VHF Radio Advice For RYA Onboard Trainers

VHF Radio Advice For RYA Onboard Trainers

As a coach it is crucial to maximise every minute of the time you are out on the water with your students. Ensuring that each lesson and session is planned and executed with your students will ensure that the lesson keeps its pace, that the students stay interested and that they get the key messages that you are trying to get over to them. One beneficial tool to allow you to do this is using a marine VHF radio. As well as enabling you to communicate instructions and lesson plans it will allow you to keep everyone safe, as you can react to any unusual circumstance should it arise quickly.

As a major supplier of marine equipment to training schools, we provide some useful tips to optimise the use and life of your radio equipment.

Make sure that your radio is working properly
It is essential to know before you go out that your radio is fully working. Firstly make sure it turns on, and the channels you want to use and functions work properly. Do a radio check with a colleague on the shore. If it is a handportable radio make sure that the radio is fully charged.

If you are on a patrol boat and are operating from a fixed radio after powering the radio up you should also do a radio check to make sure your radio is working properly.

Practice your Microphone Technique
It is important to have a good microphone technique to convey your message clearly. If the channel is clear, push down the PTT on your radio. Hold the radio microphone one inch from your mouth and slowly call the name of the other boat or shore crew in a normal tone of voice so that you avoid any distortion.

Be brief, disciplined and clear in all your transmission.
You will need to be brief, clear and disciplined when you operate your radio. Think about what you are going to say before you say it. Talk slowly and wait for the other person to reply. During your communication make sure that the person you are talking to acknowledges your communication by saying ‘Over’ or ‘Understood’. This will pay dividends when you are communicating in very windy conditions, making sure everyone knows what is happening. Make sure everyone helping in the session knows what channels to use and try to ensure that the channels don’t get clogged up with chit chat.

Try and get everyone involved with running the lesson into the habit that if a communication is not beneficial to the session it shouldn’t be conveyed over the radio. Only use the radio as part of the session or if you need to use it in an emergency. Ask yourself, do I need to send this message? Would it be easier to motor over to the other patrol boat or shore crew if they are nearby.

Always make sure that the squelch control on your radio is set just at the point where it cancels out static noise but not so far up that it prevents you from hearing other radio traffic.

Politeness is a Virtue
It is a good habit to say please and thank you when using the radio. Thanking other users will make them think more kindly about you.

Watch your language
Don’t forget that a marine VHF radio is open to the world and everyone in range can hear you. Bad language is unacceptable and is also not allowed under the rules in your licence.

Radios are not toys!
Our radios meet the highest standards of waterproofing and dust proofing. But radios can be damaged due to repetitive mistreatment such as being dropped, chewed aerials (yes this really does happen) and swinging the radio by the antenna etc. Continued manipulation of the aerial may break the aerial or reduce its performance. This may lead to the wrong conclusion that the radio isn’t working when in fact it is the aerial that is impaired.

Protecting the exterior of your radio will help protect its components, minimising repairs and cost of replacing the equipment.

The Use of Aqua Bags
Even though Icom radios are waterproof we know that some schools put VHF radios in aqua bags. Although providing an extra layer of waterproofing, if the wrong size bag is chosen, this can bend the aerial which will ultimately lead to poorer coverage. Also, ensure the bag and radio is dry when sealed. Trapped humidity in the bag can be counterproductive and cause corrosion.

Aqua bags also provide an extra layer against pushing the buttons. If it is a poorly fitted bag it could lead to the radio slipping. This could mean that even though you think you may be pushing the PTT button, you may not, and your message may only be delivered intermittently.

For day to day battery charging make sure all the battery contacts are clean from corrosion both on the charger and the rear terminals of the battery. If the contacts are dirty then the battery may not be detected by the radio charger and will not charge the battery correctly. Make sure that you charge your radio batteries in a compatible charger otherwise you could potentially damage your battery and radio.

The Dangers of Salt Corrosion
It’s a fact that over time your VHF radio and other marine electronic equipment can suffer from salt corrosion. If corrosion is the bad news then the good news is there are steps to ensure that your VHF radio continues to be your trusty safety aid. As mentioned in most manuals, it is good practice to clean your radio thoroughly with fresh water after exposure to saltwater. Otherwise, keys, switches and controllers may become inoperable due to salt crystallisation. This simple, practical procedure will ensure that you can prolong the life of not only your VHF radio. If rinsing any other waterproof portable marine electronic equipment that you might be using please ensure it is waterproof before giving it a bath. Don’t forget to dry the radio after cleaning it.

After the radios have been washed to reduce salt corrosion, your radios should be stored in a clean, dry, cool place. When you store your radio for long periods eg end of the season, you should remove the battery (if the battery is removeable).

As an instructor, you need to keep our students safe. Your employer owes a duty of care to ensure that everyone arrives back to base safe as well as happy. As well as being a great tool to help deliver a lesson, a VHF radio is an important device to keep everyone safe.

Good luck to you all and we hope you find these simple radio tips helpful in improving your lesson planning as well as your radio etiquette.

For information about Icom marine products, visit the marine radio pages on our website.

Picture courtesy of the RYA.

The RYA OnBoard programme offers young people the opportunity to try out sailing and windsurfing through their local club or centre in a safe, structured and fun environment. For information about this scheme, visit the RYA Onboard pages of the RYA website.

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