Pirate Radio for Sea and Land, by Tunnel Rabbit

Editor’s Introductory Note: The following lengthy article is being posted in one piece, for the sake of continuity.  I recommend printing a hard copy for your radio reference binder. Note that some of the methods described are illegal outside of disaster situations, and are presented for educational purposes only.

If our country ever becomes Balkanized or collapsed, boat owners could at some point just sail away to calmer waters, sandy beaches, and palm trees. In a WROL situation, they could use their VHF and HF Marine transceiver sets to good effect, much like how Amateur Radio operators can use their equipment. In international waters, the rules are different. And in foreign waters, the consequences for breaking their laws could be severe.

The advantage of VHF Marine band radio is that they already come programmed and channelized, and are generally very easy to use.  Many of them are also built to be very weather resistant and have handsets that are designed for rugged use. Note that there are repeaters used on some channels, and these channels cannot be used for our purposes.  Choose channels designated for ship-to-ship, inter-ship, noncommercial that are simplex frequencies in the 156 to 157 MHz range.  Marine repeaters talk back to VHF Marine radios in the 160 to 161 MHz range.  Do not use these frequencies unless near a port. However as we might now become pirate radio operators at sea, we should also endeavor to use off the beaten path techniques and frequencies to avoid being captured.

Here is an example of a 25 watt Marine Band transceiver offered by a helpful dealer with an excellent customer service track record is the Cobra Marine MR-F45-D Class-D VHF Marine Radio (Fixed Mount)
And here is a hand-held Marine transceiver, 5 watts, that is submersible (briefly):  Uniden MHS75 Submersible Handheld Two Way VHF Marine Radio  These are also preprogrammed and will ‘talk’ to the 25 watt mobile/base radio that I just mentioned.
You’ll need a Marine Band antenna designed for installation on boats, such as: The Tram 1603 VHF Marine Antenna.
The Tram 1181 can also be used for the Marine Band.  This one is designed for vehicle installations and has no ground plane of it’s own. It can be installed with a MNO mount inserted though sheet metal, or we can use a magnetic mounted to secure to the horizontal metal surface requiree to operate correctly.
In order to make full use of these VHF Marine band transceivers, we might identify all the simplex channels.  This list omits the frequencies near ports that use repeaters.  We can program these into Baofengs and other handhelds to be used as Marine radios, and leave room for other frequency choices that make these radios more useful.
Marine band Simplex Frequencies (ship to ship, no repeater)
Frequency       Channel Number (With the alpha prefix ‘SEA’ for Baofeng programming)
156.050000     SEA01A    Port Operations and Commercial
156.250000     SEA05A    Port Operations.
156.300000     SEA 06     Intership Safety
156.350000     SEA07A    Commercial
156.400000     SEA 08     Commercial (Intership only)
156.450000     SEA 09     Boater Calling. Commercial and Non-Commercial.
156.500000     SEA 10     Commercial
156.550000     SEA 11     Commercial,  VTS in some areas.
156.600000     SEA 12     Port Operations. VTS in selected ports.
156.650000     SEA 13     Intership Navigation Safety (Bridge-to-bridge). Ships >20m length maintain a listening watch on this channel in US waters.
156.700000     SEA 14     Port Operations. VTS in selected areas.
156.800000     SEA 16     International Distress, Safety and Calling.
156.900000     SEA18A    Commercial
156.950000     SEA19A    Commercial
157.000000     SEA20A    Port Operations
157.100000     SEA22A    Coast Guard Liaison and Maritime.  Safety Information Broadcasts.
157.200000     SEA 24     Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
157.250000     SEA 25     Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
157.300000     SEA 26     Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
157.350000     SEA 27     Public Correspondence (Marine Operator)
156.175000     SEA63A    Port Operations and Commercial
156.275000     SEA65A    Port Operations
156.325000     SEA66A    Port Operations
156.375000     SEA 67     Commercial. Used for Bridge-to- bridge communications in lower Mississippi River. Intership only.
156.425000*    SEA 68     Non-Commercial-Working Channel  (TR notes: best choice for a meet up, or primary channel)
156.475000     SEA 69     Non-Commercial  (TR notes: good alternative for a meet up, or primary channel)
156.525000     SEA 70     Digital Selective Calling (voice communications not allowed)
156.575000     SEA 71     Non-Commercial
156.625000     SEA 72     Non-Commercial, Inter ship only.
156.675000     SEA 73     Port Operations
156.725000     SEA 74     Port Operations
156.875000     SEA 77     Port Operations
156.925000     SEA78A    Non-Commercial  (TR notes: good alternative for a meet up, or primary channel)
156.975000     SEA79A    Commercial
157.025000     SEA80A    Commercial
157.425000     SEA88A    Commercial, Intership only.
My suggested list does not include simplex channels that are reserved or restricted by the government.
Take the time to read through the Band Plan for this radio service. The NOAA weather frequencies are just up the dial…
NOAA Weather Radio Frequencies:
WX1         —     162.550
WX2         —     162.400
WX3         —     162.475
WX4         —     162.425
WX5         —     162.450
WX6         —     162.500
WX7         —     162.525
Stealth by Sea

MURS (Multi User Radio Service) radios are license-free frequencies that can be used just like your CB.  These have a similar range as 2 Meter handheld, or Marine handheld.  A Baofeng on a good external antenna can have triple the range over a ‘rubber ducky’ type or standard handheld antenna.  Any of these frequencies can be entered into the ubiquitous Baofeng UV5R by using the orange colored button labeled VFO.  It is not programming the radio, but can be used by the radio as if it were programmed.

