Can anyone recommend a good ham radio that is relatively inexpensive for a smaller (30') boat? I'd also like to know what kind of power draw/amp usage I should expect from a radio.. ? Are they difficult to install? Can anyone walk me through all the basic installation steps?
For any over the horizon communication, you will need a high-frequency rig. (10-80 meters) There are some really nice portable rigs (new ~ 600-1000USD)
For whatever reason unknown, used ham gear is only discounted about 10-20% off new. To me, its worth the little extra to get a new piece of equipment with a warranty.
Ham Radio Outlet (google search) is a good site to browse.
If i were putting a rig on my boat, I would consider the Yaesu FT897D or 857D.
They both have the following features that I think are important:
1) small, portable, lightweight.
2) powered by internal battery packs or external 13vDC source.
3) have BOTH HF and VHF, so when in range, can use repeaters.
4) unlike some other models of portable HF radios, these two will produce a full 100w output if run from an external source.
But keep in mind, antennas are like the tires on a sports car. No matter how fancy or powerful of a radio you have, a poor antenna will make it drive like a Yugo. Conversely, a really good antenna can make a mediocre radio reach far. Some hams pride themselves with never using more than 5 watts, and reach over 100 countries. (QRP operation) I wouldn't recommend this for a boat, unless you just want the challenge. For reliable communications, you'll want a good antenna, and more wattage.
Icom makes a similar radio, IC7000, which is similar to the Yaesu FT897D, but costs a good bit more. Kenwood also makes a fine HF portable, but it does not include the VHF freqs. This may or may not matter to you.
*by VHF, I am referring to the amateur radio VHF freqs. You can receive, but not transmit on marine VHF with these radios.
Feel free to PM or post here with other ?s.