Very High Frequency marine radio utilizes the frequency range from 156 to 174 MHz. In Australia, it is seen as an effective communication tool up to 20 nautical miles offshore. It can be used to obtain weather information, hail other vessels, and report emergencies. It is a line of sight radio technology, in that it does not propogate beyond visual distance from an antenna.
To legally operate a VHF radio in Australia if you are not engaging in certain emergency transmissions you are required to hold at least a Marine Radio Operators VHF Certificate of Proficiency. So, if you want to use VHF to talk to other kayakers, you would need this certificate. Training courses are often provided by local Australian Volunteer Coast Guard or Volunteer Marine Rescue squadrons.
Station Licenses are no longer required. All users of marine VHF operate under a freely granted Class License that need not be applied for.
As kayakers, we would be most interested in waterproof, handheld VHF radios. There are a variety of these available, and you can expect to pay anywhere from $150 up to $350 for a unit. Make sure the unit you are looking at is truly designated waterproof and submersible, not just water resistant. For the budget conscious special water proof pouches are available which enable the user to talk and hear through the plastic membrane (also available for mobile/cell phones).
- Weather Information via VHF Radio Page
- Australian Maritime College's How to Get an Operators Certificate page.
- Icom Australia homepage
- Uniden Australia homepage
In Australia, the Ultra High Frequency bands 476.425 - 477.400 MHz are reserved for 'citizens band' usage. Manufacturers of radio gear have created some very useful and cheap two way communications devices which are handy for kayaker-to-kayaker communication. UHF radios are not suitable for kayaker emergency use, as there are no maritime rescue authorities which monitor the frequencies and their limited useful transmission distance of between 5 - 20km's.
UHF radios operate under a class license that need not be applied for, but still requires the user to conform to the rules of the license. You don't need to take a test or demonstrate competency to utilise the band. You do, however need to conform to the rules of transmission and your ability to use the band can be taken away if you are found in violation of the regulations.
UHF Channels and Their UsageEdit
- 1 to 8 - Repeater Channels
- 5 - Emergency Hailing
- 9 - General Conversations
- 10 - Club and Convoy Use
- 11 - Hailing Channel. Use this only to initially contact another station - then switch to a conversation channel.
- 12 to 17 - General Conversations
- 18 - Convoy Communications
- 19 to 21 - General Conversations
- 22 and 23 - Data Only
- 24 to 30 - General Conversations
- 29 - Highway Communications
- 31 to 38 - Repeater Channels
- 35 - Emergency
- 39 - General Conversations
- 40 - Highway Communications
Handheld UHF radios are usually sold in pairs and can cost anywhere from $75 up to $500. Usually, you are paying for more transmit power and waterproofing as the price raises.
Marine Radio UsageEdit
Due to the high volume of traffic on marine radios, there is a need to conform to proper radio protocol to ensure that chaos on the airways doesn't happen. Some basic rules are:
1. Calling say the name you are calling three times then your name three times
eg: " Peril, Peril, Peril, this is Justcrusin, Justcrusin, Justcrusin "
Remeber to give them some time to answer they may have to get there radio out of a dry bag. If on a calling channel the caller would then nomiate the frequancy to change to, the callee then responds going up and the chanel number
eg: " Justcrusin this is peril" " peril please go chanel 25" " peril going up chanel 25"
2. Keep all conversations short and sweet. No long sentances or long winded bables.
eg: BAD " Gatesy you should see the monster jew fish over here, man they are the bigest things i have ever seen. Mate there even bigger than spooled's tuna. You gotta get over here man, paddle north for 10 minutes then i'll see you"
GOOD " Gatesy big jews, 10 minutes north your position"
3. Emergancy channels are just that, a school of kingfish is not an emergancy
4. Radios can be difficult to understand what your hearing so speak slow and clear
5. When reponding there are some words used to describe terms hard to understand on radios
eg: "YES" over the airwaves is very hard to hear so say "ROMEO" which means affirmitive
- ROMEO = Yes or Affirmitive
- NEGATIVE = No
- MAYDAY = vessel is in grave or immiment danger
- PAN PAN = person is in grave or immiment danger
- OVER = is to confirm you have finished speaking and it is the other persons turn
- OUT = is to confirm that the transmition has ended
6. EMERGANCY CALL it is important to stay calm and place this call with all information
EG: " MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, this is justcrusin, justcrusin my vessel is taking water, I am One mile east of the Skillon, I am a green 4.1 metre sea kayak, with One person on board OVER"
or " PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN, this is Gatesy, Gatesy, Gatesy, I have a sever laceration to my leg and require medical assistance, I am two hunderd metres off Blu fish Point, I am a green 4.5 metre sea kayak, with one person on board OVER"
These messages need to be short and sweet, to the point, and spoken clearly, remember most sever situations only get one call out before further tranmition is not possible. In the Message state:
- Pan Pan or Mayday (Mayday for vessel distress, Pan Pan for medical distress)
- Who you are this can confirm its not a hoax (yes there are lots of hoax's)
- The nature of the problem
- Your position, make it accurate, the number of people who don't know where they are
- Description of your vessel
- Number of people on board ( so rescuers know how many to look for)
It is a maritime offence not to render assistance to another vessel in trouble, if you happen accross this out to sea and the problem is to big for you a relay call can be made.
EG: " MAYDAY RELAY, MAYDAY RELAY, MAYDAY RELAY, this is clarkos, clarkos, a 10 metre crusier has caught on fire, we are 500 metres north of Apple Tree Bay, vessel in trouble is PLAY TIME a ten metre white flybridge crusier, four people on board OVER"
The format is the same as for a mayday just put relay in.
PLEASE REMEMBER THAN PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE