Let’s take a very quick basic overview of the use and function of a Marine VHF radio analog technology. Keep in mind there is a lot more to know FOR VHF Radio use, so use this guide as a precursor for further educational benefits by conducting your own research. VHF band is by law intended for use by mariners.
TERMINOLOGY-Marine VHF radio refers to the radio frequency range between 156 and 174 MHz VHF signifies the ‘Very High Frequency’ of that range. So that leads to what is MHz? Megahertz is used to express microprocessor clock speed. The unit is occasionally used in measurements of bandwidth for high speed digital data, analog and digital video signals and spread spectrum signals.
International Distress, Safety and Calling. Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel.
CHANNEL 16- Marine VHF radio Channel 16 (156.800 MHz) Boater Calling Channel (VHF Channel 9)
The Federal Communications Commission established VHF-FM channel 9 as a supplementary calling channel for noncommercial vessels (recreational boaters) at the request of the Coast Guard. A ship or shore unit wishing to call a boater would do so on channel 9, and anyone (boaters included) wishing to call a commercial ship or shore activity would continue to do so on channel 16. Recreational boaters would continue to call the Coast Guard and any commercial facility on channel 16.
The purpose of the FCC regulation was to relieve congestion on VHF channel 16, the distress, safety and calling frequency. FCC regulations require boaters having VHF radios to maintain a watch on either VHF channel 9 or channel 16, whenever the radio is turned on and not communicating with another station.
Since the Coast Guard generally does not have the capability of announcing an urgent marine information broadcast or weather warning on channel 9, use of channel 9 is optional. We recommend boaters normally keep tuned to and use channel 16 in those waters unless otherwise notified by the Coast Guard. Channel 16 is monitored by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and they will issue weather, hazards and restriction placed on navigation alerts when they are needed in your area of operation (AO). There are 50 different channels available with select defined roles by the FCC. Once contact is made on Channel 16 the USCG may redirect you to another channel.
Channel 16 should be monitored when you are underway in case a distress signal and request for emergency support is issued you can respond. Keep this channel open for those who truly are in need of lifesaving connectivity.
Procedure for Calling A Ship by Radio
You may use channel 16 to call a ship or shore station, but if you do so, you must, must be brief! We recommend this same procedure be used over channel 9, if channel 9 is used as a calling channel.
Blue Duck: "Mary Jane, this is Blue Duck" (the name of the vessel or MMSI being called may be said 2 or 3 times if conditions warrant)
Mary Jane: "Blue Duck, this is Mary Jane. Reply 68" (or some other proper working channel)
Blue Duck: "68" or "Roger"
MAYDAY Radio Checks and other Hoaxes
A growing number of boaters unsuccessful in getting a radio check on VHF channel 16 are calling MAYDAY to get a response. Every hoax, including MAYDAY radio checks, is subject to prosecution as a Class D felony under Title 14, Section 85 of the U.S. Code, liable for a $5000 fine plus all costs the Coast Guard incurs as a result of the individual's action. Since hoaxes can lead to loss of life, the Coast Guard and Federal Communications Commission will work closely together, using when necessary FCC equipment capable of identifying the electronic signature of the offending radio. We ask your cooperation in helping us and the FCC remove hoaxes from the VHF radiotelephone distress, safety and calling channel 16.
Radio checks with the Coast Guard Communications Stations on DSC and HF radiotelephone are allowed.
ETIQUETTE - Do not use foul language, do not allow children to handle your Marine VHF radio but do teach them how to use it properly for an emergency distress call, it is not a toy, and is monitored for transmissions that are forbidden. Keep Channel 16 open for true emergencies. Know the channels and their complimentary functions.
But most importantly, know your radio! You may want to place in a waterproof bag, and not all of them float. So we operate with them affixed to the front of our lifejacket, but not near our chest, off towards our shoulders. Marine VHF is not for shore use only for on-water, if used on land you are in violation of the law unless you have a special permit.
Don’t hog a channel, be mindful others may need to use it, it’s not a social device for communication but is intended to support safety at sea and navigational needs.
BATTERY-They have a self-contained antenna and battery pack. Normal range of battery life is approximately 8 hours, but it depends, some claim 20 hours of use, but for me, it’s dependent on location, weather and use of the radio. Batteries can fail due to corrosion of it the case is cracked of the cover not secure. Also make sure you use the proper charger and follow the charging instructions.