I stand, embarrassed, and corrected. My boating days began long before new fangled things called mobile phones were invented: in fact the main comms problem we had was getting a bit of string long enough to go between the two tin cans for ship-to-shore communication.
A quick dit on an embarrassing engine breakdown that I was involved in (and has probably left me emotionally scarred for life!):
The scene is a lovely summer's afternoon at Largs on the Firth of Clyde, Scotland. The Coastguard boat was a 4m Avon Searider with a very unreliable Evinrude 25. We launched at the RNLI slip having already had the micheal extracted by the RNLI boys as they polished their new Atlantic 21 with twin 55 Mariners..........we were giving as good as we got and even offered them a tow in the future when their "cheap jap engines packed in".....
A quick jaunt across to Millport, chat to the locals and then leave the harbour. At which point the exhaust cover exited stage left on the old evinrude in clouds of billowing smoke, very pretty but not effective as a means of propulsion: stuck several miles from recovery point with only a set of paddles we decided to raise the lifeboat station on VHF CH16 and quietly get them to come and recover us without broadcasting the fact that we'd broken down. The conversation went as follows:
"Largs Lifeboat this is Ardrossan Bravo, will you be launching on exercise this afternoon?"
"Largs, are you sure that you won't be launching on exercise this afternoon?"
"Negative Ardrossan Bravo: we have no plans to launch this afternoon except on service"
"Largs Lifeboat station, is the Hon Sec at the shed?"
At this point we can hear the sound of hilarity in the background during the broadcast and realise that we have now drifted to a point were they can see us drifting helplessly with smoke coming from the uncovered engine......
"Ardrossan Bravo this is Largs Lifeboat Station do you require assistance?"
"Negative" (we lied a wee bit!)
"Ardrossan Bravo are you sure?"
"Largs Lifeboat Station NEGATIVE! but are YOU sure that you aren't launching this afternoon?"
"Ardrossan Bravo we will only be launching if we see a distress signal. Do you know what distress signals are ardrossan bravo?" (giggling in the background and obviously the radio operator having a real hard time talking without creasing)
"Largs Lifeboat station, roger, thanks very much for that. We ARE well aware of distress signals. We just wondered if you fancied coming out to join us?"
"Ardrossan Bravo Negative, we are about to close up and go home............unless of course there's something you'd like to share with everyone?"
silence, apart from cursing in the Coastguard Searider........
"Largs Lifeboat Station, request you launch and rendezvous with us at our present location"
"Negative Ardrossan Bravo"
"Largs Lifeboat Station request reason for not launching"
"Ardossan Bravo (sounds of howls of laughter in the background)....you'll have to contact Clyde Coastguard and request launch"
Thirty minutes later we were towed back to the slip by a lifeboat crew who couldn't stop laughing to be met by a huge crowd of onlookers cheering, clapping and laughing......................