Here’s a resource that will allow you to know everything you need to know about VHF radio etiquette. Discover how you can know what to say, how to say it and when to say it. But first, let me back up a bit.
When I was a new sailor, I thought it was only me that balked at the idea of having to make a VHF radio broadcast and understanding VHF radio etiquette.
My husband, Simon, went to extreme measures to try and get me to make a call. He’d say that he couldn’t leave the cockpit and yell, ‘just make the call.’
I, of course, yelled back, ‘I’ll steer, YOU make the call!’
Looking back, all I had to do was say, ‘Port Solent, Port Solent, this is Selene, Selene, over.’ And when the marina responded, I just had to let them know we were ready to enter the lock system and request instructions. (Selene was the name of our last boat).
I’m not sure why I was afraid of making a call?
Perhaps I was scared that I’d make a mistake? Perhaps I’d pronounce the marina name wrong, say the wrong thing or say ‘over’ when I should have said ‘out?’ And the fact that several people could potentially hear gave me some sort of ‘stage freight.’ Perhaps there’s a known term called ‘radio fright?’ I suppose that VHF radio etiquette isn’t the same as simply talking…and I didn’t have any experience in doing it.
And, I hate to admit this but I often feel like there’s a load of salty sea dogs or men who call themselves ‘Captain,’ judging us women on the seas. Before I make a call I can hear them say, ‘There’s another one messing up what used to be our perfect world.’
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-men!
I love men and for the most part, I get on with men. It’s just that the sailing world is still very male-dominated and some of the salty sea dogs are not very nice to us want-to-be-cool-while-sailing women folk.
Anyway, as time went on and we had more and more visitors on our boat, I noticed that everyone tried to avoid making a VHF call – young and old, male and female, sober or tipsy. It wasn’t just me! VHF radio etiquette is not something that just comes naturally.
Only a couple brave souls volunteered to make a broadcast and it was only after listening to Simon several times that they’d give it a go. One friend wrote down everything they wanted to say and practiced for quite a while before they made the call and that got me thinking.
What the sailing world needs is a dummy’s guide to VHF radio etiquette!
Heck, I needed the guide and I witnessed others that desired assistance when first starting out. I went on a hunt to find templates that could be used for the routine VHF radio broadcasts.
The best I could find was one MAYDAY template and that’s it!
Surely, I thought, there is a collection of templates for making a Pan-Pan’s, Securite, requesting radio medical advice, and a standard protocol template for calling another boat, and others?
To my surprise, I couldn’t find anything, so I made my own guide
One in which I could fill in the blanks. For example, I wrote down all the generic text, inserted my boat specific information like MMSI, Call Sign and boat name and the left spaces for descriptors such as longitude/latitude, the reason for distress, time of day and so forth.
I laminated each broadcast template and put it in a folder for future use
By laminating the templates, I was then able to use a whiteboard marker to write event-specific information and later wipe it off reducing the need for several copies. Furthermore, the lamination protected the template from the sometimes damp conditions on the boat!
The result was a booklet of every potential VHF radio broadcast I could ever imagine having to do – all with my boat specific information and all written out so I simply had to decide on the call necessary, fill in the event-specific details and then pick up the radio microphone and make the call.
MAYDAY calls are an obvious one, but doing any kind of radio broadcast for the first several times does not come naturally. And especially when in an emergency, you don’t want to have to think – you just want to be able to do things quickly, calmly and efficiently.
I really couldn’t believe that nothing existed like a VHF radio broadcast template guide
First of all, there is very specific wording necessary for making broadcasts. Furthermore, in most cases, the average person won’t make any emergency calls over their lifetime; therefore what you don’t use you lose. Sure, you can take a VHF radio course but what happens when you need to request radio medical advice two years later?
Yes – you can ‘wing-it’ and disregard VHF radio etiquette…
…and I’m sure you’ll get assistance, however, to make sure that there’s less room for error, especially when a life might be at risk, wouldn’t you want a handy step-by-step guide and template available at all times?
Well, that’s why I created the guide, VHF Radio Checklists, and Templates for Sailors – Reducing mistakes & making it easier when speaking over the VHF radio.
After showing several other cruisers my ‘guide,’ they’d ask for a copy. One cruiser said, ‘Hey, you should put this on Amazon so others can benefit.’
And as they say, the rest is history!
All that being noted, the 40+ page guide that I created does not replace or act as a substitution for a VHF radio course or a professional document. In the guide, I don’t explain how to use a radio although I do offer various tips and suggestions.
Here’s the Table of Contents
- Introduction 4
- Thank you and final comment 9
- VHF Radio General Tips and Information 11
- VHF Radio Checklists and Templates 27
- Using the VHF to call a boat or place 28
- Sending a MAYDAY Broadcast 29
- Sending a MAYDAY RELAY Broadcast 30
- Sending a PAN PAN Broadcast 31
- Sending a Broadcast to Request Medical Advice 32
- Sending a SÉCURITÉ message 33
- Canceling a VHF Alert 34
- Sending a RECEIVED MAYDAY Transmission 35
- Receiving a VHF Distress Message 36
- Appendix – Phonetic Alphabet Table 37
- Appendix – Phonetic Numerals Table 38
- Customized VHF Checklist and Template Guide (PDF) 39
- About Kim Brown 40
Within the first section of the guide, I offer an explanation of each type of call, what it’s for and provide a working example. In the second section of the guide, you’ll discover the various step-by-step instructions and fill-in-the-blank templates. I also included the phonetic alphabet and numerals table, used when making a VHF broadcast, for reference.
And, finally, within the guide, I offer instructions on how to get a FREE boat specific version of the guide!
With a boat specific version, the guide owner can then print, laminate and collate the templates for safekeeping in their navigation station!
So…who do you know that might feel nervous when making a VHF radio broadcast?
Could you please tell them about my VHF Radio Checklist and Templates for Sailors guide?
Buy the guide at my online store or pop over to Amazon (see below)
Buy the guide from Amazon
VHF Radio Checklist and Templates for Sailors (USA version on Amazon.com)
VHF Radio Checklist and Templates for Sailors (UK version on Amazon.co.uk )