VHF Channel changes coming in 2017

Boat owners, shipping companies and anyone who puts out to sea are being informed about a change in some of the VHF channel numbers used to contact UK Coastguard.

As a result of changes to Appendix 18 (Marine VHF) of the Radio Regulations it will mean that VHF channels 23, 84 and 86 will no longer be used for either Maritime Safety Information (MSI) or Radio Medical Advice.


The channels to use from September 2017 will be VHF 62, 63 and 64. The use of VHF Channel 10 for MSI and pollution control (back up) is unchanged.

Mark Lawson from the Maritime & Coastguard Agency said: ‘Although it’s not happening until September, when it happens the changeover will be absolute and we want to make people aware of this changeover in good time given our commitment to deliver maritime safety and wider support to the maritime community.
‘The exact date of change will be announced as soon as possible. In the meantime, we suggest anyone who uses any type of vessel makes a careful note of these replacement channels so they are ready when it does happen.’


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NCI Mundesley by Edgar Ruddock

Recently I visited NCI Mundesley, on the north Norfolk Coast, while visiting family. The station is housed in the old coastguard lookout, a small building erected in the 1920’s, which now houses Mundesley museum (one of the smallest in the country), on the ground floor, and above, up a short very tight spiral staircase, the NCI watch room.

They have some 60 watchkeepers and trainees operating two-hour shifts. The room is very small, but they command a good view both of the cliffs and the beaches, and are close to the open sea facing northeast. They are the second oldest NCI station in the country. They have similar but more compact equipment as we do in Calshot, but with the addition of radar, which today was set at 8 miles, but can scan up to 30 miles.


Haisborough Sands are the principal navigational challenge to coastal shipping, and lie to the south-east of Mundesley, well-buoyed, but still capable of catching out lazy crews. For NCI, much of their work is focussed around keeping a watch on summer visitors, inexperienced water-sports enthusiasts, and cliff-walkers. They report to Humber Coastguard, and work closely with the local RNLI and inshore rescue teams.

In the watchroom, interesting that the chart table dates from 1700, but houses not only the ubiquitous admiralty chart, but also all the contemporary internet, radar and observation technology. A nice contrast!

Good to see a very different station in action, albeit on a very cold and murky day.


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Seasons Greeting from Calshot NCI

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, SAFE New Year

from all at

National Coastwatch Institution Calshot Tower



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From the National Coastwatch HQ Facebook page


Radio User magazine, a radio enthusiasts magazine published by PW Publishing Limited, January 2017 edition carries a superb 3 full page article by Radio Amateur Phil Bridges G6DLJ on National Coastwatch’s Calshot Tower station on Southampton Water, arguably the NCI flagship station. Nicely written and accurate information on NCI and its operation, with some excellent photographs. The magazine is now available from all good newsagents at £3.99 or from the Radio User subscription department on 01442 820580



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Kayaker rescued by HMS Smiter

On Sunday at the Tower we heard a Mayday call from a Kayaker in the water “near Elmore slipway” (which turns out to be the Angling Club at the southeast end of Lee-on-Solent promenade). Given the distance, our visual search was unsuccessful but we monitored the radio traffic as HMS Smiter located the casualty about 1nm SW of the slip. With help from Calshot LB the casualty was transferred by helicopter to Southampton Hospital.  The kayak was recovered by a yacht about 2 cables distant from where the kayaker was found and transferred to Hamble LB.

HMS Smiter is mainly used by the Oxford University Royal Navy Unit. You can read about the rescue on the Royal Navy web site which includes the above video of the helicopter transfer.

[Peter Taylor, 30 Nov 2016]

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Live Exercise with MVS

On the morning of Saturday 29th October, watchkeepers at Calshot took part in a live exercise with members of Christchurch and Bournemouth Maritime Volunteer Service. The MVS launched their 5.2m, 115hp  rib “Osprey” below the tower before taking the role of an untrained, ill equipped crew who were lost. Senior Watchkeeper Roger Taylor and Watchkeepers Stephen Edmonds and Sandy Beard responded to their request for help and were able to plot their position from bearings passed from the boat and give them their bearing from Calshot.  Then the crew played their normal role as rescue boat and were directed to a “casualty” who was clinging to a buoy.

