Finally got a chance to try out my SPoT "Satellite Personal Tracker" device the other day. I think this little homing beacon is really revolutionary. Everyone should have one. I especially like that they kept the design simple with only four buttons, and it's small enough to keep tucked away in my PFD until I really need it.
I can probably retire my VHF radios now. I never really learned to use them anyway. My first was a Standard Horizon. I got a good deal on it and it is about the size of a brick but is totally indestructable. I only tried transmitting with it once while on a sailboat. It didn't seem to work, maybe because the rubber pad I was pressing wasn't actually the transmit button. Then I bought a little Uniden that died as soon as it got wet. The manufacturer replaced it but the second one died too. They obviously weren't very waterproof. Then I ended up with another smaller Standard Horizon, never used.
Who really wants to worry about the VHF radio's range, line-of-sight and when to say pan-pan or securite' anyway? Have you ever thought about what you would say in a real emergency? "Mayday Mayday Mayday I'm in a sinking kayak bearing one hundred fifteen degrees magnetic and three point four nautical miles off blah blah blah..." That's a lot to say when you're seriously injured or getting thrashed around in cold water. It's much simpler to press the 911 button on your SPoT. Sure, there will always be fans of VHF radios, like there are still a few traditionalists who listen to vinyl LPs or use ham radios in the age of the Internet.
My wife especially likes SPoT, probably more than I do. She can keep track of me and get those reassuring text messages on her phone that say I'm OK. Now I feel like I'm free to go on bigger trips, you know -- longer crossings, more challenging conditions, at night, alone, with less backup emergency gear. That reasurring 911 SPoT button may just be a license to get myself in bigger trouble!