Communication plays a major role while boating without the communication devices you can’t drive peacefully in the water. Here are some of the communication devices you need in a boat.
- VHF radio
- Satellite phone or messenger
- Non-tech related
These are the basic communication devices you need to have in the boat. For most boaters, these are enough because it depends on the size of the boat they are using and where they are boating too. Many are fine with VHF radio or EPIRB.
1. VHF radio
First, we will find why do we need VHF radio for a boat.
Vhf radio is essential for a boat, with the help of this device you can communicate with others(other boaters or coast guards). If you are in an emergency, then by pressing the emergency switch on the back of the radio will send your location to the coast guards or other boaters near you.
Vhf radio is a very common device you will see on many boats. The most reliable, least expensive, and the best way to get in touch with the coast guards is with the help of VHF radio.
While buying a VHF radio, make sure it has built-in GPS in it, built-in GPS is very useful for a VHF radio. After buying a VHF radio, make sure to make it DSC active.
Every VHF radio will have an emergency switch on the back of the device. If you press that switch, it will send your location(with the help of GPS) to the coast guards or other boaters within the range. You can use that switch if you enable DSC active in it. Otherwise, you can’t.
Many coast guards when there are searching for someone in the sea they will check whether the radio is DSC active or not. What DSC does is it allows coast guards to use your radio transmission and find your exact location very quickly.
Consider these things while buying a VHF radio
- Good battery life
- Enough power and range
- Built-in GPS
- Type of VHF radio
- Floatable on water
- Float and flash function
- Daylight Visibility
- Has loud voice
These are the essential things you should consider while buying a VHF radio. After buying a VHF radio, make sure to make it DSC active. DSC active is essential if you are using a VHF radio.
Check my article on Consider these things while buying a VHF radio (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In this article, I mentioned everything you need to check while buying a VHF radio (for both handheld and fixed mount VHF radios).
First, we will find why do we need EPIRB for a boat.
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is essential for a boat because whenever you are in an emergency, you can use this device to send the alert to the coast guards. EPIRB transmits signals directly to the satellite. So, the coast guard will get notified, and they will help you out.
This device will alert search and rescue services (SAR) in case of an emergency out at sea. It is a tracking device that transmits a signal on a specified band to locate a lifeboat or people in distress.
EPIRB transmits signals directly to the satellite. The signal consists of a digital code that gives information such as the boat’s identification, date of the event, the nature of distress, and the position.
The satellite receiving terminals on the ground (Local User Terminal) uses that digital code and send it to MRCC (Mission Rescue Co-Ordination Centre). The MRCC is responsible for the SAR(Search And Rescue) operations and oversees the execution of the rescue mission.
If the GPS fails. The geosynchronous satellite orbiting around the earth can pick the radio signals emitted by the EPIRB. In this case, we can’t narrow down the boat or user, it will give the close range.
One of the main advantages of EPIRB is if it fell in the water, it will turn on automatically and send emergency signals to SAR.
Consider these things while buying an EPIRB
- Type of EPIRB (EPIRB or PLB).
- Automatic or Manual
- Built-in GPS
Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is the big device, and it has the option when it falls in the water, it will turn on automatically. Personal locator beacon is for smaller boats, and it is usually carried with you. EPIRB has 48 hrs battery life, and a PLB has 24 hrs battery life.
Manual EPIRB: It tuns on automatically turns on when it falls in the water, or you can turn it on manually. If it pops out of the holder where it is placed, it will turn on automatically. These are the options to turn on the manual EPIRB.
Automatic EPIRB: If it an automatic EPIRB, then it will be placed in a waterproof container. If it sinks to a certain depth, then it will come out and turn on the switch automatically. Generally, automatic EPIRB is used in big boats or ships. Manual EPIRB is recommended for medium size boats.
If you are buying an EPIRB or PLB, then make sure that it has a built-in GPS. What is does is if you have a built-in GPS, then it will send the signals fastly to SAR units. Otherwise, it will take more time, and eventually, the coast guards will take more time to rescue you.
If you want a built-in GPS, then you need to pay extra dollars for that. The other option you need to consider while buying is display size on the EPIRB or PLB. If you want a bigger displace, then go for a bigger EPIRB and vise versa.
Read this marine insight’s article to check the complete guide of EPIRB (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). They had explained everything about the EPIRB in detail.
3. Satellite phone or Satellite messenger
First, we will see, why do we need a satellite messenger in the boat?
The name itself tells us that it is used to call or send messages or sometimes emails with the help of the satellite. If you are in an emergency, then you can inform the coast guards with these devices. These satellite devices are very essential for boaters.
There are primarily two types of satellite messaging devices, one-way communication device, and two-way communication device. With a one-way communication device, you can only send messages, and you can’t receive any.
