Education

Radio Etiquette

The VHF radio is an essential piece of safety and communications equipment, however, many boaters are not familiar with the proper use of a Marine Radio. This page is a simple, helpful guide to radio use while on the water.

Channels

The VHF spectrum is divided into different channels. The most common are Channels 9, 13, 16, 22, 67, 68. Every channel is dedicated to a distinct purpose. Below is a list of the channels, their frequency and their purpose.

Channel
Frequency (MHz)
Purpose
8
156.400
Commercial (Intership only)
9
156.450
Hailing
10
156.500
Commercial
13
156.650
Bridges/Marine Controller
16
156.800
Hailing/Emergency. International Distress, Safety and Calling. Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel.
18
156.900
Commercial
22a
157.100
Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts. Broadcasts announced on channel 16.
67
156.375
Commercial. Used for Bridge-to-bridge communications in lower Mississippi River. Intership only.
68
156.425
Non-Commercial
69
156.475
Non-Commercial

See the USCG VHF Channels Page for more info.

Communicating

There is a protocol to follow when hailing and communicating on the radio. Below you will find some instructions for proper radio use.

When hailing a vessel/station, depress the talk button on your radio and announce who you are calling three times, followed by your vessel/station name and then "over".

Example, "Orca, Orca, Orca, this is Whale, over"

The vessel should then answer by identifying themselves

Example, "Whale, this is Orca over"

After establishing contact, both stations should switch from the hailing channel to a working channel for communications.

Example:
"Orca, please switch to channel 6-8, over"
"Roger Whale, switching to channel 6-8, over"

When you are finished with a conversation, you should indicate what channel you are going to be monitoring and end with the phrase "out".

Example:
"Orca, thank you for your assistance, over"
"You're welcome, Whale. Orca standing by on channel 9, out."