VHF Radios: Everything You Need To Know

Use Your VHF Radio BETTER Today

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  • Online Course - 9 modules
  • 22 illustrative photos, seven audio clips, two videos, and three charts
  • BONUS: Handy Printable Radio Guide
  • BONUS: Private Facebook group

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Many boaters never take the time to learn how to properly use one of the most important pieces of safety gear on board your boat: the VHF radio.

- BoatUS

Unleash the power of your radio—from routine calls to advanced navigation and safety features

A VHF radio seems so simple to operate: turn it on, pick up the mic, press a button, and talk. 

But wait. What channel do you use to call another boat at a drawbridge? Is there really ever a reason to use low power? Do you say “Over” at the end of every sentence? How do you know if your radio is even working? How do you call a boat when you don’t know its name?

And what about your radio’s advanced features—things like automated distress calling, AIS for “seeing” boats around you, and WX channels for getting precise marine weather forecasts? Do you know how to use all those?

Remember getting your first smartphone? TV ads showed you all the crafty things it could do, but frankly many of us had to be shown how to just simply answer the phone. Downloading an app or checking your voicemail took more learning. The first few days you felt totally lost and wondered if buying it was a huge mistake.

But little by little you learn how to use apps and features until it becomes hard to picture life without them. Why couldn’t I have learned about this six months ago? you think. 

Learning how to use the VHF is similar. You know it is powerful and it may even be your lifeline—but how do you really use it? It’s new technology, and how to get the most out of it is not at all intuitive

I learned the hard way, bit by bit. I’d hear someone talk about a feature they were using and would go read the owner’s manual—but it didn’t help much because I lacked context to really understand what the benefits were to various features. I simply had no clue why I would want to use them. 

Every time I learned a bit more I was struck by three thoughts:

  • This radio is an amazing piece of equipment!
  • Why didn’t I know it could actually do this before?
  • Why can’t someone make learning my VHF easy?

I’m a pretty frugal cruiser and all my gear has to perform double and triple duty, so I made it my mission to figure out everything my VHF radio could do and the best ways to use it. And when I talked to other cruisers, 9 times out of 10 it became quickly clear that they weren’t using all their VHF’s features and capabilities either. 

Folks simply weren’t really sure how to best make different types of calls or how to properly use their radios’ features. They would ask me to make calls for them or to show them a radio feature, and showing one thing would always lead to another. It became quickly clear to me that they hadn’t known how to get the most out of their VHF, and that after just a little time walking them through it they learned all the secrets—from making routine calls to using sophisticated advanced functions.

Hi! I’m John Herlig. In 2013 I bought and moved aboard a 1967 Rawson 30 named Ave Del Mar. I have sailed her through the Caribbean and up and down the east coast of the US numerous times, and listening to my VHF radio became a constant source of entertainment as I traveled. The ICW was my training ground as I taught myself how to avoid the mistakes so many others made on the airwaves. Now, helping folks learn to be successful and confident on the radio is my mission!

 Introducing . . .

VHF Radios:
Everything  You Need To Know

Learn how to use your VHF radio better—
from routine calls to advanced navigation and safety features

Are you a new boat owner not confident on the radio yet?
Are you an aspiring cruiser wondering how to best hail a drawbridge?
Are you an experienced boater wanting to finally learn how to unlock all the potential of this versatile piece of equipment?

This in-depth, 9-module course will teach you how to:

  • Know different radio types and how they are best used
  • Make proper radio calls to boats you do and do not know
  • Effectively request bridge and lock openings
  • Contact unknown boats to arrange passing situations
  • Know the right time to use high or low power and how to switch
  • Be clearly understood over the radio
  • Choose a proper working channel
  • Make effective emergency calls
  • Correctly set a radio up to make automated emergency calls*
  • See what boats are near you and how close they might come to you*
  • Get the right weather forecasts for your exact location
  • Find important local knowledge in new locations
  • Get help with medical or mechanical problems with cruiser nets
    * Requires a VHF radio with proper capabilities
Over 90% of automated emergency calls received by the Coast Guard don’t have location information! 60% don’t have vessel information!

In such situations, help cannot be sent and the vessel cannot be contacted to get more information. Is your radio set up to include this potentially life-saving information?

What’s Inside VHF Radios: Everything You Need To Know

VHF Radios’ nine in-depth course modules contain 22 illustrative photos, seven audio clips, two videos, and three embedded charts to have you knowing all your radio’s controls and features. You’ll be confidently manning the radio in all kinds of situations.

