used to communicate) and not just when the radio is being operated, we take this opportunity to amend Section 80.1153 to reflect that intent, conforming it to Section 80.310 and rectifying the earlier omission." Source: 21 FCC Rcd. 10291 (Sept. 8, 2006).

It seems some of the online, user-friendly, non-governmental guidance websites are still relying on the old regulation, which only required a watch to be maintained if the radio was switched on. That's no longer the rule. Always check the text of the law itself, not just what some guy on the internet says about the law. Present company excepted, of course!

Alex
 
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JohnAbercrombie

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...and while the chatter may not be always heard as it falls into the background noise of the engine, or due to the operator being on deck rather than in the cabin, the DSC alert squawk might be more difficult to ignore.
Very true.
I wonder what fraction of the power and sail boats out there have DSC radios? The VHF wasn't something people replaced very often, as long as it seemed to be working, back in the earlry 2000's when I had a sailboat. Things may be different now.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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under a strict reading of this rule, a kayaker would have to run his or her VHF all the time while paddling, which is obviously unworkable for a multi-day paddle.
And perhaps not a good idea even on a day paddle, though standby/RX doesn't use very much energy.
Especially with the trend (?) to USB-chargeable low-voltage radios, the reserve is not great. It would be good to have lots of power/energy available if there were an emergency.
 

alexsidles

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My vessel is not equipped with a VHF radio. A handheld doesn't count.
It’s a clever argument. The watch-standing regulations do not define the word “equipped.”

However, the regulations do provide that, for certain classes of compulsory vessels (namely, those that are compulsory only under the Bridge-to-Bridge Act), a vessel may satisfy its requirement to carry radio equipment by using a handheld radio:

Where a ship ordinarily has no requirement for VHF communications, handheld VHF equipment may be used solely to comply with the bridge-to-bridge navigational communication requirements contained in subpart U of this part.​

47 C.F.R. § 80.143(c).

If certain vessels that are required to carry a radio can satisfy that requirement by carrying “handheld radio equipment,” I think we have to concede that a vessel carrying a handheld radio is, in fact, “equipped” with a radio.

I would note, too, that flares, PFD, towlines, and so forth are also portable pieces of equipment. If the coast ever said you weren’t “equipped” with these devices because they are portable, you might have something to say about that!

However, in one final twist (at least, I hope it is the final twist), a compulsory vessel that is carrying a handheld radio for compliance with the Bridge-to-Bridge Act, if no other requirement to carry a radio applies to the vessel, is not required to maintain a radio watch on the handheld radio. See 47 C.F.R. § 80.148(a).

But this exemption only applies to compulsory vessels. There is no similar exemption for voluntary vessels. For voluntary vessels, if you do carry a radio, you must maintain a watch, regardless of the type of radio you are carrying. See 47 C.F.R. § 80.310.

Make sure you leave those handhelds switched on at all times, kayakers!

Alex
 
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kayakwriter

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It’s a clever argument. The watch-standing regulations do not define the word “equipped.”
However, the regulations do provide that, for certain classes of compulsory vessels (namely, those that are compulsory only under the Bridge-to-Bridge Act), a vessel may satisfy its requirement to carry radio equipment by using a handheld radio:

Where a ship ordinarily has no requirement for VHF communications, handheld VHF equipment may be used solely to comply with the bridge-to-bridge navigational communication requirements contained in subpart U of this part.​

47 C.F.R. § 80.143(c).

If certain vessels that are required to carry a radio can satisfy that requirement by carrying “handheld radio equipment,” I think we have to concede that a vessel carrying a handheld radio is, in fact, “equipped” with a radio.

However, in one final twist (at least, I hope it is the final twist), a compulsory vessel that is carrying a handheld radio for compliance with the Bridge-to-Bridge Act, if no other requirement to carry a radio applies to the vessel, is not required to maintain a radio watch on the handheld radio. See 47 C.F.R. § 80.148(a).

But this exemption only applies to compulsory vessels. There is no similar exemption for voluntary vessels. For voluntary vessels, if you do carry a radio, you must maintain a watch, regardless of the type of radio you are carrying. See 47 C.F.R. § 80.310.

Make sure you leave those handhelds switched on at all times, kayakers!

Alex
So I was gonna go on a rant about them's US rules, not Canadian, and they'll have to pry my turned-off VHF from my cold, dead hands, but given the situation that kicked this thread off in the first place, maybe I won't...
 
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alexsidles

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So I was gonna go on a rant about them's US rules, not Canadian
As kayakers, we're always falling into weird gaps in the regulations. Usually, that redounds to our benefit, but there are occasions, like with this radio watch stuff, where the failure to consider kayakers' unique circumstances leads to absurd results. I've gone twenty-eight days at a time between resupplies. How am I supposed to maintain a radio watch all that time? With a drybag full of spare battery packs?

Uh-oh, don't give them any ideas.

Alex
 

kayakwriter

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Very true.I wonder what fraction of the power and sail boats out there have DSC radios? The VHF wasn't something people replaced very often, as long as it seemed to be working, back in the earlry 2000's when I had a sailboat. Things may be different now.
So I have a couple of strong biases here: 1. As mentioned upthread, I'm an instructor/examiner for the ROC (M). 2. I'm a gear weenie. So I'm strongly in favour of upgrading to DSC-equipped VHF if at all possible, whether for handheld or fixed-mount units.

