Boating 101: How to Communicate on a Marine Radio

By Boat US.

To use your VHF, turn it on and pick a channel, set the squelch to the point where you don’t hear any white noise, and begin talking. Things to remember when you are on the radio:

  • Monitor channel 16 when you are not actively in conversation with someone else. While not required for recreational boaters, it is an unwritten rule for radio users.
  • Don’t tie up channel 16 or channel 9. If you are talking with someone, switch to a working channel so you are not keeping others from using channel 16 or 9. In some instances, the Coast Guard may even order you to switch channels if you are talking excessively on 16 or 9.
  • A VHF radio is not a telephone. When you use your VHF, everyone tuned to that station in the area can hear you! Watch your language, and try to keep your conversations short and to the point so that others may use the channel.
  • It is unlawful to intentionally transmit a false distress alert, or intentionally transmit a false alert without taking steps to cancel that alert.