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.

https://www.coastguard.nz/boating-safely/communications/


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.


https://www.boatingeducation.org.nz/courses/3/maritime-vhf-operators-certificate/


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.


https://www.boatingeducation.org.nz/marine-vhf-radio-call-signs/


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 a lot 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 and require a bit of understanding and study before use.
  2. If it's got switchable channels - ensure you are on 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 you are trying to send and receive 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.