Put a label on the backside of the battery with the frequency chosen and cover it will clear packing tape to make it water-resistant. However, the first 3 channels should not be used on an antenna that is designed for VHF Marine Band radio.  The range is would be severely limited and the radio would become increasingly damaged with repeated use.
MURS Radio Frequencies:
CH#    Frequency    Bandwidth
CH1    151.820 MHz (11.25 kHz)
CH2    151.880 MHz (11.25 kHz)
CH3    151.940 MHz (11.25 kHz)
CH4    154.570 MHz (20.00 kHz)
CH5    154.600 MHz (20.00 kHz)
MURS is a set of frequencies well known in the patriot community, and likely is already programmed in their radios.  Having a set of common frequencies means better coordination.  These frequencies can be used as ‘calling’ frequency, a place to meet up on the air, and then we would switch to a tactical channel.  We can to a limited extent, also use frequencies in the Business band.  These frequencies are often used by contractors building roadways, or on a temporary basis by businesses.  This set of frequencies is set aside, and not licensed on a permanent basis. No one owns these frequencies.
In my part of the country (the Inland Northwest) no one cares if you use them even if on a semi-permanent basis. It is best, however, to monitor these frequencies before using them. For example, both our local town police and a logging outfit use one of these frequencies on a regular basis, and illegally.  Because radio traffic is so minimal in this part of the country, no one cares.  However, in the big city where radio traffic could be crowded, this kind of abuse may not be tolerated.  However, even in the big city, we can also use these frequencies only intermittently, as a back channel, or tactical channel, and blend in with the city radio traffic noise, or used as an alternate in case one of the MURS frequencies is compromised in some way.
With all of this mind, we can now explore off the beaten path set of frequencies that can work with your existing Marine band antennas. You have already have an outstanding antenna on your boat for a low or high powered network using Baofeng, Marine Band, or other inexpensive open banded VHF radios. 4 or 5 watts on any decent antenna that could be a boat mast, that is as high, or higher than 50 feet above flat unobstructed terrain could be expected to travel up to 10 miles or more. We can also use a directional antenna to boost our 4 watts to 20 watts giving us 30 miles of range, and an ability to somewhat conceal our signal.  With the use of a 5 element yagi antenna, we can reduce our radio or RF footprint to as little as 75%.
We could also connect an inexpensive and open-banded Chinese 25 to 50 watt mobile to our boat’s antenna.  Program it with all the VHF Marine band channels and add MURS, Business Band in the 154 to 158 MHz range, and all of the allocation in the Transportation band that is in the 158 to 160Mhz range (for licensed users of commercial buses, and truckers). Use an SWR meter to confirm that your VHF Marine Band antenna has a low SWR on these frequencies. 2.1 to 1 and lower is perfectly acceptable. Being a builder of antennas, I know that the antenna on your boat should be usable, or resonant on frequencies between 154.00MHz to 160.000MHz.  We can connect Baofeng radios to this antenna by using an SMA Female to UHF (aka, SO-239) adapter. Pick up extras of these adapters for each of your Baofengs, or for others you may meet up with later.
Pick up a very inexpensive and easy to use SWR meter that can test your boat’s antenna for VHF, and UHF frequencies.
It can be used to test any VHF/UHF antenna, even on other boats.  Most VHF antenna can also transmit on UHF frequencies.  It is very simple to use.  Simply connect and transmit on a selected frequency. Any SWR number of 2.1 or less, means it is a good antenna for that particular frequency.  Here is a short video and one of many of how to use this inexpensive and easy to use meter.  It will not work for testing CB antennas.
Pirates Beware: A Word of Caution
The VHF Marine Band is being monitored and recorded all along the coastline and major waterways by the U.S. Coast Guard, and other DHS agencies such as ICE, and Border Patrol. But pirates should know how they might be vulnerable if using only the Marine Band.  We can use frequencies within the range of the Marine Band antenna that are not a part of the Marine band. If more than 10 miles from a U.S. port, we can use an additional set of frequencies set aside, yet inaccessible to transportation companies.
I suggest two simple frequency lists that combine MURS, Business band, and Transportation frequencies.  One should be used while in port, and the other can be used when outside U.S. ports and major cities.  I’ll keep it short, but we can also draw on a longer list in the future, if needed.
List #1 for Ports:
154.570   MURS Ch #4
154.600   MURS CH #5
154.5275  Business band
158.400   Business band
158.4075  Business band
List #2, examples for outside the U.S, or remote areas (159 to 160.000 MHz).  Use narrow band settings to avoid interfering with other frequencies
159.0125   Transportation
159.2125   Transportation
159.3125   Transportation
159.4125   Transportation
159.5125   Transportation
The 159 to 160 MHz chunk of the spectrum is allocated for Commercial buses and trucks (Transportation). A license is required.  At sea, or perhaps even ashore during a WROL (Without Rule of Law) situation we are unlikely to run into any buses or trucks.
As a general rule, outside of ports, we could use any frequency your boat’s antenna can transmit on.  These would be between 154 to 160 Mhz. Test the VSWR of your antenna to verify that these frequencies could be used using the inexpensive and easy to use meter suggested — the SW102 found on Amazon. It will probably also transmit on UHF.  Use a Baofeng as a signal generator for all UHF and VHF frequencies, and record the results.  I would not be surprised if the VHF Marine band antenna, already installed, would have a usable SWR of less than 2.1 to 1 somewhere in the range of 462 to 482MHz. The range could include the FRS and GMRS channel and some UHF business band frequencies that are between 462 to 470 MHz.
It is likely you effectively have a dual-band antenna, and do not yet know it. There are 88 Marine Band channels, and the Baofeng can store up to 127 channels.  I would be inclined to install all of the Marine Band frequencies, and use the other 39 frequencies for MURS and Business band, a few ham repeaters, and NOAA. If you replace your 25 watt VHF Marine radio with a full-power and open-banded Chinese radio, such as an Anytone 5888AT, then one could store up to 700 UHF, or VHF frequencies.
Scanners for Pirates

