Having a VHF radio on your vessel is a sensible option for all boat owners. If you have a radio, you should be maintaining a radio watch. But how do you know if your VHF is broadcasting?
Some people are tempted to blow in the mic and just listen on another set - not clever! The proper way to undertake a radio check is to contact the coastguard on the appropriate channel. In the Solent area Channel 67 is used. Check your almanac. If you want to call the coastguard on the calling channel use CH16, although they’ll probably send you to CH67.
Listen first for other users before broadcasting. Don’t talk over other traffic or if a mayday is underway. Then use the following phrase;
“Solent Coastguard, Solent Coastguard, Solent Coastguard. This is [Your Station name, Your Station name, Your station name]. Radio Check. Over.”
In most cases, especially during busy times of the year, the Coastguard may respond and ask you to go to another channel for routine traffic. In the Solent this is usually Channel 67. Another alternative is to contact your marina office on Channel 80 (in the UK). Most will oblige, especially if you are a resident.
The response might be “Your signal is weak, but readable” or “loud and clear” or “weak and unreadable”. If it’s the former or latter, you might want to have your set checked by a professional. Of course, it’s also worth making sure you are using good microphone technique (i.e. avoiding wind on microphone or speaking to close to or too far away from the microphone). Also, make sure you are transmitting on full power.
It’s worth remembering that your VHF signal can deteriorate over time. Electrical connections can become compromised. Periodic checks of the set are therefore prudent. Remember, if you are a mile or so off the coast, you may need to rely on the VHF to communicate and issue a distress call. Mobile phones will only work so far out! Before leaving on passage a radio check should be part of your pre-departure checks.
Remember also to submit a Transit Report.
- How to send a Distress Message by VHF Radio
- How and why you should log a Transit Report via VHF radio.