VHF Radios course modules include:

  • VHF Basics: Radio types, hailing and working channels, dealing with congested airwaves, radio range, radio checks and squelch.
  • The Fundamentals of Radio Calls: How to avoid letting the wind ruin your transmission, how to speak to be understood, PTT, open mics, high and low power.
  • Making Radio Calls: This section includes step-by-step guides to teach you exactly how to: ◆ Hail a familiar boat ◆ Hail a boat you do not know (includes audio sample) ◆ Make a call and switch it to a working channel (includes audio sample) ◆ Hail locks and bridges (includes video) 
  • Channel Guide: A Quick Channel Guide as well as detailed channel listings explain what channels to use, what ones to avoid, and where you are allowed to make calls on your radio in different situations.
  • Radio Lingo: What terms and phrases you should use, what terms to avoid, how to properly spell over the radio (includes spelling alphabet chart).
  • Voice (Non-Automated) Emergency Calls: The exact difference between a mayday, pan-pan and sécurité, when to use them, and exactly what to say. How and when to offer radio relays.
  • Advanced Radio Features: Does your radio have DSC (Digital Selective Calling), AIS (Automatic Identification System), or Dual Watch features? If it does, learn how to make an emergency call with the touch of a button, how to identify boats around you and how close to you they will come to you, and learn how to listen to two channels at one time.
  • Cruiser’s Nets: What is one, how they function, and why you may want to participate.
  • Weather Radio: Untap the power of your weather radio! Learn how to find which of eight weather radio stations applies to you and how to listen for the forecast for your exact location.


  • Handy Radio Guide (PDF, printable to keep at the radio)
  • Membership in a private Facebook group to ask questions
  • Subscription to The Boat Galley Newsletter, filled with tips to make your life aboard easier and more enjoyable

Get ALL my courses, including this one, for just $119.

Learn About the All-Access Pass

Our VHF Radios Guarantee

If you’re not 100% satisfied with VHF Radios: Everything You Need to Know in 30 days, I will give you a full refund. No questions asked.

Whether You Are A Weekend Warrior or an Aspiring World Cruiser You Should Not Leave The Dock Without Knowing How To Use ALL The Features Of Your VHF

You may already know that the VHF is your lifeline should you find yourself in distress. But do you know exactly how to make an emergency call? How to press a single button and summon help?

Did you know that your radio will also be there for you to call drawbridges and locks, to hail a friend, to communicate about passing and being passed, get weather, identify vessels around you, and hear announcements regarding navigational hazards?

Using a VHF radio is not like using a cell phone! They seem simple to operate, but knowing how to get the most out of your radio is not simple at all if you don’t know how. The owner’s manuals are often as clear as mud unless you are already a radio geek. So learn good radio practices right from the start and you’ll be communicating clearly when you’re out on the water.

Many boaters know that they can get weather on the VHF but few actually do this while underway. The weather can change rapidly and you have a powerful tool that gives you access to up-to-the-minute weather.

So why don’t more folks unleash this potential?

Well, most boaters—even veterans of the waters—do not know how to get the forecast for their exact location. This course will teach you exactly how to get marine weather that tells conditions on the water and doesn’t require a cell signal.

VHF Radios: Everything You Need to Know

  • Online Course - 9 modules
  • 22 illustrative photos, seven audio clips, two videos, and three charts
  • BONUS: Handy Printable Radio Guide
  • BONUS: Private Facebook group

I want to unleash the full power of my VHF


Get ALL my courses, including this one, for just $175.

Learn About the All-Access Pass

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the course?

Most people find it takes about two hours to go through the course materials, initially. 

What if I don’t have a VHF on my boat yet?

That’s fine, and this course will teach you about various features on modern VHFs so that you will be able to make an informed purchase.

I only have a handheld VHF. Is this course for me?

Absolutely. You’ll learn best practices for using it, what you can and can’t expect from it and why you may need a fixed-mount radio also.

I’ve been making calls on my VHF for a while now. They seem pretty simple to operate. Why should I take this course?

Knowing to grab the mic and push the button to talk just isn’t the same as getting the most out of your radio. It has so many capabilities beyond that! Your radio may help you make precise emergency calls, see large vessels around you and know where they are going, and get weather for your exact location.

You can learn how to be best understood by others, to be helpful in an emergency, and how to be a better VHF neighbor on the water.

I’m not really a cruiser, but my boat does have a VHF. Is this course for me?

