VHF radio check etiquette

Does anyone know if it is OK to call on channel 16 for a radio check?

I normally paddle with others who have a VHF and we can separate and do a check on 19 or some other channel, but the other day I wanted to try out my new VHF and was timid to call the coast guard.

Luckily some one heard me on 19 and came back so I know it is working Ok, but it got me wondering if it is Ok to do it on 16?

Jack L

This not a good idea

– Last Updated: Feb-12-14 8:27 PM EST –

I suppose it depends on where you are and the local views of the matter, but my impression is the CG prefers that folks do not do radio checks on Ch 16. At least in my little corner of the world. Portsmouth , NH and north to Canada. However, I believe it is recognized as a legitimate use of Ch 16 by the CG according to some websites while others say it is prohibited.
In addition, ch 19 is not a good channel to use since it is assigned to commercial traffic. Non-commercial traffic should use 68, 69, 71 or 71 as a general rule.

Sea Tow provides automated radio checks in some locations. Check here:

Be aware that their receiving coverage is much more limited that the CG.

No, you shouldn’t use 16
Use channel 9 for radio checks.

Depending on where you are, who is listening etc. if you call for a radio check on 16 you will either get a reply, or get chastised.

In either case you know someone heard you.

Think of it this way,
If everyone who owned a VHF radio either on a ship, a boat or kayak asked for a radio check on CH16, how many distress calls would really get heard with all that radio traffic?

Radio checks should not be conducted on CH16. They should also not be conducted with the Coast Guard. Radio checks are best done with other mariners and paddlers on your local channels such as 68, 69, etc. as mentioned above.

Remember, CG radio high sites pick up more radio traffic than your hand held radio will ever hear.

This link may be helpful

Using Ch 16 is OK for securite messages when crossing busy channels.

And check for local use
In most places you can figure that 68 thru the low 70’s are available without issue. But at one place we were training, I think it was in the Port Judith area of RI, we found out that one of the ones in the low 70’s had a dedicated use locally. I forget whether it was a fishing concern or a local weather network, but no matter. It was not a channel we could use for training and general chats to figure out where each of the groups was.

The other issue can be reliability. I don’t recall being anywhere on the coast where 68 thru 72/73 weren’t pretty solid. I am not sure we have always experienced that reliability with all of the single digit channels.

16 is allowed
but the CG doesn’t like it when you do. I did it once 15 years or so ago with a new radio (I was paddling solo, so no calling a friend on 68 or 69). The CG responded and asked me to use another channel if I could – didn’t yell at me, and didn’t say I couldn’t use 16.

But another good point is that regular radio checks are essential – I was playing in a tide race with friends a few years ago, and called to let them know that I was going to take a breather on a beach nearby. No response, but I just figured they were too busy staying upright to use a radio. WRONG Several of them came looking for me. So we did a radio check, and mine was not transmitting anymore. Bought a new one on the way home that day.

Monitor 16
So if you pick up a nearby distress call you can help. If all in your party monitor 16 you can still raise someone on 16 just to say drop down to 69 for a conversation

what mintjulep said

– Last Updated: Feb-13-14 8:51 PM EST –

Channel 9 for radio checks and as the "meet up" channel before switching to another channel. 16 and quite often 22 are primarilyUSCG, 16 for distress calls , 16 and 22 for informational CG broadcasts.
Coast Guard is not too thrilled about being called these days. 13 is generally for bridge tenders so if in the area of swing or drawbridges try to stay off that as well.
Unless you are sinking CG will have you get in touch with sea-tow or towboat u.s....AAA of the waterways.
Marinas generally meet on 9 and switch to 11.

solo radio checks???
I mostly paddle solo so don’t have a partner on a specific Chanel to do a radio check with. What might be the best channel to use to make a radio check in this instance?



9 nm

Automated Radio Check - Sea Tow

– Last Updated: Feb-22-14 10:49 AM EST –

This works in the Keys..

Ch 27 in Key Largo..


but only works as far as midcoast Maine.

So check your location.

Limited coverage when available
Sea Tow provides a great service by doing this and they play back your call to them when they respond so you know what your signal sounded like which is very helpful. However, their coverage is restricted to rather close to their location don’t expect to be far from their location and get a response when you use a handheld unit.

Thanks Rick
I couldn’t recall from last year


Worked for my handheld from my dock… er kayak…

Thanks for the link…