As with all things in life there are rules and etiquette governing our behavior. Breaking a rule gets your wrist slapped. Breaking etiquette shows ignorance or unconcern or perhaps self-importance. I illustrate using VHF radio as my example.
VHF channel 16 is the distress, safety and calling frequency.
VHF channel 9 as a supplementary calling channel for noncommercial vessels (recreational boaters).
Do not continue chatting on channel 16 after hailing. Once you have contacted a vessel you should move your conversation to a “working channel”. That is, one designated as “non-commercial” such as channel 68 (six eight)
Example of seasoned mariner:
OK, what does that represent in the real world? Example of a professional, experienced captain hailing another vessel:
“Mary Jane, this is Ducky, over”
“Ducky, this is Mary Jane, switch and answer channel 72, seven two, over”
“Seven two out”
That’s it. They can now conduct business or chit chat without stressing the bandwidth on 16. This really matters when it’s you calling the Mayday and you have exactly 8 seconds to get out as much info as you can to the Coast Guard before your radio is at the bottom of the seas. There is nothing quite like hearing the laconic exchange of two tugs passing:
“Chubby Tug. This is Doldrums. One whistle.”
“This is Chubby Tug. One whistle understood. Out.”
Example of a typical recreational boater trying to be friendly:
“Mary Jane, Mary Jane, Mary Jane. This is Poker Face, the trawler right off your left, uh, port, uh stern.”
“Hello Poker Face, this is Mary Jane. Good morning.”
“Hi Mary Jane. Good morning. If you slow down I will try to give you a slow pass to minimize my wake and not rock your boat….over”
“OK Poker Face. That’s very kind of you. I will slow down up here as soon as you get close enough. OK?”
“OK, 10-4. Thank you Mary Jane.”
“Poker Face, Poker Face, Poker Face. Thank you for that fine, slow pass. See you in Timbuktu.”
“You’re welcome Mary Jane. Have a nice day. Over and out.”
Perfectly friendly conversation. CONVERSATION. This is NOT hailing! Take the conversation to a working channel. Please.
Despite being on my soapbox about how we don’t want to hear about last night’s dinner party or tonight’s plans on Channel 16, be assured we are following your conversation up to Channel 68 to hear the gossip! Oh, and one more point on over friendliness on the air, no matter how nicely you chat up the bridge tender it will not get him to open his bridge any faster or to open it just as a favor to you. It’s his job to open the bridge. He has to open the bridge. There are big fines for bridge tenders who do not open their bridge – bridge schedules considered, of course.
“Over” means you are waiting for the other vessel’s reply. Only one person can transmit at a time on the radio so this clues the other person in that the air is clear and ready for their response.
“Out” means the conversation has finished. You do not say “over and out”. Those terms call for two contradictory behaviors.
“Roger” means you have received the transmission.
“Affirmative” means you agree.
“Wilco” means you will comply.
“10-4” means you are a trucker on a CB and need to get off the waterway and back on land.
An even better way to keep the airways clear is to use sound signals. Cheap, easy, and local. The whole world does not need to know you are passing another vessel. Considering that a VHF radio is only required on vessels 20m (65.6 ft) or bigger, and many smaller vessels may not even have a radio, you need to know these 3 simple sound signals.
Sound signals you need to know:
Vessel doing the passing initiates negotiations for the pass by sounding either one whistle or two whistles (short blasts of a horn).
One whistle means you intend to leave the slower vessel to your port (port = one syllable = one whistle).
Two whistles means you intend to leave the slower vessel to your starboard (starboard = two syllables = two whistles).
The slower vessel, being passed, looks around to determine your intention will be safe and will not put him in danger and responds in like – one whistle to your one whistle, or two whistles to your two whistles.
IF the slower vessel determines the plan has a problem he sounds the danger signal – 5 short whistles.
There is no need to say the vessels name THREE times. Say it once. If there is no response then say it twice “Mary Jane, Mary Jane this is Ducky”. Wait for their response. If no response, then say it three times. If there is still no response, go make coffee and plan your next anchorage. See USCG’s Radio Information for Boaters and scroll down to PROCEDURE FOR CALLING A SHIP BY RADIO
This is not intended to be a comprehensive instruction on using your VHF radio but just a highlight of the more pervasive and annoying mistakes heard in almost every transmission by the yachties. I hope this helps you demonstrate you are a seasoned mariner and not the newbie boater that just bought a cool radio on Amazon.
So good night Good Buddies, 10-4 and over and out.
For your reference, US VHF channel assignments:
|Channel Number||Ship Transmit MHz||Ship Receive MHz||Use|
|01A||156.050||156.050||Port Operations and Commercial, VTS. Available only in New Orleans / Lower Mississippi area.|
|05A||156.250||156.250||Port Operations or VTS in the Houston, New Orleans and Seattle areas.|
|08||156.400||156.400||Commercial (Intership only)|
|09||156.450||156.450||Boater Calling. Commercial and Non-Commercial.|
|11||156.550||156.550||Commercial. VTS in selected areas.|
|12||156.600||156.600||Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.|
|13||156.650||156.650||Intership Navigation Safety (Bridge-to-bridge). Ships >20m length maintain a listening watch on this channel in US waters.|
|14||156.700||156.700||Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.|
|15||—||156.750||Environmental (Receive only). Used by Class C EPIRBs.|
|16||156.800||156.800||International Distress, Safety and Calling. Ships required to carry radio, USCG, and most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel.|
|17||156.850||156.850||State & local govt maritime control|
|20||157.000||161.600||Port Operations (duplex)|
|21A||157.050||157.050||U.S. Coast Guard only|
|22A||157.100||157.100||Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime Safety Information Broadcasts. Broadcasts announced on channel 16.|
|23A||157.150||157.150||U.S. Coast Guard only|
|24||157.200||161.800||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|25||157.250||161.850||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|26||157.300||161.900||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|27||157.350||161.950||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|28||157.400||162.000||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|63A||156.175||156.175||Port Operations and Commercial, VTS. Available only in New Orleans / Lower Mississippi area.|
|67||156.375||156.375||Commercial. Used for Bridge-to-bridge communications in lower Mississippi River. Intership only.|
|70||156.525||156.525||Digital Selective Calling (voice communications not allowed)|
|72||156.625||156.625||Non-Commercial (Intership only)|
|77||156.875||156.875||Port Operations (Intership only)|
|79A||156.975||156.975||Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only|
|80A||157.025||157.025||Commercial. Non-Commercial in Great Lakes only|
|81A||157.075||157.075||U.S. Government only – Environmental protection operations.|
|82A||157.125||157.125||U.S. Government only|
|83A||157.175||157.175||U.S. Coast Guard only|
|84||157.225||161.825||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|85||157.275||161.875||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|86||157.325||161.925||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|87||157.375||157.375||Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)|
|88A||157.425||157.425||Commercial, Intership only.|
|AIS 1||161.975||161.975||Automatic Identification System (AIS)|
|AIS 2||162.025||162.025||Automatic Identification System (AIS)|