A fully programmed Baofeng could also be used as a slow scanner for the ham bands near your favorite port, or other ports you might like to listen to. One can then increase their situational awareness.  Using an actual scanner would be far more productive.  However, it is good to know your options.  Here is one example of the many scanners out there:

Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner. This example could be used for comparative purposes.
It might be a good choice for a boat as it can be mounted to the dash, and comes with an external mag-mount antenna.  It also comes with the Close Call feature.  This is a very good feature to have in any scanner, as it can capture any frequency in the band selected, that happens to be used close by, and is not programmed into the scanner to be scanned.  I would set the Close Call feature to monitor VHF frequencies.  It is most likely to alert us that the Coast Guard is close by and attempting to board you.  And the price of $110 makes it relatively inexpensive. However, it is only an analog scanner, and does not hear the digital traffic that is used by most Emergency Services today.
This digital do-all scanner is impressive, but so is the price, $380, when I last checked:
Antenna Selection
For getting the most out of our equipment, consider the Tram 1181 Antenna.  (Frequency range: 140 to 170 Mhz, and 430 to 470 MHz). Antennas are very important.  They can be game-changers if we understand them. We are attempting to get the most out of our money, and equipment to maximize our capabilities, and to create redundancy where possible. The relatively small price of this antenna provides us huge gains in versatility, and increases the range of the lowly Baofeng several times. It can also be used as an antenna in case you get shipwrecked and can salvage your 25 watt VHF Marine radio, or other VHF mobile transceiver, and at least one photovoltaic panel to power it.
Put one of these on a magnetic mount that can be put on the boat’s metal roof, the dingy’s gas can, or used on any vehicle, and even placed outside the window of structure on a flat metal surface (to from a groundplane), that could be as small as a #10 can on shore, or in the boat’s stores. With this antenna, the boat can talk to whatever vehicle, or house you own, or rent at a port, or from a grass hut.  It can also be used as an alternative, or backup antenna for the primary VHF Marine radio should the primary VHF antenna fail on the boat.
It could also be a part of a land-mobile base station radio station using a Baofeng alongside the VHF Marine radio to monitor a shore party, other pirates, or friendly villager lookouts using a handheld Baofengs, or inexpensive, simple, and expendable FRS radios that they might already own.  A Baofeng used inside a vehicle or a boat cabin, that is metal cage for RF, greatly reduces the already short range of a handheld.  An external antenna on a metal roof can triple the range.  A Baofeng connected to your 50-foot high antenna could talk to a Baofeng with the Tram 1181 mounted on the roof of a vehicle, or another boat as far away 10 miles reliably, and out to 20 miles in ideal conditions.
Although it is not the best propagating antenna, the Tram 1181 is broadbanded, and also a dual-band antenna that would cover 95% of the possible frequencies one is likely to use. It covers all radio services, and more.  For example, we can use the Baofeng and this antenna to talk the VHF/UHF Ham bands, Public, and Emergency Services, Railroads, Trucker and buses, and Marine radios, as well all Business bands, and GMRS and FRS radios.  In other words, if you find another radio somewhere and you know the frequency it uses, odds are you will able to talk to it.  If other pirates happen to have Hams radios, and someone out there likely do, then you can talk to them as well.  You may already have a few GMRS/FRS radios.  These are the most ubiquitous radios in the U.S..  Ham radios are common as well.  Add a SSB CB to the boat, and your coverage broadens even more.  In decades past, this capability would cost well over $1,000 USD, but we get it done for under $200.
The Tram 1181 is essentially 6 or more antennas for the price of one.  And it does not need to be tuned if used within it’s range of 140 to 161 MHz, and 420 to 470 MHz.  Most antennas for sale must be tuned, yet most folks do not have this capability, and do not know that they must be tuned. Advertisers neglect to mention this.  Badly tuned antennas, and faulty antennas, destroy radios over time. Not good.  Most Marine band antennas are the exception. I have tested a big box full Tram 1181 antennas for other people, and they consistently test well for the frequencies advertised.  They are also well made, rugged, and not prone to failure.  It’s broad coverage easily offset the advantages of antennas advertised as high gain antennas.  There are better propagating antennas, but I would rather have a multi-tool.  If you would not need this kind of flexibility, then I could suggest getting another Marine band antenna that is a high gain antenna, and limit your self to the frequencies discussed, or 154 to 160 MHz.
Transceivers for Pirates
Here is a short list of VHF/UHF mobiles that can use the Tram 1181 antenna to it’s fullest, and because of versatility, would also require an additional antenna to use their full potential.  As someone who keeps an eye on radios for sale, I’ve noticed a recent drop in availability of many once-popular models.  Just like ammo, we are beginning to see the bottom of the barrel, especially in the lower end market.  Fortunately, there is still something for everyone.
The Wouxun KG-UV980P Quad Band Base/Mobile Two Way Radio is available for around $310. This is a quad band, cross band repeat, 50 watt transceiver, that transmits using FM only in these frequency ranges: 26 to 29 MHz, 50 to 54 MHz, 136 to 174 MHz, and 400 to 480 MHz.  It can generally be described in terms of Amateur Radio as a 10 meter, 6 meter, 2 meter, and 70cm, yet this unit transmits outside of these Amateur bands, and is much more than simply a Ham radio.  For example, it also transmits in FM in the CB range of frequencies, and is subsequently in a gray area where FCC regulations are not enforced, and likely not monitored.  It is in the range that is the wild west of radio where just about anything goes, including the CB free bands where few CB today can go either. And there are fewer radios that go there that transmit on FM.  Transmitting there, one would be well off the beaten path.
Just for clarification: While it will transmit on the same frequencies as CB, it can not talk to CB’s, because CB uses Amplitude modulation (AM), and not frequency modulation (FM) that this transceiver uses.  It can, however, receive CB traffic. One of the big advantages of VHF low band is the ability of these longer radio waves to propagate further as ground waves, than can the VHF high band.  The shorter the wave length, the shorter the range.  There is a many-fold difference in propagation between 27 MHz and 144 MHz.  Just be sure to stay away from the 10 meter ham band. It is well-monitored, and hams are self-policing. As a quick mention only, some modern military radios can use the 6-meter band.  The cross band repeat works between both the low VHF bands, and the high VHF bands only.  A quad band antenna is available.

