by Gordon West

Long-time SAIL contributor Gordon West is a nationally recognized expert and educator specializing in radio communications

Rescue 21

by Gordon West, Posted May 9, 2011
First the good news. Throughout most of the continental United States, calling the Coast Guard on your marine VHF radio now ties you into one of the most modern marine radio networks in use anywhere on Earth. As of November 2010, the 26 Sector Command Centers in the Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 radio network can monitor transmissions along nearly 37,000 miles of coastline.

Don't Get Zapped

by Gordon West, Posted April 14, 2011
John A. Moore of Punta Gorda, Florida, asks:"Is it true that putting portable electronics like GPS receivers, EPIRBs and handheld radios in the ship’s oven will protect their circuitry in the event of a direct lightning strike?"Gordon West replies:Your ship’s oven will, in fact, act like a Faraday cage, and if properly grounded, most anything

Transducer Tricks

by Gordon West, Posted March 8, 2011
Brian Naznitsky of Kings Park, New York, asks:"I recently purchased a depthsounder and want to mount its transducer inside the hull of my boat. The manufacturer recommends I flood my bilge and move the transducer to different positions, temporarily holding it in place with a bag filled with sand, until I find the best spot to permanently mount it. Filling the very slack

VHF Frequency Confusion

by Gordon West, Posted January 25, 2011
Tom Kamlowsky of Salt Lake City, Utah, asks:"While sailing in San Francisco Bay last month, I contacted the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16. On receiving my call, the Coast Guard radio operator asked me to change frequency to channel 22. I changed both my Icom M304 and M34 radios to channel 22 and quickly found that I could not use the M34 because of interference from a

Slashed Mast Wires

by Gordon West, Posted January 25, 2011
Ron Samuelson of South San Francisco, California, asks:"When the crane crew at my yard began lifting my keel-stepped mast out of my boat, the man below- deck hastily took a pocketknife and cut all the wiring free. Now the mast is back in place, and I have about a dozen loose wires going nowhere. Can they be spliced back together, or must the mast be

Test Calls

by Gordon West, Posted December 14, 2010
Ralph Manies of Seattle, Washington, asks: "We’ve installed a new ICOM-802 single-sideband radio and now we want to test its DSC (digital selective calling) features. What’s the best way to do this?"Gordon West replies:First enter your MMSI number into the unit’s memory and then hook up the second receive antenna to the DSC antenna

Smoking Windlass

by Gordon West, Posted December 13, 2010
Bob Foster of Sarasota, Florida, asks:"Last week, while my wife and I were cruising, our windlass motor suddenly stopped when I began to pull up the anchor. At almost the same moment, my wife shouted that she saw smoke coming from underneath the nav station. When we got home our local marine electronics technician told me that some of my electronic gear had been damaged as

Double Vision

by Gordon West, Posted October 21, 2010
Rene Etherton of Chicago, Illinois, asks:"When we’re anchored out my audio system works fine, and we get great reception on our HD LCD TV. But back in our marina we get a loud hum on the audio system, and TV reception from several stations is always breaking apart. Why does this happen?"Gordon West replies:I’m almost certain that the hum in

Fine Tuner

by Gordon West, Posted September 21, 2010
Ben Hathaway of Coos Bay, Oregon, asks:"My boat’s VHF and SSB both have the same Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number. I’ve recently purchased a new marine VHF handheld with DSC capability. Should this new handheld have the same, or a different MMSI number?" Gordon West replies:This is a great question, and it’s one that is

Antenna Heaven

by Gordon West, Posted August 21, 2010
David Stiller of Miami, Florida, asks:"I’m getting a new Standard Horizon GX2100 marine VHF with integrated AIS receivers, and I’m curious whether it will work with my Shakespeare masthead antenna?"Gordon West replies:AIS frequencies are 4.6 MHz higher than normal VHF ship-to-ship channels. However, I’ve done some tests, and Don Henry at
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