Cell Phone Overboard

Cell-Phone and vhf radio

Cell phone and VHF Radio with safety lanyards.

2011 seemed to be the year of the “Cell Phone Overboard” event.  I received several emails, phone calls from land lines, smoke signals at public event and such explaining the cell phone had went into the water and they needed my phone number or other information they had stored on their cell phone.

One email even had a long engineering calculation showing how thick the ice should have been to support their cell phone when dropped from a given height (god bless  Mechanical Engineers).

I thought that this would be a good time to share a few tips and tricks that I and some of my friends use to prevent the cell phone overboard drill.

My cell phone has a place to attach some sort of lanyard.  I used a short piece of black waxed whipping twine through the corner of my cell phone to form a loop.  I then loop a regular lanyard through the loop formed with the Whipping Twine.  The lanyard is a regular safety lanyard designed to go around my neck, the lanyard has a safety breakaway feature so if the cell phone gets wound into moving machinery it will let go and I won’t be pulled in.  I then put the lanyard around my neck when I am around the water so if I drop my cell phone it won’t go into the water or smash on the deck.  The case for an older cell phone had a spring loaded clip on it that let me clip it into a shirt pocket that helped prevent it from falling out of the pocket when I bent over.

Sadly not all cell phones have an easy way to attach a lanyard.  When I was researching this story I ask several friends if their cell phone had the ability to attach some sort of lanyard, maybe half of the cell phones had that ability.  I am thinking about upgrading my cell phone to one of the new touch screen ones and none of them seem to have the ability to attach a lanyard so I will need to come up with some sort of bag with elastic to slip the cell phone into if I get a new phone.  Stay tuned if I get a new cell phone for any solution I come up with.

The handheld VHF clips to the belt on my Life Jacket and the white lanyard is made from a long shoelace with the tips cut off and loops sewn into each end.  One end has a large loop that the VHF will slip through when I fasten lanyard around the belt of my lifejacket.  The remote mike lets me put the mike close to my ear so I don’t need to turn up the radio volume real high to hear the radio, it also allows me to speak  into the remote mike without taking the radio off my belt,

Flashlight for a boat

Small AA Flashlight with a neck lanyard

Small flashlight:  I also carry a small flashlight in my duffel bag in case I need a light.  The light is not real bright but gives enough light to move around on a boat an night and does not disturb others.  It will run for about 16 hours on two AA batteries.  The loop you see is so the light will shine down and not up in my face if the light is hanging from the lanyard.  Read a short mini-review of the light at Candle Power Forums.  I have given several of these for gifts and use one at home daily.  You can find it online for under $ 20.00 at places like BrightGuy.com (where I bought mine).  The black lamp holder is unscrewed a bit so the light will not turn on accidentally if the switch is pressed.  If I know I will be sailing after dark I also have flashlights with red LED bulbs I use so I don’t mess up my night vision.

Yes the duffel bag is labeled with what is inside the pockets,  The light is inside a small pocket inside the top of the duffel where it is easy to find.  I also carry a small First Aid kit (Small Boat Marine First Aid Kit) that I put together in case of small injuries, this way I know where a First Aid kit is without needing to search on a boat that I am crewing on.

Glasses with loops around ears

Glasses showing loops for around the ears to help keep the glasses from falling off.

Glasses:  I use the dorky hook around my ears loop for extra security.  The loops help keep the glasses from falling off.  My nose is oily and glasses tend to slide down down no matter what.  I had to pay extra for the loops but the loops really help.  Sometimes I also use the strap that fastens to the glasses and goes around the back of my neck.  The straps for your glasses come in several different styles and types and are highly recommended.

Yes if you go into the water your cell phone is probably gone no matter how well it is tied to you as most cell phones are not water resistant.

If you go into the water and you have a handheld VHF you should be able to call for help as most handheld VHF radios are water resistant.  A word of caution, in Puget Sound the water is around 50 degrees F year around so if the radio is not tied to you the chances of the radio sinking as quite high as your hands loose the ability to grasp objects in cold water.

Two of my friends are probably alive today because someone had a handheld VHF Radio on them when problems happened.  One friend was motor sailing in bad weather when the engine caught fire, they were not able to go below to use the radio but they were able to call for help with their handheld radio.  Another friend was on a multihull when it flipped in bad weather putting the radio antenna under water and the crew in the water, someone had a handheld VHF Radio and used it to call for help.

See How I attached a lanyard to my Galaxy S-3 Cell Phone.

Thank you for your interest in and support of boating safety.

– c/m –

This entry was posted in Boating Safety, Sailing and Boating Skills and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cell Phone Overboard

  1. Mike,
    My two-year old Droid X (touch screen smartphone) has a slot that will take a small lanyard. However, I use a belt clip and slide the phone into the clip, so I can’t use the lanyard slot. But it’s there.
    Smartphones are out there these days that are being billed as “rugged.” Some are water-resistant – not waterproof, etc. Of course, the military has long had ruggedized cellphones; it’s just a matter of time before we see some good ones in the general market.
    Captain Linda Lewis –

    • captnmike says:

      I have seen some of the ruggedized laptop computers – drop kick them into the next county – quite pricy but very rugged – I think the cell phone companies are missing a small market by not marketing a rugged water resistant phone – lots of boaters and other outdoor people out there that use their cell phones in less than ideal conditions. One person I know goat a new digital camera last summer for boat use and was very happy at the water resistance and 4 foot drop rating. When I was in today asking about a lanyard so I would not drop my new phone they sales guy just looked at me with this real dumb look on his face – he sort of understood the concept but I guess they sell move replacement cell phones if you can drop them easier – Oh well.

  2. “Samsung Rugby” is a ruggedized phone, marketed as waterproof and shockproof. Due to be released in March 2012.

    For description and video, go to:

    Capt. Linda Lewis

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