For around $283, you can get an Anytone 5888UV III Tri-Band FM Transceiver 136-174Mhz & 220-260 & 400-490Mhz Tri-Band Mobile Radio with programming cable. This is a tri-bander with cross-band repeat, and with 50 watts maximum on VHF.  Cross-band repeat allows the user to transmit on a low power hand held, usually on a UHF frequency, and the radio would re-transmit the signal with up to 50 watts on the VHF side. We could use a Baofeng transmitting on for example a GMRS frequency to be broadcast at 25 watts on the Marine Band through this Anytone transceiver. The Baofeng could also be set to receive on the Marine Band channel, and listen for a reply.  The 1.25 meter part of the radio can not be used with the Tram 1181. However, it does transmit on VHF, 136 to 174 MHz that includes the VHF Marine band, and 400 to 490MHz that includes 462 MHz to 482 MHz, where the typical Marine band antenna already installed on the boat may also be resonant, or usable.

Use a tri-band antenna, and tri-band Baofeng such as the Baofeng UV5III, and you have 200 MHz to 260 MHz almost to yourself. However, a license is required to use these bands and much of it is allocated for government use.  Fortunately, a Technician’s License would give you access to the 1.25 Meter Amateur band. This Anytone radio is easy to use, and easy to program with CHIRP.  I’ve programmed several of these radios.  It stores up to 700 channels!  I use them all.
For about $130, here is a low dollar option that is a basic dual bander the meets my criterion, but only offers 25 watts of output on VHF.  With a programming cable, these can be programmed with CHIRP.
And at the bottom of the barrel, for $85 you can get a QYT KT-8900R Tri-Band VHF:136-174MHz, UHF:400-480MHz Mobile Transceiver 25W Dual Watch Ham Radio w/Free Cable. But it does meet my operational requirements. Programming software is available from the supplier.  I have no experience with this radio. Note that it is advertised as a tri-bander, yet it is not a tri-bander.  To say the least, they are using ‘aggressive’ marketing techniques.
There are also other mid-price transceivers available, for less than $200. Not otherwise discussed, are the B-tech series of radios.  While these are a good value, these do not transmit above 450 MHz, and in the GMRS range of frequencies.  Because they did not do not transmit in a useful frequency range above 450MHz, I’ve excluded them.
Free Programming Software: CHIRP
Here is free software that is typically used to program a Baofeng and many other radios:  CHIRP Download.
You’ll also need a programming cable. It is easy to use the software.  Choosing frequencies is a bit more complicated, but changes are quickly made if a change is necessary.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is for the masses. If you’d rather set sail than deal with more complicated  radios, here is an option that can complement your VHF Marine radios, and help one avoid being potentially monitored in the waterways.  This list is intended to provide those who have little knowledge about radios and their components, and allows these persons a sort of kit approach, so they can quickly and easily get it done, and get underway.
If taking a test, and programming radio is not your thing, GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) offers a no test license for a fee of $35.00 that includes the entire family, and the dog. However, this type of radio would be my distant second choice as UHF frequencies do not travel as far in undulating terrain as does VHF. And these radios are lower in power, 40 watts verses 70 watts that can be found in some VHF Amateur radios such as Yeasu, and others. UHF is best suited for the concrete canyons of the cities, and will likely not have the range of VHF even on the water, yet these radios should be more than adequate in most situations.
Here are all the main components that will help do a cost-benefit analysis. Also, check RadioReference.com to see if there are any GMRS repeaters in your area.  Ideally you’ll want 2 mobile Midland MXT400’s, one for the house, and one for your vehicle.
GMRS Mobile, and Handheld Transceivers

Here are some decent quality GMRS radios:

Antenna and cables for GMRS base station radio installation
VHF and UHF Frequency Lists
In the event it is necessary to operate without a programmed Baofeng or high powered mobile, here are other frequencies for pirate radio operators that can be entered manually into the VFO of the radio and used:
Family Radio Service (FRS)
462.5625  FRS Ch. 1 (shared with GMRS)
462.5875  FRS Ch. 2 (shared with GMRS)
462.6125  FRS Ch. 3 (shared with GMRS)
462.6375  FRS Ch. 4 (shared with GMRS)
462.6625  FRS Ch. 5 (shared with GMRS)
462.6875  FRS Ch. 6 (shared with GMRS)
462.7125  FRS Ch. 7 (shared with GMRS)
4675625  FRS Ch. 8
467.5875  FRS Ch. 9
467.6125  FRS Ch. 10
467.6375  FRS Ch. 11
467.6625  FRS Ch. 12
467.6875  FRS Ch. 13
467.7125  FRS Ch. 14
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)
NOTE:  FRS RADIOS USUALLY INCLUDE GMRS AS CHANNELS 15 TO 22 THAT HAVE A LONGER RANGE THAN FRS FREQUENCIES AS RADIO ARE ALLOWED UP TO 5 WATTS YET TYPICALLY ONLY TRANSMIT AT A MAXIMUM OF 1.5 WATTS. The Baofeng transmits at around 4 watts.  To access GMRS repeater, use the default tone that is 141.3 and shift up 5.0 MHz.
462.55 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH15
462.575 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH16
462.6 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH17
462.625  GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH18
462.65 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH19
462.675 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH20
462.7 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH21
462.725 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH22
GMRS Repeaters broadcast on these frequencies
467.55 GMRS (also may be used simplex)
467.575 GMRS (also may be used simplex)
467.6 GMRS (also may be used simplex)
467.625 GMRS (also may be used simplex)
467.65 GMRS (also may be used simplex)
467.675 GMRS (also may be used simplex)
467.7 GMRS (also may be used simplex)
467.725 GMRS (also may be used simplex)
MURS (Multi User Radio Service)

