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Onboard Communication Tools You Should Know About for Your Boat

If you are planning on owning a boat or already have one, irrespective of whether it is recreational or commercial you will need to assess the type of communication equipment you should fit it with. This is especially important if you take your boat far out to sea. It is a critical investment for your boating safety the ability to call for help in an emergency cannot be underestimated.   

There are many types of communication systems you can fit your boat with from a straightforward VHF marine radio to a sophisticated EPIRB & personal locator beacon. It is in your best interest in terms of cost and level of sophistication of the device and usefulness to match it to the kind of boating you engage in to avoid purchasing a piece of equipment you don’t have much use for. 

There are several options for communications VHF radios, mobile phones, satellite messengers, satellite phones (Sat Phones) & SSB radios, and EPIRBs & personal locator beacons.

A VFH radio is among the most reliable means to communicate in an emergency. If you are thinking that you don’t need a VFH radio because you have a mobile phone with you, then it is probably because you don’t realise that mobile phones rely on coverage and signal strength to communicate which can be difficult to come by if the boat is far away from land in the deep sea. Mobile phones are also poorly equipped to withstand extreme weather conditions. A VHF radio enables you to communicate with other boats/vessels or emergency help organisations in an emergency.    

Mobile phones can be useful in some instances provided you are within signal range. They can be useful for booking a berth at the marina, making a reservation at a restaurant, checking on the weather or using your favorite boating apps.

If you plan on taking your boat out to the deep sea you will likely not have other boats around you to signal for help. Your mobile phone will also likely be of no use. What you need for these remote excursions is a satellite messenger. You can press the SOS button to inform authorities that you need help and relay a GPS position to them and send text messages to friends and family and even send a GPS position to them.

Alternatively, for boating to remote locations, you will want the versatility of a satellite phone instead of a messenger that allows you to relay both voice and data messages. SSB radios are used by long-distance fleets for regular and emergency communications. An advantage is that a rescue operation can be launched quickly by a vessel in the vicinity that was listening in on the communications.

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) help to locate a boat going through an emergency. The signal is then transmitted to the nearest earth station, which contacts a local Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) to dispatch help.

Stephanie Neal
the authorStephanie Neal

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