VHF Radio Course – Classroom

Key Course Details

Duration: 1 day

Time: 9am to 6pm

Group Size: Usually 6 or 8

Min Age: From 12

Price: From £75 to £100 (course pack included)



“The Short Range Certificate (‘SRC’) is the radio operator qualification which authorises the holder to operate a VHF radiotelephone, fitted with Digital Selective Calling (‘DSC’) on board any British vessel which is voluntarily fitted with radio equipment.”

Course Duration

1 day from 9am to 5pm. In certain situations we are happy to run the course over two evenings but this of course assumes a minimum number of attendees. If this is of particular interest then please do call/email to discuss.

At the end of the course there is a short written and practical assessment – see below.

Instructor – student ratio

The RYA ‘rules’ stipulate a maximum number of attendees of 12 however our courses at our offices rarely run with more than 8 attendees and usually less. Of great value though is that whereas the RYA only ask that we supply one VHF Training set per 3 attendees we own 15 radios meaning that you are far more hands on than you would be with most courses.

Prior experience

None! Ahead of the course we will send you a course pack and instructions on what to prepare. This will give you the opportunity to read through our pre course manual and the RYA VHF Handbook.

A key area to practice ahead of the course is the phonetic alphabet, this will be detailed in the pre-course pack. Remember to bring a passport photo too.

Minimum Age

12 – We are generally happy for a child over 12 to attend a course with their parent/guardian – please call to discuss. Children over 16 can attend on their own but we must have the parent/guardian’s specific permission – please call to discuss.

The end of course examination cannot be undertaken by those under 16.

What about the end of course assessment?

Assessments are scheduled at the end of every course that we conduct in the classroom so you will simply progress during the day towards the assessment.

Don’t worry about the word ‘assessment’ – it is not scary! It’s just simply a way of ensuring that you can use the radio, understand what channels to use, make distress, urgency and safety calls etc.

There is a short written assessment to complete so if you feel you may have any issues doing this in writing please do let us know ideally ahead of the course as we can conduct this verbally with you.

The practical assessment simply involves repeating the various calls you will have made during the day so is best considered as just more practice.

One of the changes for 2014 is that the assessment element of the VHF Course will be conducted by a separate RYA Assessor. We have 7 assessors between Powerboat Training UK and Aquasafe Powerboat School so you may well know the assessor anyway. They are all hugely experienced at putting you at your ease and making the assessment straightforward and enjoyable.

Booking the assessment

If you are undertaking the classroom course then you don’t need to do anything as we arrange the assessment for the end of each course.

If you are undertaking the online course then just contact us when you have completed the online course and we will book you an examination. This will usually be at the end of one of our scheduled classroom courses. If there are two or more of you though we may be able to arrange a time/date just for you.

What does the course and assessment cost?

Existing client: £75 including mandatory course pack. RYA Fee – £60

New client: £100 including mandatory course pack. RYA Fee – £60

Each price quoted in the ‘Key Course Details’ section above is the price per head for 1 person, for 2 persons the per head cost reduces by 2.5% and for three people by 5%. The price shown is inclusive of VAT.

The RYA fee is payable even if you are a RYA member.

Can I take the assessment with you if I did the online course elsewhere?

Yes! Just contact the office and they will schedule you in.

How long does the assessment last?

This depends on how many people we are assessing. The written assessment will take about 20 minutes and the practical assessment will take between an hour and two hours. This means we expect a typical combined course/assessment to finish between 5pm and 6pm.

What’s best – doing the course online or in the classroom?

In all honesty if you can afford the time to come to us and do the course in the classroom in our opinion this is by far the best way. Whilst the online course is excellent what you really miss out on is the real hands on experience of our instructors who have many years of experience afloat and add to the syllabus to maximise the benefit of the course and your investment in it.

Additionally, many people may find it easier to progress and pass the assessment, building on the time we spend using the radios during the day and the assistance the instructor provides as you progress through the course.

However if you want to do the course away from the classroom then the online course is great. Equally if you already have the VHF licence and either need the DSC element or just want to brush up then its an excellent option. Don’t forget though that you will need to come into our classroom to take the examination.

The Course

The RYA VHF/SRC course is aimed at everyone that goes afloat whether it is in a large Sunseeker, a family RIB or a small kayak. A VHF is an essential item of safety equipment and this course aims to give you the skills to be able to use it properly for routine and distress calling.

New worldwide rule changes mean that some changes have been made to this course from the 1st Jan 2014. The course is now slightly longer and we send you a course pack ahead of the course – we can often get this to you very quickly. The big change though is that the course is now available online or in the classroom with the examination always in the classroom.