These are licenses free:

151.82 MURS
151.88 MURS
151.94 MURS
154.57 MURS/Blue Dot
154.6 MURS/Green Dot
VHF Business Band (itinerants)
151.625 Red Dot
151.955 Purple Dot
UHF Business Band (Itinerants)
UHF frequencies usually have a shorter range than VHF, but not always.  UHF can propagate better
than VHF from inside and around buildings. However, there are advantages to having a limited range forested and hilly areas in that fewer will potentially hear you. UHF is a better tactical frequency band. That is why Army headsets use 399.00 to 399.99MHz.
464.5      Brown Dot
464.55    Yellow Dot
467.7625 J Dot
467.8125 K Dot
467.85   Silver Star
467.875 Gold Star
467.9     Red Star
467.925 Blue Star
Found in Motorola Business class UHF Radios:
Film/Video Production:
152.87 M
152.9 M
152.93 M
152.96 M
152.99 M
153.02 M
HF Marine Transceivers
HF Marine Transceivers are an under-appreciated, and potential pirate tool on sea and land. In this day and age, these transceivers are rarely used by the younger generation who are more comfortable with reliable satellite internet connections, and all sorts of high tech devices.  Yet savvy old pirates of yore who still remember how, can learn how to use HF Marine sets in unconventional ways.
Near vertical incidence skywave (N.V.I.S.) antennas should get a mention as there are many HF Marine radios out there.  Any HF set that can transmit on frequencies at 7MHz (40 meter) and lower, can use this type of antenna to talk with all points of a region that is approximately 200 to 300 miles in diameter without the use of repeaters.  This kind of radio transmission was commonly used during the Vietnam war. In the old days it was referred to as Short Skip radio.
Few radio enthusiasts know about NVIS.  Marine HF sets are channelized can be used in place of a Ham radio HF set.  Here are the channels that can be used in this way.  It is extremely difficult to DF this kind of transmission — except as groundwave, up close.  An NVIS antenna can be inexpensive and easily deployed. An NVIS antenna is inexpensive, easy to construct. as well.  Ideally, a dipole at 25 feet would give one the best performance, yet the same antenna can be used at deck level. To learn more, use this link and download all the files labeled NVIS. These are print-friendly versions.
Here is short list from the USCG web site of some of the frequencies that an HF Marine band transceiver can use with this type of antenna:
4 MHz Duplex Channels
ITU Channel No. Coast Transmit kHz Ship Transmit kHz
428 4351 (varies)
429 4354 (varies)
Note regarding channel 421: 4125 kHz is used for calling, and is for GMDSS distress and safety communications, in the simplex mode. Distress and safety communications have priority over all other communications. The USCG urges that channel 421 not be used in the duplex mode.
I hope that you find the preceding information useful.


  1. i should have included these frequencies in the article. These are found in the now discontinued Motorolla RDX series hand held radio.


  2. Thank you Tunnel Rabbit for this article. I am at a loss of knowledge, I’m afraid, I do not understand. Can you or someone explain from the beginning a scenario of what I would need to communicate to family members 20, 40 or 100 miles away? What would they need to respond to my communication. I understand information is important in a internet or landline blackout. How could I talk or communicate with my family members to ascertain that they are fine or their location if they are heading to me or bogged down somewhere.
    The main reason I haven’t purchased a radio or communication equipment is I don’t understand how this need would be met.
    I’m sorry I have such limited knowledge but most of these article go right over my head and I can’t relate them to what I need – to communicate to family living or working within 100 mile radius of me.
    Please pardon my knowledge deficit and thank you for your help.

    1. The best pathway is for you and those you want to communicate with to seek out a local HAM radio club that offers study for license testing. It is where you can learn not only what you will need to pass the test, but also find a wealth of information from HAM operators that almost universally will happily assist.

      One should build on a solid foundation of knowledge and this should provide you with that.

      Red Rover
      HAM Extra/General RT, w/Radar

    2. CD NorthGA,
      It could take large book to adequately reply to your question(s). Tunnel Rabbit’s excellent article goes into a lot of detail, but to condense things down; you aren’t going to communicate with loved ones at those distances if the stuff hits the fan, not unless both you and them take steps to learn to do so. Both VHF and UHF are line-of-sight communication modes. That means about 4-7 miles depending on terrain. It is the reason ham people use repeaters to extend the range. Even with repeaters though, you won’t get more than 30 or 40 miles.

      The only other possibility is the HF communication mode. HF has its own problems though; the skip zone. Using HF, there is a short ground wave similar to VHF/UHF distances. The main transmission angles up to the ionosphere and then bounces back to earth to repeat that process. The distance from the antenna to where it touches down again is roughly 200 to 400 miles. That 200-400 mile region is the skip zone, where there is no communication. It’s a major reason why satellites took the place of HF radio years ago.