Yes! Your VHF is your lifeline in any sort of emergency, and knowing how to use it well is extremely important for anyone operating one.

Does this course teach how to install a VHF or troubleshoot a problem with it?

This course is an in-depth look at how to use your VHF—including how to make a proper radio check. We help you learn how you may be able to hear exactly how your radio sounds (in certain areas), rather than relying on another boater to describe it. And you will learn how to properly set your radio up to make automated distress calls. The course does not cover how to install the radio or troubleshoot problems.

I always have my cell phone when I'm on the boat. I don't need a VHF, do I?

Cell phones are rarely waterproof, have comparatively-short battery life, and must reach a cell tower to function. Most VHF radios are made for marine environments, have far-superior battery life, and do not need cell towers to function. In addition, a marine VHF radio will give you access to up-to-date weather from NOAA and access to the Coast Guard in an emergency. You are far safer aboard a boat with a VHF radio than without.

I read the VHF section in your course Unwritten Rules Of The Cruising Life. Will I learn anything new?

The VHF section of Unwritten Rules is a great introduction to your radio’s potential. This course is a much more in-depth look at your radio and its potential, and includes audio samples and videos to help illustrate how to execute certain calls properly as well as weather functions and cruiser’s nets. If you are looking for step-by-step lessons to help you unlock your radio’s full potential, this course will help you.

I’m not boating in the US. Will the information pertain to me?

While the course is admittedly US-centric and does not pretend to teach radio legalities for boaters around the world, it does teach practical radio use that most of the world’s boaters follow. 

How is the course presented?

VHF Radios: Everything You Need To Know is primarily written, with audio recordings of VHF calls and two short videos. You need to be online to access the course materials.

Is everything available immediately?

Yes. Upon purchase, you’ll immediately be given login credentials and be able to login right from the purchase confirmation screen. You’ll have access to every bit of the course material and the first bonuses. You’ll also get an email with the login information and a few follow-ups with more bonuses.

How long do I have access?

Forever. Refer back to the materials as many times as you want.

Learning to effectively use ALL the features on your VHF -- automated emergency calls, weather forecasts, and AIS -- plus how to properly make emergency calls is one of the simplest things you can do to increase your safety on the water. This course quickly, simply and inexpensively gives you the skills you need.

Make Me A Safer Boater

Get ALL my courses, including this one, for just $175.

Learn About the All-Access Pass


Are You Ready To Make Effective VHF Calls And Use ALL Your Radio’s Features?

The VHF is an amazing tool for boaters, but most people don’t take full advantage of its capabilities. Even routine calls are often handled improperly. Let us help you effectively communicate on the VHF in every conceivable situation! 

In VHF Radios: Everything You Need To Know, we cover it all in a logical, step-by-step fashion to take you from absolute newbie to an accomplished and confident user of all your radio’s features.

Let’s get started!

11 Modules


  • Course Overview
  • Invitation To Join Facebook Group

VHF Basics

The basics of VHF radio transmissions:

  • Radio Types
  • Hailing And Working Channels
  • Congested Airwaves
  • Typical VHF Radio Range
  • Radio Checks
  • Squelch

The Fundamentals of Radio Calls

Six important concepts:

  • Wind
  • How to Speak
  • Push To Talk (PTT)
  • Open Mics
  • High Power vs. Low Power
  • Public Airwaves

Making Radio Calls

Step-by-step details on making three types of calls:

  • Hailing a Familiar Boat (includes audio sample)
  • Hailing a Vessel You Do Not Know (includes audio sample)
  • Hailing Locks & Bridges

Channel Guide

Learn about the various VHF channels:

  • Channel Sets
  • VHF Channel Rules -- what channels to use for what

Radio Lingo

Words and spelling over the VHF radio, including:

  • Useful terms
  • Words and phrases to avoid
  • Spelling using the NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Voice (Non-Automated) Emergency Calls

Exactly what the three types of emergency calls are and how to make them:

  • Mayday
  • Pan-Pan
  • Sécurité

Radio relays:

  • What relays are
  • How and when to offer one

Advanced Radio Features

Learn about:

  • Digital Selective Calling (DSC) and automated emergency calls
  • AIS (Automatic Identification System)
  • Dual Watch

Cruiser’s Nets

Learn exactly how cruiser's nets operate and why you should participate.

Weather Radio

There are 8 weather channels on your VHF. Learn how to find the one that applies to you.

Modules for this item 11
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