Why use a handheld marine VHF radio with DSC and GPS?

Yacht Racing

  • When the adrenaline is flowing, every second counts and you have your mind on so many things, you want reliable equipment in close reach, keeping you safe and providing you with the essential information quickly and easily. Carry a handheld radio on you to ensure that you hear the race control announcements clearly, wherever on the boat you may be, and be able to transmit a message instantly without leaving your station.
  • With the Recent RS-38M, you can save the race buoys as waypoints and use the uncluttered navigation screen as a pointer to show you the way to the next mark, including bearing, range and your SOG and COG.
  • Broadcast your GPS position via DSC in a MOB emergency.
  • Call a specific ship with DSC Individual Call without disturbing the entire fleet.
  • Listen to race control on the handheld while monitoring Ch16 and/or Port Control on the fixed mount radio.


  • Carry a Recent RS-38M radio with DSC and GPS GPS radio on you when on night watch to be able to alert your crew if you are lost overboard. You can send a DSC MOB distress message including your GPS position to your vessel with the touch of one button, triggering an audio alarm to alert the crew. Your message with GPS position will be saved to the vessel’s radio, providing a life saving reference for the recovery operation.
  • Keep a handheld radio in your grab bag, use it as an emergency backup or simply use it to call your dinghy when going ashore!
  • The fixed mount radio may be useless when it is needed most: When the mast breaks, the antenna is lost. A lightning strike will almost certainly destroy the fixed mount radio, and the house battery can die easily if not managed correctly. When fire breaks out, the radio may become inaccessible. A handheld radio can be a life saver in these situations!

Ski Boats

  • DSC offers vast improvements, and Ch16 monitoring is being phased out. Rather than replacing an old fixed mount radio, supplement it with an RS-38M with DSC and GPS.
  • A handheld radio in your pocket is easier to hear over the engine noise than a fixed mount radio.
  • A handheld radio works, even when the boat has capsized, or the boat batteries have failed due to flooding, corrosion or poor battery management.


Paddlers of surfski’s, SUP’s and kayaks fall into a special category of ocean users, and face a special set of dangerous circumstances:

  • Very small craft, difficult to spot. Worse yet, paddlers almost invisible if they become separated from their craft at sea.
  • Frequently paddle in strong winds and large swell, often actively seeking such conditions.
  • Venture far offshore beyond swimming range.
  • Unstable and exposed craft, making them vulnerable to changes of weather or equipment failure.
  • Difficulty of maintaining visual contact with their buddies due to low vantage point and difficulty of looking around and maintaining balance.
  • No hands or eyes free to check phone messages etc.
  • Limited speed easily results in slower paddlers straddling behind, unable to catch up and communicate with the group.
  • The icy waters of Cape Town leave very little time for rescue operations.

The Recent RS-38M fits conveniently into the pocket of most paddling jackets to ensure that you have it accessible even if you lose your boat, and causes minimal obstruction during remounts. It is rated IPX7 waterproof (1m depth for 30 minutes), floats, flashes its lights when wet, weighs a mere 315g (with antenna and belt clip) and measures 61.2 x 141.4 x 43.2mm (W x H x D).

DSC and GPS for convenience and safety

The DSC GPS capability of the Recent RS-38M radio’s allows users to request each other’s positions and even provides a simple navigation screen to locate each other.

While we absolutely advocate the use of life jackets, safety leashes, and the Safetrx app for paddling, these measures can prove insufficient:

  • Paddlers could separate from the group and be difficult to locate.
  • poor cellphone signal and extreme conditions could make voice communication impossible.
  • paddlers could be in trouble near us without our knowledge.

With the use of handheld marine VHF radio’s, paddlers can easily grab the attention and communicate with their buddies with an immediate voice transmission, thereby preventing many potential distress situations from developing.

DSC with GPS Distress Messages

Should all this be insufficient and the paddler finds him/herself in a distress situation, then the Recent RS-38M radio features a dedicated distress button which sends a DSC message to all radios within range.  This triggers their audio alarm and displays a text message with the GPS coordinates, nature of the distress and the MMSI (identification code). Shore stations such as Cape Town Radio are also alerted to this message, and rescue personnel can be dispatched to the exact GPS location.

DSC distress messages are a last resort measure and are taken very seriously!

Comparison between a DSC with GPS distress message and a conventional voice distress call on channel 16:

DSCChannel 16
Text message is clear and unmistakable.Voice message can be garbled by background noise, wind noise, water on the microphone and poor reception.
Quick distress activation with the touch of one button.Lengthy Mayday transmission with many details to remember (MMSI number, GPS coordinates and Mayday message format).
Sounds loud alarm on recipient radio, hard to ignore or overhear, regardless of what volume the radio is adjusted to.Voice mayday message may easily be overheard due to background noise or lost among the garble of other voice messages.
Is received by all marine radio’s within range, regardless of the channel their radio is set to.Voice Mayday message will not be received by other mariners if they are not be monitoring Ch16.
Details of Distress DSC including GPS coordinates are displayed in text form.Recipient may not have the facility to note down GPS coordinates contained in Mayday message.
DSC message with details remains stored on recipient radio.Ch 16 voice Mayday call leaves no record on recipient radio to refer back to later.
GPS coordinates update automatically with subsequent distress calls as victim location changes due to drift.Updated GPS coordinates need to be calculated and transmitted by subsequent voice communication. Rescue boats may have difficulty hearing transmissions clearly with their engine, boat and weather noise.
Greater transmission range.Shorter range, requires stronger signal to be of use.
Latest technology, monitored by shore stations.Ch 16 monitoring by shore stations being discontinued.

With Recent RS-38M marine VHF radio’s you will be able to:

  • Paddle confidently, knowing that your buddies are safe and contactable even when you cannot see them.
  • Contact your buddies when there is an unexpected change of plans or diversion.
  • Contact other boats and marine traffic around you.
  • Contact a shore station and emergency personnel quickly and easily.
  • Send a distress DSC message with your GPS coordinates with the push of one button.
  • Request the position of your buddies automatically and navigate towards them.
  • Navigate to preset waypoints, useful when visibility suddenly deteriorates in fog.
  • Have fun responsibly.

Be Prepared:

In order to get the full benefit of the Recent RS-38M radio, it is wise to familiarize yourself with the functions and take some steps to prepare.

Preparing at home:

  • A SRC operator license is required to operate this radio legally. Contact us for assistance.
  • Enter your MMSI code into the radio. (Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to register you radio and get your MMSI)
  • Ensure that all settings are set correctly and to your satisfaction.
  • Memorize your call sign and MMSI or note them down where you will be able to access them at sea.
  • Enter the MMSI numbers of your buddies into the address book.
  • Enter the GPS coordinates of important waypoints (e.g. launch site, race buoys, etc)
  • Ensure that the radio is fully charged.

Preparing on the beach:

  • Switch the radio on and check that it can obtain a GPS fix.
  • Agree on a communication channel with your buddies (e.g. Channel 06, 08, 72, 77), make sure that the channel is free and legal to use, and switch your radio’s to Dual Watch this channel plus channel 16.
  • Adjust the volume so you can hear broadcasts comfortably.
  • Keep the radio on you in a secure position where you can readily access it in a distress situation.

Experience extraordinary adventures responsibly.

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