Using Your Marine Radio


Marine VHF (very high frequency) radios serve as key communication devices on nearly all ships that sail the open ocean. Marine antennas can be used to send a distress call to rescue services as well as to communicate with harbors, marinas, other boats and more.

How They Work

Unlike phones, the majority of VHF radios only allow communication in one direction at a time and can typically access up to 104 channels. Commercial marine antennas tend to be larger, more complex and more durable, while recreational antennas are small enough to mount on sailboats, racing boats, yachts, small fishing boats and even kayaks.

How and When to Use Your Radio

Of course, you always hope nothing goes wrong while you are on the water, but if it does, your VHF radio can be a lifesaver. In the event of an unexpected crisis, whether it be a mechanical problem with your boat or a sudden health emergency, tune in to channels 16 and 70 to issue a distress call. Always try channel 16 first, as it is one of several channels monitored by the Coast Guard 24 hours a day. Start by saying “mayday” three times. Then be prepared to provide information on the name of your vessel, your location coordinates, the nature of the problem and the type of assistance required. Finish your communications by using the word “over” to indicate to listeners that you are done speaking.

In some cases, VHF radios can also serve as telephones and transmit messages across local telephone lines. This is another option to use in the event of an emergency. Remember that under no circumstances should gossip, profanity, idle conversation or false calls of distress ever be transmitted using a marine antenna. Doing any of the aforementioned actions is illegal and could result in serious charges.

Marine antennas are some of the most important devices on any boat, helping to prevent thousands of disasters at sea each year. If you plan to go more than a few miles from the shore, always invest in a high-quality VHF radio before you head out.