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  #1  
Old 08-28-2006
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handheld vhf or ??? for ship to shore

In the days of analog, I used a mounted vhf set in a 22' cruising boat. With the attenna at almost 30 feet, even that antique did a great job.

I have now considerably reduced my waterline and mast height (5' in both cases) as I am now kiteboarding instead of sailing. I am interested in handheld communications for keeping in touch with the shore party, i.e. my wife, when I go downwind.

I am up to a mile offshore and she is onshore but the closest roads to the shore sometimes allow topography to intrude. I have never really experimented with this kind of relatively close distance communications.

I don't know if VHF would offer better performance the FRS in these circumstances or do I have other choices? Of course more VHF handhelds are available with nominal and apparently somewhat effective submersible capabilities, e.g. ICOM M72 is up to IPX8 standard. I can carry the radio in a bag so I wouldn't necessarily be concerned about dropping back to the 7 standard.

I'm interested in experience with ship to near shore with these 5 or 6 watt handhelds where the shore party is likely to be using about the same unit.

I'm also interested if anyone has found any of these with voice actuated transmission options. Probably the lapel mike PTT is fine for my applications if it is submersible although kiteboarding often consumes the use of both hands so some kind of VOX might be useful.

Thanks,

Brian
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Old 08-28-2006
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VHF radios aren't legal for use on land, unless you have a station license IIRC. The fines are nasty... the FCC is cracking down of violators.

That said, I often use a 5W handheld VHF to contact bridges and such when I'm out on my boat. The range is fairly respectable, mainly dependent on the height of their antenna, more than the transmission power of the handheld. Range is pretty good, if you have line of sight. If you don't have line of sight, range drops really fast.

I just got a VOX headset, yesterday, but I don't believe it is submersible. The speaker mike I've been using is though. Haven't had a chance to use the VOX headset yet though.
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Old 08-28-2006
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If you need help....

A mile offshore and you have a major equip failure and the wind and current are carring you OUT....... a boat is passing within sight and you have FRS ... OPPS!

I noticed in a west marine flyer the other day a FRS/VHF with reception on Aircraft/FM and most all handhealds are getting very waterproof, add a plastic bag and you are really w-proof.

IF your wife stands with her feet in the water when she talks to you and you observe proper protocol and stay on generally unused channels it seems safe. Again, if you are in trouble and your wife needs to call help and there are boats nearby and she only has FRS ... OPPS!
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Old 08-28-2006
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Sailingdog may be correct re: the legal implications of your shore party's use of a VHF while on land. We use an ICOM M72 submersible handheld as an auxiliery radio on deck while in our "mothership", for potential abandon ship use and as a means of communicating with onboard crew while away in the dinghy.

Once ashore however, if it is indeed illegal to do so, should the radio be kept off, leaving it incapable of receiving potential emergency signals from onboard crew? I may be mistaken, but aren't there specific VHF channels which are permitted for ship-to-shore communications, without having a station license?
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Old 08-28-2006
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I just bought the West Marine submersible VHF 55 handheld this last weekend for like $129. It is not a bad little unit at all (for the price). I think it is made by Uniden?? West does not make it, just labels it. Although I am only using it in my ditch bag (also called the 'Aww Sh**' bag on our boat), it would likely work in your situation too. I would still keep it in a bag.

For ship to shore communications (when someone is out in the dink & the boat is anchored, etc), we use the "walkie-talkies" like you buy at Best Buy (though many marine outfitters sell them too). There are two models, one that requires a license and transmits stronger and further, and one that is a bit less powerful and does not require the license. I think 5W is the line b/t registration and non-registration. We do have a FCC license, but I will say that you probably do not need the upper end model as the lower model really works fine. It is all line of sight anyway. The only problem is that they are not submersible (at least ours is not).

Hope that helps. Have fun.
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I cannot at the moment remember, but either standard or icom have a frs/marine vhf unit. It will work on either for transmission, and also receive weather.

For your situation, you should have both vhf and frs. I would look into the combo units. I think it even has DSC.
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BTW, Standard Horizon has several handheld VHF units that can communicate on both the VHF, FRS, and GMRS frequencies. The handheld I use is a Standard Horizon HX471S and works quite well with all three bands, and also receives AM, FM and aeronautic frequencies as well. It has an NMEA input and a DSC Distress only function as well.

Come to think of it, I have a couple of small, motorola FRS radios, that I can talk to using the HX471... maybe I'll swipe them for the boat.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
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thanks for the replies

Funny, it never occurred to me that you couldn't use VHF on land if it was for logistical or safety support for marine activity. I can see that the regulation of radio hasn't evolved with the technology as land based station probably used to be an expensive stationary unit and it was practical for users to obtain a shore license for such a facility.

My days as VHF user were when you had to have a license even for relatively low powered mobiles. Maybe that is the 5 watt line and things haven't changed, but I still remember my old licensed call sign that I haven't used in 20 years -- WYF5377.

Anyway, I'm not eager to break rules but always like to use the rules against the rulemakers so I'd like to get a more extensive treatment of these rules and interpretations.

It is easy to understand that VHF was reserved in a certain range for marine radio traffic, but it is hard for me to believe that this fundamentally prevents shoreside communication of the sort I intend, although it may very well.

Obviously, if I'm in an emergency situation, I'm not worried about breaking the rules and otherwise I can consider FRS or GMRS if units available have similar submersible ratings (I anticipate using a bag but we're talking double protection) and they have more or less equivalent transmission reach.

Obviously, until someone comes up with a kite line that has an antenna woven in it and has some easy or wireless connection to the radio (probably not too daunting of an invention) my antenna will be about 5 feet off the water (the height of my vest that will have the radio in its pocket).

One tries very hard to anticipate and not be in circumstances where you are a mile out and the wind is taking you further and so forth but mistakes and nature do happen. The real event about which I worry is having the kite go down unrecoverably off a rocky shore. You still usually have a fair degree of control using the kite as a sail on the surface, but once you get into breakers you pretty much have to cut loose and keep track of yourself.

I've never been through any real emergency and mostly when I'm in the states figure I'll be fine- worst case is I'll damage my kite or lose it if I have to let go of it in the surf. Ironically enough, since we're talking about USA FCC regulations, my real interest is in being able to communicate when I'm in the caribbean where I am often off rocky and less populated shores. Have a couple of runs where the car can't follow close enough to the beach to keep me in sight and that is why I started to think about radio.

It isn't inconceivable that I could also use a cellphone as there is pretty good Cingular coverage on ST. Lucia where I'm headed although I have never tried it off the atlantic coast. And some of the areas I'm headed too are too remote for cellphone signal. Then there is still the question of dialing which I can set up with one button and all, but seems like a VOX or PTT submersible accesory for a submersible radio carried in a waterproof bag would be the most bombproof/convenient for my applications. Would any of the cross over radios that have FRS or GMRS as well as VHS accomplish this?

May be hard to find the entire right set up for what I'm after so I am trying to get the best ideas I can. Thanks for all the suggestions.

Brian
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I would get some waterproof FRS or GMRS radios for the shore crew, and a handheld VHF/FRS/GMRS radio for your use...if you're on a limited budget. If you're on an unlimited budget... get several of the 5 Watt Standard Horizon units. If they're on shore, then you can talk to them via FRS or GMRS, and not violate FCC regulations.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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Old 08-28-2006
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It's been my experience that all handheld radios are submersible, i.e., they don't float.
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