VHF Radio Changes

There have been changes to the VHF marine radio protocol recently. If your RYA VHF Handbook was published before July 2019 it will not include these changes. The most critical update is a change to the procedure for Distress Relay.

Digital Selective Calling (DSC) is no longer used to initiate a Distress Relay voice call and message. Distress Relay should be made by voice only, targeted to a specific Coast Station using VHF channel 16. 

Here's a link to the RYA website that explains more about the new procedure.  Changes to Distress Relay procedures

Candidates for the SRC exam particularly, should also be aware the following updates:

  • The term SART may refer to an AIS-based 'Search and Rescue Transmitter' or a radar-based 'Search and Rescue Transponder'. Both systems are now officially part of GMDSS.
  • The channels on which UK Maritime Safety Information (MSI) messages are transmitted have been changed to 62, 63 and 64. Channel 10 is still used and is also used for oil pollution operations.
  • A Ship Portable Radio Licence (SPRL) is for equipment such as a handheld VHF, PLB or EPIRB that may be used on multiple vessels. An SPRL is valid only to the extent of UK territorial seas.
  • Some VHF sets fitted with DSC now include an inbuilt function to cancel a distress alert instead of the switch-off-switch-back-on approach. Users of VHF radios are reminded of the importance of familiarising themselves with the specific equipment that they will use.
  • RYA SafeTrx has replaced CG66 as the UK's voluntary identification database.
  • Official ITU Radio Regulations terminology has been adopted to refer to urgency, safety and routine DSC calls. The correct terms are, 'Urgency Announcement', 'Safety Announcement' and 'Routine Announcement'. Previously these were referred to as 'Alerts', a term which is now reserved for DSC 'Distress' calls only.
  • An EPIRB or PLB must be programmed with a HEX ID. An EPIRB may also incorporate an AIS transmitter as well as a GNSS receiver.

Who can legally use a DSC/VHF Marine Radio

Short Range Certificate, or SRC

Different countries may have their own rules about qualifications for using the Marine Band DSC/VHF radios onboard ship or on land.

Ofcom is the UK's radio licence issuing authority. Read more about Ofcom

In the UK, you can use a DSC/VHF marine radio without an SRC (or other qualifying licence) if:

  • You are under the supervision of someone who holds an SRC
  • You are using a private channel (such as Ch M or M2)
  • You are in distress

Return to VHF Radio Course webpage

VHF Marine Radio course joining instructions

The fee includes: The “RYA VHF Handbook”

The fee does not include: RYA Examination Fee and Short Range Certificate (£60)

The venue: Morecambe, unless otherwise stated. Venue to be advised.

Arrival: 0930hrs   Lunch: 1230hrs   Finish: 1900hrs approximately

Pay the RYA for your SRC Assessment (exam) and certificate
To pay by card, follow this link Paying for your SRC Assessment

Please do this before you come for the course. The receipt is also your exam & certificate application form. You must print this & bring a copy with you.

Please bring the following with you;
1) Pen & paper.
2) Course book.
3) RYA SRC exam application form (see above).
4) Recent colour passport photo (NOT POLAROID).
5) Bring your own lunch.
Tea and coffee will be provided throughout the day.

Listed below are some pre-course study tasks, an essential part of the course as you will be tested on these topics during the exam. This should take you about three hours to complete.

  • Read chapters 1, 2 and 3 of the RYA VHF Handbook - Answer the questions in Quiz 1
  • Read Chapters 4, 5 and 6 - Answer questions in Quiz 2
  • Read Chapters 9 and 10 - Answer questions in Quiz 3
  • Familiarise yourself with the phonetic alphabet, page 42
  • Read about the Distress Call and Message on pages 44 & 45

This acronym helps me remember the Distress Call and Message: MI MIPDANIO

If you have any problems, give John a call on 07721 891 615

Jamie uses the VHF radio

RYA VHF Marine Radio

Short Range Certificate

1-day Classroom Course

To use a fixed or handheld VHF marine band radio it is a legal requirement to have completed the radio course and passed the short practical assessment (some SRC licence exemptions).  Your operator's licence is then valid for life. 

