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Communication Devices

Photo Credit: National Safe Boating Council

Different types of communications equipment work in different areas, so a boater should make sure the equipment they have will work where they are boating. A boater should carry at least two communication devices that will work when wet.

Technology Communication Devices

  • VHF FM-DSC marine band radios lets a boater talk to other boaters, as well as to authorities on land. Digital Selective Calling is a method of alerting boaters in distress of their location.
  • Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) transmit the boater’s location, enabling the boater to get help quickly if needed.
  • Cellphone are only helpful if kept dry and when in range of a cell phone tower.

*Non-Technology Communication Devices

  • Dye market (any color)
  • Flares to wave, flash or signal SOS
  • Flames on a vessel
  • Flags with distress signals (black ball and square)
  • Gun fired at intervals of 1 minute
  • Sound producing device, such as a fog horn to make noise
  • A boater may raise and lower their arms as an international recognized signal of distress

*Also see U.S. Department of Homeland Security/United States Coast Guard Navigation Rules, Rule 37, Distress Signals.

More Information

Communication Device Comparison


VHF Marine Radio Channels for Recreational Boaters



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