At the conclusion of the exercise, the MVS, took the opportunity to practise their pilotage skills in the Hamble River followed by high speed handling training in Southampton Water – something not really possible in Christchurch Harbour!

Both MVS and NCI teams agreed that it was a very useful and enjoyable experience, with many useful learning points for both sides. The MVS crew, which included one of our own watchkeepers, Chris Lloyd-Smith, noted how accurate the position plotting had been.

More exercises are planned and once again these will not be advertised, so keep your skills honed – it could be you next time!

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RIP Pat Manley


A very fitting tribute to Pat Manley by Practical Boat Owner Magazine. Pat was  instrumental in the early days of NCI Calshot organising VHF radio courses and exams for many Calshot Watchkeepers back in 2011.
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Hanger-cam October 1st

What a morning to view the new camera and monitor in action! Well done especially Phil…..

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Bramble Bank Cricket Match

Yesterday’s 1600-2000 hours watch was particularly interesting up Calshot Tower.  I have to admit that I had not put two and two together to realise that a Spring Tide of 5 metres high and half a metre low at the Equinox would cause a very English event to occur.

Our role is to keep an eye out for vulnerable craft and shoreline users in an area of heavy activity, especially in areas of risk such as the multitude of patches of sea that look safe, but in fact dry out at low tide.  One of these areas is the Bramble Bank.  Slap in the middle of the Solent, the Bramble Bank is bordered to the south by the main shipping channel which enters a ‘Precautionary Area’ at Prince Consort North Cardinal in a westerly direction and then veers Northeast up the Thorn Channel.  Anyone trying to cut this corner is in danger of grinding to a halt on the bank.

The first indication that yesterday was not going to be a typical shift was when we saw the Steamship Shieldhall who had earlier passed us to our traditional dipping of our flag and toot back was taking a route from west to east just to the north of the Bramble Bank.  At 1730 hours we started to monitor motor cruisers, yachts, ribs etc amassing at Bramble Bank.  Low tide was due at around 1830 hours.  The penny dropped – aha! THE CRICKET MATCH.  This annual event is not always successfully played with the ‘pitch’ not appearing at low tide and the players paddling in several inches of water.  It brings new meaning to a sporting event being a wash-out.  This year turned out to be a success with enough of the bank becoming exposed for half an hour for the match to be played.

From Calshot Tower, Bramble Bank is almost 2 nautical miles away.  This is a view taken on my phone:


You can see from this photo how low the tide was and how much of Calshot Spit was exposed (another corner not to be cut!).  The cricket match was in progress at this point.  Can you see it?  Probably not – look up from the apex of the near end of the hanger (Activity Centre) and you might espy a smudge in the water.

This photo was taken through the lens of our monoscope:


There they are!

We saw many craft making their way to the match.  Plenty of lifeboats were in attendance ‘just in case’.  At one point a large container ship went close by, threatening to swamp the match with its wash.  We had also been monitoring some kayaks paddling down from north of the Fawley Jetty and were making their way to Bramble Bank across the main channel.  We kept an eye on them and then decided that, since it would be dusk by the time they would be making their way back, we should let someone know of the vulnerability.  We called the Coastguard (on a non-urgent line) and suggested they let Calshot Lifeboat (who were already at the event) know of the presence of the kayaks.  This the Coastguard did.

By the end of our shift, the match was over, the pitch was once again under water and the kayakers had made it back across the main channel and were working their way along the shoreline at Calshot Spit.

Another enjoyable and productive day ‘at the office’!

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Day 1 – Southampton Boat Show

A busy first day on the NCI stand Southampton Boat Show with a surprise visit by NCI National Chairman Lesley Suddes!

Left to right:
Tim Colquhoun (National PR/Corporate Communications Officer)
Ken Burton (Watchkeeper – NCI Calshot)
Mike Smith (National Office Manager)
Caroline Hildrew (watchkeeper – NCI Gosport)
Lesley Suddes (National Chairman)
Chris Lloyd-Smith (Watchkeeper – NCI Calshot)
Deirdre Blore – (Trainee Watchkeeper – NCI Calshot)

Hiding behind the camera – Phil Bridges (Watchkeeper – NCI Calshot)

The show runs 16-25th September, You’ll find us at stand J041 in the Ocean Hall, why not pop along and enter our free draw with a chance to spend £500 with the good people of Force 4 chandlery .



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