Marine VHF Radio Overview

Posted by SkiSafe         0

A marine VHF radio refers to a ‘very high frequency’ range between 156 and 174 MHz. It is most commonly installed in watercraft. The radio is used for a variety of purposes, including direct contact to rescue services like the Coast Guard and towing companies, as well as harbor, bridge, and marina communication. It provides a two-way communication system within a 5 to 30-mile range, proving to be far more reliable than a cell phone. The equipment is a combination of a transmitter and receiver, operating on standard channels, as well as a single-button distress signal. Additional benefits consist of communication with other boaters and weather alerts.

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FUNCTIONALITIES 

Digital Selective Calling 

VHF radios feature Digital Selective Calling (DSC) which has both non-emergency and emergency functionality. DSC allows a boater to send their current location to another boater within range. In addition, it serves as a highly important resource in emergency situations. With a single-touch button, the radio will send a digital Mayday notification on channel 70, which automatically gets picked up by the Coast Guard and all other vessels within range. Your MMSI number, exact location, and the nature of the emergency is also sent. From there, your radio will automatically switch to channel 16 which provides a direct communication line with rescue services. 

Safety and Navigation  

Pleasure-only boaters use channels 6 and 22A for mainly safety reasons. Channel 6 is reserved for search and rescue operations between local vessels. The Coast Guard will ask the boater to switch to channel 22A after making contact on channel 6.

Channel 13 serves as a navigational resource between watercraft. This channel is mostly used by larger vessels to disclose their current location and where they are headed. It is also used for bridge and lock communication. 

Weather Alerts  

VHF radios incorporate automatic weather alerts. An alert will be sent when the NOAA issues a special weather warning. Thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other severe weather conditions will signal an alert. 

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HOW THEY WORK 

Channels 

Each VHF radio operates on 55 channels within the United States, Canada, and international waters. Most are used for commercial shipping and Coast Guard use; however, pleasure-only boaters can transmit on approximately 12-15 channels.

You can set up “favorite” channels to constantly scan while navigating. It is good practice to set up at least channels 9 and 16 and monitor them at all times.

Sight Signals 

Marine VHF radios both transmit and receive through line of sight signals. Therefore, any mountainous terrain, land masses, or other obstructions will temporarily block VHF signals. 

Maximum Power 

This radio is legally bound to 25 watts of transmit power. 

Antenna 

When installing your VHF, mount your antenna as high as possible on the watercraft.  

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VHF Radio Options 


Standard Horizon HX870 

  • $208 

Uniden MHS75 

  • $82 

Cobra MRHH350FLT 

  • $91 

Standard Horizon GX1700W 

  • $206 

Uniden UM380 

  • $100 

Standard Horizon GX2200B 

  • $1,899 

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