Holy moly have we been on an epic bureaucratic journey trying to get our MMSI number. For you landlubbers, an MMSI, otherwise known as Maritime Mobile Service Identities, is a unique number that is assigned to our vessel. It aids in VHF communications, clearing into customs, and emergency response. The number is associated with our AIS and our VHF. And, it’s connected to our EPIRB (pictured below with a cocktail–for me).
So, what the heck does all of that mean anyway? The AIS (Automatic Identification System) is basically a broadcast system on our boat that tells other vessels around us that we are out there. And, if they have an AIS transponder onboard (and are transmitting), we can see that they are out there.
If we have an AIS and other vessels have an AIS, then we both know exactly where the other is. And, because we both have registered MMSI numbers, we can see information about each other like name of the vessel, home country, type of vessel, length, how fast they are moving, the ship’s bearing, and the CPA (closest point of approach).
In my opinion, the CPA is the most useful piece of information as it tells us how close we will be to the other ship at the closest point (assuming that we both stay on the same heading and maintain the same speed). That comes in super handy when it comes to making decisions about maintaining course (or not).
When we first got the boat, we thought, “easy peasy, we’ll just get our number and put it in our AIS and in our VHF.” Like every damn thing on this boat, it’s not that easy.
The MMSI number is hard coded into the AIS and radio when they are new. So, to have the number changed, means you have to find a technician to come to the boat or ship the hardware back to the manufacturer to have it reprogrammed. That doesn’t sound terrible, right? Wrong. Our equipment is old, it’s hard to find anyone who can service it. And, the manufacturers are not super keen on dealing with such old hardware (they obviously want us to buy new equipment). Sigh.
The other option is to have the MMSI number from the previous owner transferred to us. That doesn’t sound too hard, right? Well, not when the previous owner passed away… which we sadly didn’t discover until we tried reaching out to see if he could help. (RIP, Brian)
Teasing all this info out took days, and we were no closer to having this freaking number.
Then, I found this extremely helpful article. Through it, I discovered we needed to register with the FCC because we are planning on traveling to foreign ports. And, when I went to create the application, I realized I needed to register our EPIRP so that our MMSI and EPIRB are associated.
So pause on getting MMSI and turn all efforts over to getting EPIRB registered.
Fast forward SIX (omg, six!) weeks, we have our EPIRB registered with NOAA. And, we have our MMSI number registered through the FCC (which is good for 10 years!). Next up we need to get a new AIS (because ours hasn’t been sold for nine years) and see if we can find someone to reprogram our VHF. And, you guessed it… if we can’t find a technician, Felicità gets a new radio.
For the time being, we’re broadcasting on AIS as Sea Angel (former boat name), but we’ll just have to go incognito for this first passage. At least we will be visible. And if we need to activate our EPRIB, our emergency contacts will be contacted. Please don’t email us to tell us how many FCC laws we are violating!