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Old 06-10-2010
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Handheld vs Fixed-Mount:
  • Fixed mount transceivers have higher wattage transmitters (up to 25 Watts), and consequently more range. Their antenna are typically mounted at the top of the mast, further increasing their range. They should be able to transmit over 10 miles in most conditions. Because they are wired into the electrical system of the boat, they don't need batteries, or re-charging. Their downside is that they are usually mounted below deck (despite being waterproof), and would require that you either leave the helm, or buy a RAM mike to use from the cockpit. Finally they tend to cost more than a handheld VHF with similar features. Prices range roughly from $100 - $1500 USD
  • Handheld transceivers have lower wattage transmitters (the highest that I have seen is 6 watts), and the antenna is part of the unit. Both of these contribute to lower range. 5 miles is not out of range for a good hand-held. You can take a handheld unit ashore with you, or in your tender, because it is not tied to the boat (this could be important if you ever have to leave your vessel in an emergency). Prices range from $50 - $800 USD

Both can offer features like DSC, and integral GPS receivers.

Brands:
This could be a can of worms, so I will only say that I like my handheld very much because it has very good sound quality. It is an iCom M34. I found that some of the smaller units had tinny sounding speakers, and I could not understand a transmission. I also like that if I drop it overboard, it floats. I have suggested elsewhere that floating units should be painted some other color than black, in case they are dropped overboard.

A lot of people are enthused about the Standard Horizon GX2100 because it is an AIS receiver, as well as a fixed mount VHF, and it is available for about $350. I don't think that AIS is a feature that you'll need on a lake, and many people don't realize that this is an AIS RECIEVER ONLY.
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USCG Licensed OUPV Captain, ASA 101/103/104/105 Certified Instructor - Also certified in Recreational Marine Electrical Systems


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Getting back onto the water after undergoing knee surgery.
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