Modern boats include a great deal of electronics. Much of this centers around the communications equipment, including radios, emergency EPIRBs and radar systems. Any boat meant for regular ocean use should have at least a VHF radio and a matching marine antenna. Larger boats will have significantly more requirements, of course.
What Are You Required to Have?
It depends on your location, boat size and intended use. Most commercial vessels are required to have VHF marine radios and EPIRBs, as are recreational vessels over 65 feet in length. Some local laws may add additional requirements, too.
Can Smaller Boats Skip the Radio?
In many areas, small recreational vessels don’t require a radio. However, the U.S. Coast Guard strongly recommends installing, at a minimum, a basic VHF radio and marine antenna on any boat that travels out of sight of land. Weather changes, mechanical issues and other emergencies can happen very quickly, so a few seconds on the radio can easily be the only chance of letting the authorities know there’s a crisis.
Are Marine Radios Easy to Install?
The simplest marine radios are not difficult to install, although antenna installation can be somewhat technical. Commercial vessels and large recreational boats should have everything done by electronics experts. Power requirements are also important. Simple radios use little power but start adding sidebands and other features and your power needs can dramatically rise.
What Is a Multifunction Display?
Marine MFDs are so useful and have dropped so much in price that they’re now considered standard for most ocean-going craft. These devices compliment your radio and have a wide range of potential uses. The simpler ones are surprisingly affordable and are good for charting and AIS navigation, while the most complex are literally the brains of the ship, incorporating fish finders, radar information and vessel systems monitoring. Only highly skilled electronics technicians should attempt to install major MFDs.
When traveling on the coast, always have at least a good VHF radio, a solid power source and a mounted marine antenna. In an emergency, it’s your last link to rescue.