As one who has taught the VHF syllabus, I would recommend doing the course and taking the test. It is now known as the Short Range Certificate (SRC).
There are many places where (as Alan suggests) you can do the course and the exam as a package the main advantage (apart from being legal) is that you should end up knowing how to give the RIGHT information in the BEST way to ensure that you get the help that you need.
Learning how to do it right may mean that if you get involved in a real emergency your training should kick in and ensure you communicate in a manner most likely to get you the help you need.
If you fancy a day out in Hampshire I can thoroughly recommend a school run by John Finch, called RT Training. John managed to get me through my LRC and on the back of his training I have taught many others both civilian and Royal Navy for the VHF exam (and all my students passed so he must have taught me something!)
He has a website at http://www.marineradio.co.uk/
and I have no financial interest in his courses, he's a good teacher and a nice guy.