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Author Topic: Choosing a handheld VHF radio  (Read 1038 times)

Tom

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Choosing a handheld VHF radio
« on: May 13, 2016, 08:46:19 PM »
I have a number of VHF handheld radios in addition to fixed VHF radios, but it's been a few years since I was in the market for a new one. This article from the current issue of the BOATUS magazine might help to bring us up to date.
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Jeff in Ferndale Wa

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Re: Choosing a handheld VHF radio
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2016, 09:15:53 PM »
FWIW, We use VHF radios for communication around the seafood plant in Alaska where I work. Often outdoors in bad weather. We probably have 25 or 30 people carrying radios during the busy seasons.

We've tried most brands, and for many years having been sticking with Standard Horizon radios.
They are pretty durable and stand up to abuse pretty well.
2007 Springdale 260
2008 Ford F250
2004 Honda Goldwing GL1800
Rampage Motorcycle Lift

Currently at work in King Cove, Alaska

Tom

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Re: Choosing a handheld VHF radio
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2016, 09:18:17 PM »
Standard Horizon is solid (I have a couple), as is Icom.
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Jeff in Ferndale Wa

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Re: Choosing a handheld VHF radio
« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2016, 11:36:59 AM »
Standard Horizon is solid (I have a couple), as is Icom.

The Icoms we have used did not hold up as well as the Standards,but that may have been 15 years ago or more. Icom may have made improvements.
2007 Springdale 260
2008 Ford F250
2004 Honda Goldwing GL1800
Rampage Motorcycle Lift

Currently at work in King Cove, Alaska

VallAndMo

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Re: Choosing a handheld VHF radio
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2016, 08:18:54 AM »
Hi Tom,

Very interesting article, thanks for posting! I've never heard of this kind of radio before (which I understand are for "marine" use). The DSC and GPS functionality are specially interesting.

A few questions from someone who knows next to nothing on the subject, and was planning on buying a much cheaper BaoFeng UV-5R (after passing the FCC Ham test and getting my licence, of course):

1) do these radios require a ham licence, or passing any tests?

2) I don't plan on expending any significant time on water (I'm more of a desert guy), perhaps just a kayaking session every now and then. Is the DSC/GPS functionality useful in such circumstances, ie, if I buy such a radio, register it as kayaker, break a leg in the middle of the Mojave and activate the DSC, will I get rescued?

3) how would you guys compare these VHF radios to more "general purpose" radios like the Baofeng?

Thanks,
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   Vall.

Tom

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Re: Choosing a handheld VHF radio
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2016, 09:46:59 AM »
Hi Val, simple (brief) answers ...

General licensing for marine VHF transceivers was eliminated in the '80s. The marine band is intended to be used on water (ship to ship and ship to shore); Use on land requires a marine utility license, although I've never pursued this. It is not a "general use" radio. Some regulations & info:

US Coast Guard
FCC
Do's and don'ts

Activating DSC while on land would not be advisable.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 10:11:40 AM by Tom »
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Tom

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Re: Choosing a handheld VHF radio
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2016, 09:57:18 AM »
FWIW we were boating on local waters (California Delta rivers and sloughs) in a small boat a couple of years ago and, thanks to a bad fuel gauge, ran out of gas. I paddled towards shore and safely put the boat in the tall tules. We were only a mile from the house  :-[

Got out my cell phone, no cell signal, apparently blocked by the levee between us and the nearest cell tower. Pulled out the VHF handheld and immediately got a dispatcher for our on-water towing service. Help was soon on its way with the option of delivered gas or a tow.

The dispatcher was located in Huntingdon Beach (Southern CA), but I was communicating via a tower on top of Mount Diablo, visible from almost anywhere on the Delta.
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Lou Schneider

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Re: Choosing a handheld VHF radio
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2016, 05:28:08 PM »

A few questions from someone who knows next to nothing on the subject, and was planning on buying a much cheaper BaoFeng UV-5R (after passing the FCC Ham test and getting my licence, of course):

1) do these radios require a ham licence, or passing any tests?

2) I don't plan on expending any significant time on water (I'm more of a desert guy), perhaps just a kayaking session every now and then. Is the DSC/GPS functionality useful in such circumstances, ie, if I buy such a radio, register it as kayaker, break a leg in the middle of the Mojave and activate the DSC, will I get rescued?

3) how would you guys compare these VHF radios to more "general purpose" radios like the Baofeng?

The Baofeng is an interesting radio, with performance rivaling radios costing 5-10 times as much over a very wide frequency range.    It's a software defined radio, where most of the signal processing is handled by a large DSP chip instead of discrete components.

Get your ham license and you're welcome to use the Baofeng on the appropriate Ham bands.

Marine radios don't need an operators license, but the radio itself has to be type approved by the FCC in the US.  The Baofeng will transmit and receive nicely on the VHF Marine frequencies but Baofeng has not applied for the necessary approvals to make it legal to use there.

Whether you'll ever get caught using one on the Marine bands is an open question, though you may have some explaining to do if an overzealous Coast Guard inspector ever raises the question.

Of course, in a genuine emergency the legalities go out the window.  Summon aid any way you can and deal with any fallout later.

Another consideration is the Baofeng is not water or salt spray resistant.  The other Marine portables are.  If you want to use the Baofeng on the water, I'd get a second one and keep it in a waterproof container until needed.

As a side note, the Baofeng also covers the GMRS and FMS VHF bands used by those little unlicensed VHF handhelds people use on 4 wheel drive expeditions, etc.  Again, it's not approved to operate on those frequencies.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2016, 05:35:23 PM by Lou Schneider »

VallAndMo

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Re: Choosing a handheld VHF radio
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2016, 05:33:40 PM »
Hi Tom and Lou,

Thanks for the answers, I think I will stick with the Baofeng after I pass the test and get my Ham license.

Cheers,
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   Vall.

 

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