Wet-resistant, over and out What distinguishes us from animals is our ability to exchange information in an abstract way. You never see a monkey reading a newspaper. Some animals can learn from others by observation. So can we, and during our lives certain images stay in our mind, especially of other people making the mistakes we hope never to make ourselves. I remember watching the boat-handler of an inflatable picking up divers one night in the Red Sea. He had a VHF radio on a lanyard around his neck. It was dark. Each time he leaned over the side to pull in some kit, the radio dangled in the water. He never understood why it had stopped working. I often see people with similar radios in soft plastic waterproof containers. These often work, but I have also seen those same bags with almost as much water in them as there is outside. Why doesn't someone come up with a radio suitable for use in a small wet boat? The Icom IC-M31 is water-resistant. It is said to have been tested at 1m for 30 minutes. That should do it. Reception gets rather poor if you go any deeper, anyway! It comes with a rechargeable 5W ni-cad but you can always insert six standard AA battery cells in a special chassis if you are stuck for somewhere to charge it. There is a convenient stand for use in boats that have space to fit it, and this doubles as a charging-connector when used with the appropriate transformer. The IC-M31 has a nice big illuminated LCD and easily operated buttons. You can pre-programme up to 70 channels and it has dual watch, so that you can know what's happening on Channel 16, and tri-watch, so you can be alerted to any signal being received on both 16 and another call channel while using a third. Reverting to channel 16 (the emergency and calling channel) is easy. It has its own button and you can programme a specific call channel if a different one is used in the area where you are located. Tag-scanning does exactly that. It scans round several channels in sequence looking for signals. Thanks to modern digital technology, the volume and squelch controls (which filter out unwanted background noise) can be adjusted easily, if you read the instructions. Everyone who goes out in a small boat should know how to use a VHF radio, even if he or she has no operator's licence. In an emergency you might be the only able-bodied person, so you should know how to turn it on and use Channel 16. You should know how to use the Press-to-Speak button and understand that you will not be able to hear any replies unless you release it after speaking. Say clearly: 'Mayday. Mayday. (M'aidez!)... This is (the vessel's name)...We are (its position)... It is (a brief description of the vessel)... We are (your predicament).' Release the button and await an answer. Press it to call again. Release it to listen. Every radio should have these waterproofed instructions attached. Having a unit that will withstand the water sloshing about in the bottom of a small boat can only add to safety and a possible happy outcome. It should not, however, be dropped. And I don't know if anyone unfamiliar with this type of radio would understand how to use the squelch control. Other than during emergencies, you need a licence to operate a marine VHF radio. Close to the coast of Britain and many other countries, mobile phones make a very good alternative - and everyone knows how to use them. The Icom IC-M31 VHF radio transceiver costs £149.