Boaters are offered radio-check service

Published 1:14 am Sunday, July 24, 2011

In addition to providing a free, automated radio-check service to area boaters, Sea Tow Pamlico keeps a response boat at the Washington docks. (WDN Photo/Sara Cowell)

Boaters on the Pamlico-Tar River near Washington and the rivers tributaries may take advantage of a free service that’s being hailed as the first of its kind in the area.
On May 21, Sea Tow Pamlico launched the public service for boater safety. After requesting a radio check, a boater will receive a message from Washington’s docks. That message will inform the boater exactly how well the boat’s radio is working, according to a July 18 memorandum from Phil Mobley, the city’s parks and recreation director, to the mayor and City Council.
“Messages from the Waterfront Docks using this service can be heard as far East as the Intracoastal Waterway,” reads the memorandum.
Sea Tow Pamlico, established in October 2007, is operated by captain Larry Williams. It serves boaters in the Pamlico-Tar River and nearby waterways such as Pungo Creek. Sea Tow Services International is the nation’s leading marine-assistance provider, according to a Sea Tow Pamlico news release.
“It’s been great. The local boating community is appreciative of it,” Williams said during a brief interview when asked about the response the service is receiving.
“Of course the Coast Guard is very pleased to get people off channel 16,” Williams added
“It’s a service we (Sea Tow International) are putting in nationwide. … I think most of the East Coast has it now,” Williams said.
In North Carolina, the service may be accessed by using VHF channels 26 and 27, depending on a boater’s location. The service is made possible by Sea Tow International’s partnership with MariTEL.
With the new service, boaters are able to request radio check around the clock. This is done by tuning a VHF radio to channel 27, keying the microphone and asking for a radio check, just as many boaters do on VHF channel 09. The system will respond with an automated reply and replay the boater’s original radio transmission requesting the radio check, according to the news release, letting the boater know how well the radio is working.
“The service is unique in that it does not require the response of other boaters or watch-standers in order to work, nor does it require special equipment,” reads the release.
“Typically, radio checks should be conducted on VHF channel 09,” said Williams in the release. “Most boaters do them on channel 16 — the hailing and distress channel — which leads to reminders from the Coast Guard that the checks are improper use of the channel. By offering the automated radio checks, we hope to reduce unnecessary traffic on VHF 16 and encourage safe boating in the Pamlico-Tar River area.”
The antenna providing this service is located near the Washington docks.
For more information about the radio-check service, visit

Radio-check channels
for North Carolina locations

Sea Tow Albemarle Sound: VHF Ch. 27
Sea Tow Crystal Coast: VHF Ch. 27
Sea Tow Ocean Isle Beach: VHF Ch. 26
Sea Tow Oregon Inlet: VHF Ch. 27
Sea Tow Pamlico Sound: VHF Ch. 27
Sea Tow Wrightsville Beach: VHF Chs. 26 and 27

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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