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  #1  
Old 02-09-2013
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Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

I have a friend that has offered to "gift" me a VHF (and HF) radio for the boat. He wants me to spec it out for him. It's yer typical "waddaIknow" from radios?

Perusing the listings on several sites and winnowing out the $1000+/- units; I have a helluva time figuring what I need vs what I want.
I don;t see the need for displays that show like GPS, tho the capability to plug in a GPS for futue AIS (?) would be nice. I don't have a need for a "system" to tell me where I am or plot where ta go. NO auto-pilot, weather station, radar, etc. to link to.

What I *would* like is a PA/hailer capability, a plug-in for potential future GPS co-ord for AIS, and an all-freq available currently selection. I'd like to get something that I won't need to upgrade/replace in a few years when the specs on new stuff supercedes current offerings.

Above all , it hasta be simple! Pull down menus and needing the manual or a Doctorate in EE just ta turn it on are NOT my cuppa tea. What I'm seeing for sale seems ta be common garden variety for less than $129 and some up grades to those at nearer$180; then a jump up to the *would like* specs in the 350-500 range and further still , the jump to $800+ !

Next.. I know dot.all from HF, so I'll let that one rest...for now.

Main issue is.. I don't wanna spec something that will cause my benefactor to grit his teeth and say "ouch!". Obversely; I don't want any gracious and spendy gift radio to go largely unused, functionwise. That'd be wasteful!.

SO.. can I get by on an inexpensive..say $180 "kit" rig?
Or should I include a few "bells and whistles" for the mid-price mark?

Decisions...decisions??!!
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Old 02-09-2013
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Re: Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

I think a lot of people will agree that ICOM is one of your better brands. I bought one last year that was reasonable with all the features I wanted. I wanted a unit that a RAM (remote access microphone) could be hooked up to. I have a sailboat and often, sailboats have their VHF's inside the cabin, mine as well. I've hooked up my radio and hopefully in the spring, I will hook up my RAM.
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Old 02-09-2013
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Re: Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

"I have a friend that has offered to "gift" me a VHF (and HF) radio for the boat."
Usually those would be two separate radios, and an HF SSB radio with antenna tuner and whatnot could hit a thousand bucks all by itself.

VHF today probably should mean VHF with AIS transceiver, not just receiver, and that means GPS as well. Without the RAM nonsense, that still won't be cheap either.

The question is whether your friend knows what they're getting into, and you might gently ask about that.

I'd also suggest looking at Standard Horizon for the VHF, they might have the finest customer service in the business as well as a great product.
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Re: Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

I could not see buying a new unit without at least AIS receiver. That to me is the most important, then any other bells you feel are necessary.
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Re: Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

If you have a sailboat, the RAM capability will be one of the best upgrades you can make.....I wouldn't want to be without it.
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Re: Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

Ditto the RAM remote mic - without it we end up using a handheld in the cockpit, with its inferior range, or just not using (or simply not hearing) the cabin-mounted radio.

OTOH, if you don't have one, a VHF handheld isn't a bad idea either.

Personally, I like Icom radios which I have for HF and amateur. My boat came with a Standard Horizon VHF (with RAM mic), and I have to admit they offer a great set of features for the money. I'm thinking seriously of their GX2150 with built-in AIS receiver as my next upgrade, unless I go for a full transponder. Even then, my current VHF is SC101, not full Class D, so it will be upgraded one of these days anyway.

Last tip/suggestion/strong suggestion: any new VHF will be DSC capable. GET AN MMSI number and PROGRAM it in the radio. If you have a GPS, CONNECT it to the radio.
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Re: Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

The FCC mandates that all NEW VHF transceivers have a built-in full Class D DSC capability. So, unless you're talking about a used radio, that's a given.

Re: brands, Icom is certainly very popular. Lots of companies make good VHF radios. I tend to prefer Standard Horizon; mine is the GX5500, same as the Coast Guard decided upon.

