Why You Need a VHF Radio
Cell Phone Coverage Still Patchy at Sea
Over the last three seasons, Safe/Sea dispatchers have noticed an increasing amount of assistance calls coming to our dispatch center via cellular phones. With the increasing availability and affordability of these phones, many boaters seem to be disregarding VHF radios and are considering them a thing of the past.
While we encourage the use of cellular phones to call us for non-emergency assistance, we feel the need to stress the importance of having a working VHF radio on board your vessel.
There are many advantages to carrying a VHF radio. First and foremost is the number of listeners should you experience an emergency.
For example, if you were to begin taking on water and called for help on your cellular phone, the only informed party would be the one you dialed. If you were to relay your message via VHF, you would not only inform the Coast Guard, but also Safe/Sea and all other concerned boaters monitoring channel 16. So, there would be many more resources alerted and underway to assist you as quickly as possible.
The use of a VHF also makes it much easier for our captains to locate you. Without a precise location, finding a disabled boater on a busy Sunday afternoon is as akin to looking for "a needle in a haystack." With a VHF radio, you can speak directly to our captain and direct him to your position as he approaches.
The reliability of cellular phones on the water is also an issue. Cellular towers are placed to maximize coverage over land, not sea. Many calls are lost in this way. In anticipation of this happening, our dispatchers will immediately ask you for your cellular number when you call us on a cell phone. Be sure to know this number should the call fade and we need to call you back.
Even though we ask that you contact us here at Safe/Sea by cellular phone to help keep the air waves less cluttered, we highly recommend that you maintain a working VHF radio on board your vessel at all times to insure your own safety.