Radio Communication


VHF Emergency Channel 16

Calusa Cruise Club monitors channel 72

Radio on 16

Sea Tow Automated Radio Check Service - Channels 26 & 27

We all know that having a functioning VHF radio on board is a necessity. Checking your radio to ensure it is working should be done every time you go out boating. In the past you used to need to make a radio check request and wait for a response, but no longer!

Now you can do it yourself with Sea Tow’s Automated Radio Check Service. Provided as a FREE public service to boating communities nationwide, Sea Tow’s innovative Automated Radio Check Service reduces the volume of non-urgent communications traffic on VHF channel 16, the international hailing and distress channel, while still allowing you to perform the check to ensure that your radio is functioning properly.


Technology Update - Digital Selective Calling Radios


Digital Selective Calling (DSC) radio is the latest in marine radio technology. Digital Selective Calling is part of a global upgrade in maritime distress communications. Satellite and digital technology used for several years on commercial ships is now available to the recreational boater. DSC radios allow boaters to make ship-to-ship private calls and the DSC distress channel is currently being monitored by commercial ships.

Since 1996 recreational boaters were no longer required to have a ship's station license issued by the FCC in order to operate a VHF radio. The new DSC radios however have to be registered to work properly in emergency situations. They are also encoded with a unique nine digit FCC identification number that allows the ship-to-ship calling feature. This unique number called a Maritime Mobile Service Identity or MMSI, is much like your cell phone number. Once the radio is registered with the FCC, that information and your boat's information is entered in the US Coast Guard's national distress database.

The major advantage of the DSC radio is its ability to send an automatic "mayday" that identifies the vessel and also, when connected to a LORAN or GPS, can send the vessels location. The DSC radio operates much like an EPIRB that sends encoded "maydays" directly to satellites. The DSC radio will also continue sending the emergency signal if the skipper is disabled.

Another feature of the DSC radio is the ability to place private ship-to-ship calls to other vessels equipped with DSC radio. Basically if you know the MMSI number of the radio you are calling only that vessel will receive you message. Just like using your cell phone.

Register Your DSC

A DSC radio must be programmed with a unique identification number, called a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI). An MMSI can be obtained at no charge through BoatUS or SeaTow. After registration, vessel/owner information is entered into a database for use in distress situations.