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Marine Radio (A Complete Buying Guide-2021)

Marine Radio (A Complete Buying Guide-2021)

on July 04, 2021

Marine radio is an essential safety tool for mariners, regardless of whether they are out on the open seas or inland. Marine radios can be used for many purposes, including contacting marinas and harbours, summoning rescue service, or ship-to-ship communication.
However, it can be challenging to know which radio model to buy due to the variety of features and models. Therefore, we will discuss some of the essential features and considerations when selecting any marine radio.


Check the Types of Marine Radio

Usually, there are three types of marine radios;


1. Handled VHF


handled VHF marine radio
These radios are more like walkie-talkies. These are reliable, small, and waterproof. Many of the current models are buoyant, so they won't get damaged if dropped in water. Look for one with integrated GPS and DSC to get the best functionality.
Here are some key features of the handheld VHF radio:


  • Redundancy

Your boat's electrical system can fail if it is struck by lightning, disabled by flooding, fire, or electrical failure. Handhelds come with their antenna and battery packs so that you don't have a problem. However, you can call for help when you need it the most. For example, if your boat sinks and your batteries are low.


  • Portability

You can communicate while you're away from the primary station at the helm of a large boat. This includes when you're on the foredeck or flying bridge. Handhelds allow you to link to the mothership from your dinghy and to summon help if the outboard stops starting.


2. VHF Fixed Radio

A fixed radio can be mounted onto your boat if you have a boat's power source. These are the most fashionable option, and they come with many other nice-to-have options, such as an antenna or an aux-in jack. They are waterproof, but you will need to mount them somewhere that protects them from the sun and water. In addition, you will need to have some knowledge to mount it.


3. HF/SSB (Long Range)

An SSB radio is an excellent choice if you plan to do serious boating. These radios are less powerful but can still produce a stronger signal for better communication. In addition, these radios are great for communicating information between boats. To operate these radios, however, you will need a license.

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The Key Features of A Marine Radio


Buy Marine Radio
It would be best if you consider these factors before buying any marine radio:


1. Battery Life

You will need to find out how long the battery lasts if you opt for a handheld radio. Rechargeable batteries can last between seven and 20 hours before you need to recharge. The size and power settings of your radio will determine the battery life. The batteries of lighter radios with positive characteristics tend to have shorter useful lives and smaller batteries.


2. Antenna

An antenna is a necessary component of all marine radios. An antenna is a key to determining the radio's signal range. The most powerful antennas are those mounted at the highest possible height. To connect the antenna to your radio, you will also need a coax cable of large diameter. 
An antenna is built into handheld radios. They have a shorter range of signals than fixed radios.


3. Digital Selective Calling (DSC).

This feature allows you to communicate privately and to send coordinates to others. It is also part of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System. Push one button, and the radio will transmit a Mayday message to the correct channel for immediate receipt by the USCG. This allows for faster responses and eliminates the possibility of user error.


Additional Considerations

1. GPS

A radio equipped with a GPS can be used for precise position reporting and navigation. The DSC can be used to give the USCG an exact coordinate to locate you. You can send your coordinates quickly to another person in non-emergency situations. You can also save your location for future reference.

2. Accessories 

The higher-end models have many features that make it easier to use your radio. These features could include a drop-in charging base that keeps your radio charged or alkaline batteries that prolong the life of your radio. In addition, an antenna adapter allows you to integrate your handheld radio with your vessel's antenna, resulting in more substantial signalling power.


3. Design

The design of a handheld radio should fit comfortably in your hand. Non-slip coatings can be helpful to avoid accidental drops. Because they are permanently mounted on boats, fixed radios must be attractive. You can choose from a variety of colours to match the interior of your boat. The display must be large and easily readable with either type of radio and backlighting for day or night.


4. Purpose of Use

Before you start your search, think about what type of boating you are doing. It would be best if you look for a fixed VHF radio that can be used for navigation, as well as an additional handheld unit in case of emergency. In addition, you will need a radio capable of monitoring multiple channels simultaneously and with greater transmitting power.
A smaller radio with less power will be a better choice if you are going to the coast.