Your instructor will cover the following topics with you during your time with him/her:

  • Radio equipment – handhelds and fixed sets, aerials and power sources
  • Licencing your equipment
  • Making and receiving calls
  • Choosing the correct channels
  • Using procedural words – ‘prowords’
  • Using the DSC part of the radio including distress and routine calls
  • The use of other means of issuing distress such as EPIRBs and SARTs

During the course we give you plenty of opportunity to get used to what the various features of the radio do and using our scripted calls to get used to using the radio and becoming familiar with what you can use the radio for.

You’ll find that the course we deliver creates an enjoyable day where you get the opportunity to learn lots and put it into practice on real radios. A really beneficial day.

Some key points about our VHF course that we hope differentiates them from the multitude of courses available:

  • We’ve created a fun and informative course aimed not just at powerboaters but those in yachts, kayaks, dinghies and indeed anything else that floats
  • We run courses at least EVERY TWO WEEKS – and sometimes even more often in busy periods
  • We have more training radios and training aids than almost all other schools. Indeed we actually hire out our kit to other schools for their courses.
  • Our courses cost from as little as £75 for individuals booking
  • Sailing clubs, Police/Fire & Rescue organisations and other maritime organisations can book courses specific to them either at our bases in Poole/Lymington or at your own base for reduced rates.
  • We have an exceptional range of kit for you to use. Whereas the RYA Training ratio requires one radio per three attendees we operate one radio for each attendee.

We structure the day as follows:
The morning session will cover the practical operation of a standard marine VHF, channel usage, Distress/Urgency/Safety and routine voice procedures.

In the afternoon we go onto look at the GMDSS scheme, equipment used in GMDSS i.e. EPIRBs, SARTS, Digital Selective Calling (DSC) NAVTEX, practical use of DSC equipment.

This course is aimed at

The RYA VHF/Short Range Certificate course is not just essential for all small boat skippers and their regular crew members, there are plenty of others it’s relevant to….

Some examples of the sorts of people that have attended this course include:

  • Those with their own boats keen to ensure they are ‘legal’ but are also of course well versed in all of the means of issuing a distress message from their vessel. Whilst of course the distress element is a key factor knowing which channels to use and how to use the radio properly when out boating increases confidence and enjoyment.
  • Those without a boat yet and keen to ensure they are acquiring the right qualifications either because they intend buying or for when they are chartering or hiring. The course is also a great way to enhance your knowledge about boating generally and helps when deciding what radios to buy.
  • Those who have boated a while and are perhaps are already using their VHF but want to learn both how to use the radio to full effect and of course also to be legal.
  • Kayakers and dinghy sailors are increasingly carrying personal hand held VHFs and are very sensible to do so. We have welcomed a good number of of kayakers and sailors to our courses – don’t let our company name put you off we love boating in all of its forms!
  • Sailing clubs, Fire & Rescue Services, Police Forces, Military units and government bodies often ask us to come and train a group of their people in-house. As we have a portable kit including 8 radios plus examples of various EPIRBs, SARTs, PLBs etc so can ensure a really fun and informative course even if we are not running the course in our classroom.

If you have a large group to train….

For yacht clubs and other organisations requiring group training we are happy to train in groups of twelve and are happy to travel throughout the UK. We have run in-house courses for various government, military and Fire & Rescue services during the last 12 months.

To run a bespoke course at your location (in the Poole/Solent area) we will charge £300 + VAT giving a considerably discounted per head cost for the course. The RYA assessment fee is chargeable on a per head basis. We are happy to travel further afield for a small travel charge.


Aim: “The Short Range Certificate (‘SRC’) is the radio operator qualification which authorises the holder to operate a VHF radiotelephone, fitted with Digital Selective Calling (‘DSC’) on board any British vessel which is voluntarily fitted with radio equipment.”


A1. Types of communication in the maritime mobile service:
– Distress, urgency and safety communication;
– Public correspondence;
– Port Operations
– Ship Movement service;
– Intership communication;
– On-board communications;

A2. Types of station in the maritime mobile service:
– Ship stations;
– Coast stations;
– Pilot stations, port stations etc
– Aircraft stations;
– Rescue coordination centre (RCC)

A3. Elementary knowledge of radio frequencies and channels appropriate to the VHF maritime mobile band.
– The concept of frequency
– Propagation on VHF frequencies
– Range of voice communication
– Range of DSC transmissions
– Frequencies and channels allocated to the maritime mobile service:
– The usage of VHF frequencies in the maritime mobile service;
– The concept of radio channel: simplex, semi-duplex and duplex.
– Channel plan for VHF including allocations for the GMDSS
– Distress, urgency and safety channels;
– National channels for small craft safety
– Intership communications
– Port operations and ship movement channels
– Calling channels.
– Public correspondence channels

A4. Functionality of ship station equipment
– Sources of energy of ship stations
– Batteries: Different kinds of batteries and their characteristics; Charging; Maintenance of batteries


B1. VHF Radio equipment.

