Category Archives: Upgrades

Marine VHF Radios; Why You Need A Free MMSI Number

Life jackets? Check! Marine charts? Check! Ice? Check! Okay, maybe that last one shouldn’t have been on the list of ‘must have before leaving the dock’, but sadly, many boaters we come across would place that at #1 on their list.

Safety First

Safety while out on the water should be of paramount concern for all boaters so why not take advantage of the tools that are available right at our fingertips? The correct use of your VHF radio can help keep you in contact with surrounding boaters, stay aware of weather updates, and even receive safety updates from the Coast Guard. Did you also know that there is a built in device that can potentially save your life?

VHF radio

Fixed mount DSC/VHF marine radio

Pretty much every VHF marine radio built in the past number of years comes equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) capability. Some of the features one can employ include direct calling an individual station (ie; a specific boat), locating their exact position or even transmitting your own. Best part is that this can all be done with a simple push of a button. But before one can do any of that, the radio will require an individual Maritime Marine Service Identity (MMSI). Connecting the radio to a GPS can add an even greater level of safety, but more on that further down.

Understanding MMSI

To be most effective, your radio should be unique in the sea of radio traffic that is out there today and that’s where an MMSI number comes into play. Think of it as a phone number for your radio. This number is physically entered into the radio, making it uniquely identifiable from every other one. Keep in mind that if one has more than one VHF radio aboard, each one of those should use the same MMSI number. The reasoning for this is that the number is associated with a specific vessel, not to the radio itself.

Information that is included in a new registration would include the vessel name, owner’s name & contact info along with gross tonnage/ length of the boat. In an emergency situation, this information can be used to identify a given vessel and contact the registered owner or their family. If one is involved in a perilous event such as fire, man overboard or taking on water, being able to send that information with one button would free up those on board to focus on the emergency at hand. This can be done without having to speak directly with outsiders. That is possible by activating the ‘panic button’ on every DSC equipped radio. NOTE: Never push that button outside of an emergency, as it will immediately broadcast an emergency signal to all those in radio range. There is no test function for that feature, so do not let anyone play with it!

Obtaining Your Number

Getting your own MMSI number is a free and easy procedure. In Canada, applications for  recreational boaters, with a non-licensed VHF radio, are available through the Industry Canada web site. American boaters who remain in U.S. waters can obtain their numbers through a number of outlets, including Boat US, Sea Tow and the U.S. Power Squadron.

Advanced Features

Interconnecting a Global Positioning System (GPS) interface allows one even more capabilities, as well as adding another layer of safety. Today, many manufacturers offer VHF radio models that have a built in GPS. If yours doesn’t have this feature, you can connect your own GPS unit to the radio Just check the specs on each respective piece of equipment to see which wires plumb together.

hand held VHF

Some hand held units, such as this Standard Horizon model, are MMSI capable.

With both units working together, users can send their position to other similarly equipped vessels, and even ask for a ‘position request’ from a buddy out on the water. More importantly, if one were to ever find themselves having to broadcast a mayday call, the exact position of the vessel would not only be sent to relevant authorities, but to other boats in radio range would automatically get that same position info which would pop right up on their GPS plotter! Imagine the beneficial impact upon a rescue operation; resources could be immediately dispatched to the scene, as well as rebroadcast via the Coast Guard, all without the confusion that may result in a panicky situation.

GPS chartplotter with MMSI info

MMSI position information on GPS chart plotter

Things To Remember

There are a few things to keep in mind when setting up your radio(s). Most manufacturers only allow the end user one or two attempts when entering the 9 digit MMSI code. If you mess up, the radio will have to be returned to the manufacturer to have the codes wiped clear before attempting to enter it again. Same is true if you sell your boat/radio. When selling, it would be a good idea to have your MMSI number removed from any equipment before the new owner takes possession. Remember, the number is specific to YOUR vessel and should not be passed on to new owners.Of course, you could just transfer the radio from your old boat to the new one. . .

For American boaters who plan on transiting beyond U.S. waters (Canada/Mexico/Bahamas, etc.), MMSI numbers must be registered directly with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). As well, a Ship’s Station License may be required for navigators other than pleasure boaters.

Keep in mind that, even if connected to a GPS (which gets it’s signal via a satellite network), all communications are handled through the radio frequencies of the VHF. Some folks get confused on this point and assume that a ‘position send’ and ‘position request’ are transmitted through space. All attempted communications must happen within radio range.

Here’s a video I produced to help show a little bit more regarding MMSI;

Bottom Line Benefits

With life saving potential over and above all the gee-whiz factors, I cannot imagine why any boater would not pursue setting up their own MMSI registration. In my mind, this has got to be one of the best pieces of safety equipment one could have on their boat. Best of all, it’s completely free :-)

Boating Equipment; Portable Gas Barbeque

When the summer boating season winds down, we all still need our boating fix. One of my favorite ‘off season‘ ways to get that is to look for new items to make next summer’s experience that much better.

