Why a VHF radio is important at sea

With an emergency at sea and during an emergency you need to be able to communicate with the rescue agencies and other boaters.

You need to be able to call for help and to communicate with those who assist you. You will also need to communicate with others if you are assisting in an emergency.

Your VHF radio should be your primary communication in an emergency. The South African coast has a network of 27 remote VHF radio towers to monitor the voice channel 16 and the DSC channel 70. When you make a call on these channels it is relayed to Cape Town radio and to all other boats (with a VHF radio) within your radio’s reception area.

Calls on your VHF radio can be heard by more than one person at a time, while communication on your cellphone is one-to-one. Using your VHF radio increases your chances of getting help. However with a cell phone onboard you can call the emergency services if you have reception and have their telephone number.

It is a requirement that all Category A, B, C, and D and other vessels operating in Sea area A1 should have a VHF radio. The VHF radio must have the Digital Selective Calling (DSC) functionality.

Fixed-mount VHF radios are only as good as their antenna systems. Antennas should be mounted as high as possible because VHF signals travel more or less in a straight line, a higher antenna will allow the VHF signal to reach further due to the Earth’s curvature.

In South Africa it is a requirement that your VHF radio shhould be registered with ICASA and that the operator of the VHF radio must have a Short Range Certificate (SRC).