Sunday, May 22, 2011

#5 – Ketchikan: Eavesdropping on the Cruise Ships

For the last several days we've been tied to the dock here at City Float in downtown Ketchikan. With our rent-a-wreck, we've driven the entire coastal roadway, from the hydroelectric plant at the southern end, through most of the downtown Ketchikan streets, to the last fishing lodge/marina at the north end, about 25 miles or so. It's a great town, but we've pretty much run out of things to do.

So with our spare time, we've learned to listen in on the crew conversations aboard the cruise ships. Today we watched the Disney Wonder dock while we monitored the ship's bridge officers on the their semi-private radio channel. Most boaters know that ships communicate to shore and other ships via the standard marine VHF frequencies, the 150-170 megahertz band. But it turns out aboard the big ships, there's a separate set of Authorized UHF Maritime Channels in the 450-460 megahertz band for internal communications. Many tanker, cargo, utility, large tugs, ferry and cruise ships use the Maritime Channels. There's a website that lists the channels known to be used by certain ships. See to see the list.

We found the Disney Wonder maritime channel, and tuned our Icom IC-7000 ham SSB and all band receiver to the specified frequency of 467.750 mhz. We set the the receiver for FM-TONE reception, setting the tone squelch to110.9 hertz as called for by the frequency list. Then we listened to 20 minutes of docking and tie up commands and responses issued by the Disney Wonder bridge. It's great entertainment. Many cruise ships use multiple maritime channels for say the hotel, engineering, bridge and entertainment. So if your around big ships, and run out of entertainment, tune into live shipboard conversations using the maritime channels.
The Disney Wonder.  We no longer wonder what they're saying aboard this ship.

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