“Radio check, radio check. Any vessel, can I get a radio check?”
In my part of the world, these words repeated ad nauseam over VHF radio broadcast channels can become a real annoyance on busy boating weekends, irritating other captains and filling the air waves with chatter. There’s also a chance it can interfere with emergency transmissions. And it’s unnecessary.
I say unnecessary because along the coast of Southern California, where I fish, any boater can use Sea Tow automated radio checks free of charge on VHF channel 27. Sea Tow Services International is one of the country’s leading marine assistance and on-water towing providers. In addition, the company, in association with MariTEL, has established a system of automated radio checks in 130 locations, and the network is growing. The channels vary by location, but range from 24 to 28 on the VHF frequency spectrum.
It’s pretty simple to use. In my area, for example, I select channel 27, then key the mic and broadcast a request for a radio check. An automatic response repeats my request as an incoming transmission, so I can hear what other boaters might hear when conversing via VHF to assess transmission strength and clarity. This is followed by a brief safety reminder and, of course, a plug for the sponsor – Sea Tow.
You don’t have to be a member of Sea Tow to use the automated radio check, and it costs nothing. To find the right channel in a particular boating area, all a boater has to do is visit the Sea Tow automated radio check page and enter the city, state or zip code. An interactive map will open, showing the automated radio check stations in your region. I strongly encourage you to check it out.
Sea Tow is also actively looking for volunteers to host new automated-radio-check stations. Any business can apply. You need a place to mount a 30-foot antenna. Automated-radio-check transmitting stations also require a controller box programmed with proprietary software developed by Sea Tow and MariTEL, and a VHF radio. To learn more, contact Sea Tow.