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Old 05-14-2014, 04:41 AM   #1
pjard
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Default VHF Radio

I am thinking about buying a portable VHF radio for the boat. Much to my surprise there are many portable models available for less than $100 bucks. Does anyone have suggestions? What is the range of the portables?
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Old 05-14-2014, 08:35 AM   #2
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Wow, thankyou for starting this thread.
I too have been wanting to ask about VHF radios. Myself, I am an entry level boater, but want to be as prepared as a well rounded boater before I have to learn my lessons the hard way.
Can the experienced boaters also offer information such as:
1. What features to look for that can be helpful in these radios.
2. What radios are most user friendly meaning, 'clarity' knowing what someone is saying back to you.
3. Do any offer features that could simplify a panic situation.
4. Any other helpful info you would like to offer, please do...
I have been wanting to ask this, how do you know what to give for a location on the water. I can never easily or quickly identify land masses from the water and need to comb over the lake map. Lat and Long are somewhere on the GPS but that takes time to wait for the GPS and then in the sun you have to be able to read it due to the glare.

All of your replies are a great help.
Thankyou,
Peter

Last edited by pcmc; 05-14-2014 at 09:19 PM. Reason: Added a few missed words and changed my tongue twisters.:)
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Old 05-14-2014, 12:07 PM   #3
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Default VHF radio

Good questions to ask.

Why have a VHF radio on board? Well we pretty much all have cell phones today and if you are in trouble on the Lake dial 911. This will give you the state dispatch who will get you to NHMP for assistance. It takes a while but that is the system. With a VHF you often get more immediate help because instead of asking for help from one source it is a general call to anyone who has a VHF on. All boates must monitor channel 16 when their radios are on.

Which radio is best for you? Let's start out with the differences between a hand held VHF and an installed VHF. BTW I am not a radio "expert".

A hand held has some advantages. It is portable so if you have more than one boat or, say plan to rent a boat you can take it with you. The hand held has it's own power supply so if your problem is a dead boat battey it will still work. Conversly, if the boat's battery is OK but the hand held's little dinky battery is dead, you are out of luck.

The hand held is limited to 5 watts. It's range is much shorter than an installed radio.

An installed radio is 25 watts ahd has much better range and probably a better power supply than the hand held. It will require the installation of a fixed antenna. They come with features today where they can mate up with your GPS and with the push of a buton your position will be transmitted to a satalite and the government will know where to go to save you. Not really practical on the Lake.

My opinion. Get a VHF. With all of the other safety equipment that you have on board you will find that the VHF is one of the "biggies".

We will save finding your position and proper procedures for making and recieving calls on the VHF for an other day.

Misty Blue
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Old 05-14-2014, 12:36 PM   #4
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Default Vhf

We had a VHF radio on our last boat with a 10ft antenna but didn't have much success with it. I almost think that all the islands blocked the signal. Is anyone actually using a VHF on the lake and having good luck receiving/sending?
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Old 05-14-2014, 12:44 PM   #5
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Default Handheld

I bought a handheld at West Marine for around $79.00.
I got it mainly as a backup for my cell phone since I sometimes go off of Cape Cod and there is little to no Cell.
It is only good for 5 or six miles, but where I usually go there are a lot of other boaters around, and most, if not all salt water guys, have VHFs aboard.
My handheld also has both an AC and a DC charge connector, so if the handheld Battery dies I just connect to the boat battery.


Edit: If I did a lot of Salt water running, I would get a built in since the range is better.

Last edited by dave603; 05-14-2014 at 12:45 PM. Reason: added built in clause
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Old 05-14-2014, 10:19 PM   #6
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Default Do a double

I mostly have two of all the safety gear, anchors, PFD's and VHF, charts, etc. so I have a mounted VHF and a handheld. Boat/US says your most important safety gear is a PFD, and #2 is a VHF. Position reporting can be general, as in "North of Mark Island, close to Bear". When you get somebody in the area, they'll see you waving the orange flag or the ensign upside down.

For cheap, I put a handheld inside two Kuzzies (foam drink holders) in a waterproof bag, so I could carry it on the jetski. Never needed it, but nice feeling, in case.

These things are cheap, so buy a station monitor for the dock/camp so you can call home if you want without alerting the MP and the rest of the world. Just no chatter on ch. 16 please.

If you're on a small craft, wind surf, paddle board, canoe, a handheld is great. You'll only be out for a short time, so battery life is no big deal, and there's no wetness problem. Dunk you cell phone and see what it does.

