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08 May 2017

Indiantown Reunion In Marsh Harbour, Or Stalking People On The VHF

Marsh Harbour at sunset.

[Earlier in the day over coffee…]

“Did you hear that?” I asked. “That was Linda from s/v Toucan on the cruiser’s net asking when the lighthouse was open!”

“That British accent was a dead giveaway. It’s a shame they’re in Hope Town and we’re here in Marsh Harbour. It would be nice to cross paths with them,” Scott said in between bits of his breakfast burrito. “We had a lot of fun with them back in Indiantown Marina.”

“Oh well, we’re here and they’re there. I guess it isn’t meant to be.”

[Later over sundowners in the cockpit…]

“That’s Toucan coming into Marsh Harbour.” Scott pointed westwards at a small catamaran heading into the anchorage.

“Uh, yeah, like you can tell that’s Toucan from here. That cat’s way too far away to be able to read the boat name,” I said as I sipped on my gin and tonic.

“Seriously, it’s them. I’ll bet you….hmm, let’s see…I’ll bet you $100 that it’s them.”

“We have a joint banking accounts and you don’t know even know the passwords to access them online. I’m not sure betting money is really all that effective considering I could just transfer all of our joint funds to an offshore account in the Caymans.”

Scott looked a little suspiciously at me. I can’t figure out why.

He grabbed the binoculars. “Here, I’ll prove it to you.” He adjusted the focus, looked at the catamaran and then turned to me in triumph. “I was right. It is Toucan. Go out on deck and wave.”

Which I did. I waved my little arms like a crazy woman. Then I remembered that middle aged arms on women often have a disturbing resemblance to flabby chicken wings. I put my arms down. Fortunately, they had already waved back to us.

I scrambled over to the VHF radio and put it on channel 16. “Toucan, Toucan, Tickety Boo.”

After a few seconds a voice crackled over the radio, “Tickety Boo, Toucan. Switch 1-7.”

“Switching 1-7.”

I switched to channel 17, one of the working channels. “Toucan. Tickety Boo.”

“Was that you waving your arms like a crazy woman?” she said. “We couldn’t see who it was, but we figured they knew us. Or they were just some crazy stalkers with chicken wing arms.”

{She didn’t really say it quite like that. Her mother raised her right. You never mention another woman’s chicken wing arms unless they raise the issue first. Then you commiserate.}

We made arrangements to connect in the next day or two. I put down the VHF, sat back in the cockpit and grabbed my gin and tonic. Scott and I made a toast to reunions with friends from Indiantown Marina and his supernatural ability to identify boats from a far, far away.

****

Our VHF radio, along with our portable VHF. We also have a RAM mic up in the cockpit.

The VHF radio is a key piece of communication kit for cruisers. You use it for distress calls, to hail other boats and to listen to cruisers nets. Cruisers nets are like call-in talk radio programs that cruisers voluntarily organize in certain areas. When we’re in the southern Abacos, we tune our VHF to channel 68 every morning at 8:15 to hear the latest happenings.

One of the quirks of the VHF is that everyone can hear you and you can hear everyone. That means that your conversations aren’t private. Anyone can eavesdrop on them. If you’re a little bored, you can listen in on channel 16 (the normal hailing channel in most areas, although others are in use like 68 in the Abacos). When someone contacts another party, they agree what channel to switch to so as to keep the hailing channel free. Then you just switch over to that channel and listen in on their conversation.

Sometimes it makes sense to eavesdrop. When we were looking to go through the Whale Cay cut, we listened in on two people talking about the weather conditions. We hadn’t been able to get an updated passage report, so this was a great help to us to know that conditions were good for us to go through.

Because the VHF is like an old fashioned party telephone and there are a lot of curious (some might call them nosey) people out there, you need to keep your conversations short and not give out personal details, like “We’ve headed off in the dinghy and we’ve left our boat wide open. Maybe I should have put all of that expensive jewelry and cash away first.”

Cheap solar powered dragonfly garden lights which we strung up in our cockpit. They flash on and off in different patterns to keep you entertained at night.

****


Cruising Log – Sunday, 9 April 2017 – Wednesday, 12 April 2017

9 APRIL

Decanted more drinking water from our jerry cans. Think 15 gallons will last us about four weeks. Looks like we’ll be hanging out at Marsh Harbour for the forseeable future due to weather. Got busy with important boat projects like hanging up dragonfly lights in the cockpit. Grilled pizza for dinner. Surprised didn’t end up in the water with the high winds. Huddled under blankets in the cockpit at night to look at our dragonfly lights and listen to the wind howl. Measured gusts of 34 knots, but probably some higher than that. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine = Nil. Spending = Nil.

