“Breaker, breaker . . . 10-4 Good Buddy.” Is this how you use your VHF radio? Or have you just bought a new VHF radio and are trying to figure out what the PTT button is? If so, this book is for you. There is a lot of new technology surrounding today’s VHF radios, and this book will help you become proficient when using and operating yours. It aims to be the companion to your VHF owner’s manual. There’s a wealth of information here. The author goes into a lot of detail on how to use your radio, including usage, etiquette, and protocol. If you want to sound professional, read this book.

But the focus of this book is using the Digital Selective Calling (DSC). You can use a DSC-equipped radio to make automatic calls to friends who also have DSC radios. And you can make automated, distress, and other calls to the Coast Guard.

Unfortunately, the Coast Guard is not uniformly ready to receive such calls. This is scheduled to begin in 2006. That’s why I was a bit confused about the purpose of this book. It seemed to gloss over the standard VHF functions focusing instead on DSC capabilities. The bottom line is that Channel 16, used to hail your buddy and the Coast Guard, will be around for a long time.

Having said that, there really is a lot of DCS info in this book. This book also has a very good section on the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). It describes how this system ties together the DSC-equipped radios (VHF and SSB), EPIRB, NAVTEX and Search and Rescue Transponders (SART). The information in the appendices is also very good, both to read through and to have on hand at your radio.

If you are a novice with your boat’s radio, this book would be a good item to help you learn. But if you an experienced user and a bit technical, this information is probably already on your boat or computer.

A Boater’s Guide to VHF and GMDSS by Sue Fletcher (International Marine, 2002)