BTW, this is a serious piece of safety equipment, not for young kids to play with.
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Old 05-15-2014, 09:39 AM   #7
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Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fargo View Post
We had a VHF radio on our last boat with a 10ft antenna but didn't have much success with it. I almost think that all the islands blocked the signal. Is anyone actually using a VHF on the lake and having good luck receiving/sending?
I used a 4ft whip on a bimini. I never had a problem. Yours might have had a technical issue.
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Old 05-15-2014, 10:42 AM   #8
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Default 10 foot whip

Quote:
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I used a 4ft whip on a bimini. I never had a problem. Yours might have had a technical issue.
I had an under the dash mount VHF radio with weather channel. It was 25 watts. I paid a lot of money for purchase of the radio, whip and the antenna order as well as professional installation. I have trouble receiving between the islands. The factory claims VHF signals are direct and hills and islands is an issue. Most folks are out on the ocean where it isn't an issue. The installer checked everything out and he basically said the same thing.

I haven't used it in a decade because of this issue. Are the new ones better?
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Old 05-15-2014, 12:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BroadHopper View Post
I had an under the dash mount VHF radio with weather channel. It was 25 watts. I paid a lot of money for purchase of the radio, whip and the antenna order as well as professional installation. I have trouble receiving between the islands. The factory claims VHF signals are direct and hills and islands is an issue. Most folks are out on the ocean where it isn't an issue. The installer checked everything out and he basically said the same thing.

I haven't used it in a decade because of this issue. Are the new ones better?
You should get much better performance out of that. Did the installer perform a VSWR check to make sure the system is transmitting properly? The problem with antenna installation on a boat is it doesn't provide the greatest ground plane.

I use a portable VHF/UHF radio and it seems to work well.
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Old 05-15-2014, 01:01 PM   #10
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Okay -- You asked for advice so here it comes (I have both handheld & installed 25 watt)

(1) A handheld is a nice extra to have but is thoroughly useless when underway as you simply cannot hear it unless it is pressed to your ear. Which is fine if you are using it for emergancy situations of your own and are not concerned with monitoring it.

(2) The range on a handheld is amazing short and highly dependant on where you are on the lake & subsequently trying to hail to. The published range is 6 miles typical but that is a line of sight (yes i know radio waves bend around tree & such) the islands on Winni raise havic with handheld's range.

As an example, our cottage is essentially at FL1. I can transmit on the portable approx 2/3 of the way down to Merideth (not bad, but not 6 miles eithor) yet i cannot raise a soul at the Naswa or in Saunders Bay.

(3) don't be fooled by reception - a handheld can "hear" everything -- it's just that your out of range to respond

(4) If your an early or late season boater - and you NEED to use the VHF, chances are you want to transmit & recieve as far as you possibly can as there are fewer boats "close by"

(5) It may take a couple of tries (they are busy doing other things other than listening to Ch 16 -- but i have ALWAYS been able to raise Marine Patrol

(6) When monitoring 16, although it has gotten a whole lot better in the last few years, be prepared to get annoyed with "radio checks" and sometimes idle chatter that should be moved off to a seperate channell.

(7) no matter the size of the boat, a 25 watt radio is my recommendation, there are numerous size & styles of antennas to accomadate --- I use to have a "base loaded" 3' Stainless (looks like a CB antenna you use to mount on cars) on my smaller boat and that carried my transmissions 80% of the lake -- it would not reach deep into Alton Bay (from Wiers) or up into Greens Basin (again from Wiers) -- but I was okay with that


Good Luck
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Old 05-16-2014, 08:04 AM   #11
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I have a hand held VHF radio with programmable scan, weather radio and weather alert.

when boating, I generally have it set to scan channels 16, 9, other interesting channels, and weather alert.

When set to weather alert it remains silent until the alarm goes off followed by a weather statement. This radio has helped me avoid many a weather front blowing through. It's also alerted me to bad weather conditions too far away to matter. when I get an alert, I look up and west the see what's going on than decide what to do. With out it I might not notice bad weather moving in.

The chatter in increases during bad weather or in an emergency. I was once near rattlesnake heading home when I got an alert. I avoided it completely by contacting someone near my home port of center harbor for weather conditions. They got deluged while I waited it out.

I also have a cell phone with me at all times when I can't contact anyone with the radio in an emergency.

Also take it with me sailing in Maine from time to time. The lobster boat chatter is very entertaining.
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Old 05-16-2014, 08:30 AM   #12
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Default Sorry Loony

Is there an echo in this thread?? Is there an echo in this thread??
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Old 05-16-2014, 09:42 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by loony View Post
I have a hand held VHF radio with programmable scan, weather radio and weather alert.

when boating, I generally have it set to scan channels 16, 9, other interesting channels, and weather alert.

