VHF Users Guide

VHF radios are provided for anyone on the water in a launch in addition to cell phones and other forms of communications.

VHF Radio Channels

SDRC has Standard Horizon HX210 hand-held radios. SDRC will only use non-commercial and Emergency channels. A complete list of channels and their usage is available at boatsafe.com

  • Channel 71: Is the SDRC preferred channel.
  • Channel 16: Used for Emergencies and  routine initial calling and answering. Once contact has been established, transfer to a working Channel. Channel 16 is monitored by San Diego Life Guards, US Coastguard, and all other vessels with VHF radios.
  • Channel 9: Pleasure-boat hailing channel.
  • Channels 68, 69, 71, 72 and 78A: Recreational working channels.

How to use your Radio

Radios are stored in the coaches office in a black charging rack above the desk. Please be sure to return your radio at the end of every outing to ensure that it is available to the next person and fully charged.

  1. Turn on the radio by pressing and holding the RED power button on the bottom right of the HX210 radio until the display screen is activated.
  2. Tune to channel 71, SDRC’s primary communications channel using the UP and DOWN arrows.
    1. If the radio displays KEY LOCK press and hold the CLR/On button on the middle right of the HX210 to unlock.
  3. Set the volume to an appropriate level using the VOL – and + VOL buttons.
    1. Check the squelch by pressing the bottom button on the left of the radio until SQL is displayed in the bottom left of the display, then use the UP and DOWN buttons to adjust. If the squelch is set too high, you will not hear people talking to you.
  4. Press the top button on the left side of the radio to transmit, this is the Push to Talk button [PTT] and release to end your transmission.
  5. In an emergency, press the RED 16/S button on the bottom left of the HX210 radio. This will tune the radio to emergency channel 16.
  6. To turn off the radio, press and hold the RED power button until the display turns off.

Communicating Effectively


In the event of an on-water emergency, press the RED 16/S button, press the PTT button and identify yourself as San Diego Rowing Club, your location using well known names for landmarks, and the nature of your emergency.

Emergency example– when there is imminent danger to crew and/or vessel:

  • SDRC: MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, This is SDRC, SDRC, SDRC. Position 500 meters north of Government VORTAC island East Mission Bay. 8 souls. Racing shell swamped and sinking (or crew member is injured, unconscious, or other medical issue). Require immediate assistance. 65 ft Red Racing Shell and 15ft Orange inflatable launch. Red life jackets. Over.
  • LIFEGUARD: The Lifeguard will confirm your location and provide instructions. There might be a vessel (e.g. sailing boat/fishing boat) nearby that might be instructed to assist. They will then contact you to provide orders, such as wave arms, gather ropes, etc.
    • e.g., LIFEGUARD: SDRC, SDRC, SDRC switch to channel X, Over.
    • SDRC (switching to channel X): LIFEGUARD, this is SDRC on channel X, Over.
    • LIFEGUARD: SDRC, you are located 500 meters north of VORTAC island East Mission Bay. 8 souls. Racing shell is swamped and sinking. Do you require immediate assistance? Over.
    • SDRC: LIFEGUARD, we require immediate assistance to rescue 8 souls from the water. Over.


For non-urgent calls, use channel 71, press the PTT button and identify yourself and indicate to whom your message is intended. Keep your conversations brief as the channel is shared with other VHF users.

Non-emergency example between two launches on channel 71 (not on channel 9 or 16):

  • Kington launch: SDRC Coach Dougherty, SDRC Coach Dougherty, this is SDRC Coach Kington, OVER
  • Dougherty launch: Kington, this is Dougherty what is your message, OVER
  • Kington launch: Sean, just to inform you we are changing the practice from Sea World Channel to the north Fiesta Island to the Hilton Dock course due to heavier than normal fishing boat traffic, OVER
  • Dougherty launch: Pat, confirmed. Practice changed to Fiesta Island Hilton Dock course. OVER
  • Kington launch: Sean, Okay, see you there. OUT

Why VHF Radios?

VHF radios provide the following benefits over cell phones while on the water.

  • Cell phones generally cannot provide ship to ship safety communications or communications with rescue vessels. Only one party you call will be able to hear you on a cell phone while VHF channels have many listeners including emergency personnel and nearby boaters who may be able to assist.
  • VHF radio transmissions can be located in fog or low light conditions while cell phones cannot be easily triangulated.
  • Cell phones can be used as a backup in Mission Bay to call 9-1-1 emergency services, but VHF Marine radios are the gold standard for on water contact and communications.