Your VHF radio is your lifeline to the outside world in case of emergency. So you gotta make sure you're using it right.

The first thing you'll need to do is adjust the squelch. This is pretty simple: just turn it until it hisses, and then back it off until the hissing stops. That will eliminate all the unnecessary static.

Tune to the channel you want, and then take the microphone and hold it at a 90 degree angle to your face. Speak slowly and clearly as you key the mike.

Okay, now, let's make sure the radio's working properly by doing a radio check. First, tune to a station that's an open frequency, like channel 68. Then repeat three times, "Radio check, radio check, radio check" and the name of your vessel.

"Radio check, radio check, radio check, Norfolk Marine Grady-White."

Let's see if anyone responds.

"Grady White, sounds good."

Ah! Sounds like the other guys in the parking lot hear us!

In many areas you can now do an automated radio check as well. SeaTow provides the service. I looked on the internet earlier and discovered that channel 28 is the right one for that in this area.

"Radio check, radio check, radio check, Norfolk Marine Grady White."

"Thank you for using the automated radio check provided by Sea Tow, located at Little Creek Marina in Norfolk."

Now you would never do a radio check on Channel 16. 16 is reserved for emergencies and emergencies only. In case of emergency, go directly to Channel 16 and if you have a DSC equipped radio, hit your distress button.

Now remember, your radio has to be linked in with your GPS or have an internal GPS in order for DSC to function.

In case of a life-threatening emergency, use the call sign "Mayday" and repeat it three times to call the Coast Guard.

If you want to learn more about how to use a VHF, read How To Use a VHF Radio.