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April, 2012

As this goes to print so to speak, the weather has been perfect and the river conditions have been improving by the day. The Port KY inbox has been busy with requests, which helps deliver ideas for this newsletter.

Are You DSC-Equipped?

And why is this important? From the USCG Navigation Center website:

"Mariner's Safety Endangered When VHF Radio Distress Alerts by Digital Selective Calling (DSC) Lack Location and Identification Information."

"...approximately 90% of VHF DSC distress alerts received by the Coast Guard do not contain position information, and approximately 60% do not contain a registered identity. The Coast Guard cannot effectively respond to a DSC distress alert sent from such a radio."

In other words, the big red DISTRESS button will not do much good unless you've set up a GPS feed and MMSI account. That's fine if you can stay with the radio to transmit your mile marker on Channel 16, but it won't help you a bit if you're on fire and need to jump out. You do know your mile marker, right?


By now, you've most likely heard of the USCG's Rescue 21 system. Through the use of digital technology, they have established coverage areas on both coastlines, as well as parts of the Columbia River. These include monitoring of VHF, MF and HF radio frequencies over large areas of open water.

Closer to home, the USCG, Sector Ohio Valley, Louisville monitors VHF ch. 16 for distress calls generally between Madison and Evansville. While there are repeater antennas in the area of coverage, you would be well-served to have a 25 watt fixed-mount VHF with a good antenna versus only a 1-5 watt handheld unit. As a rule of thumb, VHF radios work via "line of sight," and yield about 1 mile per watt of power. If all you have is a handheld, you'd be better off trying to make your call from your bridge for better reception.

What about digital coverage and DSC? In this area, funding has been improved and installation is in progress for new digital functionality. Slightly different than Rescue 21, this system will offer enhanced AIS traffic services. That is, they will be able to monitor AIS-equipped boats as they transition our area. Additionally, DSC-equipped radios that have a GPS feed and MMSI registration will be identifiable by the system. This capability should be fully functional by 2013.

The concepts behind MMSI and DSC were first drafted in 1979, and have been available to mariners for 15 years now. Since we could write chapters on the topic, I'll keep it simple: to correlate your information and a MMSI number to your radio, all you have to do is register online then program the number into your radio. To attach a GPS position feed to your radio, you'll need a GPS output from an antenna or chartplotter.

If you have a chartplotter connected to your radio, most likely you're already set. Some new radios, such as the Standard Horizon Explorer GPS GX 1700, have a built-in GPS receiver. For years, I ran with a "temporary" system that anybody could set up with a 10 year-old Garmin eMap and a $15 cable. I recently upgraded to a newer GPS receiver for each boat, giving GPS position capability to my VHF/DSC radio. In any case, having the position feed to the radio is critical to enabling for a better response to a distress situation.

There are other benefits to having DSC capability. You can set up a buddy list of MMSI numbers, and call your friends on the radio like you would on a cell phone. Their plotters have the ability to fix your position because of the GPS data feed. AIS technology adds another layer of technology, and with it you can see towboats displayed by name miles away.

Above, a Garmin eMap providing an NMEA 0183 GPS data feed to an iCom 504 via a patch cable. Right, a mobile bench test of a new installation for a ski boat.

A Few Solutions

If you're still following along and are interested in more information on how to connect your DSC-equipped radio to a GPS feed, I'll give you a few tips that I discovered. For starters, let's assume you have a DSC-equipped radio but no GPS. You'll have to do your homework and find out what kind of data feed it will accept, such as NMEA 0183 or the newer NMEA 2000.

NMEA 0183, for example, is connected by pairing a "talking" device (GPS) to a "listening" device (your radio or chartplotter). You'll wind up connecting your GPS output labeled "+" and "-" to the corresponding inputs on the radio. The eMap pictured above has its own AA power supply, so only two wires are used. To make the connection simple or upgradeable, you can wire directly to a wiring block in between the GPS and the radio. Lastly, here is some technical information that you'll need to verify for the correct output: 4800 baud rate, 8 bit, no parity, 1 stop bit, no handshake. Trust me, it works.

The permanent-mount Garmin 17x HVS antenna pictured above (top right) was a good solution for both my iCom 504 and Standard Horizon Eclipse, as it supplies the NMEA 0183 format as well. It needs a power supply, so I had two additional wires, 12 V DC + and -. It also had an orange remote trip wire to turn it on. Since my DC power was already wired to an accessory switch, I simply hot-wired the orange to the black DC-. Therefore, the GPS antenna is powered and producing data whenever that accessory switch to the radio is in the ON position.

NMEA 2000 is a whole other animal, designed to take the guesswork out of connecting multiple devices. Connectors are simply strung together, while adhering to certiain rules concerning terminations and branches off the main run.


The bottom line is we'll have fully-functional digital VHF capability in this area by 2013, if not sooner. Hopefully, this served as a primer to get you thinking about taking your boat, if not already equipped, to the next level for better rescue potential.

Speaking of a DISTRESS Call

Let's say you're rafted-up with the radio playing all day. You go to start, and now the battery is shot. Your radio still works, so you call the USCG. Will they respond? The USCG will respond to a distress call that involves the possibility of loss of life, injury or damage to property. In the above example, it is entirely possible that they may not provide assistance.

Conversely, you're at anchor and your grandmother is feeling light-headed and collapsed because she forgot to bring her medication. Since there is a risk of a loss of life, a response would most likely be appropriate.

