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Old 03-28-2004, 06:16 PM   #1
Island Girl
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Default Hand Held VHS

I want to weigh the pros and cons of a handheld VHS radio for the boat. I do not have a fixed radio in this boat. My reason for going with a handheld would be the cost of installing a fixed one. I don't think I am willing to do it myself.

What features are important? Would lithium battery operated units be advantageous to Nickel Metal Hydride. (I won't consider a NiCad due to the inability to top off the battery)

I might consider installing a cigarette lighter so I could plug a VHS into that.

Thanks for your advice
Island Girl
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Old 03-29-2004, 06:22 AM   #2
skimmer
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Default Re: Hand Held VHS

Cute!!!

I imagine you are asking about a VHF radio!!!

Lithium Ion batteries are the best if you can get them

waterproof is a valuable feature.
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Old 03-29-2004, 10:26 AM   #3
FLboater
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Default Re: Hand Held VHS

I have both fixes and handheld in my boat. I use both in Florida and the handheld in NH. The reception and clarity seems good in both. The installed has a better hi/lo range but I'm not sure it is needed on the lake. Wolfeboro to Glendale works fine on the handheld.
Buy a handheld that is Waterproof, with a good seal.
Also get charger for the boat and AC plug. Make sure it has a battery indicator.

By the way, I have had 2 stolen from my NH boat so when you are ashore lock it up.
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Old 03-29-2004, 11:13 PM   #4
MadMan
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Default VHS and FRS

Any way to get both of these protocols working on the same channel? It would be great to able to communicate with the kids with their FRS radios from the VHS on the boat.
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Old 03-30-2004, 01:22 AM   #5
Mark Coney
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Default Re: VHS [sic] and FRS talking together

VHS is a type of Video recording format. VHF is the term for the group of frequencies that Marine Radio around the lake falls under. That stands for Very High Frequency and is in and around 156 MHz.

FRS or Family Radio Service is in the UHF portion of the radio band. Ultra High Frequency. That is in and around 465 MHz. Also FRS often uses a sub audable tone (often called PL or CTCSS but may be a color or number in FRS) so you don't hear other users on the same channel. Marine VHF does not have such encoding/decoding.

Although both are FM Narrow Band modes, the big difference in frequency makes it highly difficult (there are things called transverters but too complicated and not really legal for this use).

I think the Marine Radio rules specify that your Marine Radio can not be used to transmit in any other service (it must be dedicated for Marine Only use, plus weather receive). Marine Radios must be FCC certified for use in the Marine service.

There is a kind of 2-way radio, dual band (in one radio), offering transmit and receive on both UHF and VHF (often used in the Ham radio service and not FCC type approved for either Marine or FRS). Some of those may be modified to talk to both Marine Radios and FRS radios. The modification (if possible) can be difficult and use of those radios for the purpose you describe would be in violation of FCC rules and regulations.

Get the family cell phones

Hope this helps
Mark Coney
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Old 03-30-2004, 12:19 PM   #6
MadMan
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Default Re: VHS [sic] and FRS - great response

Thanks. That was a well thought out response that really clears things up.

Except I still don't understand how to get the tapes into them.....
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Old 04-01-2004, 07:45 PM   #7
Upthesaukee
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Default Re: Hand Held VHS

Hi -- I have a "booster battery" that is rechargeable, has battery cables built in, and a built in cigarette lighter plug. I use it with my GPS. Battery unit is about $40 or $50. Saved having to drill hole in boat dash and try to wire the plug. the unit has some idiot lights that tell you when it's time to recharge, which can take up to about 8 hours or so. I haven't used a VHF marine band yet, but am thinking about it, and would not have a problem with a handheld here on the lake.
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Old 04-01-2004, 10:32 PM   #8
Island Girl
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Default Re: Hand Held VHS

Thanks for the info from all.

Upthesaukee, I do have one of those batteries in the boat, the car and at the camp. It came in handy when the navigation lights went out in the middle of the lake. I used it to power the portable ones. We have jumped the boat with it as well. I am a great believer in redundant systems.

The one in the camp powers the TV/VCR for those nights when the power goes out too late for the electric company to come out. And of course in the car for those times that I leave the lights on and the battery runs down. The batteries are worth every penny!
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Old 04-02-2004, 12:32 PM   #9
Skipper of the Sea Que (CQ)
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Default VHF Marine Radio considerations. Fixed/Handheld

Marine VHF Radio: There is much material to consider.
What are your needs and expectations? What kind of boat(s)? Both fixed and handheld types are getting less expensive. Here are some thoughts. Do you want or expect to need or use your radio with the Digital Selective Calling and distress/location system? If so, your radio must be capable of such operation – it uses Channel 70 – that’s the main DSC channel.
Basics of DSC http://www.boatsafe.com/nauticalknowhow/dig0101.htm
Too much info on DSC http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/marcomms/gmdss/dsc.htm
Do you want to monitor NOAA weather radio? Do you want NOAA weather alerts?

