— December 2002
By Ben Ellison
Small Smart Stuff
it okay to ask for a radio check on VHF Channel 16? K.R., via e-mail
Another way to be sure that your radio is going to be there for you in an emergency situation is to call a specific party like a local marina or even a towing service that monitors VHF full time. Except in a few areas, such as the Great Lakes, where the Coast Guard is trying to get all recreational-boat hailing onto channel 9, using 16 for this procedure is okay. However, it is preferable to use 9 or a working channel like 68 if possible, the idea being to leave 16 free to serve its primary function as a distress channel.
Good citizens of the waterways learn how the channels are used wherever they boat, transmit on 16 efficiently and properly, and don't broadcast over other users. By the way, one of the wonderful promises of DSC is "quiet watchstanding," whereby your radio won't make a peep until someone calls you specifically or issues a real Mayday (as easily traceable false ones should become rare). Also, there is a lot of good information out there about VHF usage. Visit the Web version of this column for links to good VHF education sites. --B.E.
Got a marine electronics question? Write to Electronics Q&A, Power & Motoryacht, 260 Madison Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10016. Fax: (917) 256-2282. e-mail: PMYElectronics@primediamags.com. No phone calls please.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.