      The way to start is to begin the process of obtaining a ham radio license. In that process, you’ll learn enough to begin to see the light.

      1. Radio line of sight can be greater if the lower frequencies of the 6 or 10 meter bands are used. If I put my 50 watt Wouxan on a 10 meter yagi, the transmission would have a maximum ERP of about 350 watts. The range could be much greater than 30 miles even in undulating terrain. Fortunately here in the Inland Northwest, we have huge mountains, and repeaters located as high or higher than 6000′. I can hit repeaters using only 10 watts as far away as 150 miles.

        If my transmitter is at least 1,500 feet above the average terrain, the range of a 25 watt transceiver on a unity gain antenna could be greater than 50 miles. Repeaters are necessary to get into valleys shielded by mountains, and do greatly extend the range of hand helds. One of the advantages of a cross band repeater in the examples found in the Wouxan Quad band, or Anytone 5888at is that these selections have a cross band repeater than can assist in challenging terrain. This kind repeater however, should only be apart of a low powered network, and not be left unattended. It must be secured, and monitored to avoid tampering, and equipment loss. I would not set any repeater up on top of a hill, or elsewhere.

        I’m still waiting for the caffine to kick in. Please excuse the garbled posts…

    3. Radio is not for everyone. Earning an Amateur Radio Technician’s license could be a challenge for some, an unnecessary barrier for entry when there are no test license’s for GMRS that give one similar range, and is comparable to the 70cm Ham band.

      My friend’s with a Tech licenses know little more after attaining their license than they did before studying for the examine. Much of the test is about the ‘rules of the road’ that the FCC would like you to know. Sadly they have not availed themselves of the techical knowledge offered by potential ‘Elmers’, or other more knowledgeable and helpful Hams in person, or on the internet. The Smart phone is just too convenient, and necessary for business as well. I end up taking care of the programming and other technical issues, so that all they have to do is select a repeater and key up. I am astonished by the lack of interest in learning more than what is absolutely necessary. I’ve finally accepted this as a fact of life in this day and age. The license is however, permission to key up on the Ham Bands and gives one access to repeaters. However, I would not plan on using repeaters after a collapse, or necessarily even the Ham bands. This is why the GMRS section of the article is provided.

      GMRS provides most of what most people in this day and age require. The down side to GMRS for preppers is that the inexpensive GMRS hand held are ubiquitous, and your transmissions will likely be monitored. It is the most unsecured means of radio communications. In the GMRS section of the article, all the basic components are listed. The GMRS transceivers come already programmed. It is like CB, but with greater range, and there are also often found in some areas, GMRS repeaters. We should also choose a radio service that can be used by the least skilled member. In my next article, that is already in the que, SSB SB is covered. I would seek out many of the instructional videos on these two radio services, and find one that speaks to you…

  3. Wow. TR you put some thought and effort into that article. I’m sure there are many here that can put that info to use. That info was waaaay above my pay grade I’m sorry to say, but I’ll print it anyway because, well, you never know who might be able to use it.

      1. I’m with TeresaSue on this one. Maybe you could write an article about setting up a comm system with recommendations on both low cost and more expensive setups. Unless of course there is already an article here on the blog that you recommend.

        1. I’m working on it. The word count is now at about 11,000 to 14,000. It may have to split into two separate articles, yet that would defeat the intent. Discussed are 4 different types of transceivers that do not require programming. The transceivers, cabling, and antennas, mobile and base, can be installed and operated by the average person with a bit of ambition. I’ve not seen anything like this article in the past.

    1. The quad band transceivers present usual opportunity and challenges. The TH-9800 quad band antenna is best suited for their transceiver, the TH9800. To make the best use of which ever quad band transceiver chosen, we would be better off using different antennas. I chose the Wouxan KG UV980P for it’s particular ability to transmit in the no man’s land of the unregulated CB realm that in and around 27.5Mhz, and use FM (frequency modulation), and even narrow band, or split frequencies to take the us further off the beaten path to avoid detection.


      It looks to be a heavily compromised design that may or may not be satisfactory for all users of this antenna. The length of 1.3 meters is long enough to effect decent propagation in the middle two bands, 2 and 6 meter. 10 and 70cm would be disappointing, but we could always use the maximum power setting to achieve a useful range on these frequencies. Using antennas and cables designed specifically for these bands would greatly improve their performance.

      Good engineering is an inescapable series of compromises that are sensibly balanced. If we understand the compromise made and find it acceptable, then it might be a good antenna considering it’s primary use. We should also wonder, and cannot know until we can test it, if it will cover the 4 different bands, and the particular segments of the band of my choice, the Wouxan transciever Kg UV980P, https://www.buytwowayradios.com/wouxun-kg-uv980p.html?___SID=U.
      It would also be difficult to tune this antenna, and it would likely be of limited utility in the other bands.

      We should also consider that the RG316 cable used is twice a ‘lossy’ as RG58. In other words, if transmitting on 146.000Mhz with 10 watts through 18 feet of RG58 the ERP (estimated radiated power) using a typical quarter wave antenna would be about 8 watts. If using RG316 cable, the ERP would be about 6 watts. If transmitting 10 watts on the 70 cm band (440Mhz), the ERP would be 4 watts. Transmitting on 146.000Mhz, RG58 looses 1Db per 100 feet, where as RG316 looses about 2Db per 100 feet. However, at CB frequencies, 27.505 Mhz, the line loss is acceptable. the choice of this grossly inferior coaxial cable has me wonder about the other deep compromises possible made during the design of this antenna.
      RG316 Coxial Cable specifications

      If the primary reason for owning a quad band is the 10 meter, or 26 to 29.5Mhz, this might work. However, I would just use RG58 cable, and the tallest Firestick CB antenna to access the CB frequencies with the FM transceiver. This would give us the superior range and stealth we are seeking from the KG UV980P transceiver. Another option is to put a dual band 2m/70cm, and 6 and 10 meter on different antennas, or four ‘no compromise’ or full length quarter wave antennas on switches. We are using the Amateur Radio nomenclature loosely with these broad banded transceivers for the sake of convenience.