1.1 Radiotelephone channels
– Channel selection and controls
– Dual watch facilities and controls

1.2 Basic controls and usage, e.g.:
– Connecting the power:
– Press to transmit switch
– Squelch control
– Using the volume control;
– High/low power output switch:
– Using the dimmer control
– Dual watch function

1.3 Portable two-way VHF radiotelephone apparatus.

1.4 Maritime VHF antennas

B2. Purpose and use of Digital Selective Calling (DSC) facilities

2.1 The general principals and basic features of DSC
– DSC messages
– DSC attempt
– Call acknowledgement
– Call relay

2.2 Types of call
– Distress call
– All ships call
– Call to an individual station
– Geographical area call
– Group call

2.3 The Maritime mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number system
– Nationality identification: martime Identification Digits (MID)
– Ship station numbers
– Coast station numbers

2.4 Call categorisation and priority
– Distress
– Urgency
– Safety
– Ship’s business
– Routine

2.5 Call telecommand and traffic information
– Distress alerts
– Other calls
– Working channel information

2.6 VHF DSC facilities and usage
– Channel 70 instant alert selector
– DSC data entry and display
– Updating vessel position
– Entering pre-set message
– Entering traffic information
– Reviving received messages
– DSC watch keeping functions and controls


C1. Search and Rescue (SAR) Procedures in the GMDSS

1.1 Sea areas and access to GMDSS facilities
1.2 The Role of RCCs
1.3 Organisation of search and rescue.

C2 Distress, urgency and safety communication procedures in the GMDSS

2.1 Distress communications via VHF DSC equipment
– DSC distress alert
– The definition of a distress alert
– The transmission of a distress alert
– Transmission of a shore to ship distress alert relay
– Transmission of a distress alert by a station not itself in distress
– Receipt and acknowledgement of VHF DSC distress alert
– Acknowledgement procedure
– Receipt and acknowledgement by a coast station
– Handling of distress alert
– Preparations for handling of distress traffic
– Distress traffic terminology
– On-scene communications
– SAR operation

2.2 Urgency and safety communications via DSC equipment
– The meaning of urgency and safety communications
– Procedure for DSC Urgency and safety calls
– Urgency communications
– Safety communications

C3 Protection of distress frequencies.

3.1 Avoiding harmful interference:
– Avoidance of the transmission of false alerts;
– The status of VHF Channel 70.

3.2 Transmissions during distress traffic

3.3 Prevention of unauthorised transmissions.

3.4 Test protocols and procedures:
– Testing DSC procedures
– Radiotelephone test procedures;

3.5 Avoidance of transmissions in the VHF guard bands.

3.6 Procedures to follow when a false alert has been transmitted.

C4 Maritime safety information

4.1 The Navtex system: Purpose and capabilities, including distress and safety functions

C5 Alerting and locating Signals

5.1 Purpose and definition

5.2 Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBS)
– Registration and coding
– Information contents of a distress alert.
– False alerts.
– Operation, including automatic and manual activation
– Inmarsat-E 1.6 GHz EPIRB
– 121.5 EPIRB
– 121.5 homing function
– Mounting considerations
– Routine maintenance
– Testing
– Checking battery expiry date
– Checking the float-free mechanism expiry date

5.3 Search and Rescue Transponder (SART)
– Operation
– Operating height
– Effect of radar reflector
– Range of a SART transmitter
– The SART transmission on a radar display
– Routine maintenance of a SART
– Testing a SART
– Checking the battery expiry date


D1. Ability to exchange communications relevant to the safety of life at sea using the English language.

1.1 Distress communication.
– Distress signal:
– The correct use and meaning of the signal MAYDAY;
– Distress call;
– Distress message;
– Acknowledgement of a distress message:
– Obligation to acknowledge a distress message;
– Correct form of acknowledgement;
– Action to be taken following acknowledgement;
– The control of distress traffic
– The correct use and meanings of the signals
– Transmission of a distress message by a station not itself in distress:
– The meaning and correct use of the signal MAYDAY RELAY;

1.2 Urgency communications:
– Urgency signal:
– The meaning and correct use of the signal PAN-PAN;
– Urgency message
– Obtaining urgent medical advice through a Coast Radio Station

1.3 Safety communications:
– Safety signal:
– The meaning and correct use of the signal SECURITE;
– Safety Message
– Special procedures for communications with appropriate national organisations on matters affecting safety

1.4 Maritime Safety Information
– Reception of MSI by VHF Radiotelephony

1.5 Awareness of the existence and use of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)
Standard Marine Navigational Vocabulary
– Knowledge of the following basic signals:-

1.6 Use of international phonetic alphabet for letters and phonetic pronunciation of numerals.

D2. Regulations, obligatory procedures and practices.

