Channel 16 is not a party line!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 20, 2003

Back in my late teens and early 20s I used to own a Citizen Band, or CB radio. Back then I enjoyed just getting on the road and traveling and often CB radios allowed me to get information, such as directions or road conditions. It was fun to get into conversations with truckers moving every kind of material across our country.

One thing that surprised me was the number of people that would get on the radio and conduct a &uot;radio check.&uot; I can’t tell you how many times I heard, &uot;Radio Check,&uot; on multiple channels.

Yesterday I started thinking about the same kind of clutter on marine channels. Often, well-meaning boaters will start up conversations on Channel 16, the primary marine hailing channel, and not allow others to use the airtime. The same goes for &uot;radio checks.&uot; People get on Channel 16 and won’t get off – not good. While in command of USCGC Jefferson Island I once overheard a discussion of car engine performance on Channel 16. It was a conversation between two people that knew cars, but it had no place on Channel 16.

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The practice of tying up Channel 16 can actually can be quite dangerous, especially in tight harbors, where communication is imperative to avoid collisions or simply letting other users of the waterway know what you intend to do. In addition Channel 16 is the primary channel the Coast Guard monitors for search and rescue. If boaters are on channel 16 discussing new radios, fishing or other non-vital issues it may place a boater, who is at risk and/or sinking in danger. The distressed boater may only get one opportunity to make a radio call. If the channel is clogged, the alternatives are fell.

What can you do as a responsible boater? First, understand why Channel 16 exists. It is not a party line. If you do get on channel 16 to make initial hails, then switch to a non-working channel as quickly as possible. Same goes for radio checks, which can be conducted on other channels. By understanding the marine bands, and their designated uses, everyone wins.

Use Channel 16 properly. Some day it may help save a life, including your own! Until next week, Boat Safe, Boat Smart and take a moment to remember all the brave men and women fighting overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom!

LCDR Joe DiRenzo III is a resident of Suffolk and a regular News-Herald columnist.