4 Reasons Radio Trumps Your Cellphone at Sea

If you already have a cellphone, do you still need a radio at sea? Some people, uninitiated in the ways of boating, may answer yes. That’s a common misconception, one that could put you in a great deal of danger, especially if you don’t see the value of a VHF handheld radio. Here’s why they matter:

1. Your marine handheld radio is your primary communication tool. If you need to reach the coastguard or communicate with other ships and boats, your handheld radio allows you to do that. Thinking your cellphone can save you? Cellphones have limited offshore coverage so you might not even be able to put a distress call if you need it, much less put in a call for help to anyone ten miles from the shore.

2. You get timely storm or weather warnings. If there are sudden storm warnings in the area, the Coast Guard announces these on VHF channel 16. By getting advanced warnings, make for the shore or you could drop anchor after finding a safe place to weather the coming storm. Either way, you benefit from the use of your handheld radio.

3. Distress calls. According to the Navigation Center, if you get in trouble at sea, you can easily send out distress calls. The Coast Guard won’t be the only ones to hear you, though. Other ships—those close to you—would be able to hear the distress call as well, enabling all nearby vessels to respond to come to your aid.

4. Search aid. It’s easier to find out where you are when you use a radio. Cellphones can have a shaky connection that could make it impossible for both parties to communicate. Also, when you send out a distress call through your cellphone, the call only gets to a single party, so if there are any nearby boats, you won’t be able to reach out to them and ask for help. If it’s an emergency, being able to tap into nearby ships and boats can make a massive difference, one between life and death. If you ever find yourself in that position, having the right tool can tip the scales to your favor.


At this point, you should already know how important having VHF handheld radio is to keeping you safe at sea. So start shopping around for the right radio for your boat. For more information about buying a handheld radio, contact us at Hodges Marine.