This statement from the paddler (posted on YouTube) makes me wonder about the helpfulness of a VHF for emergencies:
“Thank you for calling 911! The Coast Guard told me that your call was the first local report that they received. I was calling them using my marine radio while I was swimming, but I had reached the San Francisco CG base and they did not understand when I gave my location as being off the Plaza Hotel.”
How did that happen when there’s a USCG station in Monterey Bay?
This really wasn’t what we could call a VHF, so not sure his experience reflect our use of a VHF.
He was using what he called a Nautilus Lifeline (http://www.nautiluslifeline.com). Not clear if that was a discontinued radio Nautilus made, or the more current device that is similar to a PLB they currently make. These are made for SCUBA divers (so extremely waterproof - to hundreds of feet).
These devices likely lose some functionality to be made so waterproof. And because divers generally aren’t boaters, they simplified these as much as possible. No channel changing on radio, etc. They want a device to easily call for help should something happen (they come up and boat is gone, currents drive them to sea, etc.). The discontinued radio device was like a SPOT that worked over VHF channels - 3 button options only. You were talking into a small area while bobbing in the water. Not sure if you also have to extend antennae to make it work.
SF might be the dispatch for the area , so calling there may not be the wrong thing to expect.