Monday, August 31, 2015

NauticEd - First impressions

I'm always looking for ways to increase my boating/sailing knowledge. I've enjoyed doing instructor led courses through the Canadian Power and Sail Squadron but they don't always have the course selection that I want and the timing isn't always convenient.

I happily stumbled upon NauticEd the other day. They have a variety of interesting looking courses available online. Some of the interesting looking modules include: Storm Tactics, Coastal Navigation and Weather.

They also have a certification program that will get you on your way to an RYA certification or a qualification cert for bareboat chartering. I'm not sold on the certification usefulness at this point but regardless I think there are some useful looking courses.

To try it out I did the free Navigation Rules Clinic. I was pleased with the course layout. It was easy to follow, the content was quality and it made a dry topic more palatable. They promised that everyone would take away something new from the course, even if you are experienced. I did!

The test at the end of the course was 30 questions of multiple choice. My only critique is that some of the questions are set up so that a couple of the possible answers are jokes so you only really have to consider 2 possible answers. This make the test a bit more fun to read but doesn't really challenge you to consider the possibilities.

I really like the graphics that they use on their course and test. They are clear and easy to interpret the situation. They have some video content but I wasn't as impressed by that. They preface each of their videos with canned marketing material that takes time and doesn't add value. The videos are also animated a little to fast so it isn't easy to follow what is happening without replaying them several times.

The cost for the payed courses is in line with an instructor led course and I think if they are the same quality then they are worth while.

I'm considering doing the Captains Rank course that provides most of the content for under $400. Not a bad price for a winter's worth of content. I'll post on my decision and results.

If you are looking at doing one of their courses, below is a promo code that gives $15 off. (FYI. They offer the promo code referral feature to anyone!)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Maritime VHF radio licensing in Canada

I recently went through the process of getting a new radio license and MMSI number for the new handheld radio I got for my boat. The process isn't really straight forward. So, for reference, here is the basic process.

Everyone needs a VHF license - Get your Maritime Radio license

It is law that everyone operating a VHF must have a Maritime Radio license. I've never been asked for my card but I truly think that it's a good idea anyways. How many times have we heard idiots on the VHF that don't know the protocol (or don't care?). Since VHF is an open/public medium, maintaining proper protocol is important.

Power and Sail Squadron - Maritime Radio Course

If you want to use DSC - Apply for an MMSI ID

Digital Selective Calling (DSC) is a mechanism for calling specific boats or groups of boats instead of using the standard Channel 16 calling. It also allows for nice features like automated distress signals. While it doesn't seem to be widely used yet, I imagine it will be once more people upgrade their radios and get used to using the system.

In order to use DSC your radio needs an MI or MMSI number (MI is for mobile VHF handsets).

The applications for a number are available here:

Be aware that once you program an MMSI number into a device it CANNOT be easily changed. It usually involves sending the radio back to the manufacturer. For this reason, make sure that you are assigning the ID to the right radio. You only have one shot at this or you will be applying for another ID.

If you are traveling to the US - Apply for a Maritime Mobile Radio Station Licence (ship license)

Here is my understanding from the nice people at Industry Canada...

You do not need a Ship license if you are from Canada and staying in Canada.

You do not need a Ship License if you are from the US and staying in the US.

However, you DO need a Ship License if you are going between the Canada and the US. Dumb...yes.

"Basic" over view of the application process:

Other info

If any of this is confusing or if you have any questions, the people at the Industry Canada regional offices are very friendly and helpful. This is also where you can find the email address to submit your forms

If you want to search for an existing MMSI number you can here:$search.formquery?Z_CHK=0