Breaker, breaker 1-9

July 20, 2020 in Gear, Safety - 4 Comments

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!

Felicità out.


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  • Gloria Mason July 20, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    My big question is “ Where can I get a Mang-O-Rita????” Lol

    • gntsailing July 20, 2020 at 7:56 pm

      Why on Felicità, of course!

  • Anne Lowry Klonsky July 21, 2020 at 7:15 am

    I just kept laughing at all the acronyms. How can you possibly sail without an app that translates all that stuff for you? It’s amazing you two have been so successful so far. Managing bureaucrats and kicking away roadblocks are talents that have served you well. In all spheres. Go Felicita!

    • gntsailing July 21, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Oh man, the acronyms! Sailing is its own language FOR SURE. I was just talking to a friend and she said she used to beg people on her boat to just say, “left” or “right” instead of “port” and “starboard.” There’s actually utility to not using left and right because it’s all based on which way you are facing. But as you and I are keenly aware of as instructional designers, it is so hard to get our brains process new concepts quickly when they are new.

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    Meet Gretchen & Tim

    Meanwhile, over on Instagram

    Felicità and Salt Whistle arrived in Mazatlan in time for high tide and we’re safely and happily tied together at the dock. 🔹 Docking is not a favorite activity, especially when you have to drive through a narrow channel famous for being really shallow. 🔹 But this sweet little bird came and sat on the lifeline right as we made our approach to the channel and I like to think that was Captain Steve coming to tell me to relax. 🔹 He died four weeks ago today which makes me really sad. I wish I could call and tell him all about the awesome crossing we just did. 🔹#sailing #catalina42 #sailingcouple #mazatlan
    It’s been a magnificent day of sailing. All the hard work we did to get the boat dialed in was for days like today. 🔹 And as if it could get any better… a simultaneous sunset off the stern and moonrise off the bow. #daysyoulivefor #catalina42 #sailing #seaofcortez #sunset #moonrise
    All is well aboard the good ship Felicità. We’ve dialed back a bit to try to time our arrival to be at high tide tomorrow morning. 🔹And I’m going to work on making an early dinner. But first, some rest for me!
    We’re having a great crossing to Mazatlan. Heavy winds this morning for about five hours, but we knew it was coming and had two reefs in the main and switched to the staysail with two reefs once the winds hit a sustained 24 with gusts to 29. 🔹 We’re crossing with our buddy boat, Salt Whistle, pictured here just moments ago. 🔹 We’re 60 miles from land and Starlink seems to be working like a champ. 🔹 We technically could switch to our Genoa as winds have dropped to 14. But, Tim is resting and I don’t want to get him up with the ruckus a sail change will cause. 🔹 Plus, we went so fast this morning, we’re about two hours ahead of schedule right now. So, for now we’ll poke along. 🔹 #sailing #catalina42 #catalina34 #sailingcouple
    Tilly, our beloved @hydrovane , is back in service for our 30 hour sail across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan. 🔹 It’s been a minute since she’s been out of the garage. I think Felicità perked up when Tilly arrived on the scene today. 🔹 We had an amazing sail today and anticipate that this next leg will also be a good one. #sailingseaofcortez #seaofcortez #sailing #catalina42 #sailingcouple #hydrovane
    Headsail poled out, preventers on. Making the 45 mile run down to Cabo Frailes today. 🔹 If you read our tracker (link in bio), you know we were anchored in a rolly anchorage. Happy to report last night was calmer. We got some sleep.🔹 Life is good. 🤙 #sailing #catalina42 #sailingcouple
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