How to use your VHF radio

Photo by lu6fpj - Facundo A. Fernández

The VHF radio is an important piece of equipment on your charter boat but hopefully the most important thing you’ll have to use it for is calling for restaurant reservations.

Here’s how it works. You keep your VHF radio on channel 16 most of the time.  However, most restaurants will be listening on a different channel. (Everyone listens and first contacts people on 16, and then you switch to another channel for your hopefully brief conversation.)

In your Cruising Guide, it will say which channel the restaurants monitor. (If not, you can try to reach them on channel 16 and they’ll tell you which one to switch to.)

  1. Turn your VHF unit to the channel they monitor.
  2. Gather around a few folks in case you have a hard time understanding them. (The island accent combined with the radio often make it really tricky! Usually somebody on your charter will prove to be better at this than anyone else and you can delegate all radio communications to them!)
  3. Wait until the channel is quiet. (Don’t interrupt someone else.)
  4. Push the button on the hand held and while holding it down say, (change the details, there are no McDonalds in the BVI): “McDonalds. McDonalds. McDonalds. This is <name of your boat>. We would like a reservation for 4 people for 6:30.” Then let go of the button and wait for a reply. If you don’t get a reply, try again a bit later. If you do get a reply, confirm that you got it.

If you have an emergency, use channel 16. Say “Mayday. Mayday. Mayday. This is <boat name>, <boat name>, <boat name>. We have a <medical> emergency. We are at <location>. We need <transportation>.”

If you are just having trouble, and it’s not an emergency, contact your charter company instead. On Channel 16. “Chartercompany. Chartercompany. Chartercompany. This is <boat name>. We need assistance.” They’ll ask you to switch to a  different channel. (Note that they may not be able to hear from all places in the BVI. You may have to find a phone to call them.)

Any other charter VHF tips?