Having a satellite telephone on board, once a rare luxury among sailing boats, is fast becoming an important safety device, particularly for boats that go to sea for more than a couple of nights. It gives you instant communication with a range of people/organisations in a very short period of time, and in our experience, when there is an emergency, the boats with satphones are quickly called upon by other boats to assist with the problem.
Unfortunately, particularly outside Australian waters, Channel 16 on VHF and the international distress channel on HF, 2182, are rarely monitored by bodies that call themselves safety organisations, less by container ships, which seem to run on autopilot most of the time, without a watch keeper (or maybe they’re asleep).
The good news is that satellite phones and their call costs are getting cheaper and cheaper. Australian Satellite Services
offers a satellite phone with a limit of 200 miles off Australian shores – great for coastal sailors. Iridium
offers a world-wide satellite phone system, which works excellently from any location, from either cockpit or below decks on the nav. station.