Communications equipment is an essential part of safe boating – because if you can’t contact someone to say you’re in trouble, nobody can rescue you.
Different types of communications equipment work in different areas, so you need to make sure the types of communications equipment will work in the areas you are boating in. You should carry at least two of the following at all times, so you can get help in the event of an emergency:
distress beacons – distress beacons, PLBs (personal locator beacons) or EPIRBs (emergency position-indicating radio beacons) are for maritime use and are designed to float in water. For more info about distress beacons, visit our distress beacons page, and the beacons website at www.beacons.org.nz
hand-held VHF radio(Channel 16) – a hand-held waterproof radio will allow you to speak to anyone in the area who could help (as well as to rescue authorities) – hand-held VHF radios are recommended, because in the event of a capsize, a radio attached to the boat will not be accessible. Please note that VHF coverage is not available in some areas. For more on VHF radio visit our VHF safety feature page
cellphone (call 111) – remember keep it on you and keep it dry! The problem with a cellphone (compared with a VHF radio) is that you can only ring one person at a time, and they will only work when dry. Cellphones only get coverage in certain areas – make sure you have comms equipment that will work where you're going.
hand-held flares – pyrotechnic devices that come in three types – parachute flare, handheld flares, and smoke flares. More on flares.
In addition, don’t forget some low-tech ways to help get attention:
sound signals – use a horn or anything that makes noise
torch – move or flash on and off or even signal SOS
arms – raising and lowering your arms is a recognised international distress signal.