Looking forward to next season’s great boating times

Summer Boating Passion

When haul out time arrives, there’s no quicker way to re-ignite visions of fun on the water than perusing those items that you didn’t have time to get over the summer. Remember all those times when you told yourself ‘Next year, I’m going to have to get a new . . . ‘? Well, now’s the time to do some shopping :-)

I was recently commissioned by eBay to put together a number of boating themed eBay ‘Collections’, a new feature that I’ve shared on my profile page. With 24 Collections in total, there is a lot to see and I’m sure there’s something there for everyone. From boats of all styles, sizes and vintages to equipment, collectables and more, it’s amazing what I have come across when building this feature. The fun was in coming up with my own short introductions for each listing – these things wrote themselves!

Grillen’ and Chillen’

One of my favorite collections that I put together was, believe it or not, for BBQ grilles. That was the feature in my Collection titled ‘Grillen’ & Chillen’.

 So, where does my inspiration for something as innocuous as the simple act of cooking come from, you ask? Read on. . .
BBQ on the boat -a summertime tradition.

BBQ on the boat – a summertime tradition.

Summer and boating go hand in hand. And what’s one of our favorite things to do at the end of a great day on the water? Eat! But before diving in, we get to prepare that tasty meal on the BBQ. No longer is one merely performing the simple task of ‘cooking’, but rather, entering into to a tradition that invariably becomes a social event; talking to family or friends while flipping burgers or showing off your prowess on that perfectly grilled steak.

Portable Solution

Take a look at my video for our Magma Grill that we currently use aboard ‘Boogaboo IV’. It quickly converts from a mounted unit to a portable BBQ that easily removes from the boat. Best part is that no tools are needed to make the switch!

No Hurry

Yup, a meal prepared outdoors becomes something more, made even better on the water. And not just for dinner time. Consider breakfast on the back of the boat; no rushing through a quick bite and running out the door. No, no, no – we are on the boat now and not going to hurry through this, but instead, savor the morning.

Mmmmm, I can smell the bacon and eggs gently frying, sipping from mug while gazing across another idyllic setting on the lake. No sir, we are not going to rush this one bit.

Boating Guides; Washing, Polishing and Waxing

How To Clean And Wax Your Boat

There is nothing like the anticipation of getting your boat ready for the water, be it the spring launch or a mid season scrub and shine. And having it sparkling clean adds more than just pride in your ride, but real value.


Before you shine, remove the grime! Washing all the dirt off before polishing/waxing is critical to avoid scratching the finish, so grab a garden hose and let’s get to work.

An environmentally friendly  boat soap takes care of removing the dirt deposited from air borne pollutants, bird and insect droppings, as well as plain old dust. We are fortunate enough to keep our boat in a larger marina with the convenience of being able to park our car right behind the boat slip. The only drawback with this arrangement is that the boat is continuously exposed to the associated dust kicked up by incoming vehicles. A good, soft bristle brush will show that dirt who’s in charge, while saving your back. Regular washing throughout the season is also a good practice, making this one of the most commonly used tools aboard!

Deeper stains left behind from bird and spider droppings, tree sap and seeds may need a more concentrated spot cleaner. These areas may require a little more elbow grease and these types of cleaners should help do the trick.

If you have residue from old stickers or stripes, glue left behind will clean off with basic acetone. Keep in mind that acetone is highly flammable and can cause skin irritation. As well, it will cause dye to run from fabrics and other material, so use extreme caution while handling and always test an inconspicuous are first.

After everything has been washed and rinsed thoroughly, use a genuine leather chamois to wipe away any standing water. These also come is handy after a rainfall to avoid water spots. It’s also a good habit to dry things off on the mornings after a particularly ‘dewy’ night. This helps to keep the bugs from sticking to the boat!

Polish & Wax

Restoring the shine on your hull is an easy task when using the appropriate tools and polishes. For dull and chalky finishes, a power polisher with a more aggressive polishing compound may be required.

Care should be taken when using a polisher as, depending on the quality of boat builder, some gel coat finishes may be thinner at sharp edges and subject to ‘burn through’. If this happens and the fiberglass matting is exposed, repairs would be required – so go easy in these areas.

For gel coat finishes that are not as faded, a ‘one step’ type of application could be all you need. These offer cleaner and wax in one bottle and, when dealing with smaller areas, can be easily applied by hand.

If you are waxing a larger hull or superstructure areas, a random orbital waxer/polisher will get the job done quicker – and save your arm muscles.  A random orbital works by both spinning the bonnet in a circular motion, while also moving around in an elliptical fashion. What this does is help to apply the wax more uniformly and effectively so that you don’t miss any spots.

While the wax is drying, this is a good time to thoroughly inspect the entire work area to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything. Making sure that the more difficult spots to get at, such as under the rub rail or anchor roller, vent ports or inlets, cleats, etc. have been covered ensures they are protected as well.

Once the wax has set up and is dry to the touch, it’s time to buff off. Wipe off the residue with a circular motion using clean micro fiber cloths. Gently hand buff the entire area to bring up a lustrous shine.

Now it’s time to stand back and enjoy the results of your labor. Knowing that your pride and joy has been protected from the elements will lead to more relaxation on the water. With everything gleaming and shining,  you just might need a ‘cool’ pair of sun glasses to enjoy that ‘hot’ looking boat ;-)