Radio Communications: Which VHF Channel is Which
(& how can I be understood on the radio)?
If you carry a VHF radio onboard (and you should) you must maintain a watch on channel 16 whenever the radio is operating and not being used to communicate. You may also maintain a watch on VHF channel 9, the boater calling channel. Note that urgent marine information broadcasts, such as storm warnings, are announced on channel 9 only in First CG District waters (northern New Jersey, New York and New England).
Most radios have a memory scan option where you can add specific channels to the memory and press scan. The radio will quickly switch (scan) through and listen to each channel, pausing only if someone is talking on that channel and then resuming the scan.
Channels you should program into memory:
Ch. 16 Safety and Hailing, Emergency and Mayday calls. Monitor ch.16 at all times. Hail other vessels on 16, then switch to a working channel. Emergency calls always made on ch.16.
Ch. 9 Supplementary calling channel for noncommercial vessels (recreational boaters).
Ch. 22a U.S. Coast Guard operations channel. Contact is usually made on Ch. 16 and switched to Ch. 22a
Ch 13 Navigation and piloting. Drawbridges and Commercial ship-to-ship. (Tugboats) Monitor (along with 16) when entering or exiting a busy commercial port or traveling on the Sound.
Ch. 68, 69, 71, 72, 78, 82 Working channels for boaters. General-use working channels for boat-to-boat and boat-to-shore communication. After establishing contact on 16, switch to one of these frequencies. Channel 9 is used for hailing in New England, northern New Jersey, New York, and for bridges in South Carolina and Florida.
Note: Channel 70 can no longer be used for voice communications, it is only for digital communications and is the frequency that DCS radios use.
How do I make myself understood on the radio ?
Occasionally, because of conditions or distance it is difficult to be understood on the radio (or the phone). When that happens you must be able to revert to a common combination of letters and numbers that can be pronounced and understood by anyone, regardless of their native language. These universal "code words" are called the NATO Phonic Alphabet or International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet which was developed by 31 nations as the standard for voice communications.
You will recognize them instantly.... Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo....
Click Here to see the entire alphbet and a list of VHF Channels