5. Range

The power of a marine radio will determine its range. For handheld marine radios, the maximum capacity is 6 watts. This can provide you with up to 20 miles of coverage under the right conditions. The faster your battery drains, the higher the wattage. A radio with selectable power and wattage settings is a smart choice. You can set your radio to low power, saving the battery for times when it is most needed. You can switch to full power quickly with some radios that have quick boost options.

6. Waterproofing

You will lose buoyancy if you choose a heavy battery. Many handheld marine radios can float on water in the event of a fall, which is a handy feature. Radios designed to float on the water will have high levels of waterproofing. A waterproof radio can save your life if you accidentally fall with your radio in your hands. Even if you don't fall overboard often, a waterproof radio is essential. IPX7 or IPX8 are the most reliable ratings. These ratings indicate that the product can be submerged in water for up to 3 feet or 5 feet.

7. Channel Monitoring

It's beneficial to be able to monitor multiple channels at once when out on the water. Dual Watch is a handheld marine radio that can monitor two channels. Tri Watch, which can monitor three channels simultaneously, is a handheld radio capable of monitoring both a priority and secondary channel. For example, Tri Watch will monitor Channel 09 as your priority channel and any third channel you choose.
Quad Watch is a feature that allows you to monitor four channels simultaneously. However, very few handheld VHF marine units have this feature.
It is beneficial to be able to monitor multiple channels, so you should pay attention when browsing.


8. Weather Updates

Some radios communicate with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and receive periodic updates and alerts. These warnings can keep you safe and prevent you from getting caught in a storm's path. In addition, some radios have alarms built-in that sound when NOAA issues a weather warning.
NOAA alerts are available nationwide, but SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) is a great tool to receive regional weather updates. In addition, an onboard radio that offers both will be a valuable asset.

9. Noise reduction

These features include noise-cancelling and noise reduction. This technology isolates speech and cancels background noise. This technology also cleans up audio by removing any sound effects such as wind blowing, waves crashing, or engine noise that could affect the clarity of your message. Of course, it would be best if you were heard and understood the Coast Guard instructions in an emergency. It's worth considering noise-cancelling technology.

10. Rewind, Say Again

Rewind Say Again can be a handy feature. It is essential if you have missed a transmission or are unable to understand the communication. It records the last transmission and lets you play it back. This feature is helpful if you cannot hear the transmission or if the broadcaster is unable to repeat their words. This feature allows you to listen again without missing anything vitally crucial that you might have missed the first time.

So, Which Marine Radio Should You Buy?

Consider the reasons you need a VHF Radio. A VHF radio is an essential for anyone who uses a boat, whether you're a sea kayaker, sailor or jet skier. Handhelds should be easy to use, even under pressure. They should have simple shortcuts, a user interface that is intuitive and simple to operate. It is also essential to have a clear screen and a good battery life.

DSC Handheld radio will enable you to contact an identically equipped craft via a unique number MMSI number or send a distress message equipped with your location and identity by pressing the button.
A small, budget-friendly fixed radio with extra range might be worth looking into for cruisers and RIBS that venture further out to sea.
Large motorboats or yachts sailing further offshore will require more excellent range, so a fixed-mount unit is a better choice. For larger vessels, dual station control may be used with the remote handset. All yachts and motorboats need AIS.

Handled VHF

DSC calling is a feature that all modern fixed-mount marine VHF radios offer. This allows you to instantly alert other vessels, boats, and shore stations by pressing a single button. These DSC capabilities can be connected to a GPS and include position polling, group calling, and a variety. In addition, some models can connect to a remote microphone to act as an internship intercom system.
Some radios have automatic fog horns that can connect to external hailer horns. In addition, some radios have hailers built-in that can be used as public address systems.

Will You Require a License to Operate a Marine Radio?

