A quick guide to proper radio protocol. The following is the usual RYA method, and should replace 'hello, is anyone there?' which isn't really the right way of doing things!
The radios are primarily for safety, but also save a lot of time and effort doing things such as passing on course changes to the clubhouse, getting buoys dropped in the right place and so on.
Important things to remember:
VHF radio is a public channel and can be overheard by anyone. Do not say anything over the radio that you would not say over a loudhailer.
The channel can only host one transmission at a time, so it is important that no-one interrupts, only one person talks at a time and that it is clear when the conversation is over.
Keep exchanges short and don't chatter over the radio.
If two people try to talk at once, it doesn't work – only one person will be heard.
Make sure you are not sitting on the radio and transmitting by mistake; check before gossiping in the safety boat...
Low and high power
When you switch on the radio, push the h/l button and make sure 'low' is on the display. This means you are transmitting on low power and can only be heard within a mile or so, which is plenty. This stops us interfering with other VHF users, especially other local sailing clubs.
A typical conversation between 'James' and 'Fred' would be as follows:
JAMES: 'fred, fred, fred, this is james, james, james, over' (names said three times to attract attention)
FRED: 'james, this is fred, over'
JAMES:'something to say, over'
FRED:'something else to say, over'
..and so on until..
JAMES: 'thank you Fred, James out'.
Anyone else waiting to talk can now start a new conversation. Note that the exchange can only be ended by the person who started it. The club has defined call signs which are on the wall above the radio chargers; using these will avoid confusion if two or more people in the duty team have the same name.
Shore based users should note that the boat engines may drown out the radio; wait until the boat has stopped before trying to talk to someone on the water.
What words mean
'over' means 'I've finished speaking, your turn'
'out' means 'end of conversation'
'over and out' is therefore a contradiction in terms and should never be used.
'stand by' means 'I'm too busy to talk right now' (e.g. In mid rescue) – the person who said it will then restart the conversation once they are free. The person calling should wait until this happens.
When you collect a radio, make sure it is working with a radio check, as follows:
'james, james, james, this is fred, fred, fred, radio check please, over'
'fred, this is james, loud and clear, over'
'thank you fred, james out'.
Looking after radios
The club radios switch on with a blue button. On one of the radios, the blue button is on the front panel, on all the others it is on the top. The radios are theoretically waterproof and float - use the lanyard. At the end of the day turn the radios off and put them back in the chargers.
A safety boat without a radio isn't much use, and one radio is no use at all. Always make sure you take a radio in the boat, and that someone else has one and is listening. Ideally someone on the shore should have a radio to communicate with those on the water.