Tips on Using your VHF Radio

Have you listened to your VHF radio and heard a lot of interference?  The first thing you should do is adjust the “squelch” control until the hissing and crackling stops but ensure that you maintain sufficient volume, so you can hear incoming calls.

Remember that VHF radio works on a line-of-sight principle and at sea level the horizon is where your radio signal will taper off.  At the tip of a small boat’s aerial (which is only a few meters above water level, say 10 meters), the horizon is about 6.5 nautical miles away.

Therefore, there are channel 16 VHF radio repeater stations on the highest points of Hayman, Hamilton and Whitsunday Islands.  Their elevation helps to overcome the curvature of the earth and extends the range of radio contact.

Here are a few handy hints:

For all emergencies please use the universal distress channel 16. This is an international channel and supported by repeater stations around Australia

When trying to contact a vessel or shore party WITHIN line of sight

  • Wherever possible please use a local channel to make contact, such as channels 72, 73 or 77
  • You can make contact on channel 16, 81 or 82 and request the person being called to switch to 72, 73, or 77
  • This reduces traffic and power drain on repeater channels

When trying to contact a vessel or mainland that is NOT within line of sight or is out of range

  • You should leave your radio on channel 16 to be ready to receive or send in an emergency
  • Whenever possible you should avoid “chatting” on 16 as it must be kept clear for true emergencies – make your call, then request the person being called to switch to the appropriate channel (81 or 82 repeaters in the Whitsundays) – or 72, 73 or 77 if in line of sight.
  • If you want to contact another vessel or call a shore station (e.g. to a Bareboat HQ, VMR, marina or port), you should use channels 81, or 82 (depending on your position (or 86 to a Bareboat HQ)
  • The channel 81 repeater is located on Whitsunday Island and should be used if you are in the central or southern areas of the Whitsundays
  • The channel 82 repeater is located on Hayman Island and should be used if you are in northern areas of the Whitsundays, on the Great Barrier Reef, or mainland shoreline North of Airlie Beach.