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Issue 29. Out Now!

Coastguard Yeppoon Marine Radio Course Print E-mail

by Pammy Penny

       With growing excitement I approached the doorway to Coastguard Yeppoon.  It was a three minute walk from where my boat Rainy Eyes was docked at Keppel Bay Marina.  Finally it was my turn to undertake the Marine Radio Course.

 Living aboard Rainy Eyes I had been anxious to get my radio license for some time.   I had approached the Coastguard/VMR at the last three marinas where we had been docked to no avail.   I had either missed out by a month or the person taking the course had just retired or someone’s cat had just died.

Not wanting to take the course on-line as I felt I would miss out on person to person feedback I jumped at the chance to take the course with Yeppoon Coastguard.  From my life experiences I have found many things are all about timing.

Three weeks before we had sailed up from Bundaberg enjoying time at Pancake Creek, Gladstone and Grahams Creek.   Our goal was the Fitzroy River in Rockhampton as we had it on good authority that a mooring was the cheapest around and work should be easy to find.

We only lasted there a week as the recent flooding had swept away the dinghy tie-ups and as I was getting a bit older I decided I didn’t want to wade through mud every time I went ashore.

An executive decision was made and we decided to plunder the last of our savings and stay at Keppel Bay Marina for a while and find work.  Within two days my husband Kev found work as a part-time night chef at the local restaurant and a day job detailing boats at the local boat yard.  My work as a budding freelance writer left me quite a few hours in the day to spare.

The day after we arrived at Keppel Bay Marina I walked up to Coastguard Yeppoon and asked if they had any radio courses coming up.   I was told they had a course that Saturday but the course was full (20 people).   My heart sunk.   “Not again”, I thought.   Pleading with the Duty Officer, I begged her to let me sign up.   She went and consulted her boss who came back and told me I could go on the standby list.   Not willing to accept defeat again I went into full combat mode, telling them I would be as quiet as a mouse, provide a happy personality to the course and best of all I had the ‘Money to Pay’ right now!  With the biggest grin I could muster I told them I would be happy to join up as a volunteer and that they needed me!

I won them over and I was told to be at the Coastguard at 9am on Saturday.   Walking back to my boat I was a happy little sailor with a grin from ear to ear.

When Kev got home from work he was surprised to find mood music playing, the smell of dinner wafting in the air and a bottle of champers chilling in the fridge.

Excitedly I told him I had finally got into a radio course and it started on the weekend.  Kev has had his radio licence for years but as we take turns in navigation, steering and radio call ups he was as happy as I was.  Yippee!  Yeppoon!  Within a week we had work and a course to attend.

Being one of those tragic people who have to be early for any appointment I showed up at the Coastguard an hour early.

The place was humming with activity and volunteers bounded about, greeting each other with jokes and happy grins.  I was told to avail myself of the kitchen facilities-coffee or tea and toast if I needed strength for the course!

Wandering out to the spacious outdoor area, complete with ample tables and chairs I was soon happily chatting to the volunteers.   I was made to feel extremely welcome and was encouraged to tell my story of sailing life.

9am came and I was directed upstairs to where the course was to take place.  Sitting myself down I glanced around and was surprised to find only four other contestants seated around the room.   My instructors gave late stragglers a 15 minute grace and by 9.15am they conceded that only the five of us had showed up.   Mentally crossing my toes and eyes I was glad that I had pleaded so hard to get on the course.

The head instructor Jim introduced himself and his fellow instructors Col and Paul.  They all had a twinkle in their eye and I knew I was in for a fun course.  Jim gave out our handbooks and started off by telling us to relax but pay careful attention to what he was going to talk about.  

For the next three hours we concentrated on all aspects of the VHF Radio.  I thought I knew everything about the VHF but I was surprised to find there is a lot more to the marine radio than just simply calling up the Coastguard to log on and off.

Often when I had been out sailing I heard people asking for a radio check.   The Coastguard/VMR will not respond to this unless you identify yourself (boat name).  In fact every transmission you make must include your call sign or boat name.

I learnt about simplex and duplex frequencies which I hadn’t heard of before.

Jim and Paul gave a really funny demonstration of this with a couple of foam cups joined together with pieces of string.  

Concentrating carefully I listened to Jim explaining about battery capacities, amp hours and the difference between parallel and series setups.   Kev had always been in charge of the batteries so an ‘amp hour’ was a new concept for me.

Taking a short break we came for the second component of the course – MF/HF.

To me this was a lot more involved as even though I have one on board I have never used it.   Previously, to me, it was just a big box under the nav table that I always bashed my knee on.   Of course you are legally not able to use a HF Radio without a licence.  

The next couple of hours passed quickly as I listened intently to my instructors.

We all sat for the test and were told we should get our results within four weeks.

Jim told us they were always after new volunteers to man the radios so I signed up on the spot to start my training next week.

I strongly urge anyone who has not undertaken their radio course to sign up with their local Coastguard for the next available course.

Not only is it fun and informative it is a legal requirement to have a licence before you use your radio.

I have also decided to volunteer for the boat crew training.   For a girl who normally hangs out in a singlet and thongs the crisp collared uniform of the coastguard will be a new adventure for me ... I think I might have to buy an iron!

Stay tuned for my adventures with Yeppoon Coastguard.

Wendy Elliston
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