For marine VHF, the Marine Radio Short Range Certificate is still required. Each radio needs a licence for both the vessel and the user. A vessel's license is similar to a car tax disc. However, it is also the key to getting an MMSI number that will uniquely identify your vessel. Two types of radio licences are required. The SRC (Short Range Certificate) instructs radio users on radio etiquette. VHF operation is straightforward. However, the course also covers digital selective calling (DSC), emergency procedures, and other functions.

Do You Need a Permit to Operate the Radio?

For boaters who have an HF radiotelephone or a VHF transceiver, and are travelling in foreign waters, the FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit (FCC) is required (on boats 20m or more in length). This lifetime permit is subject to a fee. However, no tests are needed for the application on an FCC Form 753, obtained at local FCC Field Offices, or by sending a letter to the FCC, PO Box 1050, Gettysburg PA 17326. Box 1050, Gettysburg PA17326.
Although you are not required to have a VHF radio marine radio, if you have, you must keep an eye on channel 16 (156.800MHz) when the radio is not being used for communication. Alternatively, you can keep an eye on VHF channel 9 (156.450MHz), the boater-calling channel. You should note that channel 9 broadcasts urgent marine information, such as storm warnings and other important messages, only in First CG District waters (northern New Jersey), New York, and New England).

Should I listen to all Noise on the Marine Radio?

A charter boat that was not on the correct channel and its radio not set correctly missed a severe thunderstorm warning recently. It was too late for the captain to return to shore when he learned about the storm. A few people died when the ship capsized. A passenger ship was spotted by a yacht that was in distress off the coast of Mexico. A quick rescue was almost impossible when the radio went off on the passenger ship. However, the yacht managed to draw attention to the boat and was eventually rescued. Working radios tuned to the correct channel have prevented near collisions and misunderstandings of approaching vessels' passing intentions.

Three VHF marine radio channels were established by the International Telecommunications Union and are internationally recognized for safety reasons:

  • Channel 13 (156.650MHz) – for Internship navigation, bridge-to-bridge
  • Channel 16 (156.800MHz) – for Safety, distress and calling
  • Channel 70 (156.525MHz) – for Digital Selective Calling


Which Channels are best to Use on Marine Radio?

Let's start with the main channels recreational boaters need to be aware of. VHF-FM channel 9, a supplementary channel for recreational boaters (noncommercial vessels), was established by the Federal Communications Commission. Any ship or shore unit that wishes to call a boater will do so via channel 9. Anyone (boaters included) who wants to call a commercial vessel or shore activity would continue to use channel 16. Recreational boaters may contact the Coast Guard and retail facilities on channel 16.

FCC regulations are intended to reduce congestion on VHF channel 16 for distress, safety, and calling frequency. Accordingly, FCC regulations require VHF boat radio users to keep an eye on VHF channel nine and channel 16 whenever they are not communicating with other stations.
Channels 9 & 16 can only be used to "hailing" another vessel. After you have reached out to a boat, you can move your conversation to a "working" channel. This is a channel that has been designated as noncommercial, such as channel 68.

Channel 22A is another channel that you should be aware of. Channel 22A is reserved for U.S. Coast Guard marine information broadcasts. Channel 16 may occasionally be used by the USCG to inform boaters of important information. To hear the news, they would ask that you switch to channel 22A if you wish to listen.
You can view and print the list of available channels. The transmitting and receiving frequencies, the description and usage of each channel are all listed in the channel listing.

How to Use a Marine Radio Properly on the Boat?

This is the standard procedure for non-emergency calls, such as asking where to tie up for dinner. This is how you use a marine radio.
The following should be your method of calling the vessel, marina, or restaurant on channels 9 and 16.
Three times, the station name is spoken.
Once, the words "THIS IS" were spoken.
Name of your vessel, call sign (if applicable to station licenses), or the number for boat registration.
The word "OVER."
You then wait for the station to return your call. The station's answer should be the same as your call.
Once you have received the answer, it is time to suggest that you go to a working channel to continue your conversation.
The word "OVER."
Wait for confirmation or a reply from the station being called. Then switch to the working channel, and repeat the process.


If you want to add your valuable experience or suggestions for buying marine radio, please let us know in the comments section below!


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