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Handheld VHF versus fixed VHF-gctid375648

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  • Handheld VHF versus fixed VHF-gctid375648

    Figured I'd post about this since we have had discussions here in the past about the relative merits. Last weekend a friend went out on my marina neighbor's Jet Ski, and took my handheld radio. I have another one, which I kept by me on the dock. He had an engine issue and ended up stranded. He was trying to give us his location, but was not understandable at all; mostly static. I then went to the fixed radio on the boat, and could pick him up just fine. The difference was shocking since he was only a couple miles away, but there was an island between us.

    So based on this, I'd always say that if you can install a fixed radio, you should.

  • #2
    Thanks for the heads up carlos good post. I have a handheld for the dinghy and I usually have my boats radio on when I am on it just incase. When we take the dinghy out both radios will always be on.

    Out of curiosity are both your radios the same make/model? Just wondering if 1 maybe was weaker then the other?


    • #3
      They are different, but it was handheld-to-handheld that was the issue, and both sides were poorly understood. So I can't rule out that there is a difference, but it affected both directions. It would take a more serious controlled test to know. Both radios have been in use for years and I've never noticed any difference.

      Also, I was stupid and sent him out with the non-DSC radio because it's much smaller. If he had the DSC radio, I could have just grabbed his position from my fixed radio and headed right there. Another yay for GPS-DSC handhelds...


      • #4
        Just guess it's power/wattage. The crusty old 25 watt VHF on my flybridge pulls down signals from outer space and the handhelds I have are good for maybe a couple miles. Those tend to be 5 or 6 watts at their best


        • #5
          VHF radios are line of site. You will get some bounce but with a 5 watt handheld not much. When you went to your fixed mount your antenna was no at least 6 feet higher than you were when using the hand held. On my first boat a 22' cuddy I had a 3' stainless like what you would see on the top of a sail boat mast. The dealer said it would look nicer than that ugly fiberglass. I was out on the straight and was trying to hail friends I could see. They did not hear me nor I them. Another friend in between me and the boat I was hailing had to relay the message. Needless to say that ugly fiberglass got installed real fast.
          John McLellan White Rock BC
          "Halifax Jack"
          1999 2855 383 stroker BII
          MMSI 316004337


          • #6
            Just guess it's power/wattage.
            This was definitely not power. It was a RECEIVE side problem, so it's just related to the antenna size and height on a fixed radio. An 8' antenna high up is going to do better than an 8" antenna. I tried getting the handheld higher and that didn't help a lot, but I didn't climb on the arch or anything.


            • #7
              Interesting thread. There's another similar one going on over in the "itty bitty" boater's forum.

              I'm in the market for a handheld VHF myself as there simply isn't the room or mounting position on my 2052 cuddy. Until reading this thread I wasn't aware there were handhelds available with built in DSC/GPS so thats one of my initial concerns ironed out

              As for signal distance, well its not such a major issue for me where I boat but I do remember dabbling with CB radios (handheld and fixed) as a kid and I seem to remember lots of handhelds had the ability to plug into an external antenna and this made an huge difference to the handheld's range in my experience. I'm still googling but surely there are handhelds available with this feature?


              • #8
                dtwilson wrote:
                I seem to remember lots of handhelds had the ability to plug into an external antenna and this made an huge difference to the handheld's range in my experience. I'm still googling but surely there are handhelds available with this feature?
                Some, but not many.

                And don't forget that even if you plug in an external antenna, you'll still be limited to the low power output of the handheld. Most are 5W when set on High. Some are up to 6 & 7W. Still nowhere close to the 25W you get from a fixed station.


                • #9
                  In the case of the OP, the wattage of the radio is a moot point. When he changed to his fixed-mount radio, the difference was the antenna, as the fixed-mount was the receiving radio. Same xmitting power from the hand-held. Yes, those big ugly fiberglass-encased antennas do help, because they have gain, which means they can capture weaker signals. That gain goes both ways, and helps to increase the transmitted signal as well.

                  What all this means is, fixed-mount radios coupled with big ugly antennas will get you heard the farthest away. But, as the CG usually has VERY large ugly antennas, hand-held radios are by far better than nothing! They will probably hear you when other boats may not, and certainly the worst condition is that which the OP had, which was hand-held to hand-held.


                  • #10
                    Just a quick note on those short, metal VHF antennas. They're designed to be installed at the top of sailboat masts - about 30' or so above the water. Not for powerboats...


                    • #11
                      we have top of the line fixed VHF on the boat and when we go ashore, we take the handheld in the emergency bucket with us on the skiff... its water-proof and floats.. we trained the boys HOW to use them and what to say for emergencies if needed.. I run "mock trials" for them all the time when we leave the dock, so its fresh in their minds..