Our sailboat’s 18-horse Yanmar diesel engine is a game little motor, but after four solid hours of listening to the clack and clatter, I’m left with the wit of a sea cucumber.
Thank heavens for the VHF marine radio and entertaining channel 16 calls like this: “Dancing Over Waves, this is Sloshing Through, over.” And then the reply … “Yeah, Slouching Crew, go to channel 09.”
Yes, it’s all amusing buddy-to-boater calls, until there’s a mayday to the Victoria Coast Guard from a boater who’s not sure where he is on the water and is unable to identify his vessel, except to say that it is “white.”
Just imagine marine VHF radio without some form of regulation. Pandelerium! Insults! Jokes! Safety on the water depends on a universal standard of clear communication. Consequently, Industry Canada requires anyone operating a marine VHF radio to have the Restricted Operator Certificate – Marine (ROC-M) – or be subject to fines up to $5,000. Twenty years ago, Industry Canada assigned responsibility for administrating the ROC-M licensing program to the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (CPS-ECP). Today, a simple web search lists various other marine organizations and online options to obtaining a ROC-M licence. Once you have the ROC-M licence, it’s valid for a lifetime.
Unlike commercial vessels, VHF marine radio is not mandatory on pleasure craft. However, if you choose to have a radio, the size or type of your vessel is irrelevant to the ROC-M requirement. A hand-held portable VHF marine radio tucked into your 14-foot kayak means you are subject to the same ROC-M licence as a three-storey 50-foot white powerboat, that may or may not be the white boat with engine trouble.
In 2018, I attended the Cape Lazo Power and Sail Squadron one-day Maritime Radio course that covered the ROC-M test and licensing. It was a relaxed and friendly experience with class time to practise different kinds of radio calls and prepare for the test, a series of general knowledge questions on the correct use of the VHF marine radio frequencies. COVID-19 has since presented challenges to all education providers, so it’s best to contact each organization directly for their most recent course timetables and fees.
•Cape Lazo Power & Sail Squadron: firstname.lastname@example.org
•Canadian Coast Guard Handbook, Radio Aids to Marine Navigation (Part 4 General):
•Marine VHF Radio Handbook for the BC Coast, Second Edition, by Erik Skovgaard