  4. “I recommend printing a hardcopy for your radio reference binder.” = (article). Excellent advice. Laminating the paper hardcopy might be needed in some situations.

  5. NVIS or be DF’d
    Best case a visit from the badges and loss of equipment
    Worst case a “Gas line” explosion (Predator)

    One time pads + Digital Mode +HF×NVIs= Enhanced life span

    1. Also use low power transmitters on highly directional antennas, 5 second or less transmission ‘bursts’, packet radio etc…. But first we gotta get the people radioed up.
      Just like the guns, there are just too many to round up. If there is radio everywhere, there will simply be too many to round up. They ain’t got enough goons, and they will have less and less over time.

  6. The K.I.S.S. Principle and Transceivers.

    A note for those who would delve into sophisticated radio equipment, the learning curve can be steeeep, and requires a significant investment of time to become competent. It is likely that simple to use equipment is the best choice for most. Here is a example of what can happen with some transceivers. Boafengs can inadvertently become locked and unusable should the key denoted with the ‘#’ symbol is accidentally depressed. A lock symbol will appear on the upper right hand corner of the LCD display. To unlock it, simply press the # key.

    Another is example, this time involving a good quality, and nearly new in condition Yeasu 2800M mobile. This is a new in the box, old stock transceiver I pulled out of storage to check the operation, and to physically remove the MAR CAP. I got it in a trade for a couple old CB’s. It was too much radio for the previous owner. This radio is a good one for preppers in that the MARS CAP can be canceled by depressing the ‘low’ and ‘d/mr’ buttons simultaneously while turning the radio on. The code ”A2” appears on the display indicating the radio is unlocked, and will now transmit from 137 to 174 Mhz. I programmed the radio prior to securing it in a water tight Faraday cage. Upon testing it’s function, I found that it transmits and receives, yet no audio was available. I must have depressed a key that muted the radio. The owners manual did not shed light on the problem. This radio has a sophisticated menu which on one hand is wonderful, and on the other hand, could be a curse. With so many different radios to deal with, it can be a challenge to master them all. Anyway, the fix was to do a factory reset. This fixed the audio problem, but wiped the memory clean. Because I cannot get a programming cable, I must now spend hours reprogramming it…..

    If you cannot invest lots of time into radio, I suggest going with simple platforms. If there is someone in your family or group who has the time to become the ‘resident expert’, perhaps sophisticated Ham radios can be practical. Standardize on a make and model, and have at least two of each. Human error can disable an otherwise good functioning radio. Over the years I’ve had to fix many Ham radios and antennas operated by Hams. In a WROL situation, you will be on your own. A simpler radio with less buttons to push, yet is less capable, would be a better choice, than a complicated radio that can not be operated at all.

    SSB CB’s, that is the subject of my next article, might be the best balance of an ‘off the beaten path’ radio that is somewhat more secure, and is also a relatively simple to use radio. GMRS has only 8 channels, and Marine Band radios, that are also simple to use, are not legal outside of water ways. However, unlike CB, their mobiles can be used to talk to hand held’s, greatly extending the range of hand held’s that might be used by a patrol several miles out. Hand held CB’s are not to my knowledge available with SSB, but could be use anyway. It would be possible to make up a ‘man pack’ radio using a SSB CB.

  7. In keeping with the Editor’s comments at the top of this article, “Note that some of the methods described are illegal outside of disaster situations, and are presented for educational purposes only.” I would like to mention a topic that is often discussed related to operating outside your authorized frequency privileges.

    Many make note of the provision in Part 97 (Amateur Radio) of the FCC Rules & Regulations that permits during emergencies the use of “any means necessary” to communicate in order to protect life and property. Please know that this is NOT a blanket authorization to bootleg outside the Amateur Radio bands.

    A very conservative interpretation is that you can operate on Amateur Radio frequencies that are not authorized by your present class of license, IF it is an emergency. But this does not extend to operating out of band on the business band or public service frequencies.

    Many folks think that all they have to do is claim it is an “emergency” in order to bootleg on fire, police, and ambulance frequencies with their ham radio gear. This provision only appears in Part 97. It is NOT found in Part 90, which governs the public safety frequencies.

    Be warned that the local law enforcement and government agencies are not bound by this FCC provision in Part 97 to accept Amateur Radio operation on their assigned frequencies. The FCC may not bring charges, but the local law enforcement and government agencies often do – regardless of the situation! Local judges and government officials usually want to seriously discourage any similar incidents out of the fear that vital communications will be jammed by a growing number of copy cats impersonating fire, police, or ambulance personnel.

    Amateur Radio operators could be convicted of interfering with a public service agency, have their equipment confiscated, receive a fine and/or jail time. This may then in turn cause the FCC to step in and revoke their amateur radio license due to a criminal conviction of causing interference with emergency communications on public service frequencies. (The classic government “Catch-22”).

    Several times in this article Tunnel Rabbit mentions that you should be cautious when operating on certain frequencies, or to avoid them all-together. That is good advice. Choose wisely!

