Have you ever made a DSC call on your VHF? Do you even know how? Do you know what DSC is? Based on our research and speaking with customers, most people have never made a DSC call nor do they know how to, if they ever needed to. Most boaters are familiar with the red distress button on the front of their VHF and know that in an emergency situation that’s where you should go, but there’s more to DSC than the "in case of emergency break glass" button.
Digital Selective Calling (or DSC) allows boaters to initiate or receive distress, urgency, safety and routine VHF calls to or from any DSC equipped VHF or shore station, directly without both radios actively monitoring the same channel. DSC allows you to treat your existing VHF like a traditional telephone. It enables you to call another boat, or group of boats, directly. The receiving radios ring to ensure your call is acknowledged, and it allows others to call you directly.
In a VHF world equivalent to corded rotary phones, Cortex is the latest smartphone giving boaters an intuitive user experience on a wireless color touchscreen.
To make a DCS call on a traditional VHF, you first need to know the MMSI number of the boat or group of boats you are trying to call. This may or may not be available to you, especially if you don't already know the vessels already. Then you need to painstakingly input the nine-digit MMSI of the vessel in your VHF using the limited front panel controls. It is cumbersome and frustrating, so most people don’t bother even trying.
**Spoiler Alert** it's not the DSC technology standing in your way, it's your VHF!
One of the main focuses of Cortex's handset design was ensuring the use of DSC, VHF, and AIS was tightly integrated into one cohesive user experience. Cortex allows users to place a DSC call directly to any vessel found on the AIS Plotter or Directory screens, or by manually entering MMSI information. When you are on the AIS Plotter screen simply select the vessel you want to call by touching it and hit the CALL button. From there you are prompted to pick your working channel, select the call type, and initiate the call. Similarly, the directory page allows you to view and select an AIS target or even a saved boat that doesn't have AIS and simply hit the CALL button. If the vessel doesn’t have an AIS and you need to input an MMSI number manually it can be done easily with the touchscreen keypad.
In a situation where the risk of collision exists, Cortex offers a Collision Avoidance Situation Screen. The situation screen offers a number of situation-specific benefits, like showing the other vessels' relative position, illustrating its Navigation Light sectors, and a unique Trial Maneuver to test a potential corrective change in course. One of its greatest safety enhancements is including DSC. DSC has again been tightly integrated through this screen and offers the ability to quickly call the 'risk vessel,' direct them to a channel to talk on, and pre-populate the category of call.
When every second count it couldn’t be easier to initiate a direct VHF call whether you are at the helm and need to negotiate a crossing with an unknown vessel or you want to call all your cruising mates at the same time to inform them of a navigation hazard or tell your fishing buddies about a new hotspot. With all the critical information at your fingertips, the ability to make direct calls with any vessel on your screen. Cortex gives boaters new confidence and peace of mind so they can focus on enjoying time on the water and leave the complexity of the AIS, VHF, and DSC to Vesper.