Marine radios are crucial pieces of safety equipment on all boats, yet many boat owners have never used their radio. Surprisingly, many people are not actually even sure how to use their radio! Needless to say though, this is not something you want to learn during a real emergency.
Your boat will have one (or more) of three types of radios fitted:
- A MF/HF transceiver
- A VHF transceiver
- A 27 MHz transceiver
If you have a MF/HF transceiver you probably know how to use your radio as this type of radio is not normally used by recreational boating enthusiasts. We are also not going to talk about using a 27 MHz radio, but we are going to politely suggest you may want to consider moving to or adding a VHF radio if you are still relying on a 27MHz transceiver. This is because 27MHz radios have many limitations; the range is limited to line of sight and you may not receive important information broadcasts. Also be aware that larger boats do not monitor for emergency transmissions on this band, nor do Gladstone Volunteer Marine Rescue any longer.
Because of the many advantages of VHF radios and the fact that they are the most common marine radio used by boating enthusiasts with small boats, we will concentrate on this type of transceiver.
VHF radios are used to do two critical things:
- receive navigational warnings and weather updates.
- communicate with other boats or marine rescue groups.
Receiving navigational warnings and weather updates is easy. It is just a matter of turning your radio on, selecting the correct frequency, making sure your radio is working and then listening for broadcasts. The correct frequency in this area is Channel 82. Weather reports are broadcast at 0640 and 1640 each day and any navigational warnings are broadcast as and when needed.
The best way of making sure your radio is working is with a radio check. Yes, that does mean getting on your radio and transmitting. Many people skip this because they are nervous about talking on their radio or they simply don’t know how to. We get it, using a radio and broadcasting to the world can seem daunting at first; but it’s a lot less daunting than having an emergency at sea and discovering your radio doesn’t work!
Getting a radio check really is easy. All you have to do to get your local Marine Rescue base to confirm your radio is working is follow a few simple steps:
- Select channel 82.
- Press the transmit button and say “VMR Gladstone, VMR Gladstone, VMR Gladstone, this is (say your boat name).”
- Someone will quickly answer and confirm that they have received your transmission.
- Once they’ve stopped talking, simply ask them for a radio check.
- They will answer you and tell you if they can hear you clearly, meanwhile you will be able to also tell if you can hear them clearly.
- If everyone can hear clearly a simple, “thank you,” will do and you can be on your way knowing that your radio is working just fine.
It really is that simple and only takes 30 seconds.
In the next edition we’ll talk a bit about using your radio for routine communication and emergencies. In the meantime though, as always if you have any questions about using your radio or anything else related to your boat, you can always contact Volunteer Marine Rescue Gladstone