When set to weather alert it remains silent until the alarm goes off followed by a weather statement. This radio has helped me avoid many a weather front blowing through. It's also alerted me to bad weather conditions too far away to matter. when I get an alert, I look up and west the see what's going on than decide what to do. With out it I might not notice bad weather moving in.

The chatter in increases during bad weather or in an emergency. I was once near rattlesnake heading home when I got an alert. I avoided it completely by contacting someone near my home port of center harbor for weather conditions. They got deluged while I waited it out.

I also have a cell phone with me at all times when I can't contact anyone with the radio in an emergency.

Also take it with me sailing in Maine from time to time. The lobster boat chatter is very entertaining.
Does your hand held radio have the reception issues that the previous posts mention? This sounds like like a good radio.
For weather I rely on a phone app called 'my radar'.(I can't post a link?-because I can't figure it out) It works great, is very accurate, and is FREE. I use it before going to car shows, fairs, walking the dog, boating, jobs outside, ect...it's an incredible 'heads up' to whats coming and how much time you have left before getting wet.
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Old 05-16-2014, 09:49 AM   #14
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i bought a cobra handheld last year. i don't recall the model, but i chose the one with the most output. i think it was a little over $100.
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Old 05-16-2014, 10:05 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pcmc View Post
Does your hand held radio have the reception issues that the previous posts mention? This sounds like like a good radio.
For weather I rely on a phone app called 'my radar'.(I can't post a link?-because I can't figure it out) It works great, is very accurate, and is FREE. I use it before going to car shows, fairs, walking the dog, boating, jobs outside, ect...it's an incredible 'heads up' to whats coming and how much time you have left before getting wet.
it's pretty much line of sight from the antenna. like others have said, reception is good but broadcast is limited due to output power and antenna height.

just got my 1st smart phone in January. there seems to be an app for everything. I'm sure there's weather alert app somewhere.
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Old 05-16-2014, 12:05 PM   #16
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I just ordered a Uniden MHS75...besides the price of $79.00, I liked the reviews on Amazon and it can be switched to 5 watts. I am in the avionics (aviation electronics) business so I fully understand the limitation of 5 watts but for 79 bucks and no installation costs its a good experiment.
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Old 05-16-2014, 12:13 PM   #17
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pcmc--- go back to my item 3

Weather Radar App's work awesome, ( I jump between 3 different ones) especially if your comfortable in calculating the rate of speed of approaching storms.
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Old 05-16-2014, 03:05 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pjard View Post
I am thinking about buying a portable VHF radio for the boat. Much to my surprise there are many portable models available for less than $100 bucks. Does anyone have suggestions? What is the range of the portables?
The range is limited by the antenna and the output, If you want the most reliable vhf set -up, you will buy a 25 watt radio and a antenna that is rated at a high db spec. Most handhelds can be connected to the higher db antennas at very little cost. Handhelds are wonderful for those with more than 1 boat or with pwcs.
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Old 05-17-2014, 06:47 AM   #19
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I've been considering getting one as well.

I can say that if you want to go the distance, using a handheld with a rubber duck antenna transmitting a max of 5 watts isn't going to get you very far on VHF. The problem isn't so much the radio output power wise as it is the lack of gain from the antenna. If you were to pair a handheld on a decent say 1/2 wave antenna I'm sure you would have far better results. That said if I make the plunge I'll probably go with a mobile and a fiberglass whip. If nothing else I always thought a boat with a big whip just plain looks cool and you can never have enough radio and electronics gear

Overton's has a package deal right now, a Cobra 25 watt mobile, 8' glass Shakespeare antenna w/mount for 149.00. That seems like a pretty good deal.
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Old 05-19-2014, 08:03 PM   #20
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For a handheld radio, get one that floats. Remember you're using it on the lake, on a boat, surrounded by water. 'nuf said.

Also realize you can still have a VHF antenna mounted on your boat (mount it as high as possible, higher if you can) and connect the handheld radio to it when you need it. This will greatly extend the range of the handheld radio. Keep in mind the flexible antennas that are on the handheld radios are pretty much crap and are designed to be unbreakable. They have lousy radio range.

Remember to have an on board power cord to connect to your boat's 12v accessory socket. Handheld radios have a small battery and if it's dead when you need it, you may as well try to generate some smoke signals to call for help.

There are inexpensive fixed radios available for not much more than a handheld, check West Marine, they have one for about $150 or so when it's on sale. Of course with one of these you must add an antenna, but you may want one for your handheld anyway.
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Old 05-25-2014, 12:54 AM   #21
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Default Radio calls, 101

Todays VHF radios are full of features. Way more than we can cover here. But here are some basics on how they work and how to use them.

