Monday, October 30, 2006

Discontinuation of *CG

By Kathryn Manzi
In an effort to improve Search and Rescue Response the Coast Guard has requested all wireless providers in states other then Alaska to remove the specialized keying sequence, *CG, used to reach the Coast Guard for maritime emergency assistance.
The *CG feature was introduced by some cellular communications companies in the early 1990’s, but never developed into a nationwide service. As wireless providers moved to digital systems, some didn't migrate *CG to the new system and others even lost track of whether or not they were continuing the feature. This patchwork of service is confusing for the mariners who choose to use it, and may, in fact, prevent them from making a timely call for assistance should they find themselves in an area where *CG is not available.
The Coast Guard has found through research and experience that with the multitude of wireless systems and the misalignment of cellular coverage areas with our regions for Search and Rescue response, the use of this specialized service has resulted in misdirection of emergency calls. This has often added significant delays in the Coast Guard response to those calls for assistance.
The Coast Guard has requested that the cellular companies reroute all *CG calls to the 911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) nearest to where the call originated. As an added precaution, mariners should stop using the special keying sequence *CG and begin using 911 on their cell phones to notify authorities of a distress at the onset of a maritime emergency if a cell phone is their only means of communication.
The one exception to the discontinuance of the *CG specialized keying sequence is the Alaskan cellular phone region. Cell phone companies operating in Alaska all have the *CG feature available, and because the Coast Guard has a single number for routing those emergency calls, the cellular and Coast Guard regions are fully aligned; calls are not missed and can not be misdirected. The *CG feature will remain active in Alaskan waters.
Mariners are encouraged to invest in a VHF-FM radio as their primary means of distress alerting on the water. Communication via VHF-FM radio provides superior alerting capabilities over cellular phones.
A VHF-FM radio provides superior service in a maritime emergency because:
• When a MAYDAY is sent out via VHF-FM radio it is a broadcast, not just one party is receiving the distress call; any nearby boaters can hear the distress call and offer immediate assistance. Cellular phones are point to point; other boaters in the area can not hear the call and consequently will not be able to respond.
• With the Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 system improvements to the National Distress and Response System (which is monitored by Coast Guard Sector communications centers) coming on line, any call, distress or otherwise, placed over a VHF-FM radio will have an associated line of bearing (LOB). This LOB significantly narrows the area to which Coast Guard or other responders must look to find the boater making the call. In many locations two or more LOB’s will be associated with a call; the intersection of those LOB’s will provide the position of the caller. A cell phone doesn’t do this. If the distressed caller does not know his location it is difficult and time consuming to determine a position through the wireless companies. This is often aggravated by low batteries and poor reception.
• VHF-FM radios are manufactured today with Digital Selective Calling (DSC). This feature provides the mariner with an emergency feature that will send a distress with the vessel’s information and Global Positioning System (GPS) location at the press of a button. It is important to note that the DSC radio must be properly registered with an MMSI number through Boat US and the radio must be properly interfaced with the GPS in order to send an accurate position to assist emergency responders to respond to the distress.
All maritime boaters should have a VHF-FM radio onboard their vessel to assure any calls of distress are heard immediately. Cell phones should only be used as a secondary means of communications. If the cell phone is the only means of communication available then remember, as with any land based emergency, the number to call rescue personnel is 9-1-1. *CG is no longer available. Have a fun and safe boating season.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Boating Safety Youth Program Award

Individuals or groups who help kids learn how to stay safe on the water are encouraged to participate in the 2006 National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) Boating Safety Youth Program Award. The program recognizes individuals or organizations that have developed and implemented innovative youth boating education programs that focus on recreational boating safety. Co-sponsored by the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.), The award includes a $2500 cash prize. The deadline to apply is December 31, 2006.

Qualifying youth boating programs must include boating safety practices targeted to youth less than 18 years of age. Previous awards have gone to school districts, summer camps, scouting groups and U.S. Power Squadrons.

The $2500 prize award, provided to be used to implement or enhance a youth-oriented boating safety program. This can include equipment, audio-visual aids, printing, teaching aids, program promotion and advertising, or rental of a meeting space.

As a winner, one representative will be invited to attend the annual International Boating and Water Safety Summit. March 2007. The summit will be in San Antonio, TX. The winner will be provided transportation, hotel accommodations and meals.

During the Summit they will be able will present a conference session on their award-winning program

For more information and an application, go to and click on "award programs".

The NSBC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for the advancement and promotion of safer boating through education. It is comprised of over 333 national, regional and local boating and water safety agencies, organizations and corporations. BoatU.S. Is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its 665,000 members with a wide array of safety and consumer services.The United States Power Squadrons, a 501 (C) 3) non-profit organization was founded in 1914.

50 thousand members in the United States, offshore territories and Japan populate 450 Squadrons

USPS members develop, promote and provide water safety programs for children and adults, boating educational opportunities and activities that enhance the on the total experiences of the boating public.

To contact USPS, check out the web site at or call - 1.888.367.8777

New USPS Guide on Knots, Bends, and Hitches

Raleigh, NC – The United States Power Squadrons® has authored a new guide entitled, “Knots, Bends, and Hitches” published by McGraw-Hill.

