and longitude), a brief descriptio­n of your boat (“a blue-hulled monohull sailboat”), and the nature of your emergency, and wait for the Coast Guard to respond.

Radio Tips

cell use isn’t as convenient or effective.

Radios are, of course, down below, which isn’t the best place for them to be if you’re in a serious situation and need to have eyes out of the boat while you’re transmitti­ng. A handheld VHF can cover this base in a pinch, but consider installing a cockpit mic that is linked to your radio below. This will use the same masthead antenna as the main radio, providing greater range than a handheld, and you can still communicat­e while on deck in case you have to be steering or sailhandli­ng at the same time.

What to Look Forward To

Monitoring the radio while underway can be like listening to a soap opera on the water. When you hear other boaters connect and switch to an open channel, go listen! Eavesdropp­ing is allowed. Phillip and I have also heard many emergencie­s unfold and learned a lot by listening to how other mariners responded and what the Coast Guard told them to do.

Most VHFS have a “WX” channel where NOAA broadcasts local and nearshore coastal forecasts. You can also use the many mariner eyes out there. If you see some gnarly thunderhea­ds building in your path, see if there’s a vessel ahead with AIS on and give them a shout to ask if they can tell you about the storm’s path or intensity.

Often if you sail closer to shore, or further, you can get a boost from a local current (or countercur­rent). Wondering why that boat closer to shore is beating you (because we all know two sailboats makes it a race)? Hail them and see if they’re riding a coastal current you would like to take advantage of.

Phillip and I have been able to spot and avoid many hazards to mariners—large logs floating in the Charleston inlet, a half-sunk boat near Rodriguez

Cay, etc.—by listening to the Coast

Guard’s securité reports on Channel 16.

Some of our best underway photos were taken by vessels we were passing out on the open blue that we hailed on the radio. Every captain wants a photo of their gallant vessel, sails full, traversing blue water. It’s also fun to just chat with fellow mariners, hear where they’ve been and where they’re headed, and connect out there. Just don’t have that languid conversati­on on 16. You’re better than that.

Sometimes the first responder may not be the Coast Guard. It might be you. In an on-thewater emergency—a medical issue, a boat taking on water, or (my personal nightmare) a fire aboard—any boat that can safely navigate toward the vessel in distress can try to assist.

Aside from playing Wordle, who needs a cell phone or internet on the water? Rekindle that relationsh­ip with your VHF. Like any tool, you’ll find that the more you use it, the more useful it becomes. If you’re comfortabl­e jumping on the radio to ask for a cool boat photo, your instinct and skills to grab the radio in an emergency will be sharper. If it was your life on the line, you’d want a confident, seasoned voice hailing for you. Charles sure did.

Contributi­ng Editor Annie Dike and her partner, Phillip, cruise their Outbound 46, Ubiquitous, along the U.S. East Coast and the Bahamas. They offer business consulting at, and Annie is the author, blogger, and filmmaker at havewindwi­

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