VHF Radios: Crucial Components for Optimal Maritime Experience

Embarking on a water adventure requires a lot of prep work to be able to count on a smooth sail. Regardless of whether you’re up for boating or fishing, or even some sightseeing while you’re out in the blue vastness, you need to first make sure you have everything taken care of when it comes to your safety.

Checking and re-checking the weather forecast, acquiring and wearing a life jacket, learning how to navigate by reading the nautical charts and getting the adequate nautical charts to make your way minding the sensitive habitats and marine life are just some of the crucial steps you’d have to make. Your checklist, however, would be incomplete unless you also make innovative VHF radios part of your basic gear.

And it’s not just because they’re mandatory by law. This type of gear is crucial for enhancing marine safety and communication with harbours, bridges, as well as other vessels, and comes in handy, especially during emergencies. Your phone is nice and all, but it’s no match for this specific radio designed to be of help when help is needed the most. Whether venturing inland or offshore, a radio such as this would boost your overall situational awareness of water.

How Does a VHF Radio Work?

man speaking on VHF radios on a boat
source: blog.osculati.com

VHF is short for very high frequency, which is the spectrum these marine radios operate in, more exactly in the range of 156 to 174 MHz, typically in sets of transmitters and receivers (i.e. transceivers). The channels they work on are specific for various purposes, out of which Channel 16 (always 156.800 MHz) is an important example to mention as it’s the international distress, safety, and calling channel.

To be able to operate VHF radios properly and effectively, without breaking any laws, you need to have the Certificate of Proficiency issued by the Office of Maritime Communications in Australia. Even though individual licences of vhf marine radio transceivers aren’t obligatory. For recreational purposes, the AWQ (Australian Water Qualifications) test would suffice.

How to Choose a VHF Marine Radio?

VHF radio on the boat
source: mrboats.com.au

With different options of marine VHF radios available nowadays, even from reputable Australian brands like GME, it’s important to focus your attention on some factors that would make your purchase easier, such as:

The Water Resistance

It’s no secret the marine conditions are harsh, especially on the boating equipment, which is why any piece of gear you buy should be made to withstand the exposure to saltwater, and the sun’s UV rays. The choice of durable and water-resistant radio is no exception, just like the whole marine stereo system, so you need to be certain what you buy is IPX-rated. This would give you the peace of mind you require for long-term reliability.

The Regulatory Compliance

The maritime authorities set standards to ensure everyone’s safety in the waters. Not surprisingly, there are standards when it comes to marine-related gear too, including that of the radios. Check that the chosen radio is certified and complies with the standards.

The GMDSS Compliance

In case you’re planning on operating your vessel in larger bodies of water, or even international waters for the ultimate boating experience, then it’s advisable to get a VHF radio marine related that complies with the GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System). This would give you the comfort of knowing you have the backup you require in case you go through an emergency and you need standardised communication regardless of your whereabouts.

The Channels

Getting a radio with a wide range of channel coverage, and not just the important Channel 16, then you can use up this boating equipment for everything it was meant for – making your experience in water all the more enjoyable, be it through communication with harbours and other vessels around you, or getting accurate weather updates.

The Emergency Features

If you want to be sure your chosen radio model is going to enhance your communication when you most require it, then it’s best to check for options such as MOB and DSC. MOB which stands for man overboard, is a function that can be of assistance when you need a quick response to coordinate the ideal rescue solution. DSC which stands for digital selective calling is a function that instantly automates distress calls to other vessels and shore systems.

The Size

Although compact handheld radios are available, preferred for their small size and portability, it’s advisable to also equip your vessel with a fixed-mounted radio as the ideal backup especially useful for larger vessels. It’s perfect since you won’t have to worry about constantly charging it or replacing its batteries, as it operates with a constant power supply.

Still, as it’s meant to be installed, you need to buy the appropriate one minding the size with the space you have available on the boat. By measuring up, you’d also get an idea of the ideal antenna height you can work with to optimise the radio range.

The Display

What use would there be in having the most high-end radio design if it’s not easy to use or the display isn’t that visible from certain angles? As long as the LCD panel comes with backlit features that make for optimal visibility even in low-light conditions, and the display is clear and intuitive with user-friendly controls, then you can count on a hassle-free experience even in challenging situations.