Where do you sail? If you are a trailer sailor, and sail primarily in fairly protected inland & coastal waters, could you get away with a handheld. It works for me, but my sailing is confined to the bay. I am never out of sight of land, and always have other boats within eyesight. If you don't venture offshore, it may be a cheap and easy fix.
That being said, there is no reason why an 8ft antenna wouldn't work on your boat. Small power boats from around 17+ feet are regularly rigged with them. My old 21' fishing boat had one, and it worked great. The biggest downside is that you have an 8' antenna mounted in or near your cockpit.
Last edited by BlueWaterMD; 07-26-2009 at 10:09 PM.