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Four VHF Sins

Herewith, the most effective ways to lose respect on the radio.
Boating Safety

Tip: Unless you’ve prearranged to call others on a specific ship-to-ship channel (such as 68, 69, 71, 72 or 78A), use Channel 9 as your calling channel to contact another station. Then, mutually arrange to switch to a shipto- ship channel that isn’t in use.

Sin the Fourth: Failure to keep communications brief

Unlike while on your cell phone, you’re sharing a few VHF channels with thousands of other boating radio users. Aimless, long-winded chitchatting ties up the frequency you are on and forces others who might need to get a message through to stand by and wait until you’re finished. Keep your on-air conversations short.

Tip: If you want to sound like a pro on the radio, learn to use certain words. Pro words (see “VHF Vocabulary”) are a sort of verbal shorthand developed to abbreviate communications and make what you’re saying crystal clear. Check out the sidebar for a list of the most common and useful.

VHF Vocabulary: In Laymen’s Terms
Over - I’ve completed my message and am asking the other party to reply.

Out - I’ve finished my message and expect no further reply.

Affirmative/Negative - Yes/no. (When speaking on a radio, the words yes and no can be easily misunderstood.)

Roger - I received and understood your message.

Wilco - OK. I not only understood your last transmission, but I’ll also comply. (This is a contraction of the two words will comply.)

Figures - I’m about to say numbers. (For example, if you wanted to tell a boat with a deep draft approaching your location that it’s entering shallow waters of only 15 feet, you might say, “My depth here is figures one-five feet.”)

I Spell - I’m going to use the phonetic alphabet to spell out something that might be difficult to understand. “I’m anchored at Bogg Harbor. I spell, Bravo, Oscar, Gulf, Gulf.” A complete listing of the phonetic alphabet is normally found in your radio’s owner’s manual. Post a copy of the list next to your radio.

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The U.S. Coast Guard is asking all boat owners and operators to help reduce fatalities, injuries, property damage, and associated healthcare costs related to recreational boating accidents by taking personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their passengers. Essential steps include: wearing a life jacket at all times and requiring passengers to do the same; never boating under the influence (BUI); successfully completing a boating safety course; and getting a Vessel Safety Check (VSC) annually from local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, United States Power Squadrons(r), or your state boating agency's Vessel Examiners. The U.S. Coast Guard reminds all boaters to "Boat Responsibly!" For more tips on boating safety, visit

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