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As yesterday’s post was fairly photo heavy, and I spent far too much time putting it together, I’ll keep this one brief. Before you set off cruising, make sure that you either know how to change the radio-band setting on your VHF radios or at least have the manual with you so that you can look it up.

When we were sailing in Canada we, of course, had our radios set to Canadian mode. Almost immediately after crossing to the United States we were bombarded with Coast Guard announcements telling us to switch to channels like 22A, 2-Alpha. No matter how much we clicked around on our radio though, no such channel was available. That is, until we switched the radio to the US band.

Now, far south of the US, we have switched our radios again, this time to International mode, presenting us with a different selection of channels (no more Alphas). In Grenada, at least, this change is important as the radio net runs off of a repeater on channel 66, not 66A. Those resistant to switching bands on their radios (I don’t know why they would be but some people are) or who don’t know how to are unable to hear the entire radio broadcast each morning.

This image is of our new Icom M24 VHF Radio which, so far, we love. The “I” stands for International. This radio does not suffer from the same problems as do most other handheld units.


  1. In the previous post you marked, you indicated that your next handheld would be the Uniden, yet you have an ICOM…what made you change your mind, or did the Uniden come and go?

    • We never did purchase the Uniden. The Uniden might be the same but the feature which sold us on the M24 is that the charging port is sealed from the water/elements.

  2. May I add 2 cents here?

    After I crossed from Europe to America I was not even able to communicate with Canadian or US Coastguard until I finally bought a handheld radio here that has these channels. “No, sir, I can’t switch to a thing called two-two-alpha and I don’t even have a clue what that is.”, “No sir, there is no such US mode on my radio, what is that?” – Sure, placing a distress on ch.16 works everywhere, but all the news- weather- and info-stuff seemed well hidden to an international sailor in the beginning.

    Also, if not even using different frequencies, these special channels use often simplex, where through ITU almost everywhere else in the world but US & Canada they are duplex. So one side hears the other crystal clear but it’s a oneway talk, keeping you replying or calling: “Yes, damn I hear you, open your squelch, volume or whatever … ”

    If that alone is not a reason to say it is stupid to keep a radio in US mode after leaving the US, talking to your tender or friends in an anchorage on e.g. 88a is often simply illegal (and sometimes quite nicely fined) in many countries, because it is not conform to the ITU band plan.

    And brought to full extension being forced to use these channels I have to break the legal regulations and technically render my VHF registration invalid because I have to use a radio that is illegal under the flag I am flying. – How sick is that?


  3. While it is unfortunate that I will not be boating outside of the US anytime soon, I am so grateful for posts like this that show me how much I need to learn. After reading your post I immediately picked up my handheld radio and figured out how to make the switch.

  4. About illegality of radios…
    Don’t many “Mericans, bring down “walkie-talkies” like the sets of 2 you can get at Wally World or Bass Pro to use? Is that off band? or is the custom to use handheld VHF’s?

    • If those walkie-talkies are FRS band (very low power FM on the 462 and 467 MHz bands), they’re legal in Canada, the US, Mexico and, I believe, Brazil and much of the rest of South America.

      If they’re GMRS band (also 462 / 467 MHz UHF but more sophisticated and far more powerful), they’re legal and licence free in Canada, legal with a GMRS operator licence in the US, and may be illegal elsewhere.

      Most other walkie-talkies would be on VHF or UHF commercial / fleet bands or ham bands and would be subject to different local laws in each region.

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