Radio procedure on the ICW

Let me say this, radio procedure on the ICW is terrible. I am sure everyone knows that Channel 16 is for initial hailing and emergency calls only. It is not for negotiating passing plans. Or chatting, or anything but initial hailing. So why do my fellow cruisers feel the need for such long winded Ch16 conversations about passing each other? Please, if anyone is out there reading this, call on Ch16 and go immediately to Ch17. Better yet, call on Ch16 using low power. Ch17 is low power by design.  And no, being on a remote portion of the ICW does not change the rules. Last week we were 20 miles offshore, listening to ICW passing discussions on Ch16.

Travelling on the ICW requires two VHF radios. Period. End of discussion. One on Ch 16 and one on the local bridge channel. North of Florida, the bridge channel is Ch13, which works out well because that is the channel the tows and barges use. In Florida the bridges use 9 but there is much less commercial traffic on 13, so maybe not so important to monitor 13 as well. Most radios will dual scan 16 and 13, leaving 9 available for bridge calls in Florida.

Way too often we are unable to hail a boat because the skipper forgot to change back to Ch16 after a bridge call. Often there is a lot of close quarters maneuvering as multiple boats wait on a bridge and communications can be importatnt. If a boat has only one radio and it is tuned to Ch09 or 13, then they are missing calls on Ch16 and it is inappropriate to call them on the active bridge channel.

To close this rant, let me say that there is no need, nor is it proper radio procedure, to convert a radio call into a polite conversation. Please, if you can’t get off Ch16, at least do not fill the airwaves with useless banter. Comments like, “have a nice trip”, “nice pass” and even “please” or “thank you” have no place in marine VHF. If you feel the need to be polite, do it on Ch17. Or better yet, save it for happy hour at the bar later. Practice getting your message across in the fewest words possible.

Thanks for listening.


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