VHF recommendation.... again...
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,
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.
Handheld vs Fixed-Mount:
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.
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.
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
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.
I am just curious, why do you need a VHF on a small lake (I think the great lakes are big lakes)?
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.
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
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.
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