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Keeping in touch on the water

Over the next few weeks Bermuda will see an unprecedented increase in marine traffic due to arrival of the Tall Ships; Marion to Bermuda Race; Superyacht and J-Class Regattas; and America's Cup racing in the Great Sound, leading to the anticipated final in June.

This will result in a higher number of boaters operating Marine VHF radios in Bermuda waters, with many looking for guidance on radio channels allocated for upcoming events.

As a guideline mariners should be aware of the following channels to be used during this time:

Bermuda Radio — Operates out of the Maritime Operations Centre which provides three main functions: Coast Radio Station/Bermuda Radio; Vessel Traffic Coastal Radar Surveillance (VTS); and Rescue Co-ordination Centre (RCC Bermuda). Bermuda Radio can be contacted on Marine VHF Channels 16 & 27.

Marine VHF Channel 16 — This is the International Distress, Call and Reply Channel and should be used only when calling for help or when making a routine call to another vessel, then moving to a working channel. All communication on Channel 16 should be kept to a minimum thereby reducing the chance of a genuine distress call not being heard.

Avoidance of Interference — Before beginning your radio call a careful check should be made to ensure that channel 16 and the working channel that you intend to use are not already in use. See a list of channels which have already been allocated for local events (AC35 / Daily Shipping).

Bermuda Radio Direction Finding Equipment — Bermuda Radio is equipped with Radio Direction Finding equipment which can triangulate your position using Marine VHF Radio, allowing for a quicker response by Search & Rescue responders. Again, if in distress you should call Bermuda Radio on Marine VHF Channel 16 or dial 911 and ask for Marine Rescue.

Radio Checks — Boaters are advised that radio checks should not be conducted on Marine VHF CH16 to avoid interference with a genuine distress call. A radio check can be carried out on Channel 07 International via the repeater at Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, (see Guide to Marine VHF Radio-communications in Bermuda). If this test is unsuccessful then you can perform a quick radio check with Bermuda Radio on Channel 27.

International and USA Channel selection — It is important to note that all Marine VHF Channel selections in Bermuda waters should be “International” and not “USA” settings. If you are having difficulty communicating with another station then ensure that your VHF Radio is set to “International”.

Boat Registration and Safety Equipment — All boats should be registered with the Department of Marine & Ports Services and displaying a current sticker, while also ensuring that contact information is up-to-date, allowing Bermuda Radio to quickly identify and assist your vessel if need be. All persons operating a Marine VHF Radio should hold a valid “Class 5” Radio Licence.

Mariners are reminded that mobile phones are a good back-up to a Marine VHF Radio but should not be used as the primary means of communication when on the water.

Marine VHF Channel Allocations for America's Cup — Several VHF Channels will be used during the AC35 event, including Marine VHF WX CH02 for the dissemination of local weather information and daily update on positioning of AC35 racecourse based on wind direction.

Other channels of note include:

CH06 — Race Marshal / Spectator interaction channel (Race marshal may hold up placard asking you to switch to CH06)

CH16 — International Distress, Call and Reply Channel

CH20 — Live Broadcast of AC35 race to spectator boats

CH22 — Bermuda Marine Police

CH27 — Bermuda Radio primary working channel / Maritime Safety Information / Routine Traffic

CH68 — Bermuda Radio secondary working channel

A full list of channel allocations for AC35 is available at This website is also the best place to find local navigation warnings, and a guide to Marine VHF Radio-communications in Bermuda.

Mariners are reminded of the need to keep a listening watch on Marine VHF CH16 when on the water.

This will allow you to immediately call for assistance or possibly assist another boater in distress.

Safe boating.

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Published May 06, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 08, 2017 at 11:08 am)

Keeping in touch on the water

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