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Marine Radio, Electronic Navigation, and Radar


Having the ability to maintain boat to boat, and boat to land communication is an absolute necessity. Using a marine radio properly, and knowing standard on-the-air protocol reflects well upon the professionalism of the vessel operator, and his or her crew/passengers. It is critical for primary crew members to be completely aware of the Coast Guard approved distress signals and how they are used in emergencies. Marine radio communications use simplex technology which means only one person can speak at a time. In other words, when one person is speaking, the receiving person must wait for the speaker to finish before responding. On occasion, the phonetic alphabet might need to be used for added clarity during times of poor reception.

Phonetic Alphabet

A  Alpha

B  Bravo

C  Charlie

D  Delta

E   Echo

F   Foxtrot

G  Golf

H  Hotel

I    India

J    Juliet

K  Kilo

L   Lima

M Mike

N  November

O  Oscar

P   Papa

Q  Quebec

R   Romeo

S   Seirra

T   Tango

U  Uniform

V   Victor

W  Whiskey

X   X-ray

Y   Yankee

Z   Zulu

Commonly Used Radio Channels


Calling channel for non-commercial vessels. Frequently used for communication with a fueling station, marina, and launch service.


The international calling and distress frequency used by vessels in emergencies (MAYDAY), or to establish contact with others before switching to a working channel. Channel 16 must be monitored by all vessels while underway. Do not use for radio checks.


Primary VHF-FM liaison frequency for communications between Coast Guard units and Civilian Stations. It is also used for making Coast Guard marine information and marine assistance request broadcasts (MARBs).

68, 69, 71, 72, 78A 

Ship to shore, and ship to ship for pleasure craft only. Best channels to use for general communications.

Electronic Navigation

Navigation has evolved from ancient mariners using the stars and planets for guidance to the sophisticated electronic systems we now enjoy. Being confident of where you are and where you are heading on the sea is an absolute necessity. Today’s electronic navigation systems use GPS and other sophisticated digital technologies to combine charts, fish finding, auto-pilot, trip/route planning, waypoint storage and radar overlays into one integrated system. While it takes a bit of time to get familiar with these many capabilities, electronic navigation is a worthwhile investment that will enhance the safety of the vessel and its passengers.


Maritime law states that a vessel with a Radar system must have it on, and monitored in all visibility conditions while underway.

Coast Guard Approved Distress Signals
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