Ease of operation: Is it easy to change channels, modes, volume and work the other controls or are there tiny buttons with multiple functions, small writing or little knobs? How well can you adjust the radio in foul weather? Is the radio weather resistant or splashproof or submersible for “x” minutes at “y” feet?

Antennas mounted on a handheld are the least effective at sending and receiving signals. They are usually rubberized and about 6 inches long. There are improved antennas and telescopic antennas that may fit on some handheld radios. They WILL improve the performance of your handheld but are usually unwieldy and telescopic type whips always pull apart or break. Larger antennas mounted on a handheld add stress to the connector and may eventually cause a problem. In general, you can not beat the performance of a fixed mount gain antenna. You will talk and hear better and get more distance with a better antenna regardless of the type of VHF radio. For optimum sending and receiving the antenna should be high and vertical (the top of a sailboat mast is ideal for an antenna). You can use a handheld radio with a fixed antenna on the boat as a good compromise (I often do that).

Assume for a moment that both your fixed and your handheld use the same antenna and we will test and compare performance of the radios. They will usually receive signals equally well (this can vary between models and from brand to brand). The technical specifications usually reveal how well a radio picks up a weak signal and other great information however people rarely look at those and some specs use different standards making comparison difficult. The audio (sound) you hear will be nicer with a fixed radio. What you hear will be louder, less distorted and the larger speaker in the fixed radio will sound better. Makes a difference when the boat motor is running or there are other ambient noises. The speaker in the handheld is small and won’t go as loud and compromises the sound you hear. Some handheld radios can go louder than some others can (in the radio specifications under audio output – measured in watts or milli watts and associated with a % of distortion when set to a certain loud level).

Both the handheld and the fixed radio have a low power switch for transmitting – let’s assume they are both ONE watt and still use the same antenna. They will each have the same “talk power”. With the same antenna and 1 watt there is no advantage to either fixed or handheld. Just the ease of holding a radio vs a microphone. However, the handheld, with a maximum transmit power of 5 watts will not be heard as strongly or as far away as the 25 watt high power available from a fixed radio. Will you need that extra power? Once a “full quieting” signal (no static in the background) is achieved at the intended receiver then adding more power from the transmitter will not improve communications and should be avoided (under normal conditions).

Handheld is OK for many Lake Winnie boaters. With a handheld you need to find a place to mount it while you are under way and still be able listen and use it. You don’t want your handheld falling off the seat or hanging on your belt. You want it placed securely with the speaker pointing at you and the built in antenna in the best position to hear other stations. Will any plugs on the radio interfere with your expected mounting location? You need to be able to read the display to see what channel you are on (even in the sun). If you wear Polarized glasses you may need to check any radio LCD display to see if you can read it or if you need to tilt your head (repolarize) or remove the polarized glasses to read the LCD). If you choose to run your handheld from ship power (cig plug) you need to think of where to store the wire when not in use, where that wire will run and how to keep it while cruising. Same for the wires used for any external antenna and/or speaker. Some handhelds have a plug for external DC while others require an adapter (usually an option) that replaces the battery to get the external DC.

For you, Island Girl, I would think of a handheld. Why? Because you can take it with you to the island camp and in the car to listen to the local boat activity on channel 16 if you wish. You could even mount an external, fixed antenna on the boat, house or car for better results. Although a fixed radio is much simpler – no batteries or accessories to contend with.

When you shop for a VHF consider one that allows you to SCAN a few channels. There are several SCAN modes, one type is PRIORITY scan – that allows you to listen to one channel while checking another channel (like 16) for activity. For a handheld, look for one with an external plug for DC (cig cord), external antenna capable and external speaker (earphone jack?). You may want an optional external microphone so the radio stays in place (if the radio has such an option) when you talk. Maybe even a noise canceling mic so you can be heard over the motor (another optional item). Do you need a case or pouch to hold the radio? Sometimes the hi/low output power is determined by which battery pack you use (voltage of the battery = max power output). You will only get 5 watts with a 12-volt (or 13.8 volt) pack. A 12-volt pack will not last as long as the same physical size 8.4-volt pack with the same type battery. Will the battery attached to your radio charge while you are running off the cig cord? Do you need a charger at home to replenish the batteries and/or use the radio? Rapid Charge (an hour or 3) or regular charge (16 hours)? Make sure your base charger can charge your batteries in Rapid Charge mode if you have that style battery. Rapid charger is often another optional accessory. Add in the cost of an additional battery pack or two to your budget.

