As for cell phone versus marine radio - I think I'll lean towards more safety with the marine radio for now at least - I know the coast guard is monitoring the airwaves...
I think this is the right call (pun intended!
). On a lake, a cell phone might work well as you can get to local police and Marinas/clubs might not be monitoring VHF. But on the ocean or a bay such as the Chesapeake Bay a hanheld, waterproof VHF is the way to go. They are pretty cheap now too and can advise you of weather alerts. Waterproof bags are added insurance.
This debate came up in real time about a year ago with an incident off Va Beach where a couple of guys broke their boards on a NACRA in 25+ knots of offshore winds and couldn't get back in. They did have a cell phone and were able to dial 911 (had signal), and then after being routed several times, got to the Coast Guard. But once the Coasties set out to find them, the sailors couldn't talk to them real time to aid the search. Had they had VHF, they would have been able to talk directly to Coast Guard rescue craft and inform them if they were going the right/wrong way. In big seas, a beachcat just isn't easily spotted, especially if flipped. Fortunately for this story, all ended well.
But here is the real Plus
...Your wife will NEVER call you on the VHF while you are sailing!