One of the must-have accessories for any boater or sailor is the marine VHF radio. This is a two-way radio that allows the receiving and sending of messages. The device enables a boat or watercraft operator to communicate with the harbor, bridges, marinas, coast guards as well as as other vessel operators. The VHF radio can be used for normal communication and also for sending distress calls. It works within a certain range of wavelengths normally referred to as radio frequencies. The waves operate within the range of 156 and 174 MHz (Megahertz) and are the standard or international frequencies. Channel 16 is solely dedicated for Distress Calls.
How It Works
The unit features two parts; the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter sends out a message or call while the receiver receives the message or call. Usually, most of the gadgets are simple. This means that they only allow communication in one direction. The user has to wait for another person to finish a transmission before responding. There are some lights that indicate when the other person has finished transmitting. However, semi-duplex systems allow communications to take place in both directions simultaneously. Powerful units that are normally mounted on the masts of tall ships have coverage of up to 60 nautical miles (72 miles/110 kilometers). Small units used in small vessels can reach up to 5 nautical miles (6 miles/ 9km).
Features of Marine VHF Radio
Most of the VHF units found in the market can operate within the standard international frequencies or channels. They also come with a display panel which indicates the frequency. The units also feature weather alert functionality. In fact, some have an advanced weather alert that warns the user of any changes in the weather or climate in advance. A wrist band may also be part of the unit and helps grip on the device especially during the rough weather. Other standard features include standard charging point, dual power mode, charging cradles, charging adapter and belt clips.
Types of Marina VHF Sets
Handheld VHF:- This is a portable or movable radio that can be used in the vessel from any location. The unit comes with an internal battery. It may come as a basic unit for communication, or feature DSC (Digital Selective Calling) or integrated GPS (Global Positioning Satellite). Besides being portable, the radio unit is quite reliable and also waterproof. The radio-to-radio range is approximately five nautical miles while to the Coastguard is about ten miles.
Fixed VHF:-This radio is fixed at a specified point in a vessel hence can't be moved around. It is connected to the boats or yachts battery power supply. The fixed type normally has a stronger signal as compared to the movable handheld radio. Radio-to-radio range is 10miles while to the Coastguard is 15 miles.
SSB/HF Radios:- This VHF radio is well suited for communications over long ranges. The radio makes use of high frequency (HF) marine transceivers to send and receive signals. The frequency range is over 20 nautical miles.
CB Type Radio:- CB (Citizen Type) radio uses about 40 different types of High Frequency (HF) channels on the SSB (Single-sideband modulation) and AM (Amplitude Modulation). It is viewed as one of the more advanced walkie-talkies.
Walkie Talkie:- This is also a type of CB Type radio but operates within a short range. For example, from one end of the deck to another, or within the harbor or marina. The walkie - talkie also doesn't require a license to operate. Furthermore, it is quite simple to use hence its also suitable for a person who has never handled any marine VHF radio.
There are different advantages that come with owning a VHF unit instead of other communication devices. The benefits may vary from one unit to another.
Nonetheless, the following apply on any device:
Minimal wave interference:- The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) governs the communication channels. They always place restriction on how to use the devices. Boaters and watercraft operators are required to follow the laid-down procedure. This reduces wave interference or interruption.
Distress Call:- The VHF radio is the main mode of communication when in distress. This is a situation where there is a high risk of loss of life or damage to the watercraft. Channel 16 is only supposed to be used during a calamity with the words "MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY" being repeated over and over.
Weather alert:- The weather alert functionality helps in avoiding any imminent danger arising from poor weather.
Durability:- The device is strongly built to withstand rough handling, as well as harsh elements.
What to Look For In a Unit
The marine VHF radio comes in varied designs and functionality. Some are portable while others are fixed on a specific location.
Although most modern units come with similar features, a good unit should comprise of the following factors:
Support All Standard Channels:- This is the most important feature. A good unit should support all the standard frequencies/channels in the country the devices is being use at that time.
Brightly Illuminated display:- The display should be well-lit to allow easy reading especially in the dark periods.
Clarity:- It should be easy to view and read the texts and messages without straining the eyes. In addition, the voice should be clear and audible even during the rough weather.
Weatherproof Cover:- The housing or cover should be made from a material that can resist moisture and water.
Rugged Casing:- The unit especially hand-held devices will constantly be dropped or banged on other items. Therefore, the casing should be rugged, sturdy and durable.
User-friendly:- The VHF radio for marine use should be lightweight, easy to use as well as maintain.
As a boat owner or operator, it is important to have a unit installed in the boat or carry a portable one at all times. Also, important is learning how to operate one within the stipulated regulations. Previously, VHF radios for marine use were a preserve for large vessels and commercial ships. However, this is changing over time. Although it is not a mandatory requirement for small watercrafts to have it on board, the advantages gained from having it are certainly worth it. Besides assisting you to maneuver through the rough weather and easy docking, a marine VHF radio will play a crucial role in avoiding loss of life during an accident or disaster. So, browse through our product line and find the best device for you.