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Friday, January 22, 2010

Alphabet soup

I promise to write something better than this pretty soon but for now,
this glimpse into the "simple" life of a sailor will have to do.

I got my new VHF radio the other day. The old one still worked but it
didn't have DSC. Plus, New Horizons came out with a new VHF with DSC
and AIS! Now I've been wanting AIS ever since I first heard about
it, so, considering the old VHF was getting a bit long in the tooth,
this seemed like a no-brainer. Well, when I was going through the
installation procedure, imagine my surprise when I discovered that the
VHF would communicate with my GPS via the NMEA protocol so I could see
contacts on my chart plotter. Now all I have to do is contact the FCC
to get my MMSI number, wire the whole shooting match together and I'm
good to go.

For the non-sailors or the KISS sailors out there:
DSC: Digital selective calling. This is used to call a specific boat
on the VHF radio by contacting it directly rather than just sending
out a broadcast and hoping they answer. It also contains info on my
boat so that any distress calls sent out from my radio will contain
information about me, my boat, emergency contact numbers and, once I
tie the two together, my GPS coordinates.
MMSI: Can't remember what the letters stand for but this is basically
the "phone number" of my boat which other folks with DSC would use to
call my boat specifically. This is also the identification number the
Coast Guard would use when a distress signal comes in from our boat.
AIS: Automatic Identification System. This is so cool. Basically,
ships over a certain size are now required to carry AIS transmitters
which send out a signal telling who they are, what direction they're
headed, speed, contact information, etc. Now, instead of wondering
whether or not that big old freighter on the horizon is headed for you
and whether or not he knows you're there, you can see his position,
etc. on your chart plotter. You now know who he is, where he's headed
in relation to you, how fast he's going, whether or not he's going to
hit you and if so, when, and/or how close he'll come if neither of you
change course. Very cool.
GPS: Global positioning system, but you already knew that.
NMEA: A marine electronics industry protocol which allows various
gadgets by different manufacturers to communicate with each other.
FCC: Federal; Communications Commission, but you already knew that, too.

OK, I've killed enough time at the library (Lulu's sewing on the boat
and needed me out of the way). Time to go to the Post Office and the
to the store to get the wire I need to perform the above miracles.

1 comment:

Shelly and Randy said...

Now I found that alphabet soup lesson pretty interesting. Just curious if this new positioning information will change your travel plans? Does this allow you to get further away from the coast and into the deep blue? S.