Standard Horizon 870E

THE STANDARD HORIZON 870E WITH DCS AND GPS A REVIEW Well I bought it online, Sept 2016 it cost £183.96 from Marine Super Store.

Firstly, Marine Super Store, not the first time I have shopped here and it gets full marks from me - not just on price but for delivery - Fed-Ex the next morning! Ordering to actual delivery was less than 20 hrs.

The radio replaced my ICOM IC-M35. Considering the little use I made of this radio it gave up on me when the terminals inside the actual radio corroded. Previously, I replaced, (at great expense), a battery because one of the terminals not just corroded but totally disappeared all together. Reading the sailing blogs it would appear this is not uncommon issue. I do need to mention however, this is not an article recommending this particular radio (well not yet anyway), as I have yet to use it in a cruising situation.

So before I go any further you are required to have a Short Range Certificate to use this radio. Course and certification are administered by the RYA. It is a two-day course with an exam.

The HX870E has DSC DIGITAL DISTRESS (This paragraph is from the RNLI website)

‘A DSC radio can send a distress message at the touch of a button. It simply broadcasts a programmed distress text message on Channel 70 to everyone in range. This text message contains your MMSI number but can also include your position if you link your DSC radio to your GPS. The text message will set off alarms on all nearby commercial ships at the Coastguard and on any other vessel that has a DSC radio. Sets receiving the call (and the transmitting set) re-tune to Channel 16 immediately. On most DSC radios the button that sends the distress message is large and red – normally have to lift a cover and then press and hold it for a few seconds.’

As you can see this potentially could be a life saver on a small dinghy cruiser, in that you have only one button to press if you are in a bit of bother.

Now, we need to divert just a little bit - as you can see from the above quote (3rd line) …’This text message contains your MMSI number’. Good luck in obtaining one - understanding the Ofcom website can be a bit of a nightmare. It was more by luck than judgement that I found the correct section. When I did, the process is entirely online and you obtain not just a MMSI number but a call-sign as well, mine is T150133 (just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it!)

What is a MMSI number?

A Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number is only issued to vessels fitted with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and/or (Satellite) Ship Earth Station (SES) equipment.

Entering the MMSI number into the radio.

Dire warnings in the instruction book DON’T GET IT WRONG….. The radio does not have a keypad so you use the ‘soft keys’ to move up and down to enter the numbers. In fact, you have plenty of opportunity to correct your entries and you enter it twice (for comparison to what you first entered) even then there is a final check before you press ‘finish’.

For small boat cruising the radio MMSI is with you, NOT your boat, the opposite goes for larger fixed radios.


Firstly, the distress message menu on a DSC type radio will allow you to send various types of 'header' or title to your distress message including FIRE, SINKING, COLLISION, MAN OVERBOARD and several others. This way the Coastguard will be able to understand the nature of the distress even before they have been able to start talking to you

I am sorry, but I cannot think of a scenario where a distress call is made from a small dinghy in trouble and you will have the time to go into the menu section scroll through and choose the nature of your ‘life threatening’ distress.

I immediately contradict myself and and mention that if you in fact, did have a ‘life threatening’ situation would still even have time to complete a MAYDAY call and monitor replies? So what is the answer? Well I can only quote what a retired Coast Guard of 20yrs experience said to me, ‘Don’t get tied up in procedure, if you require immediate assistance just say so. State the nature of your emergency, where you are and give the information in any order’.

On a bigger boat there is usually a label next to the radio with pre-printed MAYDAY procedure - you will not have this a dinghy! Anyway, this is about small boat cruising, so I think you can discount ‘FIRE’ and in my 14 foot boat -COLLISION and SINKING are the same thing. CAPSIZE and MOB are similarly the same. Potentially this leaving your preset down to just two options - SINKING or MOB!

Secondly, DSC is a means also of communicating with other craft without calling CG on ‘16’ and requesting a speak-through channel’ . It would appear this causes a lot of ‘false’ distress calls as users of DSC don’t fully understand what they are doing.


The manual is 130 pages and extremely annoyingly is printed for the USA market. Go online to seek a UK manual and you will be sorely disappointed. In order to set it for the UK there is a separate printed sheet in the box with instructions of how to do this. As with most manuals these days, you can divide it into three sections:

    1. The usual warnings about batteries and putting it together.
    2. Stuff you only need to read once in order to set it up and
    3. How to use it in day-to-day use.

I managed to unlock the PDF manual and got rid of the excess information … it is now down to 6 pages! If I was using the radio on a weekly basis I would not need any manual or even my own ‘dummies guide’. There is a logic to using the menu on a HX87E, however, I am not going to be a regular user and the next time I pick it up is likely to be the start of the summer next year.


Whilst I will use this - it will be more for the longer journeys and the very odd occasion I am out of sight of land (very rare) however the GPS co-ordinates will I sure, be useful and the waypoint system does need a separate online chart system and/or accompanying charts. The Standard Horizon web site (confusingly names itself as ‘YAESU, THE RADIO’) has hidden away in it, a downloadable programme called ‘YCE03’ which enables you use the logging system and I think will allow you to ‘set-up’ from your computer PROBLEM? Yes - it does not recognise the radio in the options menu. I eventually traced it to a faulty USB cable (as supplied) replaced it with another one I had.

Its practical use on the water will make up the next instalment of this article.

VHF channel numbers to contact UK Coastguard changed on 6 September 2017

It was that VHF channels 23, 84 and 86 were used for Maritime Safety Information (MSI) or Radio Medical Advice. (Effectively - the Coastguard). But from 6 September 2017, the channels to use will be VHF 62, 63 and 64.

In reality, after making initial contact with the Coastguard via Ch16 or DSC, you will be instructed to change to a designated channel as you were before. You will not need to remember these channel numbers as the Coastguard will tell you which one to use.

Working a radio

Some key points which unqualified/untrained users often get wrong:

  1. • Listen for a reasonable period before transmitting, to check that the channel is in fact clear. Don't just barge in willy-nilly!
  2. • Always call with the recipient's callsign first, Call another boat by callsign (e.g. name of boat,) ("Jolly Roger, Jolly Roger, Jolly Roger this is Sea Breeze, Sea Breeze, Sea Breeze OVER")
  3. • If no answer, wait a decent interval before trying again.
  4. • If you receive a call, acknowledge, using your callsign. "Sea Breeze, (and if you wish "Go ahead", or "Pass your message"). OVER
  5. • When you have finished the conversation, sign off with "Out", never with "Over and out". "Over" means "I am releasing my transmit switch and inviting you to reply", whereas "Out" effectively means "I am switching off".
  6. • The proword "Repeat" is used to give emphasis; not to request repetition. "I do not, repeat not, require assistance." If you want something repeated because you did not hear it clearly, the request is "Say again"; e.g. "Station calling Sea Breeze, say again your callsign."
  7. • Ideally use low power on your local lake, unless you find that you really need high power.