RYA VHF Handbook


Your course pack includes the RYA's "VHF Radio Handbook".  The final qualifying exam will be held on the same day.   Please note, there is a separate exam & certification fee of £70 payable to the RYA. 

If you hold a pre-1999 license you need to update to the new VHF Short Range Certificate.  There have been many significant changes since then.  Contact us if you have any questions.

COVID 19: We're not scheduling any classroom VHF radio courses at the moment. The online course is proving very popular. 

Do the radio course online  

There are two steps to gaining your VHF radio operator's licence.

Step 1. Study the course content:  Online (or on a 1-day classroom course when available)

Step 2. Complete the final practical assessment, in person, at a training centre.

Pre-course Study
The Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) requires candidates to do 3 hours pre-course study before attending the classroom course.  You'll receive your course pack by post once payment is confirmed.  You'll also have access to our free quiz & top tips for the practical exam.

Final Exam
This takes place at the end of the day's tuition.  There's a multiple choice question paper and a short practical assessment, which involves making different kinds of DSC calls. 

Top tips

TOP TIP - Familiarise yourself with the menu structure of our ICOM Radio 
Like mobile phones, VHF radios differ from one another.  But they're not as intuitive to use as phones.  So it's worth a few minutes to memorise the steps through the Icom radio's menu to send the main types of DSC alerts before you arrive for your practical assessment!


Sending a Routine Announcement by DSC

Manually enter another boat's MMSI number

Manually entering a position - (It's much easier to have your radio permanently connected to GPS!)

Sending a DSC Distress Alert

VHF Radio Update - Recent changes to the VHF Radio course

Mayday relay update


I need to get the licence soon.  What's the quickest way?
The online course is the quickest way to obtain the license.  Click here for more information.
Is there an age limit?
Although there is no age limit to do the course, the minimum age for the assessment is 16.
I have an RYA/MCA 'VHF Restricted Operator's Certificate'.  Can I update it to the GMDSS Short Range Certificate?
Yes, you can.  It does require a knowledge of the Global Maritime Distress & Safety System and be able to send and receive DSC calls.  If you need to refresh your VHF skills, many people find the best thing to do is take the course again.
 Date  Time  Places Left
None planned at present - online only

Click here for course joining instructions

FullWorking on the engine RYA Diesel Engine

1-day Course

"Really excellent course, worth every penny. Lots of hands-on opportunity using a real working diesel engine"

This is a fun, relaxed course. No prior experience is required. John explains how a diesel engine works and shows you how to diagnose and fix common problems. There's a bit of theory but the majority of the course is hands-on, so bring your overalls!

If you're taking the Yachtmaster practical exam, the examiner will expect some of this basic knowledge. 

The majority of RNLI callouts to small boats are due to engine failure. Many of these are preventable or easily fixed at sea with just a little bit of know-how.

"It appears to be complicated but actually it's quite simple when you're shown how" said Jan, a complete beginner.

Volvo Penta Diesel Engine

With modern car engines we tend to leave it to a trained mechanic to fix things. So most of us haven't grown up dabbling under the bonnet. The Diesel Engine course shows you how all the parts work and what to do when they don't! You'll carry out a routine engine service too.  

"These things have happened to us when we've been out at sea!" said Amanda from Macclesfield. "If we'd known then what we've learnt today we wouldn't have had to call for help from the RNLI".

You'll be working on a real running engine in an outside garage. So we schedule the course in the early and late summer when it's not too cold. This course is also suitable for canal boaters.

"Brilliant course and excellent instructor!"

The course covers the following topics:

  • How a Diesel engine works
  • Fault Finding
  • Fixing common faults
  • Bleeding air from the fuel system
  • Changing the impeller
  • Routine maintenance
  • Winter lay-up

Remember, you don't need to know anything about engines to take this course. Experience working on a real, running, single cylinder Volvo Penta marine diesel engine.

The cost includes the certificate and RYA Diesel Course booklet. 

Private Diesel Engine Course
Contact us to arrange a Diesel Engine course, here or at other suitable venues in Lancashire & the North West. Individual coaching is also available on your own boat.

Date Time Places left
Saturday 25th March 0930 Full
Sunday 26th March 0930 3

Click here for course joining instructions

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