How to choose a radio call sign?

I recently bought a waterproof VHF marine radio for use while paddling, especially when offshore on the Great Lakes. According to the documentation that came with it, no FCC license is required for such use, so no call sign will be assigned to me. Unlike other, larger craft that use these waters, most of our ‘vessels’ don’t have names. So how to properly identify ourselves when broadcasting?

Do we simply use our birth names (Bob, Bill, anything except Roger)?

Do we call ourselves by our craft ("This is Pink Pungo calling Pamlico_140. Come in Pamlico_140!)?

Appreciate any suggestions.

Anthing that transmits clearly…

– Last Updated: Apr-09-07 12:53 PM EST –

we just use "Kayak (Bob)"

If calling for assistance or traffic it IDs you as a kayak and saves time.

We use our nicknames
For example, in our group, we have the following individuals and their call signs.

A retired fire captain-----Pyro Peter

A psychologist------Psycho John

I use my old call sign from my active duty days in the army Foggy Day

Foggy Day?
Is there a story behind that? :wink:

If I’m sending out a securite broadcast I identify myself as a single or lone kayaker. If in a group I state how many kayaks there are. If calling someone, we arrainge a pre-existing working channel and call ourselves by nicknames. Always a good idea to stay away from anything that may even sound like “mayday”. :slight_smile:

That’s …
… kinda what I was thinking; you’d probably want a more formal call sign when making a Mayday or Securite’ call than you might use when chattering or trying to rendezvous with partners.

OT: You know how the hazy and frantic confusion that often accompanies battle is called the ‘fog of war’? Maybe Waterdoc had a lot of Foggy Days …?

why not
give information in the call as opposed to coming up with “names”?

for instance crossing a channel in the fog, you could say, “securite, securite, securite, this is a solo kayaker crossing from x to y at point z. expect to finish transit at 1530” and then a follow up call when you’re complete.

you could alter solo kayaker with group of x kayakers or some such thing.

then the call lets anyone listening that they might be looking out for a vessel(s) substantially smaller and lower on the water than a power/sail boat.

I thought I said that

– Last Updated: Apr-09-07 1:49 PM EST –

'cept I throw in "any concerned traffic respond on CH16" as well. ;)

All the information I’ve seen explaining how to properly use a marine radio seems to recommend identifying yourself, either with a ship name or unique call sign.

Here’s an example from the FCC:


Speak slowly – clearly – calmly.

  1. Make sure your radio is on.

  2. Select VHF Channel 16 (156.8 MHz).

  3. Press microphone button and say: “MAYDAY --MAYDAY-- MAYDAY.”

  4. Say “THIS IS [your ship ID].”

  5. Say “MAYDAY [your ship name].”

  6. Tell where you are: (what navigational aids or landmarks are near).

  7. State the nature of your distress

  8. Give number of persons aboard and conditions of any injured.

  9. Estimate present seaworthiness of your ship.

  10. Briefly describe your ship (meters, type, color, hull).

  11. Say: I will be listening on Channel 16."

  12. End message by saying “THIS IS [your ship name or call sign] OVER.”

  13. Release microphone button and listen. Someone should answer. If not, repeat call, beginning at Item 3 above."

    Note the specific references to ship name, ship ID, call sign, and vessel description. I’m not sure ‘solo kayaker’ would cut it, especially considering that both descriptors are addressed in steps 8 and 10. Could a guy in a small sailboat simply call himself ‘singlehanded sailor’? I don’t know. Seems to me that a unique name would eliminate the possibility that you’d be confused for another ‘solo kayaker’ in the area, either on the radio or not, and that it might be better to have a proper name like other vessels.

    I don’t mean to overcomplicate the matter, but it seems that if we intend to venture out on big water and play with the big boys (ships, shipping channels, navigation aids), we have a certain responsibility to follow their rules and protocols (where’s Salty when we need him?)

    In the meantime, here are a couple of marine radio sites I’ll be perusing:

you did. i didn’t read it…just answered the question.

If you’re broadcasting

– Last Updated: Apr-09-07 2:54 PM EST –

a mayday call and you're in a kayak, it doesn't matter what you call yourself, just as long as you give your position, nature of distress and a description of your kayak. The CG is going to follow your mayday transmission with "kayaker in distress/vessel calling mayday this is..."

Stating that you're a solo kayaker or have XX number of kayakers in your group when sending out a securite (such as channel crossings) is a great way for oncoming shipping traffic to know what they're looking for. It identifies what type of craft you are in and how many are in your party. It's not easy to spot a single kayak vs. a gaggle of them.

Not everyone has a great voice on the radio and can be understood clearly. Seriously, half of the people I hear sound like they are eating the fricken microphone for breakfast. The more accurate information you can get across without spouting a whole novel, the better, in other words, get to the point.

If you want to give yourself a name, then do it. It's not illegal, unless it's a dirty word or you use a call sign for yourself such as mayday, help, Coast Guard, etc. Although, there is a boat called Bendeho in Alaska. It was very hard to keep a straight face when talking to him. :)

My Boat Model…
… this is Carolina 1-4-5…

Yeah it’s a touring boat, but I paddle inland navigable rivers and Lakes…

You Need to Name Your Boat
How about “Delphinus”?

at the risk
of sounding redundant, a boat model "carolina 1 4 5 " tells nothing. You should, during a general broadcast, state the type of vessel you are in. I initiate broadcasts on my sailboat as “this is the sailing vessel Bxxx xxx”. Kayak should be initiated “paddling vessel” so people can get basic info., regarding rights of way, water depth and bridge height requirements, etc…

paddling vessel?
that could be a canoe or rubber raft couldn’t it?

I think “kayak” is more descriptive and I would add the color, eg: “yellow kayak” if (god forbid) I ever did have to make a “mayday” call.

While in Vietnam, my company’s call
sign was Foggy Day. Thought it sounds great with kayaking and it keeps me remembering some of the men I lost back then.

Sort of does double duty.

I agree completely.
I have had the Coast Guard have to get in touch with me without my having called them first.

I answer when they call Foggy Day, I probably wouldn’t if they were calling Solo Kayaker - I wouldn’t know who they were trying to reach.

Just basing my
output on 35 years of vhf usage. honestly, I’ve never heard a call from a kayak. Just “motor vessels” or “sailing vessels”, often adding their length to the description. The commercial vessels will state what they are, i.e. “632’ freighter” which I hate hearing in the fog :-0. Name always follows description.

that does it
from now on I’m “17 ft yellow kayak”

Call Sign
I think Grayhawk gets it. Kayak identifies what you are and bob identifies who you are. In the haze of an emergency short and to the point is what works. Thats my experiance with 20 years AF.