Going international

If you are from N America, your VHF is probably set to N American mode (USA or CAN). You might not think about that much. We didn’t until last month when we started hanging out with several European boats.
When your VHF is in N American mode half of the channels are “alpha”. When you ask someone to switch from 16 to, for example, channel 18, you are actually asking them to switch to channel 18A* if you are in N American mode. Non N American radios have channel 18, not 18A. In our experience, we could hear them if their radios were on 18 and ours were on 18A but they could not hear us.

We switched to “International”** mode while we were hanging out with those boats and now we are stuck with half the boats we are talking to on the radio being in N American mode and half in International mode. I have learned how to switch modes very quickly when an American boat hails us on 16 and says “up 1” or “up 2” which I translate to “up 1 or 2 and be on USA mode”. I also memorized a few channels that were safe (non-alpha) for all modes (e.g., 68, 69).

Food for thought.

*Also known as 18 in the USA mode.
**I don’t imagine that is what it is called on the European boats’ VHFs.

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