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Your boatís radio is not a CB good buddy

OK hereís the scenario. It is a beautiful day on the lake, the day is hot, the water is flat, and the beer is cold. This guy is out there fishing with a fabulous companion. They both have enough sunscreen on that if they accidentally fell overboard they would leave a ring around the lake. I canít tell if they are wearing PFDs. He just caught the largest mackinaw that could possibly fit between Washoe and Placer counties. He is almost jumping out of his skin with excitement. He grabs the boatís radio microphone and notices the radio is set on channel 16, but that doesnít mean anything to him. He starts telling the world of his good fortune. He wants to rub his friendís nose in his fish. Mean while on the other side of the lake thereís a couple in a day-sailboat theyíre having a different kind of time of their lives. The gentleman at the tiller is feeling uncomfortable. He has an ache in his left shoulder that is radiating down his left arm his pulse is irregular. His wife realizes that he may be enjoying all the symptoms of a heart attack. Because she took the US Coast Guard Auxiliaryís boating safety class she knows the Coast Guard monitors channel 16 the Hailing and emergency channel and they will bust a gut to save her husband. But she canít get through because this guy is singing Ode to Joy on channel 16.

In the real world once the Coast Guard picked up this guyís banter they would immediately tell him to switch to another channel, but the majority of boaters treat their boatís radio as a CB. Another problem the Coast Guard experiences is false distress or emergency messages. The Coast Guard answers every distress call regardless of the weather or other conditions. These calls often are sent by children who do not realize the seriousness of their hoaxes. The Coast Guard works closely with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in identifying offenders. Both the Coast Guard and the FCC have direction finding equipment available. It is very likely the broadcasterís location will be pinpointed. The misuse of channel 16 is serious and it is treated, as a felony. Offenders are liable for very stiff fines, possible jail time, plus all costs the Coast Guard incurs as a result of a hoax.

Now back to the scenario. Letís say you are the guy with the fabulous companion, and you want to use your boatís radio to rub your friendís nose in a dead fish. This is how I would do it.

  • First turn your radio on. Make sure it is on low power. If your radio is set on high your signal could go over and past your friendís boat.
  • Tune to channel 16 and listen to see if someone else is using it. If there is radio traffic wait for a break in radio transmissions
  • Call your buddy by his boatís name at least 3 times. Donít add unnecessary words like "Come in, Bob" or "Do you read me?" This only adds to the radio traffic.
  • After you have called your buddy release the microphone button. If you continue to press the button you canít hear any reply. When you send, press the button. When you want to listen, release it.
  • When you do get a reply immediately tell your buddy that you are switching to another working channel
  • If you hear a distress call get off your radio immediately and please donít say Over and Out. It has no meaning

If you were the unfortunate couple in the day-sailboat this is how to send a distress signal.

  • Say MAYDAY at least three times
  • Give the name of your boat
  • Give your location as best you can either by latitude and longitude or perhaps

An approximate distance from a well known landmark

  • Give the nature of your distress , for example taking on water, fire, medical emergency
  • Kind of help needed
  • Any other vessel information that might be helpful such as number of people on board, a description of your boat,
  • End your message by saying OVER
  • When you are through be certain to stay on channel 16 to await instructions


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