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Old 24-12-2008, 08:16   #1
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VHF Radio Use

I'm a Brit currently cruising in the Caribbean, and have a question concerning VHF use: quite often, particularly in busy anchorages, cruisers will use a channel other than CH16 as a hailing channel. Here in Grenada we use CH68. This very sensibly avoids cluttering up CH16. A typical call on CH68 will go as follows:

Blue Moon, Blue Moon, this is Yellow Star.

Yellow Star, Blue Moon here.

Pick a channel.

Let's try 69.

OK, 69.

Quite often they will then find that CH69 is busy, and they'll come back to CH68 and do it all again, i.e. "let's try 72" or whatever. Eventually they'll find a clear channel and have their conversation.

In the UK and Europe the call should go as follows:

Blue Moon, Blue Moon, Yellow Star.

Yellow Star, Blue Moon. 69.

69.

In this example Blue Moon would have checked that 69 was clear as a working channel before answering Yellow Star and directing him there. The station named being called and the sending station's name should be repeated three times but this isn't usually necessary, once or twice is usually enough.

In other words the time on the calling channel, be it CH16 or any other commonly used for that purpose, is kept to the bare minimum, thereby leaving the channel clear for others and also substantially reducing others annoyance. I've lost count of the times I've heard "pick a channel" "ooh I can't think of one, you pick" and so on, and on, and on...

Now I don't mean to suggest that the first example above is confined to our North American cousins, because it's not, lots of people do it. But the question is, are US citizens trained in the use of VHF in the same way as we are in Europe? Perhaps this is just an example of becoming a bit more laid back in true Caribbean style, I just don't know but I can tell you it's driving us nuts! If anyone can explain this phenomenon I'd love to hear it!
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Old 24-12-2008, 08:24   #2
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My understanding is that there is no training required in the US. In fact no license is required so long as the boat is only used in the US. In Canada I had to study for a written and oral test. That was quite a few years ago and I'm not sure what is required today. Your example of how it is done in Europe is basically what I learned in Canada.
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Old 24-12-2008, 08:32   #3
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In many of the Caribbean Island the VHF is used as the local telephone. They are not concerned with safety and hailing issues or pretty much anything else. It is a means of communication and they will use whatever frequency they like. Too many time we come into countries and try to enforce our regulations regarding the use of the radio on the local folk. We forget it is their country and they are not required to abide by FCC or Coast Guard or whatever regulations.
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Old 24-12-2008, 08:40   #4
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Thanks for the reply Chuck, but I'm afraid you've missed my point - the misuse of the VHF I refer to is not by locals but cruisers, and primarily (but not exclusively) US cruisers. My question is really, are there "FCC or Coast Guard or whatever regulations" in the US and if so why aren't they adhered to outside the US? I don't say this just because I'm a stickler and insist on everything being done by the rules, in this case it just makes way more sense to do it the right way.
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Old 24-12-2008, 08:46   #5
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In the U.S. the usual practice is for the calling vessel to check the availability of a working channel before calling on the hailing channel. That saves the dead air time it takes for the vessel being hailed to check a working channel or two before responding. Of course, many boaters have never taken a course nor read a text that includes VHF radio procedures, so you get what you get out on the water.

You could try broadcasting a brief tutorial during one of the morning VHF nets, and see where that leads...
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Old 24-12-2008, 08:49   #6
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The "rules" are more an international treaty on the use of channel 16. There are no "international" regulations and each country regulates its own airways. What drives you crazy with folks using 16 drives us crazy and is referred to as the radio nazis that constantly try to regulate radio use in countries they have no business making regulations in. So each has his own issues on the radio. We personally use channel 16 as a distress and hailing frequency only but outside the regulations of our country anyone can use whatever frequency they like as far as we are concerned. When we are out cruising we have too many issues to deal with, where to find groceries, fuel, what will be the next anchorage, what will tomorrows weather be, where is the next pot luck, to spend our time and energy worrying about what frequencies other people use.
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Old 24-12-2008, 09:02   #7
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For whatever reasons, the closer you get to the equator, the less "proper" radio procedure matters. Don't let it get to you. You will never be able to change those who see the VHF as a 25 watt CB radio. So long as people are not discussing Aunt Thelma's health on Ch 16 and staying off the channels used by the commercial boats, that's all I really care about.
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Old 24-12-2008, 09:16   #8
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OK, so to summarise, there is no requirement in the US for any form of training or licencing to use a VHF radio?

I'm not sure if you were referring to me, Chuck, when you mentioned "radio Nazis", but anyway I am simply seeking the answer to a question that many people have wondered about for a while - I'm no Nazi, radio or otherwise, and would not wish to impose my will on anyone, and I'm not talking about regulations but common sense - when there's a better way of doing something surely it should be explored?

Hud3, I think a mention on the morning net might be the best approach but I've been wary of doing this as it might unleash more vitriol, someone might even call me a radio Nazi...

In the meantime I'll turn the damn thing off and go and have a beer
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Old 24-12-2008, 09:21   #9
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Sorry, no I was in no way referring to you as a radio nazi. This is just a common term used toward those that are quick to jump on the radio to play the part of regulator when they have no authority. As I said, there are too many things to enjoy while cruising to let the bad habits of someone else ruin your day. It is not worth it.
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Old 24-12-2008, 09:22   #10
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Maxim,
No sort of training or licensing is required.

Non-commercial boats in the US are not required to have a station license for a marine band VHF. Non-commercial operators are not required to hold an FCC license to use a marine band VHF. There are laws for operating a VHF in the USA. Its not a free for all where you can use any channel you want for any purpose.
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Old 24-12-2008, 09:27   #11
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David is quite correct but those laws and regulations do not apply outside the US and even inside the US if you spend time around places like Miami and other cities with large boating populations you will find a total disregard for the laws and regulations even here.
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Old 24-12-2008, 10:02   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxim38Adonde View Post
OK, so to summarise,... and I'm not talking about regulations but common sense - when there's a better way of doing something surely it should be explored?

The fundamental issue on which you landed is common sense - this is simply another example how it is not so common nor is courtesy.

My view is you are absolutely correct that people mis-use the radio but
that it has become so ubiquitous as to be the new standard of operation.
It is entertaining particularly in some of the more cruiser-oriented islands.
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Old 24-12-2008, 10:05   #13
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In Canada a restricted radio operators licence is required. It only makes sense that everybody should follow the same protocol.It cuts down on the confusion and keeps the emergency chanel (16) in Canada open for what it is intended for. Up here ch 68 is the marina chanel.
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Old 24-12-2008, 10:13   #14
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Maxim, I too have been frustrated at times by the lack of conformity to proper radio procedure, but I've have noticed an adaptation, first heard in the Exumas, that allows people to quickly locate a free station. In George Town, Exuma, it's common to hear people suggest "17 and up" or "78 and down" when communicating in a high traffic area. It doesn't suffice to monitor a station briefly before a call to see that it is clear when you're in a high traffic area. By the time you have made contact the station that was clear is often in use. When designating "up or down" after the selected station the parties continue with steps up or down frequencies until a free station is found and there is no need to return to 68 or 16. In this case an efficient solution has evolved outside of regulation and it seems to work well. 'take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 24-12-2008, 10:46   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxim38Adonde View Post
...In the meantime I'll turn the damn thing off and go and have a beer
Now there's a sensible solution!
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