How to Use the Ship's Radio ...

Proper use of the ship’s radio reflects well on the professionalism of the vessel’s skipper and his or her crew. Knowing how to communicate professionally and understanding the USCG’s broadcast communications are key components to keeping you safe whether a boat is docked, underway, drifting, or anchored. VHF marine radios are required on all commercial and recreational vessels 65.5 feet and over. However, they are not required on smaller recreational vessels. Be Cautious !!! Every boater should have a VHF marine radio onboard, operational, and monitored at all times. I consider them to be as important as PFDs. Marine radios allow for instant communication between you and other boats within range. In addition you can communicate with marinas, bridges, and directly with the Coast Guard, commercial ships, small aircraft, and helicopters in the vicinity. Lastly, VHF marine radios can broadcast within and outside of cellular coverage. Important VHF ChannelsEvery channel on VHF radio has a specific purpose. Channel 16… This is the international distress frequency. It should only be used for distress messaging. All Skippers should be certain that channel 16 is monitored at all time while underway, docked, anchored, or drifting so that you will be able to assist if emergency help is needed while at sea. This channel should never be used for casual conversation or performing a radio check. Please keep in mind that you could (without even knowing it) be preventing someone from reaching help in a disaster if you use channel 16 frivolously. The Coast Guard may also issue alerts for weather events, and emerging hazards to navigation on channel 16. Channel 9 … This is the preferred channel to use when hailing a nearby ship, marina, harbormaster, or towboat. Channel 6This channel is reserved for ship-to-ship communications. Examples are maritime safety alerts, and communications between ships and aircraft engaged in search and rescue operations. Channel 22 … If you have a need to contact the Coast Guard on Channel 16, they will direct you to switch to Channel 22 so that channel 16 will remain available for other emergency calls. Channel W1 through Channel W10 … These channels broadcast NOAA weather information. They are receive only. You cannot speak to anyone using these channels. Commercial Channels … There are several channels reserved for commercial vessels. Ship to Shore … Channels 24 through 28 and 84 through 88 are reserved for marine operator ship-to-shore phone calls. Handheld Radios

I recommend keeping a charged handheld VHF radio ready for mobile backup.

Radio Protocols … Smart boaters are aware that VHF radio transmissions are not private. They can be heard by everyone who is tuned into a given channel. It is important to be polite and calm when using a marine radio. Avoid crass, obscene, and other foul language. Do not broadcast music nor offensive opinions. The Coast Guard monitors the airwaves and they can locate the origins of such signals. In extreme cases, severe consequences may result. Young children should be taught proper radio use so that they can call for help if the adults onboard are somehow unable to call due to injury or other emergency conditions. Hailing Other Vessels … To contact another vessel, simply call the name of the vessel two or three times, followed by your own vessel’s name and channel ID if applicable. Wait for a response then immediately switch to an agreed upon working channel that will not conflict with the important VHS channels listed previously. Then proceed to talk. Safety Announcements … When the Coast Guard acquires information that is critical to share with all boaters on the water they will do so using three discrete categories of importance. Each categories’ name will be repeated 3 times before the information is transmitted. SECURITE … These announcements alert boaters to matters concerning navigational safety hazards, and emerging unsafe weather conditions. PAN-PAN … These are urgent messages concerning the safety of a person, ship, watercraft, paddle craft, or aircraft. MAYDAY … A MAYDAY is a very serious call indicating that a person, boat, or aircraft is in grave or imminent danger. When you hear a MAYDAY call cease any transmission that may interfere with distress traffic. Continue to monitor Channel 16, and be ready to respond if you are able, and in near proximity to the distress event. YOU CAN PARTICIPATE … Members of the Coast Guard keep us safe on the water in all conditions. But, they can’t be everywhere at the same time. As recreational boaters and commercial seaman we should all keep an eye out for distressed vessels, floating logs or other dangerous debris, and quickly report what we’ve found to the Coast Guard along with its location. Before leaving the dock you might also ask passengers to be on the lookout for safety hazards too. Lastly, it is a good practice to test that your radio is working before leaving the dock. Using Channel 9, make an open call as follows: “Any vessel, any vessel. This is (name of boat) requesting a radio check.” Wait for a response. If none are received try calling again. Smart boating is safe boating.


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