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  1. #1
    TimeBandit's Avatar
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    VHF Marine radio antenna / range ??

    How many of you fishing, carry a VHF radio? Realistically / real-world, do you know what you range is?

    I thought it be a good addition to carrying a cell for general communication, so I got a Standard Horizon HX870 GPS handheld. Like it a lot! It’s stated to be 6 watts, so perhaps my expectations were a little too high when I wasn't even able to key-up the local SeaTow ARC tower at just two miles away. Line of site, radio was on High output, ch 27. The little rubber-ducky just isn't up to the task. Finally got the tower to respond at about 1.3 miles, yet in all fairness, I have no idea how sensitive (signal strength) the automated system triggers on, aka who knows . . . a real person with squelch all the way off might have still heard me at the 2 mile point. So "as-is", that makes this little handheld nothing more that $200 "voicebox saver", as it's just going to be useful enough to avoid hollering across the water to the nearby boats, or my buddy just over at the next spot. :P
    This is in no way a testament against the HX870, as it is a reality-check for handhelds in general. So, if you were like me and didn't know, I'm here to say that you are not going to get anywhere near the advertised range, not with that short little oem rubber duck antenna that is.

    So I'm looking into antenna options. Do I get a gotty 6ft + telescoping replacement for the handheld, or attach a base-mount antenna to the ski wired back to the handheld?? Doesn’t have to be attached all the time. . . maybe stow the antenna inside the hull, which can be rigged-up whenever needed. My goal here is just to have something comparable to a cell phone as far as range goes. Mainly for non-emergency, yet urgent communications - although these radios do have a distress button. So back to my original question, what range are you getting on what?

  2. #2
    Xspook's Avatar
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    Good info here:
    https://www.boatingmag.com/marine-vh...o-range#page-3

    https://www.intercomsonline.com/2-Wa...cate-s/136.htm

    Power output is often thought to increase range, but really, the difference in range between a 25-watt fixed marine VHF radio and a 5-watt handheld is due to the fixed mount’s antenna being taller, and therefore it can “see” farther.

  3. #3
    TimeBandit's Avatar
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    Yes, “seeing further” is exactly what I’m saying above. I think the transceiver I have is plenty powerful. Having a hand-held is great for portability, but its also a shot in the foot on actual transmission-range with that dinky antenna.

    As a boat owner, this is an easy nut to crack . . . aka get a decent console radio in the dash, and mount a six to eight-footer to the gunwale. But being this is a ski, I need a more portable and scaled approach. I don’t use the ski for strictly fishing, so a temporary rig is going to make the most sense for me.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    So I was thinking on purchasing a 3 foot Shakespeare stainless whip - the one that has the load-coil at the base - to hook up to the hand-held on an as-need basis. That should net me a decent half-wave. These are tried & proven antenna’s. However, instead of mounting it to the ski, or even to my rear PVC fishing rack/basket - which is already removable . . . I could attach a short PVC section (like adding a handle) to the base of the antenna, so that I could insert this into any of my RAM rod-holders like I would a fishing pole.
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    That way, I could easily stow the antenna rig inside the hull, thus bust it out when I need something farther-seeing than that rubber ducky. Truth of the matter is that I don’t always take that PVC rack, but usually always have one or two of them RAM mounts with me.

  4. #4
    Xspook's Avatar
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  5. #5

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    I found if you can’t see the contact you won’t call them with a handheld....

    vhf is line of sight...... get your antenna as high as you can...... coast guard antennas are generally very high and can relay messages

  6. #6
    TimeBandit's Avatar
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    Stow-n-Go

    So I ended up purchasing a Shakespeare 5215 (Squatty Body). It's basically a wide-band half-wave 3ft VHF stainless steel whip marine antenna - fairly tried & proven for performance in a low-profile design. Now I could just jam it somewhere inside the hull as-is. But I did not want a metal whip just loose in the hull - might short something out - IDK, just didn't feel safe. Also did not want to risk damage to the antenna itself, considering some rides can get quite rough out in the seas. Solution: "Stow-n-Go" tube !

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    So I put together a PVC "STOW" tube for which I can invert and insert the antenna into when not using it. It also stores the SMA cable. Roughly a 3 ft 1 inch tube, it was just a matter of the right combo of PVC fittings, and to glue another separate fitting atop the load coil body (which permits a slip-fit when inverted into the stow tube). In "GO" configuration, the antenna is slipped-out of the stow tube and slip-fit back on to the tube, which then doubles as mast extension. The base of the tube has a union fitting with a bolt-peg. This acts as an adapter which fits snugly into any of my rod-holders.


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    Field-testing . . . . TBD.
    Weather got unfavorable lately, so I'll need to punt range-testing for another weekend it seems.


  7. #7

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    How did the test go?

  8. #8
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    I wished for better . . . yet the test went pretty good. With this external antenna rig, I was able to key-up the automated radio-check station just above 3.5 miles, which is roughly three-times the distance of the same test using the OEM rubber-ducky that came with the handheld. Now is 3.5 mi my max range?? I'd say "no", because the SeaTow's automated radio-check stations seem to only respond to moderate-to-crispy-clear key-ups (hence not to constantly activate off of background noise and/or stray signals). So, if we consider normal radio receivers with either none-to-light squelch settings, I'd say it's safe to say my realistic range is likely in the 4 - 6 mile reach. And likely a little further for the sensitive Emergency Distress broadcast.
    If I ever run into someone else with a decent radio, I should attempt a squelch-less max distance test.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimeBandit View Post
    Yes, “seeing further” is exactly what I’m saying above. I think the transceiver I have is plenty powerful. Having a hand-held is great for portability, but its also a shot in the foot on actual transmission-range with that dinky antenna.

    As a boat owner, this is an easy nut to crack . . . aka get a decent console radio in the dash, and mount a six to eight-footer to the gunwale. But being this is a ski, I need a more portable and scaled approach. I don’t use the ski for strictly fishing, so a temporary rig is going to make the most sense for me.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	SP-whip_20180222_195832.png 
Views:	42 
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ID:	428474
    So I was thinking on purchasing a 3 foot Shakespeare stainless whip - the one that has the load-coil at the base - to hook up to the hand-held on an as-need basis. That should net me a decent half-wave. These are tried & proven antenna’s. However, instead of mounting it to the ski, or even to my rear PVC fishing rack/basket - which is already removable . . . I could attach a short PVC section (like adding a handle) to the base of the antenna, so that I could insert this into any of my RAM rod-holders like I would a fishing pole.
    Click image for larger version. 

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Views:	38 
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ID:	428473
    That way, I could easily stow the antenna rig inside the hull, thus bust it out when I need something farther-seeing than that rubber ducky. Truth of the matter is that I don’t always take that PVC rack, but usually always have one or two of them RAM mounts with me.
    I fitted an ICOM-IC-M400BB with this whip antenna. Range seems to be great but I haven’t measured it.

    I find it a huge comfort to have a proper GPS/DSC enabled VHF on board. It & Nav lights should be standard or, at least, factory options.

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  10. #10
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    ...folds down when not on use so cover may be fitted.

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