Dumbass VHF Radio Question

-- Last Updated: Oct-11-05 9:33 PM EST --

I recently purchased a ICOM M32Li VHF radio from West Marine. Too good of price with the end of summer storewide discount sale and the unit being on sale already to pass up.

I christened it with a paddle up Plumb Island Sound in Massachusetts and had it turned to Channel 16 to monitor while I was out paddling.

For the first few minutes after turning it on, it just had static noise on Channel 16. When I went to a weather channel, I heard the weather info as expected. Back on Channel 16, more static/squelch sound. Is this normal? I didn't want to transmit on Channel 16 and say, "Hey, anyone out there?" in case it is a Emergency channel only. Is my experience normal? I expected to hear a lot more chatter non-emergancy chatter. After a few minutes of no-chatter, I just turned it off.


Thats normal.
A lot of time there is nothing on channel 16. Especially if there isn’t a high volume of boat traffic in your area. Sometimes people will try to get radio checks but that is supposed to be on channel 9. I just turn my on channel 16 and leave it on. If something happens and I need help I won’t have to try turning it on and getting to the right channel.

got your licence??
it’s not overly difficult to get, and you will need it to speak into that thing. good idea, not saying ‘anyone out there’…

as NJ said, more often than not, you won’t hear anyone calling, and when they do, they switch to a ‘working’ channel- 16 is just for monitoring, not communicating.

as for the noise- turn down the squelch.

really though, Big Yak, just take the course, everything is covered in detail. good on you to get one though, even better when it is legal for you to do so.

Conflicting Information.about licenses…
according to the documentation that I pulled up from a USCG Boaters Safety Website. (See below) I intrepret this as I DO NOT need a license to operate a handheld VHF radio for a recreational sea kayak. Correct me if I am wrong.

Thanks to all for the answer to my main query though.


FROM USCG Website:

Federal Requirements and Safety Tips for Recreational Boats

Radio Regulations

Carrying a Radio

Most recreational vessels under 65.6ft/20m in length do not have to carry a marine radio. Any vessel that carries a marine radio must follow the rules of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Radio Licenses

The FCC does not require operators of recreational vessels to carry a radio or to have an individual license to operate VHF marine radios (with or without digital selective calling capability), EPIRBs, or any type of radar. Operators must however follow the procedures and courtesies that are required of licensed operators specified in FCC Rules. You may use the name or registration number of your vessel to identify your ship station.

Users of VHF marine radio equipped with digital selective calling will need to obtain a maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) number from the FCC. It is unlawful to use digital selective calling without obtaining this identity.

Vessels required to be licensed:

Vessels that use MF/HF single side-band radio, satellite communications, or telegraphy,

Power Driven vessels over 65.6 feet/20 meters in length.

Vessels used for commercial purposes including:

Vessels documented for commercial use, including commercial fishing vessels.

CG inspected vessels carrying more than 6 passengers.

Towboats more than 25.7 feet/7.8 meters in length.

Vessels of more than 100 tons certified to carry at least 1 passenger.

Cargo ships over 300 tons.

Any vessel, including a recreational vessel, on an international voyage.

Radio Listening Watch

Vessels not required to carry a radio (e.g. recreational vessels less than 65.6 feet/20 meters in length), but which voluntarily carry a radio, must maintain a watch on channel 16 (156.800 MHz) whenever the radio is operating and not being used to communicate. Such vessels may alternatively maintain a watch on VHF channel 9 (156.450 MHz), the boater calling channel.

Distress Call Procedures

Make sure radio is on

Select Channel 16

Press/Hold the transmit button


Also give:

Vessel Name and/or Description

Position and/or Location

Nature of Emergency

Number of People on Board

Release transmit button

Wait for 10 seconds – If no response Repeat “MAYDAY” Call.

False Distress Alerts

It is unlawful to intentionally transmit a false distress alert, or to unintentionally transmit a false distress alert without taking steps to cancel that alert.

For further information:

FCC — Toll free telephone: 1-888 CALL FCC

World Wide Web: http://www.fcc.gov/wtb

USCG — World Wide Web: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/marcomms/

For a complete listing of VHF Channels and Frequencies visit the USCG Navigation Center web site: www.navcen.uscg.gov

– Last Updated: Oct-12-05 12:53 AM EST –

No question is a dumbass question when you are willing to ask it! :)

1) No, you don't need a license to operate a VHF-FM radio.

2) Did you check the squelch? You can adjust it until the "static" goes away.

