A VHF marine radio is an important communication tool for anyone heading out on the water, including those participating in a yacht race.
Why use a VHF Marine Radio for Communication?
As well as a way to receive race and marine broadcasts, a VHF marine radio provides a way to communicate emergencies or distress while out at sea. If you are outside of mobile reception this is particularly important, but even with mobile (or satellite phone) technology, a marine radio provides a critical advantage; a way to communicate with ALL vessels in the area.
If you’re in trouble or trying to let others know about a hazard, this is much better than a one-to-one conversation over a phone line.
Carrying a VHF marine radio is also a requirement for most race yachts. Race management will generally use this as a way to communicate with the fleet, and as described above, it is an important safety tool.
Marine Radio Operator Qualification
Skippers and crew operating a marine radio are required to have a valid marine radio operator qualification. In Australia this is a marine radio operator certificate of proficiency and in New Zealand it’s a marine VHF operator’s qualification.
Maintaining your VHF Marine Radio Skills
If you don’t use a VFH marine radio on a regular basis, it’s easy to forget the standard etiquette and protocols.
Remember, using a VHF marine radio is not like talking on a mobile phone. There are certain standards you need to follow to ensure this open and important communication tool can be used by all.
To help with this, we’ve compiled this 2 page VFH Marine Radio Cheat Sheet that you can download and keep on-board. It covers some of the basic protocols, a place to record you yacht’s information and the phonetic alphabet.
There are also lots of articles online that you might find helpful to brush-up on your marine radio skills.
Here are a few:
- ACMA (Australia) – VHF Marine Radio Overview and downloadable Key Message for Recreational Boaters;
- Maritime New Zealand – Maritime Radio Overview & Resources;
- Boat U.S. Foundation – The Basics of Marine Radio Use;
- West Marine – Do-It-Yourself; Making a Mayday Call on Your VHF Radio.