10 APRIL

Heard Linda from S/V Toucan on the cruisers net. Made potato and lentil curry in our Wonderbag. Checked the expiration dates on the meat in our fridge. Picked up some papers from Customs & Immigration. Took a walk through town. Showed a fellow cruiser where Maxwell’s the grocery store was. Spied S/V Toucan heading into Marsh Harbour from Hopetown. Went on deck and waved at them. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine = Nil. Spending = $11.28 (groceries)

11 APRIL

Repatched the dinghy. Went through our food storage to check on what we have left and what we need. Made shopping list – plan to stock up before we leave Marsh Harbour. If we ever manage to leave Marsh Harbour, that is. Made chocolate chip cookies! Had Dave and Linda from S/V Toucan and Frank (another Moody owner from Indiantown) over for drinks. Offered our guests pretzels to munch. Neglected to mention the cookies. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine = Nil. Spending = Nil.

12 APRIL

I practiced my competitive napping. Hoping to make the US national team in the next Olympics. Made hummus. Reinstalled air filter. Went to S/V Toucan for dinner. Nautical Miles = Nil. Engine = Nil. Spending = Nil.

Have you ever used a VHF? Would you "eavesdrop" on other people's conversations on the VHF?

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24 comments:

  1. Kind of like a CB radio.
    Betting each other when it's all joint money is rather silly.

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  2. We know all about marine radios and most of the eavesdropping is boring in our neck of the woods. Mostly fishermen that are asking other fishermen who they are doing. Then there are the cruising clubs that will take over a whole channel until they all get tied up where they are spending the weekend.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Glad to know that the VHF eavesdropping takes place everywhere :-)

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  3. Yeah, I admit it. We've used the VHF as surveillance equipment. When we were in Tonga, there was this woman who clearly wanted to jump her matrimonial ship so every time she hailed this other boat that was being single-handed by a man, everybody in the anchorage jumped on the line to hear what they were talking about. She never gave anything away on the radio, but I did catch her making out with a local a time or two. In the end, she managed to escape her husband and ended up living with one of our mates from New Zealand.

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

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    1. Wow, that would be weird to have your the whole anchorage eavesdropping on that woman's soap opera life.

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  4. Chicken wing arms! LOL I love it. I remember reading a Zits cartoon where the son told his mom she had "Bingo Arms."

    That's smart to have a main channel everyone listens to, but you can switch to another for a one-on-one conversation.

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    1. Bingo arms is a great description too :-)

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  5. I have a ssb as well - takes eavesdropping to the next level!

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  6. We can be guilty of eavesdropping. Sadly, most of the time it is rather mundane!

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    1. Sad, but true, most of the conversation is pretty mundane :-(

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  7. I ain't been dropping no eaves... but I'm about to take my VHF exam in a couple of weeks so maybe I will get to do that. We might be getting a handheld radio for our international cruise (to Sweden, if we're lucky).

    The chicken wing arms on middle aged women have a special name here in Finland. They were named "Alli's" in the 1950's after our then First Lady. Apparently she liked dresses with no sleeves in formal receptions. Finns were not very civilized back then, and I'm ashamed to admit we don't seem to be getting any better.

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    1. What a fascinating story! I might start calling mine Alli's too.

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  8. Nice to meet up with old friends! Though I must admit what I really took away from this is breakfast burritos and potato and lentil curry. Oh, and Marsh Harbour sounds pretty good....

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    1. Marsh Harbour is great for maybe a day or two, then it gets old fast, at least for us. A lot of people love it and spend a long time there.

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  9. Eavesdropping on VHF is what cruisers call "reading the mail"! I call it a time-honored tradition, like sipping your rum punch and trying not to be entertained by somebody's attempt to get an anchor downdown! (Which-by the way-is called "The anchor dance". A very funny dance unless you yourself are doing it!)

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    1. It is quite entertaining, except when it's you dancing :-)

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  10. VHF chatter can be both entertaining and annoying. Since we had our business, and people might call us for info or to purchase a Wirie, we could never turn it off and had to listen to boats calling each other all day in busy harbors. I think every cruiser has secretly switched channels to listen to two callers they might know. Or not know. :-)

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    Replies
    1. I would hate to have it on all the time while at anchor.

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  11. Your posts are always so funny, Ellen. Love the chicken-wing arms joke that ran throughout. :)

    It's probably a good thing to keep in mind that no conversations are private anymore. At least the VHF gives you practice being careful what you say.

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    1. That's sadly probably very true that no conversation or email or anything is private anymore :-(

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