Marine radios: how to choose and use them


When you’re venturing out on the water, a marine radio is an essential bit of kit. But the correct training is also vital when it comes to using your radio effectively. Luckily, there’s an extensive list of RYA Recognised Training Centres around the UK and abroad that provide the RYA Short Range Certificate (SRC) course so that you can get started.

‘You can’t go boating safely and successfully without a VHF radio because you’ll need to communicate with somewhere such as a harbour or in the case of an emergency,’ says Dominic Coleman of Dorset Marine Training in Poole. ‘If you’re in a smaller craft such as a dinghy or kayak then knowing when ships are coming in and out will mean you make the right decision when crossing channels. It’s just as important to listen as it is to communicate.’

All RYA Recognised Training Centres use real radios for training, so that sailors feel confident once they’re at sea. Dominic says, ‘In the classroom, we use Icom marine training radios so that students can get hands-on experience with real radios rather than talking theoretically about them,’ he explains. ‘If you’ve shown somebody how something works you’ve proved the benefit to them physically as opposed to just telling them.’

Along the coast, Aboard Boat Coaching in Hamble runs regular RYA SRC courses for up to eight students in one session.

Its training room is a professional set-up with eight Icom IC-M423 marine training radios. Mike Coulson, the company’s co-director, agrees that hands-on learning is the most effective way to pick up radio skills.

‘The Icom training radios are really important to us as it doesn’t take long for students to work out how to use them,’ he explains. ‘Most students learn by doing, and our training set-up allows this to take place. We love our Icom radios as they’re straightforward to understand and use. We use them in the classroom and on the water. They’re a great asset to our training centre.’

We love our Icom radios as they’re straightforward to understand and use. We use them in the classroom and on the water.

Realising the importance of educating sailors in using radios effectively, Paul Harrison set up Seavoice Training in Merseyside in 2006. ‘After many years working for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency as a watchkeeper, I knew I could teach the RYA VHF Radio course from a professional, experienced angle,’ he explains. Seavoice has equipped its training rooms with Icom radios, with Paul finding them particularly user-friendly: ’We only use Icom radios as we found other training sets could be hard to use or the screen was too small to see the controls.’

‘The marine environment can be a harsh place,’ he adds. ‘So having a marine radio you can depend on is key. Icom marine radios are always the radio we recommend.’

Dominic from Dorset Marine Training agrees. ’We use Icom radios because they’re consistently reliable,’ he says. ‘I’ve swum with them, fallen out of dinghies with them, dropped them and bashed them around! We use them every day.’