VHF in Canada

pawsplus

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Hi all --at this page ( http://www.kayarchy.com/html/01equipment/025vhfradio.htm ) I read the following: "Recreational boaters in the USA may now use a portable VHF marine radio without a license but in many other countries this would be a minor criminal offense. In Canada you need a Restricted Operators’ Certificate (Maritime)."

How does one get such a thing, esp. if one is American and paddling up there only occasionally?
 

JohnAbercrombie

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It's a good idea to take a VHF course, so that you know how to operate on VHF, i.e. 'how to talk properly on the air' when you are transmitting.
You don't need a license to listen to the weather, etc on your VHF.
If you are transmitting in an emergency, or even in casual paddling, and using proper operating technique, it's very unlikely that you will ever be asked for your license. And, having a VHF license won't protect you from problems if you are using your VHF improperly.
So, I wouldn't worry about it too much. But do take some instruction on using your VHF, somewhere.
 

Astoriadave

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Paws, I believe this has come up before. Perhaps the Tybee folks can suggest a resource in their area. Here, the Power Squadron does some informal instruction, or at least they used to.
 

pawsplus

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Yes, obviously I will get help and had planned to take it to Tybee next time. But the piece says that you need special Canadian certification to use one in Canada. I was halfway thinking about a trip to Bowen Island from Van next summer and would like to have the radio with me. I don't see how I can get Canadian certification in a day or 2. What do people do?
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Yes, obviously I will get help and had planned to take it to Tybee next time. But the piece says that you need special Canadian certification to use one in Canada. I was halfway thinking about a trip to Bowen Island from Van next summer and would like to have the radio with me. I don't see how I can get Canadian certification in a day or 2. What do people do?
I'm not sayin' , but....I think a survey of Canadian kayakers carrying VHF radios would show that one or two don't have a license....
 

a_c

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Most of the information can be found here, at the Transport Canada site: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/oep-navigation-radiocomms-faqs-1489.htm

Here is a link to the actual course, put on by the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron: http://www.boatingcourses.ca/course-descriptions/maritime-radio-0

As has been already hinted at, the compliance rate among recreational kayakers is probably pretty low. That said, you should know how 'operate the machinery', as it were....

Edit: I've seen the course offered at some of the local paddle shops like EcoMarine in Vancouver - it might be worth a call or email.
 

Astoriadave

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Paws, I urge folks new to the use of marine VHF radios to get decent training, and to practice their use on the water. If you have a buddy who can work another VHF on one of those TN lakes that would be a good locus for honing your skills. As for the certification requirement, I would wager the vast majority of US paddlers on Canadian waters who carry a VHF radio do not meet the requirement. I suspect that is true of US power boaters as well. Does not make it right. Does not make it legal. I have heard that the training course needed to get certification is useful, but not sufficient. YMMV.

As for concern about being cited for lacking the certification, someone more familiar with those data will have to chime in. In remote areas, my experience is there is no enforcement, and local choice of channels does not always conform to the official listing. To wit, in the Charlottes, channel 06 seemed to be a hailing channel and a communication channel. Sixteen should be monitored, but the groups I polled, three summers there, rarely turned their radios on, primarily to conserve batteries for use in a true emergency.

Twice, over the course of many years, I used my VHF from the beach to help paddlers. One of those times, to initiate a sortie to locate a pair of overdue paddlers. The limited range boat to boat makes that impractical unless you prearrange contact times and work off the beach instead. However, reaching out to a CCG repeater atop a nearby high point is often a very reliable way to get help.
 

tiagosantos

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I seem to remember, from looking at ham radio stuff a few years ago that although the rules and certification requirements for radio operators are pretty different between Canada and the US, you can pretty much ignore that if you're visiting the neighboring country. If you're legally allowed to use your radio in the US, you would be allowed to use it here, without having to apply for a local license. Same deal as driving a car, essentially..

It's entirely possible that I'm wrong, but I would bet real money on it not ever becoming a problem unless you use your VHF to shout at the dudes on the ferries :D
 

cougarmeat

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Haven't done it yet, but I've been thinking about laminating a small credit card size "check sheet" I could attach to the VHF gear. Something that lists a few recommended channels and more importantly, a template for any kind of report - the preferred order and completeness of information.