Each situation is evaluated differently, and the response is based upon several factors. If loss of life, injury or damage to property is not involved, you should seek out the assistance of other boaters or those who provide tow services on the water.

Thunder Over Louisville--REPRINT

With Thunder Over Louisville just around the corner on April 21st, I'd like to re-post last year's information on how you can get the most out of the event by water.

As you evaluate conditions and make your own safe judgement call concerning the event, following are links to some information we've assembled over the years to help educate you, our boaters, stay safer for the event:

Thunder Over Louisville Tips: link
Tips on Anchoring in a Current: link
Operating at Night (2 parts): link

Dogs on Boats!

With an upcoming article in mind, we're looking for some good, local pictures of your dogs on your boat. Please submit to webmaster@portky.com

Leggett Boat Build

In the previous newsletter, we invited boaters to help glass the hull on the Leggett's 22' wooden boat project in Oldham County, KY. The timing was bad with the end of basketball season combined with all the projects that come with warmer weather, and the response was less than expected.

We'll be sure to include more information on an event as it becomes available. In the meantime, we'd like to personally thank the handful of people who volunteered to help. I'm sure you'll be needed when it comes time to turn the hull over!

EVENT INFORMATION: April 14th - Indoor Raft Up

From the Louisville Sail & Power Squadron:

Grab your cooler and join us to kick off the boating season!

Hosted by the Louisville Sail & Power Squadron and Sea Ray of Louisville* from 3-5 p.m. at Sea Ray of Louisville. Snacks & Boats Provided. Bring Your Own Drinks, please no Red Liquids, Ice and Cups provided.

For more information: link (.pdf 337K)

EVENT INFORMATION: June 29th-30th - Riverfest

Benefits EDGE Outreach - Clean Water Projects

The 2012 Riverfest Music Festival will return to Prospect, KY where dozens of local performing artists and bands will perform on the banks of the Ohio River in Prospect, Kentucky. The two-day music event will be held at the Shady Glen Club on Friday, June 29th and Saturday, June 30th. All proceeds will benefit Louisville-based EDGE Outreach and their mission to save lives around the world with clean water. Tickets are $10 in advance for a two-day pass or $10 each day at the door. Tickets are available online at EDGEOutreach/Riverfest.

The Riverfest stage sits right on the Ohio riverbank about 2.5 miles upriver from 12-Mile Island, allowing the area boating community to beach or anchor out for the day and enjoy the festivities. Attendees of the family-friendly event are invited to bring lawn chairs, blankets and coolers.

Event will be emceed by "2 Guys Havin' Fun", a popular duo known for making good times better, and the sound and lighting production services will be provided by Brian Hood of Ultimate Audio. "Butchers Best" of Prospect KY will feature the pork barbeque and chicken on Friday evening. Soft drinks and water will be available as well.

Riverfest is hosted by the Shady Glen Club, 1504 Riverside Drive, off Rose Island Road.

Call Jim Willis at 502-558-1033 and get your Advanced Ticket Sales: $10 for two day pass. $20 day of the event. Limited number boat slips are also available, and raft-ups welcomed

Visit their site for more information: link

EVENT INFORMATION: August 4th - Venetian Boat Parade

"Capt. Patrick" has arrived on the scene with a dazzling new concept for the Waterfront. Originally from Chicago, he is bringing an event for boaters to Louisville.

What started as a small lakefront event in 1958 continued for over 50 years as an annual celebration involving a parade of boaters.

From their website: "We would like to invite you to enter your boat into the parade, or come and celebrate the Louisville boating lifestyle, in all its glory, and applaud your favorite decorated boat on August 4, 2012 in Louisville's inaugural Venetian Boat Parade Festival."

There is so much more to tell about their event. There will be food, dancing, a car show, volleyball, and boats, boats and more boats. Captain Patrick wanted me to pass along that this isn't a parade of boats with lights, but rather a themed event that will take some planning and preparation. For more information, please visit the "Venetian Boat Parade" website: link

Port KY River Cards

It's that time of year again! Stop by Marine Sales and Service or Sea Ray of Louisiville to pick up a "River Card." These 8x5" cards are available for free and provide a handy reference for you while you're out on the river.

Included on the cards are mileages, landmarks, a list of required equipment and other tidbits of information to keep you more situationally-aware on the water.

Site Sponsors

We would like to extend a belated thank you to LYC's Tom Christensen for contributing to the Port KY site.

As we've previously mentioned, there are an ever-growing list of expenses associated with running a site like this, and we are truly appreciative of those who help us help you.

Provisioning Checklist

In the last newsletter, we mentioned a checklist that we use every year for spring provisioning on our cruiser. We add to the list every year as we think of things that we commonly stock, and also include part numbers to make it easy to get replacements. Our list is just that, a list of things we put on the boat in the spring so that we're ready for the first cruise. In our case, we typically have a $150 visit to the grocery store to start fresh for the season.

By request, here is a generic copy of the list. Feel free to customize it for your boat. link (50K .pdf)

Slips for Sale

As the weather heats up, so does demand for boat slips. Here's a link to our page of current listings: link

Have a slip of your own to sell? See the page listed above for information on how to list yours!

That's it for now--Stay safe, and we'll see you on the water!

Eric Grubb
USCG Licensed Master
Webmaster, PortKY.com

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