2.1 Awareness of international documentation and availability of national publications:

2.2 Knowledge of the international regulations and agreements governing the maritime mobile service:
– Requirement for Ship Radio Licence;
– Regulations concerning control of the operation of radio equipment by the holder of an appropriate certificate of competence;
– National regulations concerning the keeping of radio records
– Preservation of the secrecy of correspondence.
– Types of call and types of message which are prohibited

D3. Practical and theoretical knowledge of radiotelephone procedures.

3.1 Public correspondence and radiotelephone call procedures
– Method of calling a coast station by radiotelephony
– Ordering for a manually switched link call
– Ending the call
– Calls to ships from Coast Radio Stations
– Special facilities of calls
– Selecting an automatic radiotelephone call

3.2 Traffic charges:
– International charging system;
– Accounting Authority Identification Code (AAIC).

3.3 Practical traffic routines
– Correct use of callsigns
– Procedure for establishing communication on
– Intership channels
– Public correspondence channels
– Small craft safety channels
– Port operation and ship movement channels
– Procedure for unanswered calls
– Procedure for garbled calls
– Control of communications


Whatever we may think of our courses what really counts is what others think, below are a selection of comments taken directly from the Feedback Forms that we ask are filled in at the end of each course.

The VHF course was excellent and I learned a lot. I had thought that, having chatted happily on the radio in aircraft all my life, I would know most of it but I didn’t stop taking notes all day. Keith was excellent.

Thanks, as always. We came back because I remembered the professionalism. You exceeded the normal standards!


I had Robin as my instructor on Friday at Aquasafe lymington.
Very informative day and with a bit of fun thrown in. Great course and a good instructor!
All 3 passed with flying colours !!
Over and out……… oooops


Thanks to everyone down at Powerboat training for Saturdays Course, Shout out to Robin our instructor for the day for making sure we all passed.
The course was made to be fun and very informative which made a long old day in class room go along a lot smoother.

A copy of the email sent by Hannah in our office to Paul one of our VHF instructors. “Mr & Mrs R have just been in the office to say thank you so much for their VHF course. They had to make a mayday call last week when their boat was potentially on fire and because of the training they were able to deal with it calmly. Very reassured having done the training and so glad they both did the VHF course so she could make the call whilst he dealt with the engine compartment.”

“I have to admit to being rather surprised at the end of this course. I knew i needed to do it but thought it would be a bit dry and to be frank, boring. I’m glad I attended though as it was a really beneficial course and the manner in which Robin taught the course and the quality of the presentation was excellent. The real life stories and the obvious experience of the instructor made it a great course.”

“Excellent choice of radios, good variety of visual & practical aids open and friendly instructor, outstanding visuals. I’ll definitely be getting Jenny to attend too.”

“What did you enjoy about the course?….”Pretty much everything. Very good practical sessions. Everything was clearly explained with ample opportunity for questions”

“The whole course was great. Very informative, done at a nice pace, the right mix of presentation and practical. I never figured a VHF course would be that enjoyable and so useful.”

“What did you enjoy about the course?….”Gave practical examples and case studies which reinforced teaching, v. patient and good instruction”

VHF Radio Course – Classroom - Book Now

Thank you for your interest in this course.

Hopefully any dates that we have scheduled work well with your availability. If the dates don't quite work then we are always keen to be as flexible as possible to help accommodate your availability - just contact us and we’ll see what we can do.

We're always really keen to chat to you when you’re booking a course as whilst we are happy to take bookings through this system for your convenience - nothing beats chatting about boats and courses!

Don't forget too that if you are an individual or company/organisation booking a few people onto courses then we may be able to schedule dates around you. Equally, for bookings some time in the future we can usually juggle our course dates if what we have scheduled doesn’t quite work for you.

When you make a booking on this system please remember that is subject to confirmation and you will receive confirmation from us at the latest the next business day. You will not be charged until we send the confirmation.

DateLocationNumber of places
Sat 5th Sep 2020Poole
Fri 18th Sep 2020Poole
Sat 3rd Oct 2020Poole
Fri 16th Oct 2020Poole
Fri 30th Oct 2020Poole
Fri 13th Nov 2020Poole
Sat 28th Nov 2020Poole
Fri 11th Dec 2020Poole
Fri 25th Dec 2020Poole