Chuck Husick: Techno-Talk, May 2002 BoatUS Magazine - Updated June 2009
It's a safe bet that most of the readers of this column believe they
already have more than enough radio receivers on their boats, including
a VHF transceiver, a hand-held VHF, an entertainment radio, a pair of
FRS radios and a cell phone. Some boats also carry a CB radio. Larger boats that venture offshore equipped with satellite receivers can access a great deal of timely and valuable information, however a NAVTEX receiver will provide up-to-date information of the type included in local notices to mariners. With
all those radios on board, why would you want another one? The information
that follows might make you want to add just one more to your equipment
radio will be markedly different from any you now have. It can listen
to only one fixed frequency, 518 kHz, so there is no tuning knob. The
signals it receives are digital. It has no loudspeaker and the only
sound it can emit is a beep. Since it can't speak you don't have to
listen to it but it will remember everything it hears and will tell
you all it knows whenever you wish. It will use its beep to call you
when it receives a message warning of a problem with navaids, severe
weather or search and rescue activities.
new radio is called a NAVTEX (for NAVigational TeleX) receiver and is
a part of the Global Marine Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) equipment
required to be on board all large ships and most passenger liners. If
your boating activities include either offshore or near-shore waters
you should consider adding this radio to your electronics suite. Don't
buy one if you run your boat on lakes, rivers or other inland waters.
You won't find anything to listen to.
radio will bring you up to the minute information about navigation aids,
telling you that the range light you rely on when returning to port
is dim or that a hazard buoy has been placed in the channel in which
you will be navigating an hour from now. In many ways the information
from this radio will parallel the content of the weekly Notice to Mariners,
except that instead of reporting past events it will tell you what has
just happened or is about to happen.
to the Notice to Mariners content, the radio will provide weather forecasts
and warnings of hazardous weather at distances well beyond the coverage
of the NOAA VHF/FM stations. Received messages will include search and
rescue activities and notice of areas where activities that may be hazardous
to navigation are being conducted, information that may be of particular
interest in this period of concern for terrorist activities.
receivers are typically small, about 9 by 5 by 3 inches and use a miserly
amount of electrical power, about 1/4 amp. The NAVTEX receivers used
on SOLAS convention ships decode the messages they receive and print
them on a strip of paper. The NAVTEX receiver you may want decodes the
messages and stores them in memory. Received message labels are displayed
on the radio's LCD panel and can be selected and read using the keypad
controls. If you wish, you can connect the receiver to a computer and
store endless amounts of information.
messages are transmitted in digital form and are error checked upon
receipt. The receiver will reject messages found to have more than a
preset error percentage. All messages are stored for display when desired,
eliminating the need to listen to the occasionally difficult to understand
synthesized voice on the HF/SSB or VHF/FM weather broadcasts.
of transmissions to your NAVTEX radio are located along the coastline
of virtually all countries and can be received up to about 200 miles
from shore during daylight and about twice as far at night. The transmitters
take turns transmitting on the single common 518 kHz frequency. The
messages are identified by up to 13 letter codes.
important codes dealing with navigational warnings, weather, and search
and rescue are A, B and D. Any NAVTEX receiver you may buy will include
a full explanation of how to program the set so that you will always
be alerted to the information you need for navigation safety. Should
your voyages take you to foreign countries where English is not the
native tongue you will particularly value the fact that all NAVTEX messages
worldwide are transmitted in English in addition to any other language.