A VHF radio check will tell you if your radio is working properly or not, but you shouldn't do every time you go out, or even with the Coastguard, says Andy Du Port

How and when to make a VHF radio check – and when not to

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Andy Du Port is a Yachtmaster Offshore, a former RN navigating officer and author of the Reeds VHF Handbook

Modern VHF radios are extremely reliable, and there really is no need to make a ‘radio check’ every time you turn it on.

It seems that only yachts – sail and power – make this a regular habit.

You hardly ever hear a merchant ship or fishing boat conducting a radio check, so why do some yacht skippers do so ad nauseam?

If your radio is receiving, there is probably nothing wrong with the aerial run, and if it worked last time you used it, there is absolutely no reason to believe it will not work now.

If your radio isn't transmitting clearly, check its connections behind the radio and at the foot of the mast

If your radio isn’t transmitting clearly, check its connections behind the radio and at the foot of the mast

In fact, if a fault develops it will undoubtedly strike without warning, and the fact that it worked during a radio check is not any guarantee that it will transmit next time, even if it has not been turned off in the meantime.

There are a few good reasons to make a radio check. For example, for a new installation, if you have had work done on the wiring, or if you suspect a fault.

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  • Another yacht on a pre-arranged working channel;
  • Your local National Coastwatch Institution (NCI) station on Channel 65;
  • A marina or harbour office, probably on Channel 80 in the UK;
  • Your own handheld radio (but this will not confirm the power output);
  • The Coastguard on a working channel. Solent CG, for example, may be called on Channel 67.

If the response is anything other than ‘loud and clear’ (or equivalent), you may have a problem with your radio. Don’t ignore it.

If you are in comfortable range of the station being called, either try again, call someone else or have your system checked out.

That said, normal use of your radio should give you confidence that it works when required, rendering regular checks unnecessary – and giving the rest of us some peace!

Format for a radio check

‘Shoreham NCI this is yacht Voyager. Radio check. Over’

The NCI will respond:

‘Voyager, you are loud and clear. Over’

You end the call:

‘This is Voyager, thank you. Out’


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