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Skipper’s Tips

Radio Active

“Any vessel, any vessel, Titanic looking for a radio check. Over.”  So goes the plaintive cry echoing over a thousand VHF radios—or the three that happen to be turned on and tuned in to channel 16 at any given moment. Sometimes there might even be a response—“Titanic. Loud and clear.”

It's a step in the right direction since you now know that the comms are working. The VHF is a wonderful instrument, but the operator's need-to-know is dependent upon someone answering his or her call. The best response, the most informative, to a call for a radio check is: “Titanic, hearing you loud and clear from Benures Bay.”

There is an easier way to get a radio check, one that involves a dinghy, a handheld VHF and a fellow crew member. If you are in a marina, you don't even need the dinghy, just walk up the dock. When out on the water, though, the trick is to put the crew member in the dinghy, point off in the distance and ask them to monitor their radio. Send them a half-mile away and call them up. If they hear you and respond, Titanic's in business. If they can't hear you, or if they can, but you can't hear them, there's an obvious problem. But there's a solution.

Take the handheld VHF from the crew member and repeat the first sentence: “Any vessel, any vessel….”  Someone's bound to answer—eventually. If they don't, just turn off your radio—you might be breaking regulations, but you won't be missing much. 

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