I have heard good comments on the service Felixstow NCI offers so today I decided to call them to see if they could send me a test DSC VHF call. (Before anyone complains of people clogging up the airways with test calls I have had two radios fail with faulty transmission filters in the last two years! Both would receive calls but would not transmit.)

Unfortunately, when I switched to channel 65 - the NCI calling channel – it was just about full time occupied by Belgian/Dutch professional calls. I assume it was the Wandelaar traffic centre and pilot service off Ostend. I was not just getting the traffic centre broadcasts but calls to them from boats. I decided to avoid making a VHF call to Felixstowe NCI as the Belgians issue dire warnings about interfering with traffic conversations so I tried phoning the Felixstowe centre. All I got was a recorded message saying calls to their number were being screened and a request to leave my personal details so for all practical purposes NCI were uncontactable.

I was listening from 6 miles up the river Orwell so the VHF transmissions were coming from at least 80 miles away and must have been because of the high atmospheric pressure. However, whilst getting reception from Belgian is not the norm it is by no means unusual. When it is happening - in this area channel 65 is far busier than channel 67 ever was and advice from the coastguard to contact NCI simply does not work and/or is likely to cause friction with the Belgians.