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VHF Radiotelephone calls


Mar 8, 2005
"Home by the Sea" - Nanaimo, BC
I'm trying to collect information regarding making telephone calls from a marine VHF radio while on the water. If a paddler wanted to have a call patched through to a land-based telephone, I understand he could call up the coast guard on their working channel (usually 22A) who will tell you what channel to switch to and have the Marine Operator place the call on any one of a number of duplex VHF channels. Long distance calls have to have an account set up in advance (since you don't really want to relay credit card information over the air!).

Has anyone used this service before, and if so, can you provide details of approximate billing rates and how reliable you found the service to be? How do you set up an account - just call the marine operator (via a land-line) in advance and set up the account?
hi Mark;
info is a bit thin in the textbook from the Maritime Radio Course.

"Coast Gaurd Radio Facilities"

"To place a call through Coast Gaurd Radio facilities, contact C/G Radio on one of their duplex working channels and await their instructions."

"Calls can be charged to the vessel, or collect to the telephone number being called."

"Telephone Company Service"

"To place a call through a Telphone Company Service: (commercial arrangements must be made in advance, or the company will not provide this service)."

"(a) Select a designated telephone company channel.
(b) Depress radio transmit switch for three seconds.
(c) Expect to hear a ringing tone.
(d) The operator will answer and direct you."

that's about all i've got. i'd suggest you contact the Coast Gaurd for more info.
vhf phone calls

Mark, Before there was cellular phones this was the system we used. The marine telephone service had a list of channels to use depending on where you were . So you would look at the list and see which telephone tower was the closest to you, then switch the vhf to that channel. Then as Daren mentioned, key your mike and wait for a reply. If you do not get a reply then look at your list again and see what is the next closest tower. I had an account that was paid for in advance to use this service. When the operator replyed I would give my radio call sign and my I.D. # to use the service. When cell phones came, I dropped this service. There is no privacy as you are talking on the vhf radio.
mac's latest describes what I remember. Nowadays, even the commercial boats use cell phones when close enough. Used to be BC Tel would set up temporary accounts, I think.
Thanks for the great information, guys. It sounds to me like cell phones are the way to go when service is available - probably due to costs. I'm going to get cost information from the marine operator and I'll post it here when I have all the details.
Have you ever thought of getting a basic level HAM license?

Hi Mark
Have you ever thought of getting a basic level HAM license? The test is pretty easy (it's designed to be easy), and you can rely on a HAM radio to get a signal out from areas that a cell phone wouldn't have a hope in hell of working at all. For instance, there's a chain of repeaters running all the way up Vancouver Isle, the northernmost one is located near Port Mcniel and with a small 5 watt, 2 meter band handy-talkie (less than $200), you can hit this repeater as far north as Cape Caution! There's almost always someone listening and the HAM community is super freindly and helpfull --- and there's usually a phone patch available to connect w the phone network. One drawback to the ham bands is lack of privacy, scramblers and encryption are specifically prohibited and anyone with a scanner can monitor your transmissions.
I just got back from circumnavigating Pitt Lake and I could easily get a signal out from near Goose Island, although once I rounded the point, at the very top of the lake, of course I couldn't connect with the repeater.
I hear Manning Park has a dedicated 2 meter band, HAM repeater, too.
Also, most handy talky 2 meter band radios come with weather channels preprogrammed and I can get official marine weather broadcasts in French, English, and also the yankee marine weather forecasts.
Just a suggestion.
Regards, Tom
I can add a few notes here. Morse Code is no longer a requirement for a Ham Radio license. You can still access the Ham HF bands as long as you acheive 80% on your test; called Basic with honours. If you do not pass with honours you still have access to the higher Ham bands which is probably more relevant for kayaking anyways. The test is made up of 100 questions from a 1000 question pool which anyone can download and view/study. If you have the time I would suggest taking a course. I do not know all the course offerings in Victoria, but I do know the West Coast Amateur Radio Association in Victoria has a good course at reasonable cost; and fun too. http://www.ve7vic.ca/ . cyberhun is right the Ham community is very helpful and friendly; a very valuable resource. If you do get your license and are interested in a good cheap antenna setup on your kayak ask me. 8)
hi all,

