My quick 2 cents, based on tens of thousands of miles offshore
and coastal cruising in the UK, Europe
, North Atlantic, Caribbean
, Pacific, ...
A 406 MhZ EPIRB
is a necessity, not a luxury. It trumps all the other equipment
listed in this thread. Make sure you register it with your national Coast Guard -- it sends a unique identifying signature and precise GPS
position, and the Coast Guard calls whomever you've listed as a contact. They can fill the CG in on what you're up to and what help you might need.
You'll need a VHF
, if only to hear the Morning Net. But VHF is very short-range, not more than 20 NM, so this is nearly useless offshore for Mayday-type calls. Closer than that to shore, it's better and easier in an emergency
to simply call the local Coast Guard by cellphone (see more on cellphones, below)! Check out VHF receivers with AIS
receiving capability -- it's much easier and effective to call the freighter that's bearing down on you at 16 knots by name than to try "Eastbound freighter at 20 degrees 15 minutes North, 55 degrees 20 minutes West, this is Amy, the little sailboat you're about to run down."
In some of the more remote parts
of the world, such as the Caribbean
coast of Panama
is the only communication available (even the Morning Net uses it). But most places, the SSB
transmitter is really just a toy for the amusement of Hams and other radioactive people. A receiver is cheap
and will get you weather information.
For short, cheap
text and email
when offshore, check out the Delorme InReach satellite
system -- it's cheap, uses Iridium, and (unlike Iridium itself) allows you to suspend service (and therefore, payment) anytime you aren't offshore.
Definitely invest in a GSM 4-Band smartphone. You can get a local telephone number in any country you visit by simply buying
and inserting a SIM chip (US $5 or so). A data plan will cost you another US$20 or so a month, and any phone made in the last 5 years or so provides a wi-fi hotspot for your laptops, iPads, etc. to connect to the internet
. You can also pair it with the Delorme InReach, making for easy texting and emails when you're out of connection with land.
All of this costs less than US$1000.