Radio Communication with shore

Hey folks! Planning stages of a bucket-list canoe paddle down an inland sea nearby. Wife will be on shore in car, to meet at end of each day, or as needed. Assuming I basically hug the beach, what is a good radio we each could have with us so we could communicate when necessary? Any good ideas? Thanks! …BILL

I’m assuming that you are going to be somewhere with unreliable or no cell service? You have a couple of other options that I am familiar with. There may be others.

  1. PLB with texting/messaging capabilities (Garmin InReach Mini or similar). This would allow your wife to track your progress as well as serve as a safety valve if you get in trouble. The messaging function requires a subscription but given the other functions of the PLB might be worth it. If you already have a PLB that doesn’t have two way messaging capability you’d have to decide if it was worth buying another.

  2. VHF radios. Until a couple of days ago I was under the impression that it was illegal to use a VHF radio from shore, but a similar question prompted me to look it up and you can actually use one on land in specific situations (this rule is US specific though, and I don’t know where you are) It seems like your situation would qualify as long as your wife was near the water when on the radio (rule is within 3 miles of the shore). Since a VHF would also be good to have if the area that you are paddling in has other boat traffic, getting a second radio wouldn’t be cost prohibitive. Drawbacks are that VHF relies on line of sight, and won’t tell your wife where you are like the PLB would.

Two way radios most likely would not have the needed range unless you were within sight of each other in which case the radio would probably be redundant.


Thanks! Good ideas!

Only thing to keep in mind w VHF is to find out the reserved stations and the ones that local fishermen tend to chat up, try to use another for your purposes. Can’t speak the cost of getting two - as the paddler you need a better one than your wife on shore.

Cell phones should work in those places I bet. Go to a sporting goods store and check out their small, hand held talkie talkies to see if they’ll work for you. you can clip one to your vest. They work better in flat areas than mountains so should work for you. Between the 2 you should be good.

Recreational channels are 68, 69, 71, 72, and 78.
16 is hailing and distress only. It is monitored by the USCG and, in theory, all vessels with a vhf
should monitor 16 at all times.
9 is recreational hailing and for radio checks. Usually monitored by the USCG.
22 is a secondary USCG channel that the USCG will often switch to to free up 16.

The other channels are used for various specific purposes and most should not be normally used by recreational boaters except for contacting bridge tenders and such.

To use a marine vhf radio on land you need a special license that is limited to marinas, marine construction companies, harbor masters, bridge operators, USCG, etc. For the average recreational boater it is not legal to use a vhf radio on land, although some people do. Search
47 CFR ( Code of Federal Regulations). The rules are complex.

There are other vhf channels that can be used on land, but the channels that you find on a typical marine vhf radio cannot without a special commercial license.

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In 2016 the FCC made a rule change that allows use of a VHF on land when it furthers the operation and safety of the vessel or some such language. It was an amendment to Section 80.115 and takes a little digging to find the rule. It is pretty common for boaters to take the dinghy ashore then call the bigger boat to keep in touch. Minimize use of 16 by using 9 for hailing or stay on a prearranged working frequency. Under any use it’s not for chi chat.

My experience is that the CG does not monitor 9 and they do not broadcast alerts, securite or pan-pan as they do on 16. One can always use the channel scan to monitor more than one channel.

Here’s the FCC language on the rule change:
We agree with commenters that the public interest will be served by allowing the use of portable VHF radios ashore, so long as it is limited to enhancing the usefulness of marine VHF radios without negatively affecting maritime communications. Such limited onshore use will promote flexibility in the use of marine radio equipment in a manner that furthers maritime safety by encouraging more boaters to a carry a VHF radio. Specifically, as suggested by ACR, we will permit use of portable marine VHF radios only in areas adjacent to the water, such as docks and beaches. In addition, as suggested by RTCM, and consistent with our requirements for offshore use, onshore communications using such radios must relate to the operational and business needs of the associated vessel, and must be limited to the minimum practicable transmission time. We amend Section 80.115 accordingly. We caution operators that the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau will continue to investigate complaints against operators who improperly use marine VHF radios, particularly any violation that concerns unauthorized transmissions on 156.800 MHz (VHF Channel 16 ).

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