1. Archive


Published Aug. 24, 2005

Most boaters don't venture out on the water today without their cell phones. But while they may be the preferred method of communication on land, VHF radios still rule on the water. The Coast Guard monitors Channel 16, and in the event of an emergency, a distress call over that frequency is still the most effective way to receive help. Channel 9 also has been designated as an emergency hailing channel, but it is not monitored by the Coast Guard. Marine assistance services such as Sea Tow and TowBOAT/U.S. also monitor Channel 16. To check if your radio is working, call "Sea Tow radio check" and when the operator responds, switch to another channel and continue your call. Keep Channel 16 free for emergency use at all times. Following is list of Do's and Don'ts, courtesy of BOAT/U.S.:


+ Whenever the radio is on, monitor Channel 16, unless you are communicating on another channel.

+ Before transmitting, listen for 30 seconds to see if the channel is in use.

+ At the beginning and end of your transmission, identify your vessel by its name and your radio call sign.

+ Keep all communication as brief as possible.


+ Don't use profanity or trade insults over the radio. It is a criminal offense to transmit obscene, profane or indecent words, language or meanings.

+ Don't monopolize any channel with long conversations or idle chatter. Don't chat on Channel 16.

+ Don't call the Coast Guard requesting a radio check.

+ Don't let children use the radio or think it is a toy. Don't allow children to play on the boat with no adult present, even in the driveway.

+ Don't broadcast a mayday unless there is immediate danger to life or property.

+ Don't use the VHF radio for transmitting on land.

+ Don't attempt a voice broadcast on Channel 70 as it is reserved for Digital Selective Calling (DSC) only.


16: distress, safety, calling.

9: calling

68-69, 71-72, 78: recreational use.

24-28, 84-87: marine operator.

13: locks, canals, bridges, pilots (usage can vary in some areas).

70: Digital Selective Calling (DSC - no voice communication allowed)

For more information, check out the Federal Communications Commission web site at fet-sht14.html.