Cell phones and masthead antenna update - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 7 Old 06-17-2002 Thread Starter
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Cell phones and masthead antenna update

Cannot find old thread so here is my finding.

A Marine Cell phone antenna at masthead DEFINITELY results in a SIGNIFICANT improvement in reception.

Last year we moved to a new marina in an area with very spotty cell phone coverage. Both systems A and B (2 different cell service providers) had very poor reception at our marina. My handheld Nokia worked only at a specific spot about 1 km from marina. I then bought a 3 watt bag phone having heard that would help. It worked when left on coachroof while boat was on the cradle. Once launched the cell worked in the Bay but only occassionally at the marina.

As the saga unfolded I had posted a question about this on a bulletin board. Jeff H suggested a masthead antenna might help due to line of sight and all that (the area is surrounded by low rolling hills). I tried an automobile antenna and lifted it up a few feet. I believed from the experiment that height worked and that the particular auto antenna was of poorer quality than the one built into the phone.

This season the mast was down so I purchased a Shakespeare 4801 marine antenna. It is only 2 feet high so it is not unsightly. I placed this at masthead near the VHF (which also still works properly) and ran the cables. Having just arrived back at the Marina last week I was uncertain whether this would prove to be a waste of $250 or it would work. It works. It works 100% of the time at the marina. It works too well! Now I have to turn the phone off because I am not used to a phone ringing when on my boat!

You may think that a phone is silly on a boat and I agree to a point. We use the boat as a cottage and we have guests arriving for a sail. It is nice to have them able to contact me if they cannot make it or will be hours late so that I am not stuck at the marina!

This is a long story. Thanks for reading to the end if you got here.


Mike on
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post #2 of 7 Old 06-17-2002
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Cell phones and masthead antenna update

Hi Mike,

I am glad it worked for you. It seems to me that I caught a lot of grief from some of the combatants over on that other Forum for my suggestion that this might help out, so I am particularly glad to hear that it worked out for you. My friends call me ''Cell Phone Phobic'' but there are times when beinga able to make or recieve phone calls is a life saver. Thanks for the follow up!

Best wishes,
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post #3 of 7 Old 06-17-2002
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Cell phones and masthead antenna update

i have to agree with you.
i think a phone at sea is as important as a life raft. i have had a number of occasions when we were at sea that a phone was the only solution to a problem.
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post #4 of 7 Old 09-03-2002
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Cell phones and masthead antenna update

Does the antenna work with your Nokia or are you using the bag phone ? I have a similiar situation with a bag phone and external antenna on my radar post. I''d like to go with a cheaper digital phone but I''m concerened about the reception and don''t see a way to connect my wife''s Nokia to an external antenna.

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post #5 of 7 Old 09-05-2002 Thread Starter
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Cell phones and masthead antenna update

Using the bag phone.

I threw away the Nokia anyway and replaced it with a newer digital handheld. This one also does not work at all in our marina. There is no digital signal where I sail so that point is moot.

There are some handhelds that have connections for external anntenae and boosters to get up to 3 watts. You may consider one of these but then you are essentially a bag phone anyway.

You could forward her phone to your number or just call for messages I guess.

Hope this helps,


PS. The phone now works 100% of the time.
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post #6 of 7 Old 09-06-2002
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Cell phones and masthead antenna update

Nokia 5100 series have an external antenna plug at the base of the phone antenna. I made up an adapter to an old antenna-circa 1990-that has a TNC connector on our boat. Reception and transmission are excellent.

Email me if you want more details on making an adapter or purchase of one.
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post #7 of 7 Old 09-06-2002 Thread Starter
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Cell phones and masthead antenna update

The Shakespeare antenna I purchased this year comes with a TNC connection. Sounds like the 5100 might be the way to go for your wife since it is digital.

Too bad you cannot have two phones on one number. If it were allowed I would just leave the bag phone on the boat permanently and just use it as a boat phone. Seems like the 5100 setup mentioned is about the only option to avoid having two phones (and bills) or a clunky bag phone in your car!

I do have to say that I am very pleased with the performance of this antenna!

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