By Ben Ellison
|Part 2: Sport fishermen around the country are getting into DSC.|
Such ease and privacy are key to fishermen. On a nice day off the Cape when the big stripers are around, there are a lot of people scanning their VHFs for clues to where the action is. If you want to help a friend without attracting a fleet, and you’re busy with fish yourself, this DSC-to-plotter connection—which, by the way, hardly adds any cost to radio or plotter—can’t be beat. Of course this is not just a regional phenomenon; a California fisherman told me that within his “code group,” and before DSC, a VHF call about heading over to “X ledge” really meant “Y reef.” And who knows how many cellphones have been lost or ruined when busy fishermen tried to use them for privacy?
Cutting to the chase, sport fishermen around the country are getting into DSC. Besides, radios with DSC features ranging from distress only to Standard Horizon’s full suite have been selling for years now; they’re out there in numbers, even if under-used and under-appreciated. I think we’re en route from one hand clapping to another lesson in communications known as Metcalfe’s law, named for the man who invented Ethernet. His theorem, credited with predicting the Internet and e-mail explosions, is that “the usefulness of a network equals the square of the number of users.” In less mathematical terms, if last season there were ten boats in your VHF area who might hear your DSC distress call and this season there are 100, that’s a lot more than ten times better. If one or more of them happens to be a fisherman who can instantly plot your position and speed to your rescue, well that’s excellent. If enough of your friends learn to use DSC and your MMSI, which may eventually be a new line on your business card, might you be tempted to turn down the chatter on your own radio and just answer when it rings? How cool would it be on a group cruise to be able to privately call/plot each or all with a couple of commands?
It certainly looks as though marine electronics companies are anticipating a Metcalfe-like exponential growth in DSC importance and hence in new radio sales. The competition is getting intense, and the plotting feature that Standard Horizon pioneered is becoming almost generic. Last winter Icom introduced its rugged M602 that includes NMEA DSC output; at this season’s shows it was demoed showing DSC calls on plotters from Garmin, which supports the function on all its recent models. The new Raymarine C Series Displays (see page 56) can also plot NMEA DSC input, particularly impressive, I think, as none of the company’s own radios provides the output (yet).
Lastly, the Coast Guard really is building a DSC-enabled communications network, on its own, independent of any high-tech bubble companies, called Rescue 21. Big towers are going up as I write, and the specifications suggest that it will be a truly powerful safety system, especially for those boaters who get a DSC radio properly installed and running.
Standard Horizon Phone: (800) 767-2450. www.standardhorizon.com.
This article originally appeared in the February 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.