A cell phone does not always work. If it gets wet or is out of range, you only get frustrated. Invest in a good, waterproof handheld marine radio. The lifesaving services monitor the relevant frequencies 24/7. It can make the difference between life and death. As with any other tool, make sure the battery is charged and that it works. Before setting out, call for a radio check and wait for an answer. Whether or not you have a problem, it is nice to know that there is someone out there if you have a problem.
Finally, the best way to gain skills is to TAKE A COURSE! In the US, many organizations offer either Red Cross or BCU training. Based upon my experience, the BCU is better, as you cannot be certified at a given level until you have completed a menu of specified skills.
LAdy Hillary completed BCU Star 2 this Summer.