Saturday, April 23, 2016

Provo Radio

In Providenciales, TCI, all vessels are expected to announce their arrival and departure to Provo Radio. We weren't aware of this protocol as we arrived, so we were a day late announcing our arrival. This wasn't a problem as the radio operator is friendly and their primary concern is safety. They simply asked me to confirm that we had cleared into the country with Customs & Immigration.

Shortly after raising the anchor in our spot tucked in beside Bay Cay, I hailed Provo Radio on VHF 16 to announce our departure. The Provo Radio operator asked me to switch to Channel 74, which I did while maintaining dual watch on Channel 16. Traffic on Channel 16 made it difficult to have a conversation on Channel 74. The Provo Radio operator asked me to confirm that we had cleared out with Customs & Immigration and had supplied them with information on all passengers aboard. I confirmed this, the operator wished me a good day, and we both returned to monitor Channel 16.

After about 15 minutes of motoring, we heard, "Singing Frog, Singing Frog, Singing Frog, this is Provo Radio, Provo Radio on Channel 1-6." Surprised, I returned to the nav station and hailed Provo Radio. Again, the operator directed me to switch to channel 74 and this time, I first turned off dual watch.

"Provo Radio, this is Singing Frog," and we proceeded to have a conversation for the operator to obtain emergency information about our vessel and passengers. The operator explained that they had been unable to obtain a vessel description or a passenger list from Customs & Immigration, then explained what information he would require from me. He first confirmed the spelling of our boat name as "Sierra-India-November-Golf-India-November-Golf Foxtrot-Romeo-Oscar-Golf" and I responded, "Confirmed."

The operator wanted to know our boat description (sloop), including hull colour (white) and draft (5' 7"). I provided the make (Benéteau) and he responded, "That one is a good boat." He asked if we have a life raft (8-man Plastimo) on board or a tender. He asked if we have a EPIRB and I responded with Skye's prompting that we have a PLB. The operator asked for the PLB identification number and Skye brought the unit to me. I need to practice my phonetic alphabet because I stated "Beta" for "B" instead of "Bravo." The operator graciously didn't correct me. He asked if we have other radio equipment on board, to which I responded, "Negative." He asked me to provide our call sign if we have one. I supplied our MMSI number.

As I provided the names and birth dates of the crew, the operator acknowledged that we have a gentleman on board who will be celebrating a birthday in a few days. I responded, "Yes. It's a big one - a decade birthday." The operator congratulated Skye and wished him a happy birthday.

The operator asked if we have emergency communication equipment on board, such as a satellite radio. I responded that we do not have a satellite radio, but we use a SPOT device as a backup for reporting emergencies. His other related request was unclear to me and I asked him to respond. Skye was standing beside me by now, asking for clarification of the request. The radio operator elaborated with examples, "Someone back home, a mother or father, favourite aunt or uncle, to contact in case of an emergency." I chuckled sheepishly and responded, "Yes, my mother, Linda Olson," and provided her telephone number.

As an aside, this exercise reminded us to make sure that all our emergency contacts have a way to contact each other. We aren't sure that my mom knows how to reach Skye's dad, for instance.
At the completion of our radio conversation, the Provo Radio operator apologized for the interruption (are we sure they aren't Canadian?) and wished us good weather and safe harbours. He also assured me that all information obtained was solely for emergency purposes to share with Turks & Caicos and the US Coast Guard.

"Thank you very much. We appreciate your concern for our safety."

This was our first experience of providing such detailed information on our vessel and passengers over the VHF radio. I enjoyed the process and the feeling it gave me that someone was looking out for us to keep us safe. We wondered if TCI gets some funding from the British government for this service, and if their proximity to Haiti has necessitated it. There has been some marine criminal activity originating from Haiti, including human smuggling and boardings. In the Dominican Republic (DR), our next stop which is a border nation to Haiti, the country requires clearing in and out of every port and prohibits entry or departure before sunrise or after dark.

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