A very complete article on not only cell phones and VHF Radios, but what to do if you find yourself in trouble on the water and different options.
Remember you don’t need to declare a May Day emergency to call the Coast Guard, you can call them to say that you are having problems but are not in trouble yet. That will let them keep track of you and get the required information if they do need to send help.
Please note: if you do call the Coast Guard with an advisory of a potential problem and you do resolve the problem, please call the Coast Guard and cancel your advisory with them, that will keep them from looking for you while you are safe at home or in the bar telling tall tales.
VHF Marine Radio Tips – includes a two page ready to print PDF file with sample scripts and the phonetic alphabet with Pro Words
New technology, better range and reliability can mean the difference between life and death.
Story by USCG Petty Officer 1st Class John D. Miller
Greg Arlotta’s voice turned grim as the boat beneath him slipped below the 37-degree waters of the Delaware Bay in the early morning darkness of Dec. 23, 2010.
“When this [cell] phone gets wet, I’m dead,” Arlotta told a 911 operator in the Sussex County, Del., Emergency Operations Center.
Arlotta’s foreboding was prophetic. He drowned some time that morning before rescuers could reach him. Unfortunately, Coast Guard boats and helicopters were delayed precious minutes because Arlotta and the mate aboard the doomed Sea Wolf called the wrong people with the wrong technology. Instead of hailing the Coast Guard on a VHF-FM radio at the first sign of distress, they waited until that was no longer an option and dialed 911 on their cellular phones.
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I totally agree with this – VHF gets you in communication with the Coast Guard as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In addition to that though, VHF is a broadcast and cell is point-to-point. In theory, most boaters are monitoring VHF, so in an emergency situation, there is a good chance another boater will hear your mayday or pan-pan call. In many(most?) near shore situations, your fellow boaters, or commercial traffic, are alot closer than the Coast Guard.
Another reason VHF is better.