I understand, and I would never underestimate the value of older, well established technology (as I have mentioned, I still carry a sextant).
However, It is mandatory for all vessels operating in anything but inshore protected waterways, to be carrying at least one licensed 406mghz EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) which interfaces with Cospas-Sarsat, a dedicated satellite listening system which is internationally monitored, 24 hours a day.
These use independent power and are the ultimate distress communication device. Many sailors also use personal EPIRBs (Known as PLBs or Personal Locator Beacons) which will activate if they are thrown overboard.
However, there is always a case for redundancy and having an effective set of distress communications strategies, along with the relevant equipment, is prudent. The most simple (and ancient) is the heliograph or signal mirror which is still a requirement of Cat 1 onboard safety equipment. Next are flares which all boats must carry by law. The number and type is determined by the boat's length and intended use.
Next is the VHF radio, most of which these days are equipped with DSC (Digital Selective Calling) for use in emergencies. Obviously range is limited by the height of the aerial and most are equipped with a dual power output of 1w and 25w.
Next is the HF/SSB. Most vessels use an insulated backstay as an aerial, but many carry deck mounted whips in case of a dismasting, which would render the backstay aerial useless. I assume where a HAM set is fitted, or where the fitted HF has amateur band frequencies installed, these same aerials could be used for the HAM setup. Digital external aerial tuners I imagine would require little adaptation save perhaps for a routing switch where the head unit was not an integrated SSB/HAM device.
Following this are the new satellite communicators and satellite telephones, which, as with mobile or cell phones are largely dependent upon paid subscription. However, most satellite phones (as with cells) have a capacity for free-of-charge emergency communication when peril threatens. I am not sure whether this communicates with a person or a computer, and I am quite sure that radio location is not guaranteed.
Given the available options, it could be argued that HAM (which was never required to be fitted to voyaging boats) is of no particular benefit over newer technology. Having said that, I note that many sailors still have HAM sets fitted and are understandably very protective of them and their purpose as a means of low cost communication with like minded souls both on the water and ashore.
Radio protocol at sea requires a period of quiet of three minutes at the half hour and hour, during which time operators who are underway must maintain a listening watch on VHF 16, and/or HF 2182 (International marine distress frequency). I wonder if there is a similar monitoring requirement for HAM operators.
There is a vibrant floating HAM community, albeit on older vessels, and it is one of those links to a time which is disappearing, but which nonetheless is important. Enthusiasts such as yourself will ensure the skills are maintained, and that has to be a good thing.
It is interesting to note also the importance of the Titanic sinking to voyaging boats. This event led to the SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) convention which is regularly updated to incorporate changing technology. On most small boats, the provisions mostly deal with PFDs, liferafts, lifebuoys etc, but it makes for interesting reading. http://www.imo.org/About/Conventions...AS),-1974.aspx
It is due to these conventions which makes sailors such a bunch of safety freaks. That and the fact that if we weren't, our Mums would not be happy.