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Up a creek with no antenna

Jan 13, 2014

Still don’t buy the argument that you need a handheld VHF? A study of casualties will give you plenty of examples of why you should reconsider, including a case last week involving a grounding and rescue off the coast of California.

The problem wasn’t that the mariner didn’t have a working radio. The problem was that when his 32-foot sailboat hit the rocks near Piedras Blancas Lighthouse in San Simeon, the mast broke and the antenna was rendered inoperable.

Sailing fates being what they are, the grounding happened in darkness — sometime around 3 a.m. — so help wasn’t easy to come by. Luckily the mariner had a cellphone and cellular reception, enabling him to contact the Coast Guard. A helicopter was dispatched from Air Station San Francisco and the man was lifted to safety two hours later.

Score one for technology. But there’s never any guarantee you’ll have adequate cell reception when you need it, and let he who has never let his iPhone’s battery run down cast the first stone. Not to say that you shouldn’t have a cellphone onboard — it’s just that it should never be seen as a substitute for VHF.

Choose not to rely on an antenna and you’ll remove one more variable.

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