Recreational Boating and Marine Radios


Boat RMDL and Jet Ski PWC Licence On The Sunshine CoastMany recreational boaties will have marine radios (VHF’s) on board their vessels. Its important that you know how to use them, and also that you have the correct licence to use them legally.


Below are a few facts about marine radios, and their importance to boating safety.


Marine radios

  • While not a legal requirement for recreational vessels, marine radios should be considered an essential piece of safety equipment. in many cases they may be the only method you have of communicating with other boats and the authorities in an emergency.

Licences and certificates

  • Under federal regulations, operators of VHF and MF/HF radios are required to hold an operating certificate. So if you have one on your boat then you should obtain a licence to use it.

Mobile phones

  • Mobile phones can only be considered as a ‘back up’ device. you will be surprised at how soon you will lose reception as you head out to sea, for this reason they should not be relied upon as a means of calling for help.

Radio problem checklist

  • Is the correct frequency/channel selected?
  • Is the volume (AF gain) adjusted correctly?
  • Is the squelch adjusted correctly?
  • Is the RF gain set to maximum sensitivity?
  • Power supply—is the battery fully charged?
  • Antenna—are the leads and whip intact, not corroded, have proper earthing and connections in good order?

Calling procedures

When making a routine call to another vessel or station State the following:

  • the boat/station you are calling—(spoken three times if communications are difficult)
  • this is … (name of your boat)….(spoken three times if necessary)
  • await a reply/response
  • Speak your message
  • After your message say ‘Over’

When making a distress call:

  • ‘Mayday Mayday’
  • this is … (name of your boat)….(spoken three times)
  • ‘Mayday’
  • State the name and radio call sign of your boat
  • State the details of your boat’s position
  • State the nature of distress and assistance required
  • State any other information including number of people on board, boat description and your intentions.
  • After your message say ‘Over’

If your distress call is less urgent you should replace “Mayday” with “Pan Pan”, and if you are just informing other Boaties of a navigational hazard use “Say-cure-e-tay”.


Remember its a good idea to have a working VHF on-board your vessel if heading offshore, but you do need to be licensed otherwise you could faces fines.

Licence to Boat offers Marine Radio Licence Exams to get you up to speed, and make sure you are operating your vessel safely and legally.

Check out the courses at:


Happy Boating!

Recreational Boating and Marine Radios
Scroll to top