How To Use A Vhf Radio On A Boat? An in-Depth Guide

Most beginner boaters often face a hard moment when they try to use a VHF radio on their boat Because using that device on a boat is not as easy as you might think.

However, if you’re one of these people who don’t know how to use a VHF radio on a boat, this comprehensive article might show you the exact way of using it!

We’ll suggest you read the entire guide even if you know a little about using a VHF radio because a small mistake can bring a life risk for you. 

How To Use A Vhf Radio On A Boat?

Using a VHF radio on your boat might be harder if you don’t know the basic steps of running it. In this section, we have tried to show you some of the basic steps that you can follow to learn how to operate your device in emergency and non-emergency times!

  • The first thing that is required is to start the device and pick a channel. 
  • For example, you can select channel 16. First, you can make a short call by saying the simple word, “Mayday”, say it three times because it’s a must.
  • The second step is also a must for sharing the name of your boat three times, so say your boat name three times.
  • Then you can share your current position and the weather of your boat so that others can know where you are.
  • In this step, describe the actual issues that your boat and you facing, and don’t forget to share the total number of passengers of your boat

Well, these are the basics to learn about how you can be able to use your device for an emergency in the middle of the water for help, now once a response is received, you’ll need to move to an active channel so that other boat users can channel 16 for their issues. 

Some points to follow when using a VHF radio in an emergency time: 

  • Don’t think a VHF radio is like a mobile phone, many people think it, remember that everyone in the same channel can hear you when you tune the device to an explicit channel, so it would be better if you keep your message short so that others can use the channel for their important tasks. 
  • Never and ever make a false emergency warning, if you did it for any reason, immediately delete that!
  • Always use plain English on the radio.
  • Don’t tell any personal important information because a lot of people can listen to your conversation
  • If you know you’re talking to someone who is within a few miles away from your boat, always use the transmit power 1 watt because using lower power can save your device’s battery life

A Short Guide On How To Choose A Vhf Radio For Your Boat:

Since we’re guiding you on how to use a VHF radio on a boat, we think it is also important to know about how you can be able to select a good VHF radio for your job!

At this point, we have shared some of the key considerable facts that you can follow when purchasing a VHF radio for your boat. 

The first thing you should notice on the type of VHF radio, knowing which type of VHF radio would be better for you is the most important! There are two types of VHF radios available in the market:

Handheld: A handheld VHF radio is such a device that is portable and you can easily use it like you use your mobile phone. Although people recommend using a fixed mounted VHF radio for boats, we think you should also try a handheld because such a device offers a rechargeable battery and you can also use backup batteries for some specific models. 

But remember one thing: you have picked a waterproof handheld radio. Now the point is how can you ensure a handheld device is waterproof, right? 

Well, A radio without waterproof will have an IPX0 rating and a waterproof model will have a maximum rating of IPX8. 

Fixed Mount: A fixed mount radio is not a portable device, you have to set the device in a specific place to use it. Another issue with this type is it only works with your boat’s power source, if your boat battery fails, the device will not work. 

But the major advantage is you’ll have more range covering ability, more transmit power compared to a handheld radio. 

DSC Feature: The Digital Selective Calling feature is now available on most radios, this feature will help you to transmit a direct location to emergency services that will allow others to locate your boat quicker. So don’t forget to check this feature on the device when purchasing.

Built-in GPS Function: This is also a useful feature. With the help of this feature, you can send your exact location to others which can help others to find you.

Another biggest benefit of having the GPS feature on a VHF radio device is you can save the present destinations you usually visit, so if you have a secret fishing spot that you would like to visit again! 

Warranty: Most VHF radios come with a maximum of 2-3 years limited warranty, if you lose your device due to any water damage, some companies repair the device for free! So make sure you have picked such a device that offers a maximum warranty time!


It is always a required thing to have a safety device when you’re on the seawater. VHF radio is the most advanced device that is widely popular with every boater.

But if you don’t know How To Use A Vhf Radio On A Boat, you may not be able to get the best out of a VHF radio

Hope this guide was quite helpful for you to understand everything you need to know about this topic!