In addition to that - if the winter weather puts you indoors, you could use the time to get a ham radio license. There is no longer a Morse Code requirement. It is just a multiple choice test, 35 questions and you can miss 9 and still pass. The reason is - Vancouver Island has a series of linked repeater along the coast. So you can be in contact with someone almost all over the area. The USA has a reciprocal agreement with Canada so you don't need any special license/certificate/weaver to operate across the boarder (just a simple identification protocol).

But the Marine VHF is still needed to talk with the Coast Guard, Ferry boats (if necessary) and other paddlers.
 

Astoriadave

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If a person trains to become technically competent at handling basic radio communication on a VHF, with emphasis on distress call scenarios, that seems like the most important criterion. Anybody who really needs help just has to remember a few things and a small number of signal words/phrases. Designer's laminated card suggestion is a worthy one.

Some role playing on a "chat" channel at low power is good training. Today's VHFs have so many bells and whistles, it also makes sense to figure out how to avoid pressing the wrong button and sending the unit into an unfamiliar mode. Or, handing a befuddled radio to someone else, so they have practice returning it to 16 and mking a distress call.
 

cougarmeat

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One thing I had to watch was the group would agree on a communication channel and I'd put the radio on that channel. But when I put it in the radio pocket of the MisFit, if I wasn't careful, a button would be pushed and change the channel. I could lock it to one channel, but then I couldn't scan to cover channel 16. So I am just careful when I put it in and I can ask someone in the group to make a test call before we leave shore. In fact, I think we do that to make sure everyone's radio can "hear" and be heard (though it is out of the pocket for transmitting)
 

Astoriadave

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Good point, Designer. We had a similar glitch before we figured out CAN 06 was configured differently than US 06, and only CAN 06 would function correctly. Easier to fix on the beach than on the water!

My ICOM has a dual monitor function which allows it to alternate 16 and one more channel. If I lock it in that mode, it very wisely stops when an incoming transmission occurs, and if I return with a TX of my own, it _stays_ on that channel as long as the conversation continues. No button pushing, no dial fiddling, just hit Push to Talk as needed, and down the road you go. If someone pauses too long, it goes back to dual monitoring, but by then, both users have figured out what channel the action is on, and cn take corrective measures.

Naturally, I never knew of this capability (yes, it is detailed in the manual -- who reads those things, anyway?) until I accidentally discovered it when someone came up on the alternate channel, and I hit the Talk button. My bad.

Use it regularly, now.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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The reason is - Vancouver Island has a series of linked repeater along the coast. So you can be in contact with someone almost all over the area.
Ham radio can be interesting and fun, but I'm not sure I see the utility for a paddling trip.
Years ago, I got help (a tow truck) by contacting a fellow ham, and he phoned the tow. Nowadays with cell phones 'expected', I'm not sure that would work so well.
Is there still any activity on 2m repeaters? Somebody has to be listening for your call. With marine Ch16 within range of a coast guard repeater, or a PLB, there's somebody on the other end 24-7.
 

cougarmeat

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When paddling, sometimes it is sort of a courtesy to let "the folks back home" know I'm okay. Also to keep my "responsible person" updated on my position with respect to the float plan. For that, I normally use The Spot device - sending an "Okay" that sends them my position every night.

In the past, radio communication was limited to "radio-to-radio". These days, there is something called EchoLink. A ham radio repeater is connected to the internet and repeaters in various locations have input to that internet connection via a six digit code. It's like a Skype call (person to person via internet). If there is an EchoLink connected repeater in the Vancouver Island setup, then I could use that and enter the code for the EchoLink repeater in Bend and have a conversation with someone back home (using another ham radio) - no cell phone coverage required. There is also an echolink smart phone app so the person in "the city" doesn't need ham radio gear, but they would need a ham radio license.

Also, I'm guessing there are more people monitoring the networked ham frequency than the Marine frequency. However, all that ham radio activity means I'm on land. On the water, everything is dry bagged except the marine VHF.

So yes, the VHF marine radio is needed for communication with coast guard and other boaters. But another means of reaching people (on Vancouver Island or places further away) without requiring cell phone access could be useful.
 

stagger

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Paws, I have the ROC(M) course materials. I'd like to keep the book for reference, but there's a "study guide" disc that I'll never use. I can post it to you if you PM me your address.

I had fully intended to sit the exam, but never got around to it. I figure if you know the protocols you'll be pretty well off.
 
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