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What You Need To Know About VHF Marine Radios

Jul 15, 2008
Without a doubt, VHF marine radios are one of the most essential pieces of safety equipment to be found on a boat. No boat should leave the shore without having at least one on board, as in the event of an emergency VHF marine radios are often the only way of getting in touch with the people who can rescue you. Therefore, although recreational boats less than 65.6 feet in length are not required by law to have VHF marine radios onboard, they definitely should anyway.

Additionally, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allows recreational boaters to own and use VHF marine radios without having an FCC ship station license, which means that there is no paperwork, classes or any other hassles involved in purchasing and learning to use VHF marine radios. If your boat is big enough to be required to have VHF marine radios onboard or if you plan on taking your vessel into foreign waters, you are required to have a Radiotelephone Operator Permit. To get one, you only have to pay a one time fee. Once you pay the fee and fill out the form, you will have the permit for life, and there are no tests or exams that you are required to pass to get it.

You should turn your VHF marine radios on to channel 16 (156.8 MHz) and monitor it when it is not in use. By doing so, you will hear all of the important marine broadcasts that are sent to VHF marine radios, such as storm warnings and other urgent matters that the Coast Guard may want to alert you to. Recent history is filled with horror stories of boat captains not having their VHF marine radios turned on properly, resulting in many casualties over the years. Additionally, VHF marine radios can help those operating boats from running into each other, causing major wrecks.

Once you have VHF marine radios aboard, there are several different channels that you should know about. For example, channels 16 and 9 are only used for calling other vessels (also known as hailing). If you have trouble remembering which channels you should use in specific instances, write them all down and post them somewhere that everyone can see. In the event of an emergency, you do not want to lose your life because somebody was using the wrong channel on the VHF marine radios.
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