How often do you hear a merchant ship or fishing vessel conducting a radio check? The answer is never, so why do so many yachts feel it necessary to call up the coastguard every time they go to sea?
Modern VHF radios are remarkably reliable: if they are receiving clearly there is a better than average chance that they will transmit when required. Besides, a fault could develop at any time, and a successful radio check is absolutely no guarantee that it will work when you next need it.
So, what’s the harm in a radio check? First, it is an unnecessary transmission, and we are duty bound to make the minimum number of calls, and to keep them short. Secondly, radio checks are horribly irritating for the rest of us in busy sailing areas when we have to listen to them almost continuously. Thirdly, and most pertinently, most radio checks are conducted on VHF Channel 16, which is not really meant for this sort of traffic, and they often interrupt or block out more urgent calls.
If you must check your radio – and there are times, such as immediately after installing a new set, when it is prudent to do so – use a working channel: a marina on Channel 80, another yacht on a pre-arranged channel (or by a routine call on DSC) or the National Coastguard Institution on Channel 65. Otherwise, allow the peace to prevail for everyone on the water!
Don’t get carried away doing radio checks