Marine Radio Equipment – VHF marine radios are either a handheld
portable with a 1 or 5-watt transmitter or a fixed mount radio with a
25-watt transmitter. Performance varies considerably depending on
transmitter power, antenna height, and obstacles in the radio path.
Typical range to another boat from a 1-watt portable might be 1 – 2
miles, 5-watt portable: 2 – 3 miles, and with a 25-watt boat transmitter
3 – 5 miles. Boat range to a shore station could be 5 miles or with a
higher antenna up to 30 miles. Most Marine Radios have a scan capability
to monitor multiple channels. Manufacturers include: ICOM,
Raytheon, Standard, Uniden, and West Marine.
Marine Radio Licensing – The Federal Communications Commission
has allocated 50 VHF radio channels to commercial and non-commercial
boaters. There is no FCC license required when operating in U.S. waters,
however FCC rules still apply. Marine channels are numbered from 1 to
88. The letter “A” after a channel number indicates the United States
use of a single frequency from a two-frequency international channel
pair. Marine frequencies are between 156 and 157.5 MHz.
Normal Marine Radio Operation – Boaters monitor channel 16 – the
Calling and Emergency channel. When a boater wants to communicate with
another boat or shore station, they initiate the call on channel 16.
Once contact is made, the parties agree to switch to a working channel
for their communications. When communications are completed, both
parties switch back to channel 16.
Channels For Your Own Use – You can use the Marine Radio for
coordinating your own activities while on the water. The channels for
non-commercial use are 9, 68, 69, 71, 72, 78A, 79A, and 80A. The Okoboji
Yacht Club makes extensive use of channels 68 and 72 to conduct sailboat
races. The channel you intend to use should be monitored in advance to
avoid interference to other users. Select an idle channel that is not
already in use. Radio channels assigned for U.S. Coast Guard,
Navigation, and Marine Telephone should be avoided. Channel 9 is a good
choice for finding other boaters. Use the Low Power mode (1 watt) when a
range of less than one mile is required.
Weather Channel – NOAA weather from the National Weather Service
in Sioux Falls specific to the Iowa Great Lakes can be found on Marine
Radios Weather Channel One – 162.55 MHz.