This model does not have AIS capability. I don't care, because I think most inexperienced boaters -- and a few experienced ones -- tend to exaggerate the value of AIS. It's risen to almost magical proportions. I wonder how mariners have been able to make out for several centuries without it :-)

To use the DSC capability, you'll need to hook up a GPS to the radio, with GPS sentences taken either from a chartplotter, a standalone GPS, or other device (like a laptop with a hockey-puck GPS attached).

You'll also need an MMSI number to plug into the VHF and, possibly if you get one, the HF radio as well. Tip: if you plan to travel abroad (Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, etc.) DO NOT get the MMSI number from Boat US or other organization. Get one from the FCC only. If you get an HF radio, you'll need license(s); these cost upwards of $200, so be sure you apply for all transmitting devices at the same time (VHF, HF, radar, EPIRB, satellite, etc.) to avoid multiple charges. The FCC will automatically issue you an MMSI number with your license application and this is the one you should use to program into the radio(s).

A loudhailer function is marginally useful. An automated foghorn can be very useful, particularly if you sail in northern waters.

The RAM mic is a useful addition for some (I have one). Depending on your boat and your preferences, however, you can buy a simple waterproof VHF radio to install in the cockpit, with a small antenna on the pushpit or radar arch, for just about the same money as adding a RAM mic, and have total redundancy.

A waterproof handheld VHF is also a good idea. I have several (ham and marine) and like the Standard Horizon HX851 with the built-in GPS very much. It floats, too :-)

You must have a VERY good benefactor if he/she is willing to spring for an HF transceiver as well. Now you're talking real money :-)

Bill

Last edited by btrayfors; 02-10-2013 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 02-10-2013
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Lightbulb Re: Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

Deltaten-

I see you sail a 1980 Watkins 27 footer with wheel steering and sail the upper Chessie. How you plan to use the boat (day sailing or multi-day cruising) can affect what you get for a radio. If you plan to sail solo vs. with crew most of the time can impact our recommendations too.

In my opinion, get anybody’s handheld that floats if you plan to day sail by yourself most of the time. If you want to spend a little more, get a fixed VHF in the cabin with RAM at the pedestal. If you sail at night on a regular basis, then a VHF with AIS is a real nice safety feature.

We’ve had both icom and standard horizon units and have been happy with both. We sail the Great Lakes, often at night, often in/across shipping lanes, often just the two of us or me solo. There is nothing like having a big freighter pop out of the fog, mid-Lake Michigan, to help you spec out you radio and navigation package. We currently have the Standard Horizon GX2150 with built-in AIS receiver in the cabin wired to a RAM and GPS chart plotter at the pedestal. The combination sounds an alarm when a big boat is within our sailing area and shows where it will be at its closest approach.

I guess, in the short run, how you will use your boat should determine what you get now. How long you plan to keep the boat can also drive your choice as I seldom see people yank out their radio when they move up to the “next boat” (and you know that will happen one day).
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Re: Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

MSN, all;

For now, it will be me solo puttering the N. Chessie, mostly daylight and probably for short-term/couple day trips... at least for this season. Eventually, the plan is to be on the water between the Chessie and Corpus Christie somewhere, full time

While I *had* considered a handheld, I was recommended a permanent cabin mount, as it will fare better at distance and be less likely to take a swim

Would you consider AIS to be mandatory on the ICW ?

Oh! BTW.. my W-27 has tiller, not wheel steerage. Mo' room in the 'pit

Thanx,
Paul
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Old 02-10-2013
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Re: Choosing/spec'ing VHF radio?

Don't worry about loudhailer capability. If the radio that you like has an output, it's a bonus, but don't focus on it- you'll never use it.
a RAM mike is a great idea, but the same purpose can be served, arguably more reliably, with a longer mic cable and an external speaker, at a lower cost. Mount your radio close to the companionway and a RAM on a small boat is almost unnecessary, because the mic will be close at hand. A radio with controls on the mic is a great idea.

Regarding superior transmit/receive range with fixed mount vs. Handheld: Consider how you use your radio. Will you regularly need to contact vessels or marinas more than 5 miles away? if so, then range is important. If not, then the extended reach of a fixed mount over a handheld is of little value.
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