just got a call from the marine phone operator 8O
joerg the german guy just paddling around van isl. phoned/radioed me to give me his position (i'm his contact). the conection was like on a normal phone except that you have to wait to reply till the other person stops yapping--like a normal radio conversation. i kept it short because we don't know how much it will cost us :roll:

and for everyone interessted: his position
N50 06.225 W127 36.330 go and find it with google earth :D

otherwise he is doing well, everything is going extremly good. in the past we talked a few times through the coast guard with each other --worked really well too. he paddled the east side of van isl from vancouver to cape scott within 2 weeks!!!! that's about 40km a day 8O

Thanks for the update, Andreas! I was just thinking about him today, wondering how far he'd made it so far.

For anyone unable to plot that position on a map, it's just south of the Brooks Peninsula on the north end of the west side of Vancouver Island. Joerg started his journey from Vancouver on Monday, Aug 7th and is paddling around the island in a counter-clockwise direction. He's going very quickly so far - I'm sure he's enjoying some great weather and spectacular scenery from the cockpit of his Necky Eskia!
news from joerg!

just got of the phone with him and his position for this evening is
N 49 51.390
W126 59.236 (~ 20km north of nootka island)

i would like to get the google earth picture in here to make it easier for you guys to see where he is..... but i think i'm too stupid for that :roll:

by the way, does anyone know how mutch it cost to use the marine operator phone service? it looks like joerg didn't have to pay for any of his calls yet :D

i'm planing to meet him and stay a night with him when he gets to port renfrew (in about 1-2 weeks from now on) anyone wonna come too? i'm not bringing my yak for that, just a camping night or evening visit.

Might be a tall order for him to get to Renfrew for next weekend... but I'll be paddling in Tofino if he's not already past Long Beach!

Might be fun to meet him around Renfrew. I don't know if he'd want to paddle into Port San Juan (right into Renfrew) but, depending on his timing and advance notice, perhaps we could get a few interested (and experienced) paddlers to meet him out at Camper Creek (4.5km west of Owen Point, which is the south-western end of Port San Juan) for a night, then paddle part of the next day with him?

Just an idea...
well mark, it looks like you are in luck! joerg just phoned and told me that he is in tofino!!!!! he did 100km in the last two days---that guy is crazy 8O :lol:

Andreas, Mark,

did you meet joerg last weekend? i cant belive how fast he is! he must be paddling like crazy and has the best weather. i hope he will post the highlights of his trip on the website!

On Saturday we paddled from Ucluelet to the north end of Long Beach (Incinerator Rock). As we paddled along we noticed a kayak a ways out paddling the opposite direction - instantly I knew it was Joerg. Actually, he was the only other kayaker we saw anywhere along that exposed shore!

We met briefly, took a few photos and let him continue on his way. He looked well tanned and in good health and condition for such a long paddle (although he might have wanted to use a razor!). He said he'd taken lots of great photos - and I believe him! In the 4 days we were there I took over 500 so I can only imagine some of the amazing scenery he's had!

I'm hoping to meet up with him again as he nears Victoria in the next week or so.

Another benefit I forgot to mention about having a ham license is the BC Boaters Net. www.qsl.net/bcbn/
Every night at 5:00 pm during the summer they have a boaters net on the Island Trunk System. http://www.islandtrunksystem.org/
It starts out by allowing new participants to call in and give their float plan. Once in the database they call out your call sign during the net for you to check in and maybe give a spiel on your progress or any amendments, etc. The net also has participants give weather reports and forcasts and maybe any other anomolies that may be around. It is a great resource with many years of experience participating, and it easily surpasses cellular capability. If you do not have a ham license and can recieve the frequencies it would even be worth listening in for the info.