Keep a friend or relative ashore appraised of your plans and any changes and have suitable means of communication on board for routine messaging and emergency situations.
What you need to keep in touch will depend on the type of boat you have and where you are intending to go boating. Day to day communications and plans for calling for help in the event of an emergency both need to be considered.
Mobile phones: although in many instances a mobile phone may be sufficient it ultimately is not designed for the marine environment and coverage may be non-existent just when you most need it. Another means of communication is therefore essential.
If you have an Apple or Android smart phone, consider downloading and using the RYA SafeTRX app.
Means of communications for the marine environment
VHF: is commonly used for ship to ship, ship to shore and emergency communications in the marine environment. Although used to a lesser extent on inland waters it can sometimes be useful for communicating with lock keepers and marinas.
Handheld VHF: the carriage of handheld VHF is in most cases practical, and a handheld will suffice if only a limited communications range is required, typically 5 miles offshore around the coast.
Fixed VHF: a fixed set with a correctly installed aerial can allow communications to be made over a range of up to 20 – 40 miles depending on the installation and conditions. VHF also allows search and rescue (SAR) authorities to locate you using Radio Direction Finding (RDF) equipment.
For greater distances from the coast, the recommended equipment is based on the GMDSS Sea Area you will be in.
Who and when?
It is good practice to have and report regularly to a shoreside contact who can notify the authorities if they become concerned about you. The RYA SafeTRX app can help with this in UK territorial waters and registering with the CG66 provides the Coastguard with valuable information in the event of an emergency. BUT your shoreside contact and the emergency services are useless to you unless you can tell them you need help.
What and how?
There are a range of devices available, which allow you to call for help in the event of an emergency. Pyrotechnic flares used to be a ‘do not go without item’, but modern alternatives such as [DSC VHF, EPIRB / PLB, EVDS] etc. can do the job without relying on intervention from someone looking in the right direction at the right time recognising the flare as a distress signal and knowing what to do. The RYA has produced guidance on calling for help to help boat owners select from these options to ensure that help can be provided as swiftly and smoothly as possible.
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