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Home  > Boat Guides  > Equipment Guides  > VHF Radio Operating Procedure

VHF Radio Operating Procedure

Marine VHF radioThere is a set way of using a VHF radio that all sailors should know, the procedure for a marine vhf is in place to avoid any confusion over the vhf radio and to ensure that all messages are understood, this is vital when it comes to an emergency situation so it is good marine radio practice to use the VHF radio procedure at all times. You can purchase a wide range of marine VHF radio equipment on Mailspeed Marine. Read on to find out more about how to operate a marine vhf radio.

How To Use a Marine VHF Radio

•    The marine VHF radio (very high frequency) is one of, if not the most important piece of safety equipment on board a boat. A handheld VHF radio such as the ICOM IC-M33 VHF radio is used on smaller boats and as a back up while larger boats have much more powerful and complex marine radio systems such as the Raymarine Ray 218E . Marine VHF radio is the primary way of communicating with other vessels in emergency or otherwise.

•    The first thing to do to start using a marine VHF radio is to set the channel. Your marine radio should normally be tuned to channel 16, this is the universal emergency frequency of marine VHF radio and you should keep an ear open for any emergency calls. If you want to talk to another vessel on a predetermined marine radio channel, use that but otherwise, you use channel 16 to speak to the vessel and then agree another marine radio channel to communicate on properly.

•    There are procedures to communicating on marine radio and a vhf radio course should be undertaken to fully understand this. To hail another boat via marine vhf radio, you state the vessel’s name three times, then state your vessel’s name twice and follow with “over”. Use the marine VHF radio to agree another marine radio channel to talk on then get off channel 16.

•    Although a marine VHF radio is used for all sorts of communication, the marine radio is probably at its most important when making a distress call. There are two types of distress call to be used via marine VHF radio; the first is ‘PAN PAN’. This is used on marine radio to communicate a dangerous but non-life threatening situation. The second, and more well known, distress call to be made on marine VHF radio is the ‘MAYDAY’ call.

•    To make a distress call on a handheld VHF radio, or any other marine VHF radio for that matter, go to channel and repeat either the ‘PAN’ or ‘MAYDAY’ calls three times. Follow this on the marine VHF radio by stating your vessel’s name, your location, the nature of your emergency and finally, what assistance you require.

•    If you hear an emergency call on channel 16 of the marine VHF radio, wait for the authorities to respond and if they don’t respond yourself via marine radio. Identify your boat and ask for their location, nature of the emergency, number of crew members and any injuries. Then use your marine VHF radio to broadcast this information on channel 16 to gain assistance.

•    Some marine electronics will have less range than a built in marine VHF radio like the ICOM IC-M603 so should not be used as a primary marine VHF radio when far out to sea. Many people use a handheld VHF radio as back up however.