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Carry some means of calling for help RNLI
The following safety information has been kindly supplied by RNLI:
Calling for help
Even in crowded waters and close to the shore, a life-threatening incident might go unnoticed. The ability to call for help, by some means or another, is imperative.

VHF
For a sportsboat or craft intended for coastal waters, we recommend a fixed VHF DSC radio, as the aerial and power will allow for a good distance in communication. If you intend to use the boat on inland waters, you could opt for a hand-held VHF radio or have both. While a hand-held might not have the range of a fixed radio, it could double up as an emergency spare in your sports cruiser. If you are choosing a hand-held unit, consider a waterproof version. If you really can't spring for a waterproof VHF, you will need a waterproof bag for your chosen model.

When choosing a VHF unit, bear in mind the qualification and licence required. A Short Range Certificate (SRC) course from the RYA or ISA will teach you how to use the new DSC functions. Licences are available in the UK from Ofcom and in the RoI from the Department of Transport.

Flares
Flares are nowadays used as back-up to your primary method of calling for help. They come in a variety of types:

  • Red flares are used for night or poor visibility and come either as a large parachute rocket, visible up to 28 miles, or a handheld flare visible for 5–7 miles.
  • Orange smoke flares are used in daytime and come either in a canister for offshore use or as a handheld version for more coastal use.
  • White handheld flares are used for collision avoidance and should be kept separate from other flares to prevent confusion.
  • Personal flares are available as double-ended day and night flares, or as a pack of mini-rocket flares, ideal for coastal use.

The RNLI recommends you carry at least the minimum requirement as stated in the RYA's Boat Safety Handbook. If you windsurf, kayak or go to sea in a small craft, then opt for the smaller personal flares and make sure you keep them in a waterproof container.

Mobile phones
Mobile phones are not an effective means of calling for help at sea, for a number of reasons:

  • They are not waterproof.
  • The signal is not guaranteed and there are many black spots.
  • Even if your phone is working and has a signal, only one person will hear your call for help.
  • The search and rescue agencies cannot pinpoint your position with a mobile phone signal.

In summary...
We strongly recommend a VHF marine radio. Flares are a good back-up to your primary source of calling for help and are worth carrying. If all you have is a mobile phone, be aware of its limitations.
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