A VHF Radio is a valuable piece of safety equipment - and we encourage one to be on every boat and kayak out there.

There are a couple of important things to understand and consider, though. This article is intended to give you a couple of resources to get you started.

Understanding VHF

The Coastguard is one of the best resources for understanding how VHF works, its limitations, and its requirements for use.


It is important to understand that the VHF system is primarily a safety system - and not for general communication. Unlike UHF (what you see a lot of 4WD trucks using), you are required to have a VHF licence to use it for general communications unless it's an emergency.


The course will also explain channels and use of the VHF - we get regular reports back from customers not hearing anything on their radios - it's important to understand there likely isn't a lot of chatter going on - unless you are listening to the weather report, or, potentially listening to the Coastguard channels and hearing trip reports being lodged.

What is my MMSI?

Many boats using a VHF radio also require a Callsign and MMSI.

The MMSI is a unique code for your boat that needs to be set up before use.


Some of our VHF radio units allow you to load the code into your radio and broadcast it when sending an SOS or other signals.

Basic Troubleshooting

We find many of the issues people have with their handheld radios are due to operator error - generally a misunderstanding of how the VHF channels work. Some basic things to check before returning the unit to us as 'faulty':

  1. Read the manual -seriously, many people don't. These are not toys; they are communication devices that require some understanding and study before use.
  2. If it's got switchable channels, ensure you are using the International Setting, not the US Setting. If you are unsure what this means - reread number 1 and consider signing up for the course above.
  3. Check if you are trying to send and receive it on a simplex channel. If not, you might be able to hear, not transmit, or transmit but not hear. Again - if you are unsure what this means - reread number 1 and consider signing up for the course above.
  4. Reread number 1 and consider signing up for the course above.