June 12, 2010

Boating: New way to check radio should clear channels


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The automated, 24/7 radio check service for boaters is unique in that it does not require a response from other boaters or watch-standers, nor does it require special equipment.

Other channels are off-limits to recreational traffic, at least in theory. Channels 8 and 10, commonly used as working channels by local recreational boaters, are actually designated for commercial use.

Channel 70 is set aside for distress, safety and calling purposes using digital selective calling (DSC) techniques. DSC capability is present on today's new VHF radios, and the system is complex enough to warrant its own column in the future. In a nutshell: when set up properly, DSC helps to take the search out of search and rescue.

Finally, some people might be wondering why boaters might bother with a VHF radio now that cell phone reception has improved. First, the VHF is still the quickest and best way to get a distress signal to the Coast Guard and your fellow mariners.

Furthermore, there remain more than a few areas in Maine where cell phone service remains sketchy.

A final word on cell phones: Please don't try to pilot your boat while talking or texting on your cell phone. Along with being dangerous, it looks downright silly.


Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 30 sloop on Casco Bay. She can be reached at:



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