Marine VHF Radio Basics

Marine Radio Basics

The most essential and one of the most inexpensive pieces of safety equipment you can have on any boat is a VHF marine radio. VHF marine radios are designed with safety in mind. In case of an emergency you have direct communication with the Coast Guard and other vessels in your area. You also have instant access to storm warnings and other urgent marine warnings. Digital Selective Calling (DSC) is a safety feature available on newer marine radios. When a special button on the radio is pressed, the radio broadcasts an automatic distress signal to the Coast Guard and other vessels in the area. The DSC radio identifies the vessel and also, when connected to a GPS, can send the vessels location. A DSC radio will continue sending the emergency signal even if you are disabled or have to abandon ship.

Transmission power of marine radios range between 1 and 25 watts, giving a maximum range of up to 5 nautical miles (9 km) between aerials mounted on boats at sea-level. Marine VHF radios combine transmitter and receiver together and operate on standard, international frequencies, between 156 to 174 MHz, known as channels. They use simplex transmission allowing communication to take place in only one direction at a time. A microphone mounted button switches the radio between broadcasting and receiving modes.

Marine radios can be fixed or portable. Fixed sets have many advantages over portable units and are a good choice for most boat owners. Fixed units are wired directly to your boats electrical system letting you use your boats battery for power. They also give you more transmitting power and use a larger fixed antenna giving you greater range. Portable marine radios are basically waterproof walkie-talkies. They have a battery as there power supply, limited power and a small on board antenna. Portable marine radios are best used as emergency radio systems on kayaks and life boats.

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