...every mannual I've read said not to use the radio without an antenna.
To be more specific, don't TRANSMIT without an antenna. It's fine to receive without, or with just about any piece of wire in the jack or at the end of the cable (fine as in it won't hurt anything, though it may not work very well).
Older transmitters, especially tube-type (yes I go back that far), could in fact be damaged by transmitting without a proper load (correctly matched antenna). Many new radios have a "reflected power sensor" (or "SWR sensor") which will shut down or reduce power to protect the transmitter, but depending on a bunch of factors (the reactance of the load and length of the cable - if you really want to know), this may not be successful.
In short (yeah, too late, I know), don't transmit without a proper antenna. Receiving won't hurt.
Oh, and make sure you have the applicable permits/licenses:
- an FCC Station License
and FCC Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit
for US recreational vessels on international voyages (anywhere outside US waters). US pleasure boaters using a VHF radio within the US generally do not require either.
- a Maritime Mobile Radio Station Licence
from Industry Canada for Canadian vessels on international (including to the US) voyages, and a Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime)
" for ALL operators of Canadian vessel radio stations. A station license is not required for a Canadian vessel within Canada, but an Operator Certificate is *always
disclaimer: My interpretation of US rules above is to the best of my knowledge and from researching the rules on-line. My statement of the Canadian rules comes from teaching the Marine Radio course and administering the ROC-M exam at our local CPS Squadron.
- another tidbit: apparently Industry Canada has decided that "turning on" a VHF radio constitutes "operating", thereby requiring a certificate. Haven't heard of anyone being cited for just listening to the weather, but now you know.
apologies for semi-hijacking the thread