With a two-way communication device, you can send and receive messages. There are different types of two-way communication devices. One can only send messages, and other devices can send both messages and emails.
If you buy a big device, then you can use the email option too. With a two-way device, you can send emails too. So, while buying the device itself, you need to decide which one you need a message one or both(message and email).
Still, if you want a bigger option, you can buy a satellite phone for your boat. Whenever you go boating, take a small satellite phone with you. But if you already have a satellite messenger, then no need to buy a satellite phone.
The cost of a satellite phone is a bit higher than a normal phone. Buying a satellite phone isn’t a problem, you can buy one easily. Maintaining a satellite phone is expensive and costs more for every time usage.
You need to buy a subscription plan based on the company you bought your satellite phone. There are only a few models in the market for each company. You can choose their company plans only, not others.
Using a satellite phone is expensive, sometimes it will take 20 dollars for one minute. And again it depends on the plan what you selected while buying.
Don’t stream anything with the help of a satellite phone, it is very expensive. I heard that one guy downloaded a movie using a satellite phone and ended up paying 100,000 dollars. So, don’t use youtube or streaming using a satellite phone.
But, buy either a satellite phone or a satellite messenger, don’t but both of them at a time. If you have a satellite phone, it is enough and vice versa. If you already have a satellite messenger or an EPIRB, then no need to buy a satellite phone.
Consider these while buying a satellite phone
These are the main things you need to look in a satellite phone
The main reason why you are buying a satellite phone is to use it wherever you can’t use a normal cellphone. Check before buying a satellite phone, whether you will get a signal or not in the area you are going use the satellite phone.
Yeah, sometimes you won’t get signal properly in a particular location on the earth. It is because some satellites won’t cover all the locations on the earth properly. Like in the north or south places.
But mostly you won’t get any problem related to network coverage unless you are traveling to north or south poles. It is not worth buying a satellite phone if you bought a satellite phone that doesn’t have network coverage properly.
Some companies like iridium will provide good signals to the users. So, make sure that if you are buying a satellite phone, it has a good signal.
Since you are using the satellite phone in the boat, then make sure that it has a water-resistant or a waterproof feature in it. If unfortunately, your satellite phone falls in the water, then it will take time and money to replace or repair the device.
The other option would be to use some protective case for it. So, no water can go inside the case. To avoid all the problems, buy a satellite phone that has a waterproof feature in it or buy a protective case so, that no water will go inside.
There is no use to buy a satellite phone without a subscription plan. These subscription plans are so expensive, and some of them maybe 20 dollars for a minute call.
All the subscription plans are based on which satellite phone you are buying. Each company has its satellite dedicated to their network users. And the price of the plans varies from company to company.
Buying a satellite phone is one thing, and buying a subscription plan is another big thing, and it will take lots of money. So, make sure that you are selecting the right satellite company to get a good signal for a fair amount of money.
Everything you buy will depend on the price, subscription plan, or satellite phone. If you keep enough money, then you will get a good device. Generally, for around 800 dollars, you will get a good satellite phone.
But buy either a satellite phone or a satellite messenger, don’t buy both of them at a time. If you have a satellite phone, it is enough and vice versa. If you already have a satellite messenger or an EPIRB, then no need to buy a satellite phone.
See this video on that, where he explained the major types of satellite phones, subscription plans, and how to use them.
4. Cell phone
The main communication device is the cell phone, but without having a signal, you can’t use a cell phone. That’s why this one has less propriety while you are boating. In the middle of the sea or ocean, mostly, you won’t be able to get the signal properly.
5. Non-tech related
These non-tech communications are just used for signaling other boaters if there anyone near you. These are basic items.
All these are visual signaling devices, they are used to signal other if you are in an emergency.
Check my article on Safety equipment for a boat: 31 things you need (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). In that article, I mentioned all the equipment you need for boating based on lakes and seas.
- Which communication devices you need depends on where you will go for boating. It is in a lake or a sea or an ocean, and it also depends on the surroundings too. Because there is no need to carry a satellite phone if you are boating in a lake or pond.
- If you are boating in a lake, then you might only need a cell phone and sometimes a VHF radio. If there is more crowd, then you don’t even need a VHF radio too, you just need to signal them by using a torchlight or flares or something else.
- If you are boating in a sea or ocean, then you might need a VHF radio and EPIRB. Even in the sea, if you are not going too far away from the coast, then you don’t need a satellite phone.
- If you are going away from the coast or living on a boat or holiday trip in a boat, then you need a satellite phone. Other than that, you don’t need a satellite phone in general.
- Mostly, having a VHF radio and EPIRB is sufficient, unlike if you live in a boat or on a holiday trip for a weekend in the boat or boating away from the shore, then you might need a satellite phone for backup.