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Interpersonal Communications – A word on civilized communication during maneuvers

Can you hear me now?

My wife and I have become rather good at knowing what the other is thinking, and what each is going to do in most situations (at least we each like to think so). We are also good at our own version of hand and other visual signals. Yet, just so that this all remains nice and peaceful and we are not caught conducting the unbecoming screaming matches we have witnessed on a frequent basis when some less fortunate boats have come into a harbor, we secretly have adopted the use of the relatively inexpensive walkie-talkies that are available at most sporting goods and electronics stores.  These little gadgets let you send your words through the air in relative privacy and with real civility. 

They are especially useful when the wind is really blowing and your words are scattered from the bow before they have a chance to leave your tongue. We also use them to communicate from below decks to topside, like on night watch when we need to rouse a sleeping mate for a sail change or to communicate between the person on radar watch at the navigation station and the helmsman.

FRS radios, some with built in GPS.

These little walkie-talkies belong to the Family Radio Service ("FRS"), which is one of the Citizens Band (CB) Radio Services. FRS uses narrowband FM (NBFM) with maximum effective radiated power of 0.5 watt. FRS is intended for hand-held, short-range (2 miles) local communications. It is for your family, friends and associates to communicate among yourselves, within your neighborhood, on your boat, and while on group outings. You cannot make a telephone call with a FRS unit, but you may use your FRS unit for business-related communications. The other great reasons to have these FRS radios are that you don’t need a license and they are legal for use on shore as well as keeping in touch with the dinghy brigade – or communicating with someone else on your own boat.

As opposed to the FRS, your hand held or installed VHF radio is solely for use on the water. Most people do not realize that it is not legal to make a call from land to a boat with a handheld VHF unless you have a special permit as in a marina dock-house or similar facility. And shore to shore communications, as we have seen on many an occasion – forget about it… With the VHF radio you are required to monitor Channel 16 and may monitor other channels as well. With the FRS you may do as you please.

The ‘big brother’ to the FRS is the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), formerly known as Class A of the Citizens Radio Service. It is a personal radio service available for the conduct of an individual's personal and family communications. GMRS uses commercial grade, UHF-FM radios identical to those used by public safety agencies, businesses, and other governmental, commercial and industrial licensees. It has much greater power than the FRS, and thus a much greater range. It also uses a much greater range of frequencies. The GMRS from Garmin also comes combined with GPS, which is pretty cool. However, to use a GMRS radio, you will need to have an FCC license. To apply for a GMRS license, you must complete and return a Form 605 to the FCC.

As of October 2002, the cost of obtaining an FCC license in the GMRS is $75. This includes a $50 application fee, and a usage fee of $25 ($5 per year for the five-year GMRS license). This $75 fee total must be submitted along with the application. A Licensee must be at least 18 years old, and may not be the representative of a foreign government. A licensee's immediate family members are eligible to operate under his or her license. This includes parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren –  basically you, your spouse, and all of your and your spouse's immediate blood relatives. Others (your employees, friends, associates, etc.) must each obtain their own licenses before they can operate in the GMRS, even if they are just operating one of your own radios. You may not lend your license to any other party. You can find more information on personal radios, associated capabilities as they pertain to boaters here.

Going Wireless


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