Handheld or walkie-talkie radios require care and feeding of batteries (which can be a whole thread itself)
What kind of battery? You mention no NiCads because of the “top off” problems. I top off my NiCads and recharge if unused for 3 or 4 weeks (will you do that with your Marine handheld batteries in winter?). On occasion I do a full discharge of my NiCads and then give them a full charge (careful not to let them run too far down). I won’t debate the myth and theories about “memory effect” on NiCads on this forum. Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) are a bit more expensive and have more CAPACITY than the same size Nickel Cadmium. I understand that you can NOT recharge NiMH as many times as you can recharge a NiCad before the battery won’t hold a good charge. My newer batteries are NiMH but I still have some NiCads in service. I hear that Lithium is OK but I have little experience with that type (and I don’t recall the results of a comparison I saw some months ago). what to look for Battery specifications – voltage, capacity (measured in amp hours or milli-amp hours – the bigger the number the more energy in the battery at that voltage), charger type required, physical size/weight, expected number of recharges. Can the radio be used during all battery charging options? Do you need to open the radio to change the batteries or is there a slide or snap on method? Are the batteries held securely or can they easily be dislodged?

I have both fixed and handheld. I prefer to use the fixed radio but usually leave it stored below and use the handheld with external power (12-volts) and my fixed ship antenna. I don’t leave the radio in the cockpit when I’m on shore. I too worry about theft even though my fixed radio is over 25 years old, only 10 channels and uses crystals for frequency control.

My boat has an 8 foot long 6 db gain antenna which I use with either radio. Some antenna manufacturer claims that their expensive 8 foot 6db antenna can be heard at a longer distance than when using their economy 8 foot 6db antenna. I wrote and finally spoke with their technical department and did not get what I consider any good, technical answer (but then I don’t always understand Shakespeare) about how their expensive 8 foot 6db antenna outperformed their economy 8 foot 6db antenna. It’s a ratio of power out of the transmitter to the power radiated from the antenna - be the antenna made of gold, copper or wood – if it measures 6db (referenced to the same standard) then it transmits and receives just like any other 8 foot 6 dB antenna of that style, PERIOD.

By the way, you can mount some antennas on a bow rail or have one installed rather cheaply. Put in a hole and run the wire. Some boat wire harnesses already have a place for you to tap for a 2-way radio power feed (check you boat manual wiring diagram if you have such). If your choice is based just on the installation portion of the fixed radio my advice is to bite the bullet and have it installed (you could do it yourself). The installation will probably cost less than all the optional accessories you need for the handheld. If you install it yourself and have some engine whine (alternator noise) on your transmitted signal there is an easy filter fix for that common problem.

Hope this gives you some things to think about. Any specific questions please ask or e-mail me.

Good luck - see you on the Lake.
AL, Skipper of the Sea Que (CQ)
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Old 04-02-2004, 12:48 PM   #10
Mee'n'Mac
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Default Re: Hand Held VHF - batteries

"What features are important? Would lithium battery operated units be advantageous to Nickel Metal Hydride. (I won't consider a NiCad due to the inability to top off the battery) "

IMHO biggest reason for Li-ion over NiMh is storage time. NiMh batteries will lose their charge when just sitting there, not in use. Li-ions don't lose anywhere near as much. Important thing to know if your use is infrequent (or as safety gear) and back-up batts are "lost" or of the same type (NiMh). Of course you pay probably 2x the $$ for Li-ion and I think (not sure) that all Li-ion batts are specialized form factors. That's to say you can't have Li with normal AA alkalines for back-ups. The latter won't mechanically fit.
If you're going to use it a lot (or want a really small radio) then Li-ion is the way to go. If your use is infrequent (or if the unit has an optional 12v/cigarette power cord) then I see no reason to pay the extra $$, go with alkalines.
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Old 04-02-2004, 07:57 PM   #11
Island Girl
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Default Re: VHF Marine Radio considerations. Fixed/Handhel

Good to hear from you Skipper. I have missed your posts. I hope you are doing well.

Thanks for all the information. So much to consider. What I know about lithium batteries is from experience with my Sony camera. They charge fast, last a long time and do not appear to lose their charge for a long time.

Later on I will browse BoatUS and the other sites for units with the features you suggested. I do like the idea of having the unit on shore and for weather. I do spend a lot of time connected to the internet looking at the weather. A necessity from where our camp is located.

See you on the lake.

Island Girl
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Old 04-04-2004, 10:17 AM   #12
boatmn
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Default Re: Hand Held VHS

The biggest disadvantage to the handheld is lack of range. Someone posted range claiming Wolfboro to Glendale. I've got to believe that is best case, mid week, certainly not weekends. You need a big stick (whip antenna) to cover the lake.
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