First, when you turn on your VHF it will come up with channel 16. They are made to do that. Channel 16 is the emergency/hailing frequency. That means that when you have it on and someone is in trouble they will call on CH 16 and you will hear them. If someone calls to contact you personally you will hear them and then CHANGE TO AN ALTENNATE CHANNEL!.

To illustrate I will make a call to "The Boss" from my boat to hers. Here goes...

DAVE: " Deb's Joy, Debs Joy, Deb's Joy...This is Misty Blue channel 1-6, over."

I said channel 16 because she may be monitoring several channels and I have now told her which channel that I was on. She now knows to shift to CH 16 to get me. If she did not reply I will repeat the message once a minute for three trys. After that wait a reasonable time to try again.

DEB: " Misty Blue this is Deb's Joy. Please change to channel 68, over."

We are now going to communicate on CH 68 and leave CH 16 free for distress or hailing.

Note that we said "OVER" at the end of each line.. That let's the other person know that you have "un-keyed" youe mic. and are ready to listen.

At the end of the communication I may say something like "Thanks Deb's Joy, this is Misty Blue, OUT".

Out means that I am done with this conversation and am returning to CH-16 to monitor for emergencies or hailing.

BTW "Over and Out" is only for Hollywood.

'Hope this helps.

Misty Blue
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Old 05-25-2014, 05:56 AM   #22
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Default A quick flashback...

Smokey and the Bandit . All the kids are going to do a rolling roadblock and the one na´ve girl acknowledges a call by saying "10-4 Hot Pants" and keeps the mike keyed open. Boyfriend has to tell her to let go of the button. Sooooooo, when you are done talking, let go of the button.

Good bye CB, back to VHF. (10-4 good buddy)
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Old 05-25-2014, 06:13 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Misty Blue View Post
Todays VHF radios are full of features. Way more than we can cover here. But here are some basics on how they work and how to use them.

First, when you turn on your VHF it will come up with channel 16. They are made to do that. Channel 16 is the emergency/hailing frequency. That means that when you have it on and someone is in trouble they will call on CH 16 and you will hear them. If someone calls to contact you personally you will hear them and then CHANGE TO AN ALTENNATE CHANNEL!.

To illustrate I will make a call to "The Boss" from my boat to hers. Here goes...

DAVE: " Deb's Joy, Debs Joy, Deb's Joy...This is Misty Blue channel 1-6, over."

I said channel 16 because she may be monitoring several channels and I have now told her which channel that I was on. She now knows to shift to CH 16 to get me. If she did not reply I will repeat the message once a minute for three trys. After that wait a reasonable time to try again.

DEB: " Misty Blue this is Deb's Joy. Please change to channel 68, over."

We are now going to communicate on CH 68 and leave CH 16 free for distress or hailing.

Note that we said "OVER" at the end of each line.. That let's the other person know that you have "un-keyed" youe mic. and are ready to listen.

At the end of the communication I may say something like "Thanks Deb's Joy, this is Misty Blue, OUT".

Out means that I am done with this conversation and am returning to CH-16 to monitor for emergencies or hailing.

BTW "Over and Out" is only for Hollywood.

'Hope this helps.

Misty Blue


Perfect explanation-- with (I think) one missing element.

"misty blue, change to 68"

Wait for the other party to acknowledge changing channel-

"Misty blue changing to 68, over"

All to many times the receiving party does not here what channel # you have selected..... Especially if you jump around...this lets you know that they have acknowledged the change.
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Old 05-25-2014, 09:38 AM   #24
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Default What channel do the fishermen use?

I have monitored both 16 & 9 while on the lake fishing but little if any other fishing boats chatter on ch-9.


ToW
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Old 05-25-2014, 02:09 PM   #25
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Arrow Marine Radio thoughts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pjard View Post
I am thinking about buying a portable VHF radio for the boat. Much to my surprise there are many portable models available for less than $100 bucks. Does anyone have suggestions? What is the range of the portables?
-----

You have a lot of good information so far. Let me add a bit by putting a link to a Forum archive with a more detailed post on this subject from 2010 (including brief DCS info from a few years ago).

Not all radios are created equal.

http://www.winnipesaukee.com/forums/...9&postcount=10

I prefer a fixed, mounted 25/1 watt Marine Radio with a 6 db, 8 foot mounted antenna. However I currently most often use a handie talkie. When using the portable I often have an external speaker plugged in so I have a chance at hearing the radio at cruising speed. I also plug the portable in to the 8 foot antenna - those rubber antenna have NEGATIVE GAIN which means signal loss.

Enjoy
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