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VHF radio: the best form of communication on the water

People rarely go anywhere on land without their smartphones anymore and it has become increasingly common to see boaters using cell phones when they’re out on coastal and inland waters as well.

That’s fine ? as long as their boat is also equipped with a VHF radio, one of the most important pieces of safety equipment you can have on board.

“Your cell phone could die or you could drop it overboard. We recommend people take a 5-watt handheld VHF along on their boat, at a minimum, to use as their primary form of communication on the water,” says Capt. Ed Schrader, owner of Sea Tow Hampton Roads (Va.), which serves the busy waters of Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake Bay. “It’s better to have a 25-watt VHF mounted at the helm, however.”

Capt. Sammy Royal, owner of Sea Tow Horseshoe Beach (Fla.), which covers a rural stretch of the Gulf Coast on Florida’s Panhandle from Waccasassa to Keaton Beach, says boaters can’t rely on their smartphones always “having bars” in his area. “Cell phone service is very limited here. There are small fishing villages along the coast that are nine or ten miles apart with nothing in between,” he reports ? making it essential to have a VHF on board.

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