While fishermen and boaters all around the country enjoy the peace of mind from knowing BoatUS and TowBoatUS are always there to help, West Coast Boaters benefit a little more due to the unique topography next to the coast and the BoatUS VHF “High Sites” that take advantage of these sea-side elevations.
The VHF radio is the most common form of communication for boaters when fishing and cruising offshore.
Using various channels or frequencies, anglers can keep up with their fishing buddy’s luck or tune into weather conditions, both current and predicted by NOAA. These are all nice, but the main function of the VHF is to be able to call for help in the event of a breakdown or emergency when the boat is out of cell phone range.
TowBoatUS is always monitoring the VHF 24/7 and on the West Coast they are able to offer members and the general public the added benefit of being able to monitor or communicate with boats much further offshore than those in flatland areas. The BoatUS VHF “High Site” is a VHF antenna that is built up on a mountain or higher elevation. This helps send and receive the VHF signals in a straight line above the curve of the Earth which interferes with the reception of other normal low-lying antennae. For example, a boat off the coast of Florida might be able to talk to BoatUS VHF for 12 to 20 miles depending on the day and the weather. The same radio setup will be able to communicate with a West Coast TowBoatUS dispatcher for up to 75 nautical miles.
That’s an incredible difference that benefits all West Coast boaters.
BoatUS works closely with the USCG and the Harbor patrols up and down California’s coastline. The dispatch monitors channel 16, the emergency and hailing channel and BoatUS routinely relays messages to the USCG and others for boaters who are able to hail the “High Site” from way offshore. They also offer a radio check system that let’s boaters know which site their signal is being picked up from so they can judge their output strength. BoatUS routinely relays calls to the USCG in the event of emergencies, but often it is a TowBoatUS captain that ends up saving the day.
Local TowBoatUS personnel are intimately familiar with local spots and nicknames which is critical to finding distressed boats faster.
The BoatUS VHF “High Site” network consists of 6 towers; 4 in SoCal, 1 in San Francisco Bay and the last in the Pacific Northwest near Tacoma. SoCal fishermen enjoy the ability to reach some really great fishing to the south around Mexico’s Coranado islands and in the local offshore islands like Catalina, San Clemente and other Channel Islands. Normally, boaters making the run to these not-too-distant fishing grounds would be out of radio range were it not for the “High Sites”. But because of the incredibly enhanced ranges, they can still call TowBoatUS dispatchers for help in times of need. There is no charge for this enhanced ability, it’s just a perk of living on the West Coast and the efforts of BoatUS and TowBoatUS to help their members and boaters in general.