We've already noted that a kayaker could have their hands too full to be making oral transmissions, especially if those involve trying to read lat and long off a separate GPS unit. I imagine the same could be true with any single-handed sail or motor boat. And even where there is more than one crew member, automagically updating the position every few minutes to allow for drift (as the DSC will do each time it sends out a Distress ping) is a good thing.

The price of full-featured Class D/Class H DSCs has fallen dramatically since the early 00's; even with the supply chain disruptions caused by COVID, the overall trend is prices down, features up. It was noted upthread that many folks are perfectly happy to drop hundreds of bucks on a shiny new paddle; seems like misplaced priorities not to do likewise for safety stuff.
 

cougarmeat

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Dang - I downloaded a Semaphore font so I could show how they could signal for help by using their new two-part paddle. But these message fields only allow a limited number of fonts.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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the overall trend is ...... features up.
That's the big problem, for me. Hand a new radio to a person who doesn't own one and see if they can do some basic 'operations' - switching channels, WX/Channel select, transmit, adjust TX power, Lock/Unlock, get out of SCAN, adjusting squelch etc..
Most of thsoe 'feature rich' VHFs (step right up, Standard Horizon...) are chock-full of menus and sub-menus .....not what is needed in any kind of emergency.
KISS, etc....
 

kayakwriter

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That's the big problem, for me. Hand a new radio to a person who doesn't own one and see if they can do some basic 'operations' - switching channels, WX/Channel select, transmit, adjust TX power, Lock/Unlock, get out of SCAN, adjusting squelch etc..Most of thsoe 'feature rich' VHFs (step right up, Standard Horizon...) are chock-full of menus and sub-menus .....not what is needed in any kind of emergency.KISS, etc....
As someone who never could get my VCR to stop flashing "12:00PM", I feel you. That said, VHFs usually wake up in Channel 16 when they're first turned on, right where where you wanna be for Distress/Urgency/Safety calls. And regardless of where you are in the menu labyrinth, pushing the Big Red Distress button will start digitally squawking your identity and location - simple enough that even one of your non radio-trained paddling partners could do it if you're the one incapacitated.
 

kayakwriter

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Dang - I downloaded a Semaphore font so I could show how they could signal for help by using their new two-part paddle.
What a good idea. It's so much easier than expecting onlookers to understand the body language of an interpretive dance when only your head is above water...
 

JohnAbercrombie

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That said, VHFs usually wake up in Channel 16 when they're first turned on, right where where you wanna be for Distress/Urgency/Safety calls.
Best to check - My Icom M88's power up on the last-used settings, including "lock' if that was on when powered down, which overrides the Ch16 button function. Not a good thing.
 

kayakwriter

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Best to check - My Icom M88's power up on the last-used settings, including "lock' if that was on when powered down, which overrides the Ch16 button function. Not a good thing.
Kinda reminds me of some of the episodes of Mayday we've watched: in several cases the accident was caused by the pilot's inability to override the complex safety modes that were trying to "save" the plane from the puny human's decisions. See also Boeing 737 Max crashes...
 

sofstu

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KayakWriter,
However long does the battery last in most handhelds and would a small portable solar panel be enough to charge the battery in a few hours?

I do like the idea of leaving it turned on for quick access so everyone around you knows when you are in trouble.

However John brings up the point of endless chatter.
I drove big trucks for several years and had to switch the radio off Ladd 1 the first moment possible just to avoid the verbal diarrhea which often gave me a headache.
It still gives me the same headache whenever I experience that same endless radio chatter.

I wish there was a dedicated emergency channel people would monitor and actually respect.
 

cougarmeat

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Quick note that there are often battery packs that hold AA’s (or AAA’s) you can substitute for the rechargeable. They don’t giver them away and it hurts to pay $25 for a small piece of plastic. But you only do it once and then you have an easy alternative/backup to the rechargeable.
 

kayakwriter

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KayakWriter,However long does the battery last in most handhelds and would a small portable solar panel be enough to charge the battery in a few hours?
It's been several years since I mucked about with solar panels on my kayak. At the time I needed several square feet of panel to charge batteries for my VHF, GPS, cellphone, cameras, lanterns, etc. But I know the efficiency of solar panels has been improving constantly, so that experience is probably well out of date.

Another alternative would be the battery banks/power banks sold mainly for people to recharge their cellphones. If you've got a USB rechargeable radio, it should work for that too.

Quick note that there are often battery packs that hold AA’s (or AAA’s) you can substitute for the rechargeable. They don’t giver them away and it hurts to pay $25 for a small piece of plastic. But you only do it once and then you have an easy alternative/backup to the rechargeable.
One thing you might want to check related to this: for some makes and models of VHF handhelds, the alkaline battery adaptor doesn't put out the same voltage as the standard rechargeable battery, so you may be restricted to lower transmitting power (that is, reduced transmitting range). There should be caveats about this in the manual for your radio if it applies. And in most cases, you can find PDFs of the manuals for each model on the manufacturer's website, so you can check this out before you buy if it will be an issue for you.
 
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cougarmeat

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I’ve never heard of that; it might be. But - I do know that regular AA or AAA rechargeable batteries definitely have a lower voltage - like 1.2V instead of 1.5V. That might not seem like much. But if the device takes 4 AA batteries (6V) and you use 4 rechargeable AA’s (4.8V), that’s a big difference. Maybe their operating range is different now, but I was disappointed when I thought I could use rechargeables in my early GPS’s. The rechargeables (2 AA’s means 2.4V instead of 3V) were just not enough.
 
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