What Are the Most Important Channels on Your VHF Radio?

  • Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • What Are the Most Important Channels on Your VHF Radio?

Last updated on August 24, 2022

Heading out to sea can be an excellent way to relax and recharge. You’re surrounded by water and the gentle hum of the waves crashing back and forth.

For a few hours, you get to disconnect from the world entirely. However, sometimes you need a lifeline back to shore.

A VHF radio can be a lifesaver when you’re in the middle of the ocean. So, before you sail out, you should ask, what are the essential channels on your VHF radio?

Let’s look at VHF channels and what you can use them for.

most important vhf channels

How Many VHF Channels Are There?

VHF stands for Very High Frequency, a type of marine radio standard. This device can send and receive transmissions for up to 62 miles.

The primary use of VHF is as a means of communication between boats and the coastline. To do that, the gadget gives you access to over 25 different channels.

Each one of these channels has a unique purpose. You'll use a different broadcast depending on what kind of message you want to send.

What Are the Most Important VHF Channels in the US?

With an excess of 25 channels, it’s almost impossible to keep tabs on all of them. Still, knowing the most important channels, you can be ready for any emergency.

There are six primary channels that you should monitor out at sea:

  • 9
  • 13
  • 16
  • 19
  • 22
  • 70

These can help you identify passages and routes all along your sailing journey. In addition, you can use some of them to send out distress calls.

What Is Channel 13 Used For?

Channel 13 is for communications between ships. With this broadcast, you can talk to any neighboring vessels. This allows ships to transmit their routes and actions to avoid collisions.

Most small boats don’t need to monitor this channel. However, if your vessel is larger than 20 meters, you need to use it to ensure the safety of the people around you.

What Is Channel 19 Used For?

Using Channel 19, you can keep in touch with the shore. This broadcast is mainly for landside facilities, harbor masters, and marinas.

They use it to monitor the ships’ movements around their designated areas. That means they can help you navigate a safe pathway or even help you find fish in the open waters.

What Is Channel 22 Used For?

The US Coast Guard is an organization that provides maritime security in the water. They can perform search and rescue operations and other law enforcement duties.

This means they’re the police equivalent when you’re sailing. Channel 22 is the working broadcast for the Coast Guard so that you can contact them in case of emergencies.

What Is Channel 70 Used For?

Digital Selective Calling (DSC) is another way of communicating from the ocean. This service allows you to send predefined digital messages. 

These usually come in the form of emergency transmissions. If your vessel has a DSC radio, you should be monitoring Channel 70. It’s the fastest and most reliable method of relaying a distress call.

What Is Channel 9 Used For?

While Channel 13 is a way for people to announce their route, Channel 9 is a little more laid back. You can communicate with the ships in your immediate vicinity with the broadcast. 

You can use Channel 9 to exchange information on pathways or the best fishing spots. It’s more for recreational use, to free up other critical channels.

What Is Channel 16 Used For

Channel 16 is arguably the most critical broadcast on our list. The Federal Communications Commission designated it as the national distress frequency.

That means someone at the shore constantly monitors it to listen for emergency calls. However, all vessels should also check on this frequency regularly.

It’ll help keep an eye on your neighbors in case anyone needs immediate assistance.

Which VHF Radio Channels Can I Use?

You can use almost all channels with a VHF radio, depending on what you plan to transmit. 

Channels 16 and 70 are the primary emergency broadcasts for all boats. This means you can use them at any time to call for help.

Another important one is Channel 22. With it, you can report any violations that you happen to notice.

As for the other channels, you may not need them if you’re sailing alone in an open area. 

Final Thoughts

What are the essential channels on your VHF radio? There are a few broadcasts that you must monitor to ensure your safety.

These channels are 9, 13, 16, 19, 22, and 70. For security, channels 16, 22, and 70 are the most crucial.

The other channels help you keep tabs on your neighboring ships and the shoreline.

About the author  Robert Finn

Robert has over 20 years of experience boating and selling boat equipment. His passion for the latest and greatest gear helps our clients find what they need. His favorite boating place is the Florida Keys.