Features of a VHF Radio on Your Watercraft - Boat Repair
Information from Marine Services of Florida - mobile sales, service, and installation
A VHF (Very High Frequency) Marine Radio is your link to the land when out on the water and is a critical item of safety equipment connecting you to rescue in an emergency, as well as general communications, access to weather reports, navigational alerts, and more. VHF Radios are becoming even more robust with capabilities. They are also being produced smaller than ever before and best of all, more affordable. Please be familiar with how to use a VHF radio on your boat - your safety may depend on it..
Here are some of the features you may see on a VHF marine radio:
DSC (Digital Selective Calling) - As of June 17, 1999 all VHF and HF marine radios are required to have DSC capability, with good reason. The main benefit of DSC technology is automated distress calling: with a radio so equipped, a simple push of a button will alert other ships and the Coast Guard of an emergency. DSC automatically transmits your position, your vessel ID (uniquely yours, just like with cellular phones), and the time of the call. Other DSC equipped radios will automatically receive your distress call and display your vessel ID and position. DSC will also permit one boat to contact another boat directly - without an initial contact that needs to be transferred to another channel. A DSC equipped radio can also call a land line telephone without the involvement of a marine operator.
Integration Capabilities - In order for a DSC equipped radio to transmit your position, your location data must derive from an integrated GPS. Other functions that could be built into your VHF radio might be radar, depth finder, gyrocompass indicating the position, course, and speed of your own vessel and any nearby boats as well as buoys, land masses, and weather. weather in the area. Integration can also offer data on internal systems such as temperatures in your cylinders, fuel consumption and levels, and the levels of other vital fluids. Alarms can be preset to notify you of boat trouble such as water in the bilge, temperature problems, or many other things that could be off. At least consider any radio you buy to include DSC capability if you enjoy going far offshore.
Channel Scanning - Some VHF radios can be set up to have several different scanning programs built in for many different frequencies. Consider a radio that picks up international and/or Canadian channels as well: this comes in handy if you intend to go several miles offshore, leaving U.S. waters.
High/Low Volume - All radios, whether console mounted or handheld, will let you choose between high/low or DX/low to determine amount of watts that are used to transmit and receive communicaitons. If another vessel is right beside you, switching over to Low is a good idea. Some VHF radios also have a hailing option.
Weather Resistance - The electronic and mechanical equipment utilized on boats is subject to a great deal of corrosive elements such as salt water and air. Marine electronics require maintenance to keep working at peak performance, even if the device is labeled "water resistant" as most radios today are. Check out the specifications for any radio that you are considering, including MIL specs and J.I.S. standards.