So often we jump in our boats and blast offshore. Our thoughts are consumed with the fishing checklist in our heads; bait, ice, fuel, licenses and so on. It is so easy to forget some of the most important boating basics.
One of these items is checking your VHF radio to make sure it still works.
Anyone who owns or has dealt with a boat knows that just because it worked when you put it away, does not mean it is working now.
Especially in saltwater, where even the air seems to be trying to destroy your boat, you should be running through a system checklist. Corrosion, vibration and just Ole Man Murphy are working against you, but these systems are vital. Yes exchanging fishing info is important, but sending out a mayday is imperative to your survival.
Once out of cell phone range, your vhf is your link for communication. It is certainly prudent to back everything up with an epirb or personal locator beacon, but for non-life threatening events, the radio is your link to getting help.
Getting a radio check is what we are suggesting, and doing so used to rely on a fellow boater to respond. In addition, you are never sure if the person replying is sitting next to you at the boat ramp.
SeaTow and MariTEL have come up with a solution to the problem. With an ever-growing network of automated radio check systems being put in place at volunteer locations. Now boaters who are within range can broadcast a radio check request on designated channels and the system will record your transmission and play it back to you.
This allows you to not only know that your call went out, but also hear the quality of the transmission, which is just as important as transmitting itself. This is a free service to all boaters and the network is growing. It is also taking a load off of the USCG, who can then focus on emergency calls.
SeaTow is now operating over 130 locations. They are concentrated on the coasts, but some popular inland areas are coming online. The newest Sea Tow Automated Radio Check stations include: Oceanside, CA; New Orleans, LA; Baltimore, MD; Suttons Bay, MI; Traverse City, MI; Leeland, MI; Northport, MI; Rainy River, MN; Red Wing, MN; Stillwater, MN; Bayport, MN; Pamlico Sound, NC; Supply, NC; Southport, NC; Coles Point, VA; Lake Washington, WA; Friday Harbor, WA; Prescott, WI; Milwaukee, WI, and Pepin, WI.
Normally the radio check service is provided on either channel 24 or 28. You can visit http://www.seatow.com/boating-safety/automated-radio-checks#sthash.Y5LFPEZ3.dpuf to see if you are in an active area and what channels they are operating on.
SeaTow is actively seeking more volunteer locations in which they can place their automated system. Local businesses like marinas, tackle shops or waterfront restaurants could allow them to install a 30-foot antenna and a monitoring box.
Jim Foley said, ARC Program Manager. “Our ‘wish list’ for additional Automated Radio Check locations includes the Great Lakes region, San Francisco Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest.” For more details, potential Sea Tow Automated Radio Check hosts are invited to e-mail [email protected] or call 631-876-5077.
So make this simple step part of your daily checklist for a fishing trip. Maybe put it just above Bait! It could save the day or your life.