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Handheld vs Installed VHF

Old 10-17-2020, 07:14 PM
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Default Handheld vs Installed VHF

So i recently bought a used boat and the VHF is broken. Being that I am not going more than 3-5 miles offshore with this boat as it is only a 21ft. I was considering only having a handheld VHF and ditching the installed one. I also have my EPIRB and a satellite communicator if things get serious. I like the idea of a radio that works regardless of what the boat is doing. Other than range is there any other reason to keep an installed VHF?
Old 10-17-2020, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by dargonefishin View Post
So i recently bought a used boat and the VHF is broken. Being that I am not going more than 3-5 miles offshore with this boat as it is only a 21ft. I was considering only having a handheld VHF and ditching the installed one. I also have my EPIRB and a satellite communicator if things get serious. I like the idea of a radio that works regardless of what the boat is doing. Other than range is there any other reason to keep an installed VHF?
Get a fixed mount vhf for sure. Check to make sure antenna and all connections are pristine.
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Old 10-17-2020, 07:43 PM
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Get a fixed VHF and you won’t forget to bring It with you or forget to charge the batteries,
Old 10-18-2020, 06:20 AM
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Well, if you ignore range, then the only other consideration is whether you remember to charge the batteries in the handheld. Ignoring range doesn't make any sense, but it is the way you posed the question.

You can buy a handheld that has built in GPS and DSC, so it can automatically broadcast your location along with an emergency call. They are a bit more expensive, but not outrageous.

Handhelds also have the advantage of being able to come with you in you have to ditch. Many of us carry a handheld in addition to a fixed mount, but you have an EPIRB that kind of fits that need.

All of that being said, you haven't explained why you dont want to replace the fixed mount VHF. I think any experienced boater would consider that to be minimum required equipment for a responsible boater. Are you just trying to cut costs?


Last edited by Yobub; 10-18-2020 at 09:57 AM.
Old 10-18-2020, 06:30 AM
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IMO you should have both. A fixed mount is much better for range and clarity and can't be dropped overboard. Most are DSC and are wired into your GPS so a distress call will give the Coasties your exact position. And if you have to ditch, you will be very glad if you have a hand held waterprood radio.
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Old 10-18-2020, 06:46 AM
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If you go offshore, have both. Cheap insurance when bad things happen.
Old 10-18-2020, 07:35 AM
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I’ll be the dissenting opinion here. 3-5 miles offshore with epirb, sat messenger, cell phone and handheld vhf is more than adequate safety equipment. I would also wager that you are way more equipped than 90% of the other boats in the same circumstances. I have both, and my handheld is in my ditch bag and has never missed a trip as well as the batt has never gotten below 90%.

The main arguments for a mounted unit are the range of handhelds are pathetic (epirb and sat text range is unlimited so solves that problem). And you are unlikely to maintain a listening watch with a handheld. The argument for is the ability to take the handheld with you if the boat sinks.

Last edited by Flymost1; 10-18-2020 at 07:46 AM.
Old 10-18-2020, 07:52 AM
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I don't understand why this is even a question...Why would you not want an installed radio? You can probably find a used setup for cheap and you have peace of mind. 3 to 5 miles offshore is no joke when things go wrong.
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Old 10-18-2020, 08:03 AM
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Interesting you are so serious about safety that you have an EPIRB, but question the need for a hard mounted VHF?

3-5 miles offshore, help will arrive light years faster with VHF/DSC vs EPIRB. For less than $150 you can have a GPS enabled hard mounted VHF.
Old 10-18-2020, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by RickC137 View Post
Interesting you are so serious about safety that you have an EPIRB, but question the need for a hard mounted VHF?

3-5 miles offshore, help will arrive light years faster with VHF/DSC vs EPIRB. For less than $150 you can have a GPS enabled hard mounted VHF.
One button press of the DSC and help is on the way and knows exactly where you are. And a VHF channel 16 mayday is heard by all boaters in your areas (as long as they are monitoring ch 16, and they should be).If you have to ditch and you are floating around in the chum slick you have been using while trying to get your fish in before the gray suits get them. I think trying figure out who to call on your cell or sat phone and explain where you are, might not be as easy as you think.
Old 10-18-2020, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by hablox View Post
I don't understand why this is even a question...Why would you not want an installed radio? You can probably find a used setup for cheap and you have peace of mind. 3 to 5 miles offshore is no joke when things go wrong.
short-cuts on the water = terrible idea
Old 10-18-2020, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by RickC137 View Post
Interesting you are so serious about safety that you have an EPIRB, but question the need for a hard mounted VHF?

3-5 miles offshore, help will arrive light years faster with VHF/DSC vs EPIRB. For less than $150 you can have a GPS enabled hard mounted VHF.
yup, i'd say help would arrive way faster with vhf than epirb in many near shore situations.
Old 10-19-2020, 06:12 AM
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Not only should you have a fixed mount vhf, but as mentioned above, also have a water proof floating handheld. Pretty sure your not swimming 3-5 miles after an incident. It could be the difference between seeing tomorrow or not.

Yes I know, highly unlikely and this could never happen to you so why spend a few hundred on that ...
Old 10-19-2020, 06:39 AM
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PS. I have not had good luck with satellite communicators. We took one on our Gulf crossing and it did not work well. It was on top of boat with clear LoS to sky. I would never rely on one. Good luck using it if you are in the water.
Old 10-19-2020, 06:47 AM
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Range from shore is of no consequence in the equation. Range to Coast Guard towers is. How close would you be to the nearest Coast Guard tower?

https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=mtNds
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Old 10-19-2020, 12:33 PM
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How far you "plan" on going doesn't make a difference. Say you only go as far as you plan, 5 miles, and something goes wrong. An offshore wind/current will blow you 7, 8 or 9, miles off pretty quick.

I am in the camp that all boats should have a fixed mount VHF with a quality antenna. I mean why not? You put all that money into the hobby with the boat, fuel, gear etc why choose the single most important safety device to save money. To my its like going on a long road trip and not wanting to bring a spare tire because it takes up space.
Old 10-19-2020, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Stickbo View Post
How far you "plan" on going doesn't make a difference. Say you only go as far as you plan, 5 miles, and something goes wrong. An offshore wind/current will blow you 7, 8 or 9, miles off pretty quick.

I am in the camp that all boats should have a fixed mount VHF with a quality antenna. I mean why not? You put all that money into the hobby with the boat, fuel, gear etc why choose the single most important safety device to save money. To my its like going on a long road trip and not wanting to bring a spare tire because it takes up space.
And most handhelds at sea level aren't going to broadcast very far / well...
Old 10-19-2020, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by mystery View Post
PS. I have not had good luck with satellite communicators. We took one on our Gulf crossing and it did not work well. It was on top of boat with clear LoS to sky. I would never rely on one. Good luck using it if you are in the water.
What did you have? I’ve used my Delorme for close to 10 years without a single hiccup as have many buddies.
Old 10-19-2020, 01:12 PM
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Fixed mount w/antenna, in addition to being more versatile for you, will also allow you to pick up distress calls from fellow boaters. Win-win IMO.
Old 10-19-2020, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Flymost1 View Post
What did you have? I’ve used my Delorme for close to 10 years without a single hiccup as have many buddies.
It was my friends but I think it was a SPOT.

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