If you own a boat or are planning to own one, you should be considering relevant accessories that can make your seafaring adventures less risky. If your question is ‘do I need a VHF radio for my boat’ the answer is an absolute yes, especially if you plan to take your boat a fair distance from land.
The reason is should you get into trouble far out in the ocean your mobile phone may not be of much use, you will need a VHF marine radio to call for emergency help.
A VHF radio is probably one of the most important accessories to have on your boat and the time, money and effort you put into purchasing the one that best suits your needs will be well worth it. A VHF radio makes it possible for you to communicate with other boats/vessels to help you out in an emergency.
The trouble with mobile phones is that they rely on cell towers for good signal and coverage, which might be difficult if you are far offshore or if it’s an overcast day. Both these situations will make it difficult for you to obtain decent reception to be able to make a call or even send a text message out to ask for help. The advantage of having a VHF two-way radio is that it is always on because they operate within a self-contained communications network.
Unlike mobile phones, two-way radios (VHF radios) are built to handle extreme environmental conditions like rain, and extremely cold weather, they are also waterproof and sand proof so you have a good reliable device in case of an emergency. A two-way radio also provides communication coverage across a wide distance of over 50 Km. while powerful antennas can significantly extend the distance covered.
Some VFH radios have a built-in telephony feature that enables communication between the VFH radio and a landline or mobile phone. This is useful when there is a need to communicate with someone who does not have a VFH radio. VFH radios also have considerable battery life. The fixed system uses the boat’s electrical system to power it while handheld devices have a longer battery life compared to a mobile phone which makes them great communication devices to have on board for emergencies.
Aside from all the advantages of emergency communication given above, VHF radios also have other everyday uses like calling up to book a berth, or talking to a boat passing by about where to spot dolphins or pilot whales or anything else of interest or concern. Point to note two-way radios cannot be used on land. It is prohibited by law.
In some countries, the use of a VFH radio is not required on a recreational boat below a certain size, in the United States; the length is less than 20 meters. Although not legally required it would be in your interest to fit your boat with a two-way radio.