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• Original canvas patterns dating back to 1993.
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Great Lakes BoatUS Feb 2016.indd 1 12/9/2015 9:04:09 AM
apps are set up to work. Finally, most cell
phones are vulnerable to water damage.
And unlike a VHF radio, there’s no way
to put out a general call to anyone within
hearing range. Even though it may be
the first thing you reach for in an emergency, you simply must never rely upon a
cellphone as your primary form of signaling for help.
VHF Radio With DSC
THE PROS: The VHF radio is just about
the most common form of emergency
marine communications, with good reason: it’s simple to operate, communications go both ways, and, with a properly
installed digital selective calling (DSC)
radio, when you hit the panic button, the
U.S. Coast Guard, if in range, will automatically get your exact GPS position,
will know you’re sending a distress call,
and will know who you are. VHFs are
relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and
virtually all of the models on the market
today are rugged and reliable.
THE CONS: The biggest downfall of VHF
with DSC is the same as for all VHF
radios: your set’s range is limited by the
curvature of the earth. Antenna height
plays a big role here, as can atmospheric
conditions. With an average
fixed-mount antenna on an
average pleasure boat, you
can’t expect a range of much
more than 20 miles. Also,
the fixed-mount VHF on
your boat probably depends
upon your boat’s electrical
system for power. If you’re
adrift with dead batteries, the
radio won’t help. Carrying a
backup handheld unit with its own power
source is always a good idea, but these
units have even less range, sometimes
as little as a mile or two. Finally, if you
have a DSC-capable VHF, make sure
that it’s properly interfaced with your
GPS to give position data (which eight
out of 10 boaters, says the Coast Guard,
fail to do) or that it’s equipped with its
own GPS. It also needs to be registered
with a Maritime Mobile Service Identity
(MMSI) number. BoatU.S. members can
go to www.BoatUS.com/mmsi to obtain
a free MMSI for domestic use.
THE PROS: Thanks to a proven track
record of high reliability, EPIRBs remain
a top choice today for sending out an
emergency signal to SAR personnel.
Because EPIRBs interface with Cospas-Sarsat international SAR satellites that
calculate your position via GPS, triangulation, or a combination of the two,
they’re effective over most of the earth.
EPIRBs are also equipped with a strobe
light for quick visual sighting, can be activated either manually or automatically,
are required to float and be completely
waterproof, and can be mounted with
hydrostatic releases. Current units with a
built-in GPS can transmit your location
70 | BoatU.S. Magazine FEBRUARY | MARCH 2016