Marine Radio

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Why have a Marine VHF radio onboard?

One observation I have made during my time as Commander, is there is a need among the boating community to understand who and how to call in the event of a marine emergency. 

If you have a marine emergency your first and best way to get assistance while on your vessel should be to call Prescott Coast Guard Radio on Channel 16 on your Marine VHF Radio. The modest investment in a marine radio and getting a certificate to operate it can pay off in a big way in improving the safety of your boating experience. You can also contact Prescott by dialing *16 on your cellular phone. Cellular service is not always good on the lake and not all cell phone companies offer the *16 service. On Channel 16 other boaters will hear your distress and begin to respond. If you use *16 that will not happen, so using VHF Marine Radio is strongly recommended.

Mark Dowinton, TOWARF Past Commander

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hand, sea, water


A marine radio is a great investment in boating safety. We recommend fitting a modern marine VHF DSC radio to your vessel. DSC means Digital Selective Calling. VHF-DSC radios function as a normal VHF radio, but are also capable of sending and receiving digital messages on VHF channel 70. By lifting the cover and then pressing the red distress button for at least 5 seconds, a digital distress call will be sent to the Coast Guard and vessels in the vicinity that are also equipped with VHF-DSC. If you connect a GPS to your VHF-DSC, this digital distress call will contain an up-to-date position.

Do I need a certificate to operate the radio?

By law, recreational boaters using a maritime radio in Canada must hold a Restricted Operator’s Certificate Maritime (ROC-M). 

The Canadian Power and Sail Squadron is the designated agency by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (Industry Canada) for obtaining your ROC-M. We recommend the Marine Radio Course taught by the Oakville Squadron along with all the other boating safety courses available from them.

The Maritime Radio course teaches emergency radio procedures, marine radio operating techniques. As well, the course prepares you for the ROC-M with DSC Endorsement examination.

Do I need a licence for my marine radio station?

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (Industry Canada) has exempted Canadian vessels that are not operated in the territorial waters of another country from the requirement for a station licence. So, for example, if you plan to visit the United States you should apply for a Maritime Mobile Radio Station Licence for a Voluntarily Fitted Ship.