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Gunslinger

Marine Band Radio help

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Gunslinger

Got a couple of hand held Cobra Marine radios but have not used them before. Can someone give me a quick overview of how marine band channels work? Can I use them as walkies to talk boat to boat? Kind of confused on the whole concept. Thanks!

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PerchJerker

Marine Band radio is governed by the FCC and has some stringent regulations. Those regulations are primarily enforced on coastal waters, including rivers and Great Lakes that are patroled by the Coast Guard.

Marine Band is frequently used in a very casual way (for lack of a better term) on inland lakes, and the usage is not enforced much, either by officials or by other people on the air that prefer to see it used correctly. In other words, on in-land waters around here it's pretty much anything goes.

But ....

They are public airways, foul language is frowned upon (but is not uncommon).

Some channels have designated usage. 16 is the emergency station and is also used as a hailing station, but not a conversation station. Most conversations happen on 68, 69, 71, 72 and 82. Other channels may have restrictions, like commercial use only, or coast guard use only, or low-watt transmission only, etc. With some searching on the internet you should be able to find what marine band (or vhf) channels are designated.

Marine band is supposed to be used on water only, not on land. If you broadcast with it on land you are required to be licensed. There was a somewhat famous case a few years ago where a guy with a cabin near mille lacs got busted using a marine band radio as a base in his cabin.

Your handheld radios are designed to be used as walkie-talkies from boat to boat, or boat to dock. You can use them to talk to each other, or to anyone else with a vhf radio that's in range and on the same channel. The range with handhelds is not great, likely to be only a couple of miles. I have a vhf in my boat with an 8 ft antenna, which makes a noticable difference from the guys with 3 and 4 foot antennas.

It seems to me that going back a few years there was more chatter and for sure more fishing talk over the marine band. But as cell phone reception keeps improving, more guys are doing their talking and sharing their information in private.

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Gunslinger

Thanks for the info. Very helpful. If I want to go cabin to boat, would I be better off getting walkies with a 20 mile range?

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PerchJerker

You usually won't get anywhere near the advertised range. Antenna height and a clear line-of-site are the key things for making longer range transmissions. After those two factors things like atmospheric conditions and interference between your radio and antenna will come into play. But the bottom line is that if you're trying to talk long distances with handheld radios you're probably going to be disappointed, especially if there's trees, rocks, islands, points, etc. between the two radios. Good luck.

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