VHF radio checks – who should you call?

By | July 26, 2018

Photo: CA/Camilla Herrmann

The Cruising Association’s RATS (Regulations and Technical Services) Committee has been in discussion with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) about the use of calls to HMCG on Channel 16 requesting radio checks.

RATS has anecdotal evidence of a proliferation of such requests and that these seemed to have spread from the Solent to other areas and Falmouth in particular.

Speaking on behalf of RATS, Robin Baron says: “It seems to us that this is not best use of HMCG resources at a time when we know that they are hard pressed with other more important issues including particularly Search and Rescue.”

Robin continues: “The MCA have confirmed that radio checks should primarily be conducted with local marinas and nearby vessels. Radio checks with HMCG should not be a first resort as it ties up the air and increases operator workload.”

RATS’ own research has confirmed that radio checks with other vessels or shore stations at 1W power and at a distance of around 8 miles provide a much better test of antenna and radio set performance.

Their recommendation is that radio checks should be carried out primarily with marinas and other shore stations or with other vessels. National Coastwatch Institute (NCI) shore stations are usually well placed for such calls which should be made on Channel 65 (e.g. Rame Head NCI. This is vessel Hanson. Radio check please. Over.).

2 comments on “VHF radio checks – who should you call?

  1. Liz R

    It isn’t right to tie up MCA time with such things as radio checks.

  2. Phil Bridges

    From a technical perspective seeking a radio check from HM Coastguard on CH 16 isn’t necessarily the wisest method to test your radio. HM Coastguard has fantastic antennas (without exception) so they may well hear your test call even when your antenna is unplugged. Bear in mind also that your radio probably already defaults to 25W (HIGH power) on CH 16 so could blot out a Mayday.

    AS HMCG suggest consider doing radio checks with your local Marina (errr. ummm.. who invariable use handhelds that have seen better days), or your local National Coastwatch Stations (CH 65) or, (if out of range) HMCG on CH 67 or Harbourmaster working channel, ideally on the 1W (LOW power) setting so you know in theory you’ll have another 24W in reserve.

    You need your MAYDAY or PAN PAN call to be heard in the worst possible scenario, perhaps when you’ve only got an emergency antenna or back up handheld (which of course all good sailors carry).

    Finally, just to reiterate, requesting a radio check on CH 16 could also potentially block a genuine distress call when someone’s handheld is dying, and that might be you one day.

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