Radio Check Etiquette
(CC/OP Staff) We’ve all heard boaters on VHF channel 16, the hailing and distress channel, hailing “any vessel for a radio check.” Sometimes a reply is given, but more often than that a stern voice comes on, usually the Coast Guard, reminding the offender that channel 16 is for hailing and distress only. Chastened (hopefully) the offender realizes that his radio is obviously working and next time out takes his radio check traffic to the proper channel.
So how do you check to see if you’re radio’s operating properly? In most areas, channel 9 is the accepted channel for radio checks, but in some areas, such as Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay, there’s an automated service made specifically for radio checks on channel 24.
All the inquisitive radio operator needs to do is call in a radio check as he or she would normally do on channel 9. The system will respond with an automated response, then play a recording of the radio check call. This system, which is co-sponsored by Maritel and local commercial towing operations, takes the guesswork out of radio checks and helps keep channel 16 clear for hailing and distress calls.