VHF Radio Etiquette

When hailing another vessel, less is always more, and there is an accepted way to make contact.

When you want to hail another vessel, you do so on Channel 16.

When hailing, follow these three steps:

  1. Say the name of the vessel you are trying to contact three times
  2. Give them the name of your boat
  3. Invite them to reply

For example. if Christopher Columbus had had a radio, he might have said:

“Niña, Niña, Niña, this is Pinta. Come back.”

A typical response to being hailed would be:

“Pinta, this is Niña.”

Channel 16 is for hailing and distress only — once you have made contact, you must immediately go to another channel, leaving Channel 16 clear for other users. The most common non-commercial/recreational ship-to-ship channels are 68, 69, 71, 72, 78A.

So Columbus might reply to the Pinta:

I hear you, Pinta. Switching to channel 68.”

Once on the new channel, you need to start the hailing process all over again, since there may be other users on that channel already.

When you are done with your conversation, you can say “Out. Back to 16.”

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