  8. Hey Tunnel Rabbit, like CD NorthGA and TeresaSue, I can spell raydio but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. It would be great for us total greenhorns to have a very basic “Radio for Dummies” type of article. Then at some point we’ll be able to grasp the finer points of the more technical articles. Sounds like you’d be the man to write the “Dummies” article. 🙂

    1. Actually I’m not sure I’m up to that job. Let’s see watt you think after my next article on SSB CB. It could be published any day now. That kinda raydio might be watt most can relate to. Just get everyone on the same wave length, and push the button on the mic to talk. It is not all that complicated. Got my introduction to raydio as a kid back in 1965. If I could pull it off as a snot nosed boy, anyone can. It was a 2 channel Motorolla mobile. It is a case of monkey see, monkey do and I was the monkey. There are tons of instructional videos on YouTube that can do a much better job than I can here.

      It is the programming, and all those extra buttons that make it complicated. If we get away from all that button pushing, then it is easy. Get some FRS raydios, or business band radios from TwoWayRadio.com, and it is prettie much the same. Here is an easy to use business band base station radio that can be programmed per the customer’s choice of UHf frequencies. Give them a call and they can set you up with a matching mobile and handhelds for your new business all preprogrammed and good to go. It ain’t cheeep, but you need radio for this up coming rumble.

      Business band radio is rugged, designed to be easy to use, and transmit on frequencies that are not available to most users. GMRS radio has only 8 frequencies, and is the second most often used frequencies. GMRS is the least secure raydio. Business band radios are much more secure than GMRS raydios.
      I would request business band frequencies between 462 and 467.000 Mhz that way we can use FRS/GMRS frequencies to talk to neighbors who may already have FRS/GMRS radios of their own. And we can also use business band frequencies that the neighbors cannot. BuyTwoWayRadio will do custom programming per your list. I suggested list of frequencies will be at the bottom of this post. Here is the component list to assembly this system.

      GMRS raydio as discussed in the article is the easiest for most folks. If the ‘system’ below is just too much, then go with the GMRS ‘kit’ detailed. If GMRS is too much, then just go with FRS/GMRS hand helds, and SSB CB in the home and car. It is going to take time and effort, but it ain’t rocket science, it is just unfamiliar.

      Just copy and past and send an email to buytwowayradio.com.

      Icom IC-F6021-51B UHF Base Station Radio

      Mobile for a vehicle:
      Icom IC-F6021-51 Mobile Two Way Radio
      (If you are off grid already and have 12vdc, just use this mobile as a base station radio and save lots of money.)

      Olympia P324 Two Way Radio

      Heavy coaxial cable for UHF base station. Determine length and order by the foot.

      High gain and easy to mount on a roof slim jim antenna

      Light cable for vehicle installation:

      High gain UHF antenna for vehicle installation:

      Frequencies to use for this system:

      462.55 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH15
      462.575 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH16
      462.6 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH17
      462.625 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH18
      462.65 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH19
      462.675 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH20
      462.7 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH21
      462.725 GMRS (also may be used simplex) CH22

      Business Band frequencies that are off the beaten path and more secure than GMRS:
      466.1625 M
      466.1875 M
      466.2125 M
      466.2375 M
      466.2625 M
      466.2875 M
      466.3125 M
      466.3375 M
      466.3625 M
      467.7875 M
      467.8375 M
      467.8625 M
      467.8875 M
      467.9125 M

      Or we can use business band that are itinerants. However, these are less secure:

      464.5 Brown Dot
      464.55 Yellow Dot
      467.7625 J Dot
      467.8125 K Dot
      467.85 Silver Star
      467.875 Gold Star
      467.9 Red Star
      467.925 Blue Star

  9. When the country finally falls apart the government WON’T be coming for your guns first. First they will be visiting the homes of licensed HAM radio operators. They will take your radio equipment in order to keep you from spreading useful information to fellow preppers. But while they’re there they will go ahead and take your guns too.

    1. Mray- i agree. they are already going after the 1st amendment so we will need to protect our local hams and other communicators. I am looking to TR’s next article since the last radio I used was in (edited).

    1. Before someone attempts this, please be forewarned. To prevent a “ringer” from taking the exam for someone else, the Volunteer Examiner (VE) team is instructed to confirm the person’s identification before the test session beings. The instructions are: No one may take an amateur exam for another person. It is essential that the Volunteer Examiner (VE) Team checks a candidate’s identification (ID) before allowing the candidate to sit for an exam.

      The candidate must present a legal photo ID. This requirement is usually met with a driver’s license, but it can be a passport or other legal identification card with the candidate’s photo on it.

      On the subject of “real address”, the FCC does not require your street address on the paperwork. All that is needed is a “mailing address” at which you can receive written correspondence from the FCC. A Post Office box is therefore perfectly acceptable. The FCC is discussing changing the requirement in the near future to just an e-mail address. Again, the objective is to have a valid e-mail address where you can receive correspondence from the FCC. Members of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) can request an “alias” e-mail address from the ARRL. Anything sent to “your call sign @arrl.net” will be automatically forwarded to whatever real e-mail address you list with the ARRL. There are probably other e-mail providers who can offer the same service.

      1. a passport is the only govt issued ID that does not contain your home address,

        I was a trucker in the 90s and still use a CB in my pickup because I spend so much time on the road, and get tired of podcasts and itunes, but Ive never had any occasion to use SSB, there is never anyone there, there is hardly any chatter on 19 unless the traffic on the interstate comes to a standstill, then the trucker all start talking trying to determine whats causing it.

        most of the truckers use a stock Cobra 29, but if you want more power, you use a cobra 29 thats been turned down and use a linear amplifier, or most drivers use a Connex or Galaxy, or Ranger , “export ” radio, thats been converted to use CB frequencies.

  10. I thank TR for his extremely well-written article, for the very comprehensive frequency list and for the hours and hours he must have spent writing this article.

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