Please select your home edition
Get My Boat 2021 LEADERBOARD

Five ways to get your boat's VHF radio ready for the season

by Scott Croft 25 Mar 05:50 PDT
While it may take a little time and some help from your owner's manual, ensure your DSC-VHF radio is connected to your GPS © Scott Croft

In recreational boating, cellphones are just fine for routine communications. So why do you need a VHF radio - either a handheld or fixed mount - on your boat?

Because in an emergency it's the only thing that can directly connect you to the U.S. Coast Guard's Rescue 21 system, giving you access to high-tech emergency response and Digital Selective Calling (DSC) capabilities that can hasten your rescue.

All you have to do now is to ensure VHF radio ready to go for the season. Here are five tips from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water to get you and your radio ready.

  1. Check the antennae, power and ground to the VHF radio, and batteries/charger if a handheld. Rusty or ill-fitting connections rob your radio of range. Hand held VHF batteries need to be fully charged.

  2. Read your radio's manual so you know features like squelch, scan, and hi/lo power settings. Familiarize yourself with the most important VHF radio channels.

  3. For those with non-DSC VHF radios, automated VHF radio check systems are no longer available. However, you can make a short radio check voice call on VHF channel 9. Using channel 9 will not tie up the distress channel 16 and potentially delay emergency communications by another boat to the U.S. Coast Guard.

  4. For those with DSC VHF radios, enter the U.S. Coast Guard coast station group identity "003669999" into the radio's DSC memory. Once stored, 1. select "Test Call" from the radio's DSC menu; 2. select the U.S. Coast Guard number you just entered; and 3. transmit the call. Your DSC VHF radio's display should indicate when that test call is acknowledged and display the acknowledging station's nine-digit identity. Note that the identity may be different than the group identity you previously entered.

  5. Get your DSC-VHF radio's Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number by going to MMSI numbers are free for BoatUS members or $25 for nonmembers. Don't forget to enter the new MMSI number into your DSC VHF radio and ensure GPS connection is made (if DSC-VHF radio doesn't have internally).

More information on VHF radios can be found here.

Related Articles

How the pandemic affected boating
Revealed in 2020 U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Report The U.S. Coast Guard recently released the 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics, and reports of accidents, fatalities and injuries were significantly up over the prior year. Posted on 17 Jul
Capt. Chris Justice becomes new owner of TowBoatUS
The company provides professional on-water towing assistance 24/7 to recreational boaters Capt. Chris Justice, a former hired on-water towing captain with TowBoatUS Tacoma, has chosen to strike out on his own and is the new owner of TowBoatUS Anacortes. Posted on 15 Jul
BoatUS announces top 10 boat names for 2021
A top choice of boat names reflects the times It's been a tumultuous year, and getting away from it all on a recreational boat has given many the respite they've needed. With lives upended, some recreational boat owners have chosen to reflect on the times when selecting a name for their boat. Posted on 2 Jul
Florida Anchoring Bill
BoatUS seeks solution for the long haul A bill that aims to both address the continuing vessel anchoring challenges facing some Florida counties while balancing the needs of responsible vessel operators became law yesterday with the signing of FL S.B. 1946 by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Posted on 2 Jul
Don't let alcohol crash America's birthday
Here are two good reasons to leave the partying ashore More recreational boaters than ever are expected to hit the water over Fourth of July weekend, and for some it will be their first spent aboard a boat during this uniquely American holiday. Posted on 30 Jun
TowBoatUS comes to Michigan's Inland Waterway
Lendarson family opens TowBoatUS Indian River On Northern Michigan's Inland Waterway, professional 24/7 on-water assistance for recreational boaters is now available with the opening of TowBoatUS Indian River. Posted on 25 Jun
Affordable Chesapeake on-water boat training
Courses offered evenings and weekends for beginner, experienced and women boaters New boats are everywhere on the Chesapeake Bay these days as families seek activities they can do together while keeping socially distant. With new boats come more first-time boat buyers who may not have critical at-the-helm boat handling skills. Posted on 12 Jun
Boaters should prepare for busy boating season
TowBoatUS predicts on-water towing and assistance dispatch volume to be up 20% The traditional kickoff of the summer boating season, Memorial Day weekend, is just days away, and TowBoatUS is expecting a very busy 2021 summer boating season ahead with increased boating traffic. Posted on 25 May
BoatUS, RBOC yield results for boaters
In California State budget negotiations The voices of recreational boaters, more than 4,000 strong who recently contacted their California state legislators and governor's office asking for a more responsible and fair boat registration fee increase, have been heard. Posted on 22 May
National Safe Boating Week in the USA preview
Three tips for boating safety and clean water all summer long The annual event helps remind boaters to keep boating safety front and center all season long. How can you be a safety hero aboard your boat? Here are three tips from the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Posted on 28 Apr
Coast Guard Foundation FOOTER 1Marina Exchange FOOTER 1Sea Sure 2020 - SHOCK-WBV - FOOTER