Since I work in the Communications field I've always been a hugh proponent of Rec boaters having a VHF and knowing how to use it. A friend of mine was sluggish to equip his boat with a Marine radio, but I kept after him. A couple years ago at the beginning of our boating season he hit a submerged object, and had to declare an emergency, his boat was sinking. Inside a few minutes we had several boats responding to his busted transom, something that would not have happened with the use of a cell phone.
To this day he thanks me. Too many people believe that cell phones are the answer.. not so. I also see folks skimping on their communication set up either with handhelds, or wimpy antennas. Why not cut up life perservers in half to double the number, makes about as much sense.
Get yourself a good 8 foot antenna, mount it in a good clear high area, don't cut the cable! The manufacturer goes through a great deal of effort and testing to match the length to our marine frequencies and ensure that the connector is perfectly mounted to keep moisture out as well as the physical/electrical connection.(if you have the correct equipment you can do this yourself, but why replicate what's been done just to remove 3 feet of cable?)
Lastly, understand the physics. With the best set up range will seldom exceed 15 miles. You might get a little more since the calculations take into consideration the height of the transmitter as well as the height of the receiver, meaning a Coast Guard station with a tower sitting on top of a 2000 foot mountan can reach out and touch you and you him, but the guy down on the deck you want to talk with has a serious height limitation. I'm lucky to get 7 to 10 miles here in Northern Virgina with other boaters. One idea that I recommend to others is to answer a call from another boater at some point early in the day. Lets say you hear "Floating Donut, calling Sea Serpent" listen for a while don't just bust in, but if Sea Serpent doesn't answer, there's nothing wrong with you answering Floating Donut with your own name then ask to switch and answer on 68, go to this new frequency and ask Floating Donut for his position and how he is receiving your signal. This does a couple things. You confirm your own radios operation, you get an idea of how far you can reach out, and you also get over the trepidation of talking as well as developing good communications techniques. Remember 16 is the hailing channel, don't ask for radio checks or the CG will be on you, they are monitoring for emergencies, don't make their job difficult, always go to the comms channels. Just say "Switch and answer .." Then listen for the other end to say "Going, etc." 68 is preferred, 72 is also available.
Just my thoughts, they've served me well.