“We tested every knot to make sure it was relevant and practical for your boating needs,” said Jon Bennett, editor of the guide. “Today, an image as a boater, as well as the security of the boat, are dependent upon skills with the art of marlinspike. While there are many books on knots on the market, this is the one to own and use. This practical guide has a spiral binding so it can be laid flat for practice. It explains which rope to use, how to handle it, and the uses for various knots, bends, and hitches.

Containing hundreds of superb hand drawn images showing step-by-step how to tie these various forms of knots, the selection focuses on the boater with practical marine knots that are easy to tie, easy to untie, and tailored to their application. In addition, the guide shows how to tie a number of decorative knots that long have separated the more experienced mariners from the beginners.

The guide can be purchased at any bookstore, marine store, or by contacting USPS at, or by phone at 1-888-FOR-USPS.

Monday, October 23, 2006

New Guide for GMDSS and Marine Radio

Raleigh, NC The Boatowner’s Guide to GMDSS and Marine Radio , authored by the United States Power Squadrons and published by McGraw-Hill is now available in book stores as well as marine center book sections.

GMDSS (which stands for Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) is now the international standard for radios used on boats. The U.S. Coast Guard is in the process of implementing a new generation of radio monitoring equipment to go along with GMDSS. This important guide is a great “go to” resource to understand how to use these new radios as well as the new communication / location system.

“VHF radio is our primary means of safety and operational communication on the water,” said guide editor Walter Fields, who is also Chairman of USPS Electro-Mechanical Systems group. “Today, Digital Selective Calling (DSC) has vastly improved the reliability and efficiency of these calls but unfortunately, you cannot place practice distress calls with your radio,” says Fields. “With this guide and the simulator, you will understand and become comfortable with the new radios. and system. Using GMDSS, boaters will have a better chance of being heard in the event of a distress, plus their positions will be automatically transmitted to the Coast Guard and all boats nearby in a position to help“.

When GMDSS calls are made to other parties - the called radio sounds an alert. The two parties are automatically switched to selected working channels for communication, saving time and minimizing confusion for all users.

The USPS Guide includes an interactive CD which permits readers to practice making simulated DSC-assisted calls. This CD is the product of a joint program with the Canadian Power Squadron’s and was developed by Morton Biback, chair of the companion group in Canada

The USPS BoatOwners Guide to GMDSS and Marine Radio is the best reference for the latest in marine radio and may be purchased at any bookstore, marine center, or through USPS via internet, or phone 1-888-FOR-USPS (1.888.367.8777.)

NASBLA recognizes USPS Game

Raleigh N.C. - Sept 01 2006 - National Association Of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) awarded the Seal of Safe Boating Practices to United States Power Squadrons (USPS) Water Smart From The Start(SM) an “on-line” and CD based game designed to provide an enhanced learning experience for young boaters.

Game designer, Drex Bradshaw, received the award letter of recognition provided by Betsy Woods, NASBLA Education Chair. Ms Woods noted “ that the computerized game entitled “Water Smart from the Startis awarded the NASBLA Seal of Safe Boating Practices. This recognition will acknowledge worthy safe boating publications, videos, films, CD ROMs and other media, even though due to the nature of the product as a toy it is not eligible as a NASBLA approved boating safety course.”. Ms Woods added “The recognition will allow the display the trademarked “NASBLA Seal of Safe Boating Practices” logo on the USPS products with the message “This material is recognized by NASBLA to benefit boating safety.”

The online version of Water Smart from the Start can be found at

WaterSmart from the Start was presented to the kids at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Bronx NY in August. “The youngsters really enjoyed the experience.” remarked Roberta Dougherty, Chair of Outreach Programs for USPS. She noted “The hospital wants additional training for the Carl Sagan interns. This additional training provided by USPS volunteers in November will assist paid college interns as they use the program with other young patients to make their virtual boating experience even better and help the child heal through positive interactive play.

Mrs.. Dougherty indicated that other groups have or are planning to use WaterSmart From The Start and cited its use by the Hampton Child Development Center in Hampton, VA and parts of the program are used by 5th and 6th graders in the public schools of Northern Neck, VA. education programs”. Course designer, Drex Bradshaw indicated that the program is great for after school activities and day care centers. "It lets the kids run boats as though they were in the water, and they don’t even get wet”.

Interest and support has been extended to the project by: The National Water Safety Congress, Boy Scouts of America -Sea Scouts, National Water Safety Congress and US Army Corps of Engineers. These organizations along with the United States Power Squadrons make up the National Safe Boating Consortium.

To obtain additional information about USPS. local squadrons or WaterSmart from the Start, click on the USPS web site at or call 1-888 FOR USPS

The United States Power Squadrons® (USPS) was organized in 1914 and is a non profit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to making boating safer and more enjoyable. USPS members teach classes in seamanship, navigation and other boating related subjects.

Over 50,000 members are in 450 squadrons across the country, in several US territories as well as Japan . USPS members are families contributing to their communities by promoting safe boating through local activities on the water and ashore.