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handheld vhf vs permanent mount range

Old 03-03-2012, 07:36 PM
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Default handheld vhf vs permanent mount range

I'm wondering if it will be worth it to install a VHF radio on my bay boat versus just buying a good handheld. If I were to install an antenna on my center console rail, I would gain about 3 feet in antenna height versus me standing on the center console with a handheld. Would I still be losing a significant amount of range in this scenario? Being that the total height above waterline with an 8' fixed antenna would be 12' and me standing with a handheld would be about 9'
Old 03-03-2012, 08:01 PM
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I think the 5 or 6 watts of the handheld and the shorter antenna height will nonetheless limit your range in most cases to the standard 5 miles, although some people will recount amazing experiences of far greater distances. The 25 watts and added antenna height of the fixed mount unit will probably reliably get you 20 miles, as they say. I only have the GAM 3 ft stainless steel whip on a 2 foot extension mount with my fixed mount on my 16 foot boat. Incredible difference compared to the handheld. 15-20 miles loud and clear on radio checks, which gives me a certain degree of peace of mind. So it all depends how far you plan to be from shore or other boats.
Old 03-03-2012, 08:35 PM
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If you get a permanent it should have a DSC (assuming you have a gps to hook up to it)
Old 03-03-2012, 09:34 PM
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Originally Posted by kyle1974 View Post
I'm wondering if it will be worth it to install a VHF radio on my bay boat versus just buying a good handheld. If I were to install an antenna on my center console rail, I would gain about 3 feet in antenna height versus me standing on the center console with a handheld. Would I still be losing a significant amount of range in this scenario? Being that the total height above waterline with an 8' fixed antenna would be 12' and me standing with a handheld would be about 9'
It's more than antenna height, consider antenna gain as well. Most 8 foot antennas have 6 to 12 db gain, This means that the radiated energy is concentrated out horizontally from your boat, rather than the more wasteful roughly spherical propagation pattern. In other words, the higher power of the 25 watt fixed mount will, in combination with a decent antenna, provide more range than just the increase in power would imply.
Old 03-04-2012, 06:51 AM
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Just to give you an idea of the difference, I can talk with a guy in a boat with an 8' 6 db antenna up to about 3 miles away when standing up holding my 5 watt handheld unit. I can talk with the same boat up to about 10 miles away when using my 25 watt fixed unit and 8' 6 db antenna. Under some conditions I can reach out a bit further.

I can hear people talking with the handheld at least twice as far away than they can hear me. Don't be fooled by that false sense of security you get from being able to listen to far away conversations.
Old 03-04-2012, 07:28 AM
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thanks guys. I have never used a handheld VHF before, only permanent mount types. that's what I was looking for was a case where antenna height was about the same, and both were relatively low above water line. No big deal to put a radio in, I just wasn't sure how much I'd get out of it, without the antenna being mounted up higher. I'm going to be going offshore in the gulf on cherry picked days, I don't think I want to risk it with a handheld only if their typical range is only a few miles.
Old 03-04-2012, 07:29 AM
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You're handicapping the the fixed mount radio by mounting the antenna on the rail. Why would you do that? Isn't there a higher mounting location on the console available? There's a 4 part Westmarine video presentation that starts here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=jMF5zK-2teE
Old 03-04-2012, 07:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Pez Vela View Post
You're handicapping the the fixed mount radio by mounting the antenna on the rail. Why would you do that? Isn't there a higher mounting location on the console available? There's a 4 part Westmarine video presentation that starts here.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=jMF5zK-2teE

the handrail goes over the top of the center console by about 18" or so. that's the highest mounting point on the boat.
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Old 03-04-2012, 07:44 AM
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Gotcha. A picture is worth a thousand words. Your boat looks beautiful.
Old 03-04-2012, 07:50 AM
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thanks for the video link. Obviously, in a 25' bay boat, I'm not going to be venturing past the jetties on a regular basis, but on those dog days of summer when there is a 1' wave forecast, it's very doable. I just want to have my act together before I go. I think what I may do is put in a good fixed unit, with one of those 3' stainless whip antennas. from the sound of it, it seems you have a decent range with on of those.

Looking at the standard horizon GX2150 that has built in GPS. seems to be a pretty good unit.

Last edited by kyle1974; 03-04-2012 at 08:05 AM.
Old 03-04-2012, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by kyle1974 View Post
I think what I may do is put in a good fixed unit, with one of those 3' stainless whip antennas.
A sailboat antenna with only a 3dB pattern will kill that nice radio.
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Old 03-04-2012, 08:29 AM
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Kill it as in ruin it, or just be more radio than I need? I'd rather not have a huge antenna on the boat. The reason I was looking at that radio was the internal GPS. pretty much everyone down here that has a fixed VHF is using those 3' antennas. I have zero experience with that set up, I just assumed it worked
Old 03-04-2012, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by kyle1974 View Post
Kill it as in ruin it, or just be more radio than I need? I'd rather not have a huge antenna on the boat. The reason I was looking at that radio was the internal GPS

You're plan is fine Kyle.
Old 03-04-2012, 08:50 AM
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Originally Posted by seaeagle2 View Post
If you get a permanent it should have a DSC (assuming you have a gps to hook up to it)
Actually you can get radios with GPS built in ... even in hand held's. Don't need an external source anymore. However you are correct for 95% of VHF radios.
Old 03-04-2012, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by seaeagle2 View Post
If you get a permanent it should have a DSC (assuming you have a gps to hook up to it)
The Standard Horizon GX-1600 is a good choice if you have a GPS system that you can interface. If not, get the SH GX-1700 which has its own GPS that will allow simple and painless DSC setup. You want DSC for safety. One button push and the CG has the data you entered on setup of your MMSI number at either BoatUS or SeaTow as well as your current GPS position.

The two things that give you the best VHF results on a boat is transmit power (Fixed wins over handheld by usually 4X or more) and Antenna Height (mount the base as high above the water line as you've got something to mount it to.) You also want an 8 ft antenna as the optimum gain (since gain does not vary much at the receiver from rocking motion on your ship.)

It still pays to have a handheld like the SH HX-851 in your ditch bag or clipped to your PFD which you are wearing.
Old 03-04-2012, 01:36 PM
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once again.... you guys will have to excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is this DSC interface accomplish, versus a VHF having it's own internal GPS?

do these VHF radios that have built in GPS essentially transmit your coordinates if you're making a distress call? I have a lowrance HDS7 on the boat, so I'm guessing I could interface, but the idea of having an additional stand along GPS in the radio for an additional 50-75 dollars seems worthwhile.

one more question. Is it possible on these radios to tap into the speakers on the stereo? The offshore boat I had back 12 years ago had one small speaker that was damn near impossible to hear anything on. I'm guessing there have been some improvements since 1996 technology?
Old 03-04-2012, 01:40 PM
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If the radio has a GPS built in, no external connection is necessary.

Yes, most VHF radios have connections for external speakers.
Old 03-04-2012, 01:48 PM
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This question is moot. You should have both.
Old 03-04-2012, 04:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Crabpot Man View Post
You're plan is fine Kyle.
He's right. I've got a 3 foot SS whip on a 2 foot extension - 3 feet less than an 8 footer. 15-20 miles reliably. Google "James Hebert GAM antenna" - he has a great article on a smaller 3 foot SS whip for small boats. Very informative. The web site (continuouswave.com) is down right now, but try later.
Old 03-04-2012, 08:50 PM
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I love the idea of an extra GPS as a backup....go the distance and get a GX-1700.

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