SailNet Community

SailNet Community (
-   Gear & Maintenance (
-   -   VHF recommendation.... again... (

calden 06-10-2010 07:49 AM

VHF recommendation.... again...
Hey all:

I just bought a Catalina 25 and am in need of VHF recommendations. I searched the forum here and found the last entries were from 2007, which is a while back electronics-product-wise. So....

1) Handheld or fixed-mount? I sail on a very large mountain lake and could be 10 miles from aid, still line-of-sight.

2) Brands to shoot for, brands to avoid? Looking for ease of use and decent sound quality, not lowest price.

3) Features that are worth considering?

Thanks in advance,

ereiss 06-10-2010 08:17 AM

Practical Sailor tests VHF
You can buy articles from Practical Sailor. In 2009 they tested some high end units. The articles cost $10 and are very thorough IMHO. I would generally rely on them more than from someone saying that they like their unit while having no experience with any others.

The link is

Top-of-the-Line VHFs Packed with Multi-function Features

There are many other articles including recent ones on handheld units.

Good luck

eherlihy 06-10-2010 08:18 AM

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:confused:), 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.

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.

SEMIJim 06-10-2010 08:28 AM


Originally Posted by calden (Post 611594)
1) Handheld or fixed-mount? I sail on a very large mountain lake and could be 10 miles from aid, still line-of-sight.

I think you mean "as the crow flies?" Line-of-sight means, literally, line-of-sight. To give you an idea of what LOS really is, here are some numbers:

Height of antenna: 6 ft ( 1.8 m)
VHF LOS to horizon: 3.0 nm ( 3.5 mi, 5.6 km)

Height of antenna: 40 ft (12.2 m)
VHF LOS to horizon: 7.8 nm ( 8.9 mi, 14.4 km)

Naturally, LOS is "additive," and you're rarely trying to communicate with somebody sitting in the water in an inner-tube

Height of antenna #1: 6 ft ( 1.8 m)
Height of antenna #2: 40 ft (12.2 m)
VHF LOS between antennas: 10.8 nm (12.4 mi, 20.0 km)

So, as you can see, height is important. As for hand-held vs. fixed mount: A fixed mount is going to have more transmit power and more sensitive receiver.


Originally Posted by calden (Post 611594)
2) Brands to shoot for, brands to avoid? Looking for ease of use and decent sound quality, not lowest price.

I plan on either a Standard Horizon Quest-X GX1500S or an Icom 402 or 422, for the following reasons:
  • Somebody a couple years ago evaluated the receive audio quality of everything on the market and found these two beat all the rest far and away. This is an important quality.
  • Both have the ability to accept a remote access mic (RAM). That way we can have the radio mounted below, and still hear and control it from the cockpit.
  • Both can be interfaced with our Garmin GPS so we have one-button MOB/distress capability


Originally Posted by calden (Post 611594)
3) Features that are worth considering?

See above. There are others. I'd read the owner's manuals on-line to see how they're operated before making a choice. I did that for the radios listed above, but it's been so long I forgot which one I preferred! One of them clearly had a more useful operating system, IMO, tho. (I think it was the SH, but I'm not certain.)


hazmat17 06-10-2010 11:22 AM

So if you need to reach 10mi - you should go fixed mount with a mast head antenna. If you are confortable with 6 (assumes the other guy is on a handheld 6ft above water as well) then a handheld will work.

I'd recommend DSC, but be aware you need to hook up a GPS signal to it. Most seem to be NMEA 0183. But the GPS industry is going towards NMEA 2000. A conversion between the 2 can rival the cost of the GPS itself. If you have a handheld GPS in the cockpit it can be inconvenient to connect to your VHF depending on mounting location of the VHF.

I have a fixed and handheld as a backup.

I have a Stamdard Horizon fixed GX2100 with DSC and AIS RX (not much use to you on the lake). It is installed below with a remote RAM mic at the helm. I also have a SH HX850 handheld which has DSC with a built in GPS. They have a new handheld 851? that actually lets you use the GPS for waypoints etc. vs mine which simply displays position and makes it available for DSC.

SH and ICom consitantly rate well in practical sailor etc. tests of peformance.

Other features such as scanning etc. depend on your preference

btrayfors 06-10-2010 11:36 AM

Standard Horizon GX1500SW Quest-X VHF Radio in White

More than you need for lake sailing, and only $142!

There are others under $100 which would serve your purpose very well.

I like Standard Horizon/Vertex/Yaesu/Motorola (all the same ownership these days). Good stuff for good prices.


BarryL 06-10-2010 12:31 PM


I am just curious, why do you need a VHF on a small lake (I think the great lakes are big lakes)?


fixxxer0 06-10-2010 12:58 PM

Standard Horizon Quest-X GX1500S
I purchased a Standard Horizon Quest-X GX1500S 2 years ago and have no complaints.

I research everything ad nauseum before i buy it, and shop around for the best price (online mainly). I beleive I paid close to $150.

Regardless, not to pat myself on the back too much, but if I ended up purchasing it, it was for a reason - even if i cant remember those reasons now lol.

Good news is I have no regrets.

75R20 06-10-2010 01:11 PM

Unless there is no way to do a fixed VHF (hobie cat) then there is no reason to go with a portable. You are asking for a reccomdation based on a percieved safety concern... go with a fixed unit, and if you feel the need have a portable for a back-up.
Can't go wrong with a name brand. I like ICom, but any name brand is probably good.
Best of luck
S/V Mariah

southshoreS24 06-10-2010 02:15 PM

go with a fixed if possible. keep in mind if you lose all power for some reason you lose all vhf also. get a handheld as a back up, preferably one with an extra battery pack that you can use AA batteries in, keep a set in a waterproof bag/container for emergencies. for $100 you can get a fixed one but will need the antenna, mount, cable, and cable ends, for $150 you can get a nice handheld.

All times are GMT -4. The time now is 03:21 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
User Alert System provided by Advanced User Tagging v3.1.0 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
(c) LLC 2000-2012

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome