Introduction to Marine Radio Communications

Maritime Communications

Without question, in the minds of most boaters, reliable marine communications equates to Safety!

When the day comes that everything begins to go wrong, and believe me when I tell you, that day will eventually come; (Murphy’s Law catches up with everyone eventually). Having the ability to communicate with those that can provide you with assistance is worth much more than the cost of even the most expensive high quality marine radio.

As an added bonus, the capability to communicate with other vessels or with shore stations for those simple day to day tasks that arise cannot be overvalued.

So wherever you cruise, whether it is a short day trip or a thousand mile offshore passage, the right communications equipment is out there. Whether it is the Marine VHF Radio for short range communications, the MF/HF Single Sideband Radio for long range communications, or Satellite communication systems that allow for nearly worldwide coverage; the equipment necessary to get the job done is available for almost any size vessel or budget.

When it comes to marine radios, the two most common questions I hear are:

"I have a cell phone, do I have to carry a radio on my boat?" Duhhh...I Give Up
Do I have to have a license to operate my boat’s radio?  

Ignoring the obvious safety implications, the quick and dirty answer to both questions is "for most U.S. recreational boaters probably not." For most others worldwide, probably yes! However, like all things in life there are exceptions; and for those that want to make absolutely sure of their status, read on.

The following pages provide a basic primer on marine communications in general, how the marine VHF radio plays its part, and lightly touches on MF/HF-SSB for when you are out of VHF radio range.

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