Steve Williams is a stand up paddler from the Scottish south east. Here he talks us through his recent VHF course experience. For those into long distance or downwind paddling it could be a wise move to understand how to operate a VHF and then carry a radio while out at sea. Over to Steve…
SUP surfing is my fave thing but living on the south east coast of Scotland means surf is pretty inconsistent so I am turning to doing a few short trips along my local coastline…usually on my own. There is a growing SUP community in Scotland so a few downwinders might also be on the cards in the future too.
I had been talking with one of my local RNLI managers and I told him that I was paddling along the coast and wanted to try a few downwinders and straight off he recommended I use a VHF radio.
“Get yourself on one of the SRC courses (Short Range Certificate), get a radio and you’ll have peace of mind, same with your family and same with us!” he said.
I put it off for nearly a year with one thing or another but eventually paid the cash and did the course. And yet with SUPers increasingly heading further offshore they make sense – kayakers have been singing the benefits of VHF radios for years.
So what can you expect on the SRC course? Well, I won’t exactly say it is fun but it isn’t exactly drudgery either…kind of both but more on the fun side. If you do the course and exam on the same day then you can expect 11 hours of it – bit of a marathon.
You will spend a few hours doing the classroom stuff, learning about VHF radios, using different channels and revising the dos and don’ts of radio etiquette. You will also learn about Digital Selective Calling which is brilliant for getting you out of a sticky situation fast.
Now all that theory might be melting your brain but the fun begins when you start using the training radios.
You will start practicing Mayday calls, Pan-pan calls and Mayday relays. There’s a correct maritime procedure for these and you’ll have these drummed into you. You will also be taught how to do a simple radio check with the coastguard to make sure yours is working fine. The check is a good thing to do every time you set off.
At the end of the theory and practice you can sit the exam there and then or leave it to another day. I did the exam straight after.
You undertake a 30 minute written test which is a mixture of multiple choice and one scenario – most likely to be about how to undertake a Mayday call. Then you get asked to carry out a few of the main distress calls on the radios.
Hopefully you’ll have been paying attention and have then passed the course. The idea is not to fail people but encourage you through it.
My course cost £85 plus you need to pay £60 for a licence. You need this to register your VHF radio properly and get a call-sign.
To some, a VHF radio might seem excessive but if you are heading out to sea for downwinders or longer trips it is a good safety back up…a mobile phone doesn’t really cut it.
More info on the course here: http://www.rya.org.uk/coursestraining/courses/specialist/Pages/SRC.aspx