Carrying VHF in Quebec

We’re going camping in the Saguenay Fjord region of Quebec in a week. Is there anything to be aware of for VHF use up there? I don’t expect I’ll use it unless we have an emergency, or if we have a dangerous traffic situation.

I’ve read that technically US boaters need a license to transmit on VHF in Canada, but that there’s some leniency on this matter. Any experience with this? Any need to get any permits if I will most likely not transmit on the radio?

Also, what does switching my VHF to the “Canadian” mode actually do? Does that translate the word “over” into “eh” when I’m using the radio? :stuck_out_tongue:

How is your French?

Looks like you need a license. I have not used my VHF in Canada, but Quebec generally is a stickler for regs. Where you are going is not a border area which is a little bit of a gray area.

Bring it! If you need to use it for a mayday call do you care about a fine? Btw. Since it’s a VHF (line of sight) it won’t be very useful anyway.

Mind the tides in the fjord and if the conditions are crap do not launch. The only landing sites are the camp sites. We ate lunch in our kayaks in some spots.

Thanks for the tips Michael. I’m trying to gather what the conditions will be like, and what our paddling options are.

I suspect we’ll do most of our paddling on the St. Lawrence. We’re camping near Bergeronnes, on the north shore of the St. Lawrence.

Do you know of any books or online resources that discuss paddling in that area? Put-ins, navigational peculiarities, etc. The normal kayaking-guide sort of info.

I’ll certainly have my VHF in my pocket, and of course would not hesitate to use it in an emergency. I guess I was just curious if anyone had had any experience with the VHF regulations up there.

French is not one of our skills, unfortunately. Although in an emergency I don’t suspect that’s a problem. I believe English is the established language for bridge-to-bridge and SAR communications, isn’t it? Part of SOLAS treaty maybe? So I expect the radio operators in Quebec are fluent in English.

canada vhf regs
You need the license to transmit, but not to listen or possess a radio, so bring it. As long as you are following proper radio protocol you should have no issues.

FCC Regulations
Technically, you need a station license which is different from an operator’s and an operator’s license when you are in a foreign port and/or communicating with a foreign land station. When communicating at sea and you are a “voluntary” vessel, which includes a kayak, neither license is required. This applies for VHF, but not hf marine radios. Other countries may have requirements for use of VHF in their waters and cruising guides often have this information. Some countries are very strict about HF radios. I seriously doubt anyone in Canada will cause you grief if the radio is only used for a true emergency. Generally speaking licensing requirements are waived in an emergency.

visiting Canada
Don’t forget your newly required documents (passport or “enhanced” drivers license)to be able to return to US

My one experience using a VHF in Quebec
A few years ago I was paddling from the Paradis Marin Campground near Bergeronne; the wind went from zero to 30 knots in about 10 minutes blowing offshore, which caused a general retreat from the water. Once ashore a woman came up to me and said that one of her companions was missing and she feared she had been blown offshore. I borrowed a VHF and made a Pan-Pan call asking the numerous rigid inflatable whale watching boats to look out for the missing kayaker. As soon as I stopped broadcasting the Coast Guard in Tadoussac called me to ask for particulars and said they were dispatching a boat. About 10 or 15 minutes later we found out that the missing kayaker had made it ashore a half mile up the coast. I made a call to cancel the Pan-Pan and inform the Coast Guard that the kayaker was safe. The Coast Guard said they would recall their boat and thanked me for making the calls. I suppose that the Coast Guard might have assumed I was an English speaking Canadian, but no one made any inquiry about my authorization to use the radio in Canada.

I was there last year
and carried a VHF (don’t forget to set it to Canadian channels), but didn’t use it. If you need to make a mayday call, do you really care about a fine.

The whale watching was fantastic!!! We saw Minke, Fin, Beluga, and 1 humpback. The water was freezing in August. Temperatures were 2-3 deg C in the Fjord. Although we all wore wetsuits, I use a GP and don’t like gloves. My hands were getting numb in only about 10 minutes. Next time I’ll have gloves. We had some days of 20 knot winds–make sure you consult weather info and tide charts. The tides can run at 7 knots. It is possible to paddle against the tides if you eddy hop real close to shore.Ferry boats can be a challenge when your fighting the current, wind, and throw them into the equation. We would duck in behind a headland for cover from the wind and tide and then paddle like crazy as soon as the ferry passed because there would be one from the other direction any moment.

Practice your French. I was the only one in our group of 4 who could speak any French. Nobody will speak English!! My college French got a real workout since I hadn’t studied it since 1966.

Have a great time!! My wife and I and our friends from Boston will be doing this trip again.

I was hoping we’d be able to fight along with almost no French. Not likely, eh? :frowning:

Better start hitting the French For Dummies CDs during that 6 hour drive to the ferry.

We were up there last year
and neither wife or I had any problem not speaking French. We had to work at it a couple of times by pointing or making gestures with our hands to depict what we needed but for the most part it was not a problem. The closer you are to Quebec the less it is a issue.

Try paddling from L’Anse de Roche very nice paddle Beluga whales and nice scenery and a nice litte restaurant for after the paddle. I can email you a couple of pix of you want. Then again where up there is there not a good paddle. My wife and a Minke surface and blow no more than 3’ from her kayak. Scared her but I could not stop laughing from her expression. I saw it surface and she did not notice it until it blew.

And yes watch the weather it can change very quickly. We were there for a week in late June and had one day were it did not rain at some point during the day. I would also wear a dry suit because the water is really cold as others have said.

I also carried my vhf and did not worry about not having a license. I would rather pay a fine than not have it. Besides they have to ask you if you have one they cannot tell if you have just by you using it.

HERE IS A LINK to someones paddle there from a couple of years ago.

Have a nice safe trip.

VHF in pocket
"I’ll certainly have my VHF in my pocket …"


According to some here on, if you don’t strap it to your shoulder strap, you could DIE!!!

You’re gonna love it
Definitely paddle near Cap Bon Desir on the St Lawrence – Whales galore there!

Been there twice -


I’ve paddled in Canada a lot (Just came back from Gaspe’ peninsula yesterday, in fact), and the general rule is if you make a legit mayday call, nobody there is gonna hold it against you. Technically, you’re supposed to have a ship station license to transmit in Canada but the CCG, would rather you could call them if you actually need them.

Have fun!! I’m envious!

We’re super excited.

The Gaspe looks lovely too. We’ll have to explore that next time. We’re only about 6 hours from the south shore of the St. Lawrence, so we have no excuse not to explore these Maritime gems.

Different Freqs
"Also, what does switching my VHF to the “Canadian” mode actually do? "

US Marine VHF channels are all simplex which means you receive and transmit on the same frequency. International (Canadian) VHF marine channels are usually not simplex and the receive and transmit freq. are different on a given channel. So when you switch from one to the other, the frequencies used for each channel change. In other words if someone is on a given channel with US settings, they likely could not communicate with someone using a radio set with International settings.

We have paddled in that area and used
a guide. Like one of the above posters we were caught by a sudden strong wind followed by a very heavy downpour. We had to take shelter and wait out the storm. The guide radioed information about our situation and spoke only French on the radio. I don’t know if English would have worked or not but suspect it would have been difficult. Especially in rural areas of Quebec very few people speak English.