Please select your home edition
Zhik 2020 AnneMarieRindom LEADERBOARD

Relying solely on a cellphone when boating, what’s the problem?

by Tasman Salter 3 Sep 2018 15:56 PDT 4 September 2018
Mobile phones are at best a back up communication device for a VHF radio © Coastguard Boating Education

My flatmate recently co-purchased a trailer sailer with her friend, a confident, self-taught sailor. She explained to me that her friend would actively operate the vessel and teach her sailing skills when they took the boat out.

I was impressed – but had my concerns. What happens if her friend should fall overboard or become otherwise incapacitated? If this scenario played out on the weekend, what would she to do to get the situation under control?

We established that, bearing in mind her current lack of skills, she might be unable to do anything to stop the progress of the boat, or turn around and pick him up if he fell overboard. She did say that there were two smartphones below deck to make quick contact with 111. She said her network has great coverage and her friend added they were rarely sailing very far from land. Calling 111 (or *500 for Coastguard) is absolutely the right thing to do in an on water emergency, but only if you have a cellphone coverage.

People generally believe that their phone is an essential tool should an emergency occur.

On land, this is a relatively safe assumption.

Top telco Vodafone claims to cover 98.5% “of places where Kiwis work and play” [click here for coverage map] with Spark not far behind.

But it’s important to put this statement in context, because it may mean that a network may cover considerably less than the total percentage of a given area, particularly when applied to a marine environment. In fact, a little investigation reveals both networks make it clear in the fine print that this degree of coverage is most relevant to areas where there is a reasonable sized population. I had to point out to my flatmate and her friend that the population is not typically concentrated on the water where they were likely to be sailing. How many people do you know who live out in the water? Factor this in and it is possible that there will be gaps in coverage.

So it is NOT a safe assumption that a cell phone can be solely relied upon in an emergency when sailing. Sure, great to have in a dry bag on the boat, but you’re really going to need something a little more robust, purpose built and with a longer range to get appropriate coverage on the water. It was actually the sailor who, at that point, suggested that a VHF radio would be a useful addition. I added this was well complemented by a Maritime VHF Radio Operator Certificate, because unlike a smartphone, operators are required by law to be trained. It is important to know how to use this communication equipment in an appropriate and effective way, particularly in an emergency.

VHF radios are designed for the marine environment and are more robust than cell phones. Channel 16, the international calling and distress channel, is monitored around the clock. In addition, other mariners in the vicinity will hear distress calls broadcast over Channel 16 and may be able to render assistance. Urgent safety information and weather reports for boaters are also broadcast over marine band radio channels as an added bonus.

Weigh it up and it’s pretty clear the cellphone in a dry bag makes a great backup, particularly equipped with Coastguard’s new app, but it shouldn’t be your only communication device for a day on the water.

To my relief, my flatmate and her buddy decided to get a VHF radio and enrol in the Coastguard Boating Education online VHF course.

VHF Radios are available at all good marine supplies stores, but there’s currently a better way to get one! Coastguard Boating Education is running a promotion to win an Icom M25-EURO VHF Radio when you sign up for a Maritime VHF Radio Operator Certificate before the 30th of September.

For full terms and to sign up to win, follow the link by clicking here

Related Articles

America's Cup Rialto: Defiant's 'glamour day'
After a batten failure, American Magic headed back out for a three hour plus sail on a 'glamour day' After losing an hour or so through gear failure, American Magic headed back out onto the Waitemata for a training session out on Course E - between Eastern Beach and Waiheke Island, otherwise known as "The Paddock". Posted today at 10:21 am
How will they set the (dis) comfort cursor?
The challenges of trying to live and run a foiling IMOCA to the maximum After finishing second in the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne race Charlie Dalin pulled no punches when he described the challenges of trying to live and to operate to the maximum on board his foiler APIVIA. Posted today at 8:24 am
World Sailing AGM to be held electronically
Plus nominations are open for election of Board of Directors World Sailing will hold its 2020 Annual General Meeting (AGM) and General Assembly electronically, due to the global challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Posted on 5 Aug
Atlantic Crossing OBR Report #1
Onboard update from Amory as the team closes out their third day at sea Onboard update from Amory Ross as the team closes out their third day at sea for their Atlantic crossing training sail from France to Newport, RI. Posted on 5 Aug
Mirabaud Sailing Video of the Century jury named
Special edition will reward the best films from 2000 to today! Two women and four men make up the international jury of the Mirabaud Sailing Video of the Century: Ludovica Anti, Martina Orsini, Rob Peake, Gary Jobson, Nicolas Mirabaud and Rob Faris. Posted on 5 Aug
David Sussmann debriefs the Pure Ocean Challenge
A Q&A with David Sussmann about his experiences in the 2020 Pure Ocean Challenge I checked in with David Sussmann, founder of Pure Ocean, via email, to learn more about his experiences, observations, and data-collection efforts during the 2020 Pure Ocean Challenge. Posted on 5 Aug
Zhik appoints Plastimo as distributor
To expand trading in France, Belgium and the French domestic territories Zhik is proud to announce a collaboration with Plastimo, the prestigious marine industry safety manufacturer and equipment wholesaler, as their new distributor for France, Belgium and the French domestic territories. Posted on 5 Aug
America's Cup: Arb Panel rules on CIC application
The Arbitration Panel for the America's Cup has ruled on the Stars + Stripes' application The Arbitration Panel for the America's Cup has rules against the application made to it by the US Challenger Stars + Stripes Team USA. Posted on 5 Aug
San Diego Olympic Classes Regatta preview
Third running of event limited to single-handed classes The San Diego Olympic Classes Regatta was established in 2018 to provide sailors of all ages with a venue to train and compete in international, high performance classes. Posted on 4 Aug
Edgartown Race Weekend's Round-the-Island Race
Former Secretary of State John Kerry wins Venona Trophy Former Secretary of State John Kerry (Chilmark, Mass.) claimed the coveted Venona Trophy at Edgartown Race Weekend's 82nd 'Round-the-Island Race, sailing his classic Alden Cutter 44 Lark to win his class Posted on 4 Aug
Auck Boat Show - Launch 728x90 BOTTOMUpffront 2020 Foredeck Club SW FOOTERGul 2020 FOOTER