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The Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) have created VHF-FM channel 9 as a supplementary calling channel for noncommercial vessels (for recreational boaters) at the request of the coast guards. A ship or shore unit that wishes to call a boater would do so on channel 9, and anyone (including the boaters) that wish to call a commercial ship or shore activity would continue to do so on channel 16.
For recreational boaters, they would continue to call the Coast Guard and any other commercial facility that is on channel 16.
The purpose of the FCC regulation was to help relieve the congestion that is usually on the VHF channel 16, the distress, safety, and calling frequency. FCC regulations usually expect boaters that have VHF radios to maintain a watch on either VHF channel 9 or channel 16, whenever the radio is turned on and it is not in communication with another station.
Since the Coast Guard usually does not have the ability to announce an important marine information broadcast or weather warning on channel 9, the use of channel 9 is optional. We advise boaters to keep tuned to and use channel 16 in those waters unless otherwise notified by the coast guard.
The Best Marine VHF radios don’t allow an individual to tune them like a typical radio does. They are preset to provide push-button access to several channels. A great handheld radio could have Channel 16 and at the very least ten other channels, so you have an option of working channels and the capacity to utilize the Boater Calling Channel and your preferred local and weather channels.
A VHF radio seems like a huge cellular phone, but it sends a voice message which is often picked up by anybody within range. Some radio signals will travel over the horizon, or right round the world, but we’ll be using marine VHF radio for which the most range is “line of sight.” If you have a strong VHF radio and you transmit while standing on top of an area 300 feet high, your message could be heard by anybody 20 or 30 nautical miles away, so this is simply not a personal communications channel.