Recreational Boating Safety-Cell phones vs VHF Marine Radios

marineradioBy Paul Brown, Vice Flotilla Commander
USCG Auxiliary Flotilla 081-06-08
This is a topic I hear a lot from boaters. “I don’t need a radio, I have a cell phone!” While cellular phones have come a long way these days, they just don’t compare to a VHF Marine radio while going out on the water. Cell phones generally cannot provide bridge to bridge communications with other ships or rescue vessels. You may be anchored or possibly disabled when a ship or boat is bearing down on you and you need to communicate quickly with them, I wonder what the phone number of that ship or boat is? Dialing 911 probably wont help you either. 911 operators are generally not trained for marine emergencies so getting help is going to be delayed while they figure out where you are and who they need to contact to help you. Locating a cell caller is also hard to do if you don’t already know precisely where you are.

VHF radios were designed with safety in mind. If you are in distress, radio calls can be heard by all boaters in your area as well as the Coast Guard to give you immediate assistance. Marine radios also receive current weather and forecasts, and other urgent marine information such as hazards to navigation, or other USCG safety information broadcasts. The Coast Guard will announce these broadcasts on CH 16 and tell you what channel to listen on for the actual broadcast. Additionally, the Coast Guard can pinpoint your position from your radio signal. This is critical to get you help as quickly as possible when you need it the most.

To summarize, The cell phone is best used for what it is, an on-board telephone — a link with shore-based telephones. A VHF marine radio is intended for communication with other ships or marine installations — and a powerful ally in times of emergency. If you have a cell phone, by all means take it aboard, but a cell phone is no substitute for a VHF radio.


If you have any questions, please contact Bob Currie
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 081-06-08
[email protected]
Safe Boating!


[8-7-2017]

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2 Responses to “Recreational Boating Safety-Cell phones vs VHF Marine Radios”

  1. realist says:

    Oops! Wrong section! Move to correct one!

  2. realist says:

    FEMA paid $1900.00 to the Texas Historical Commission years ago for replacement of the marker at Rollover Pass, Number 1766. THC gave the money to Galveston Historical Commission to complete the task.

    Galveston Historical Commission wants to rewrite history and change the wording on the marker. The excuse is, there is a new foundry and the font size is different. Waaahhh!! So get a different foundry.

    So why isn’t Galveston County, so arrogant that they take millions of dollars from the state to ruin the same historical area, making sure this task is complete?

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