Travelling to Tasmania? Understanding Tas Maritime Radio communications

Evan and I on Nashira planned our trip to Tasmania leaving Sydney on Australia Day 26th of January 2017.  We had food, charts, communication gear in the way of VHF radio, Iridium Go via PredictWind as satellite back-up system and mobile phones.  We had weather coverage via Rodger Badham thanks to Denis and Lynne of Ariki Tai,  BOM, PredictWind, and others.  We charted our planned path and communicated with Marine Rescue Sydney and had the contact details of the various Marine rescue centres down the coast.   Ready to leave Sydney early morning we felt as prepared as we could be and were both excited and anxious.

The trip down the East coast of NSW was exciting and pretty event free.  We entered Eden for fuel, a few parts to fix our engine water cooling system and waited for a weather window.  This would be our final mainland port before crossing Bass Strait.

Leaving the mainland we were not entirely sure who the equivalent to Marine rescue is in Tasmania.   We had been advised previously to sign up with TasMaritime Radio and get a transit number but did not know what that meant exactly.

Our weather window arrived and we logged on with Marine Rescue Eden.  They asked several detailed questions about where we were heading to in Tasmania and our goals.   Our plan was to sail across to Babel Island, stay there until good weather helped us down the East coast to Wineglass Bay.  They indicated that Tas Maritime would want this information and that we should contact them when we made it to Babel Island.  Babel Island has a new repeater and communication should be clear and easy.

Happy that authorities knew we were on our way we departed Eden.

The adventure across Bass Strait is another story.  We finally arrived at Babel Island in a strong Westerly blow and anchored south of Babel Island on Sellars Beach Flinders Island.  Tired we radioed Tas Maritime and they heard us loud and clear!  The new repeater is good.  They asked us if we had a transit number yet which was a negative.   We promised to organise that and did so after we had sleep.

Transit Number:   A transit number is a temporary number given to each vessel who plans on spending time in Tasmania and registers online.  It is a wonderful service that helps to identify you when you radio in to advise that all is okay.   If you are going to spend more than a day in a location you just let them know.  We spent a week in Hobart and they put our transit number on standby until you contact them next.   It is easy to register online:

I like to know what to say on the radio and this page gives detailed procedures with audio examples:

Tas Maritime Radio is the fantastic, friendly, efficient, helpful and entertaining group of volunteers who monitor the entire state of Tasmania.  They monitor VHF channel 16 and various HF radio channels.  They provide weather scheds three times a day covering the coastal weather all around Tasmania.  The weather sched became an important part of our day.   Starting on channel 16 Tas Maritime Radio advise you to go to channel 67, 68 or 69 VHF depending upon your location.  There are equivalent HF stations advised as well.  They start with giving announcements of local importance like events or for example “There is a Telstra cable floating across Swan River, all mariners be cautious in that area”.  Then they give an overall synoptic chart view of Tassie, followed by a three-day weather forecast for each area all the way around, followed by current real observations of each of the areas.  Finally they provide a service whereby you can send a message to someone perhaps another vessel you cannot reach directly.  They will pass these messages on.

When this is done they open the channel for vessels to radio in.  This part is fun,  its like a radio talk show.  TasMaritime: “Okay callers on HF radio channels radio in”  while we could not hear the people radioing in we could hear the responses as they duplicate whatever the caller has said.  After HF radio is done they close that off and open VHF for us to call in:   We could hear; “okay Transit #317 you are currently in Recherché Bay heading to Port Davey with 2 people on board and all is okay!, thank you Next caller please”.

You start to learn who different vessels are and where they are heading.   As Maritime request you to call in daily, on one of the scheds or at a set time determined by you, they start to get to know you and are super friendly and happy to hear from you.

During our trip we actually enjoyed the communication.  They are more relaxed than Marine Rescue in NSW and do not require arrival times.  If they don’t hear from you in over a day or two they will contact you to make sure all is okay.  On one occasion they actually contacted us to help in a search and rescue mission as we were the closest known vessel to the location advised by AMSA.

We usually contacted them via radio but some locations in Port Davey we had no radio and would satellite email letting them know all was okay.  I have heard that others in Port Davey are happy to relay via HF for people without satellite capabilities.

Overall we cannot rate this system highly enough.  The coverage, support and friendliness made me want to be a volunteer one day.

‘Nashira’ Transit number 317

Kelly Nunn-Clark and Evan Hodge, (Published in MHYC Cruising division magazine, March 2017)

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