Ask Sail: VHF Radios Ashore

I just bought two marine handheld radios that also have land channels for GMRS. A few weeks ago on a hike to Mt. Whitney, the marine VHF channels gave us extraordinarily increased range over the GMRS channels...
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Q:Tom Barnard, Santa Cruz, CA

I just bought two marine handheld radios that also have land channels for GMRS. A few weeks ago on a hike to Mt. Whitney, the marine VHF channels gave us extraordinarily increased range over the GMRS channels. Didn’t I hear that land use of marine VHF frequencies will soon be legalized? Why the range difference?

Gordon West Replies

West-head_1

Your combo marine/GMRS radio operates on UHF short range for GMRS and VHF for the marine channels. The FCC is currently studying whether to allow marine radio use on land, but it is doubtful there will be a change. Can you imagine kids playing on VHF Channel 16, climbing a hill and then interrupting a Coast Guard mayday call out on the water? As for the GMRS channels, you may need an expensive license, too. While there is merit in hiking with a VHF handheld for calling the Coast Guard in a life or death emergency, you should only use the marine frequencies on land when all else has failed. The Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 system offers extraordinary coverage, not only of navigable waters, but well inland as well.

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