Mariners Learn How To Use A VHF Radio
My USCG approved Captain’s school instructor, Capt. Russ Anderson once said in a class room discussion that if you go out on the Gulf Of Mexico without a VHF you are a “f^%$!ing idiot!” 🙂
There may be many folks who are new to boating they may not be familiar with VHF radio usage and should learn how to use a vhf radio, especially if they are going to venture out on the Gulf Of Mexico.
U.S. VHF CHANNELS
|Channel Number||Ship Transmit MHz||Ship Receive MHz||Use|
|01A||156.050||156.050||Port Operations and Commercial, VTS. Available only in New Orleans / Lower Mississippi area.|
|05A||156.250||156.250||Port Operations or VTS in the Houston, New Orleans and Seattle areas.|
|08||156.400||156.400||Commercial (Intership only)|
|09||156.450||156.450||Boater Calling. Commercial and Non-Commercial.|
|11||156.550||156.550||Commercial. VTS in selected areas.|
|12||156.600||156.600||Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.|
|13||156.650||156.650||Intership Navigation Safety (Bridge-to-bridge). Ships >20m length maintain a listening watch on this channel in US waters.|
|14||156.700||156.700||Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.|
|15||—||156.750||Environmental (Receive only). Used by Class C EPIRBs.|
|16||156.800||156.800||International Distress, Safety and Calling. Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel.|
|17||156.850||156.850||State & local govt maritime control|
|20||157.000||161.600||Port Operations (duplex)|
|21A||157.050||157.050||U.S. Coast Guard only|
|22A||157.100||157.100||Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts. Broadcasts announced on channel 16.|
|23A||157.150||157.150||U.S. Coast Guard only|
|24||157.200||161.800||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|25||157.250||161.850||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|26||157.300||161.900||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|27||157.350||161.950||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|28||157.400||162.000||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|63A||156.175||156.175||Port Operations and Commercial, VTS. Available only in New Orleans / Lower Mississippi area.|
|67||156.375||156.375||Commercial. Used for Bridge-to-bridge communications in lower Mississippi River. Intership only.|
|70||156.525||156.525||Digital Selective Calling (voice communications not allowed)|
|72||156.625||156.625||Non-Commercial (Intership only)|
|77||156.875||156.875||Port Operations (Intership only)|
|79A||156.975||156.975||Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only|
|80A||157.025||157.025||Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only|
|81A||157.075||157.075||U.S. Government only – Environmental protection operations.|
|82A||157.125||157.125||U.S. Government only|
|83A||157.175||157.175||U.S. Coast Guard only|
|84||157.225||161.825||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|85||157.275||161.875||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|86||157.325||161.925||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|87||157.375||157.375||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|88A||157.425||157.425||Commercial, Intership only.|
|AIS 1||161.975||161.975||Automatic Identification System (AIS)|
|AIS 2||162.025||162.025||Automatic Identification System (AIS)|
You can download and print a version of this VHF Channels here.
Automated Radio Check (ARC)
It the past many folks use to ask for radio checks on channel 16. It is best to use a channel like 68 to request a radio check and leave 16 free for other operational purposes. To reduce congestion on channel 16 local boaters should use channel 27 and get an ARC. Now courtesy of SeaTow, you can get an automated radio check by going to channel 27. Key the mic, speak clearly and request for example, ‘Radio check, radio check, radio check Maverick Boat.’ What’s cool is this check verifies that you are not only transmitting, but it will play back your own words for you to hear so you know you are receiving as well.
Tutorial On Radio Communication For The Recreational Mariner
I was going to write something up on this subject until I found a great instructional video on the web, courtesy of the BoatU.S. Foundation. The tutorial will take you through most of the things you need to know for using your VHF radio. Watch the tutorial on Radio Communication For The Recreational Mariner.
Most radios these days come equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC). These VHF radios when combined with Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI), which is a unique 9 digit number that identifies your boat (like a phone number for your vessel), then add GPS and you have potentially life saving devices. If you have a GPS (chartplotter) on your boat, it is very important that you connect it to your VHF radio. It is just as important to get your MMSI number and enter it into your VHF radio using the manufacturers instructions. You can also get a MMSI number for a handheld VHF radio and if your handheld radio has GPS built in and many of them do these days, then you have the same lifesaving features as fixed mounted VHF radio.
DSC and MMSI enabled vhf radios will:
- Have a One-Button Emergency Transmit capability that sends out the vessel’s unique MMSI number and, if properly connected to a GPS or Loran, the vessel’s latitude/longitude position.
- Continue sending the distress signal even if the captain is incapacitated.
- Allow for a non-experienced VHF user to send, with the pressing of one button, a goof-proof continuous distress message.
- Privately hail another DSC equipped vessel, or shore station, with a known MMSI number. Like having a “VHF phone number” this avoids having to monitor high traffic channels just for a hail from your boating buddy. It even “rings” your radio, similar to a telephone, notifying you that you have a call and then switches you automatically to the channel your caller is waiting on.
- If properly connected to a Loran or GPS, a “Polling” feature transmits your vessel’s position, in digital display, that can be monitored by DSC equipped home station/fleet station or boat.
- Fully function as all other regular VHF radios.
Learn how to use a VHF radio!
You can get your MMSI number at BoatU.S here.
Learn more about DSC and MMSI here.
MMSI FAQ here.
Watch the tutorial on Radio Communication For The Recreational Mariner.
Have a very HAPPY day!
Capt. Mike Foate