3) It could have been an open microphone from another boater who has a radio. A lot of rec boaters don't store their microphones properly and end up sitting on them or pinching it between the seats. Then everyone else has to listen to their engine noise, music and/or chattering. It interferes with search and rescue as well.

4) Channel 16 is a hailing AND distress frequency. You can call someone on CH16 and switch to a "working" channel. Your handheld should have come with a booklet on what channels you can use. Tool around the dial a bit and see which ones folks use in your area, then you can ask for a radio check.

In all honesty, I wish they'd require some kind of course again to operate a radio. You can't imagine the idiots who scream into the radio like their asshole is on fire. Which reminds me...

5) No amount of shouting or screaming into the radio is going to carry your signal any farther. All it does is make you harder to understand.

Anyway, hope I helped. :)

listen to paddle pirate
In a nutshell 1. no license required 2. adjust squelch to where static just goes away.

In my area
(long island sound) channel 9 is working channel, 16 for coast guard advisories/distress only.

Quiet Out There This Time Of Year…
one fall, of course, an active rescue was going on and the radio was filled with coast guard chatter.

Don’t broadcast on 16 unless you need assistance. My understanding is that if you doing a channel crossing, say with fog or low light, you may want to do a check of nearby vessels, since most monitor 16, and tell them to switch to another channel for more info.


a bit more
Do turn down the squelch, but just until the static disappears.

When we cross the the Hudson near the mouth of the harbor at night, we broadcast on 16 a very brief ‘securite, securite, securite-(x number of) kayaks crossing from (point A) to (point B)’. That way no response is required but they know we’re there and will reply if necessary.


different regs in Canada
i was under the assumption that the regs in Canada and the US were very similiar; aka, licence required. i guess that isn’t the case in the US.

interesting note on how to use a securite message when making a crossing. logged for future reference.

most commercial
vessels monitor 16 and 13, so if you broadcast security on 13 they will hear you. Bridge tenders monitor 13. 9 is working channel to start communication. Try scan button on your m-32(hold channel up button in for a few seconds.)Scanning in general lets you see if there’s anybody out there.

Channel 13 has a specific use…
…communicating with bridge operators. There is not reason for a kayaker - or anyone else - to use channel 13 unless you need to speak with a bridge operator. It should not be used to hail other boats.

If you need announce to other boats that you’re in the area, you make a “securité” call on channel 16.

That 's not entirely true.

– Last Updated: Oct-13-05 1:41 AM EST –

Channel 13 is also used for bridge to bridge, meaning ship bridge to ship bridge for passing arrangements etc, between them.

In Alaska, the Vessel Traffic Center uses Channel 13, as well. Come down to the PNW and you'll find that the Traffic Center there uses Channel 5A instead. In BC, it's 72.

Confusing? Naw, it all depends, really, on what part of the world you live in, or more specifically, what part of the US. Don't forget about the "US mode" and the "International mode" on your radios, too. Fun stuff!

If you're in a high traffic area for big ships, it's never a bad idea to broadcast a securite on both Channels 16 and 13. An example would be if you were kayaking across Prince William Sound AK and needed to get across in a blind spot. To make sure you don't get smacked by a big-ass tanker, it'd be wise to broadcast your Securite on both Channels to get the attention of both the big-ass tankers and the general boating public.

Keep in mind though, that Channel 16 is a hailing AND distress frequency, so you should keep your broadcasts brief, under 60 seconds. The reason? There's enough noise on Channel 16 as it is and while you're chattering, that might be one less mayday heard.

Talk to a commercial captain.They will end their call “…standing by on 16/13.”

any time i needed to speak with the Capt of a vessel, I used Ch 13 which is for local navigation… ship to ship, ship to land, ship to bridge, dam communication, whatever…

Ch 13 is the only channel ive found other vessels on.

when you call to a Capt of a vessel, dont be like, yo big boat, hey, you copy? breaker breaker good buddy…

instead be more professional like,… American(name of boat), this is yellow canoe off port side, do you copy…over.

proper protocol
say name of vessel you’re hailing twice or three times. If they’re on scan they won’t catch their name the first time, or engine noise or whatever has their attention. I sail off New London Ct. a lot, sometimes in the fog and Every commercial vessel, be it a tanker, freighter, tug, or ferry, monitors 16/13. 16 is distress only,is required to be monitored if vhf is on(how to enforce is beyond me.)

Oh yah big yakker
That icom m-32 is a nice radio with the li-ion battery. i have one with the ni-cad.the battery stinks but the radio controls are nice, better than the m1-v i dropped overboard.fortunately i have icom and raytheon base units, the portable is good when fishing in the inflatable or salt water canoeing.