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Old 03-25-2012, 03:44 PM   #1
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Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

I've searched this sites archives with no luck.*If I missed a thread where this has been hashed to death already perhaps a link to it would suffice.

I am trying to find out if there is a performance advantage between the two options. Intuitively the nod would go to a hard wired system but I can find no data to back up that assumption.*

I am definitely purchasing a waterproof handheld soon but would like to hear both sides of the argument. Recommendations for a good brand or model handheld unit would help too. The choices are staggering.

Thanks.
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Old 03-25-2012, 03:49 PM   #2
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

You kinda need both, not one or the other. The both have their use.
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Old 03-25-2012, 04:01 PM   #3
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Handhelds typically transmit at max of 6 watts vs 25 watts for a fixed unit.* I'm with Fotoman, have both.
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Old 03-25-2012, 04:03 PM   #4
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Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

I agree with Willy: have both.* The handheld is more likely to be misplaced or have a weak/dead battery, and have a lesser range (they put out a signal a fraction of that of fixed models), particularly compared to an antenna mounted on a mast.* Of course, the advantage of a handheld radio is it's portability.* Get a model that floats.


-- Edited by markpierce on Sunday 25th of March 2012 04:08:05 PM
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Old 03-25-2012, 05:27 PM   #5
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

When we purchased our current boat 3 years ago, it had a functioning hardwired VHF at the lower helm, and a non-functioning one at the upper helm.

So, being the smart souls that we were, we purchased a handheld for the upper helm. The thinking was that we could receive everything at the upper helm with the handheld, and if we needed to transmit we could simply go below.

It doesn't really work that way, as the reception on the handheld is also quite limited; we now have a remote VHF (Icom Command mike) for the upper helm and it works great.

That does not mean that the handheld is not a good idea though; it is good for dinghy excursions etc. and although limited, is a good back up. Just make sure that you have an onboard means of charging it.*
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Old 03-25-2012, 05:34 PM   #6
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Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

All true and I have both but am thinking about upgrading to a water proof portable.

Last Spring we assisted in a rescue of three people who flipped a Boston Whaler in heavy seas.* All three wisely*clung to the overturned hull in 40 degree water.* We were fishing less than a mile away and*couldn't see them.* They did two things right which probably saved their lives.

1. All three were wearing orange Mustang foul weather flotation gear.

2. The female victim had a water proof hand held VHF.**

She*called Mayday, Coast Guard Seattle answered and we responded along with a smaller boat fishing near us.**As we got close we were still*unable to see them,*but she could see us and kept calling out direction changes for*us.* Without the water proof radio*rescue wouldn't have happened.* They were in the water for about 30 minutes and they were cold, but no hypothermia.* I was impressed.


-- Edited by Edelweiss on Sunday 25th of March 2012 05:34:46 PM
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Old 03-25-2012, 05:56 PM   #7
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Assuming a proper antenna, a fixed mount VHF will transmit and receive over a significantly longer distance. As someone pointed out above, handheld transcievers are limited to five or six watts (assuming fresh or fully charged batteries), while a fixed VHF transmits at 25 watts. The eight foot antenna is more efficient and usually higher than the rubber duckie antenna on the handheld.

Ideally, you would have both. If the choice comes down to one only (and it shouldn't), the fixed VHF is the one to have.
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Old 03-25-2012, 06:18 PM   #8
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

You need both. The fixed mount with a +4 db (8') antenna that can reach many, many miles and a handheld for carrying on dinghy rides, using for bridges without losing touch with Ch16 (or using dual watch... which I hate), and to carry shore side for a variety of reasons. We know a couple that took it to the local grocery store to call the marina to come pick them up with their car service. I wouldn't be without either. :-) The stump antennas on HH radios restrict the range to a fraction of a fixed mount with 8' antenna.

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Old 03-25-2012, 06:41 PM   #9
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Thanks for the responses guys and rest assured both are in my future. My main question was answered with the range issue. For my immediate boating needs the floating handheld makes a lot of sense for most of the reasons given above. A more powerful fixed unit with appropriate antenna will be installed in the not very distant future. I would rather do the basics well, than go over the top poorly.

My personal mantra has always been safety does not cost, it pays. Especially with my loved ones aboard. I was out on the California Delta recently on a friends boat and was shocked that the only communication device on board was a cell phone, mine! I promised myself that would never happen again.

As to my brand/model recommendation question, perhaps I should rephrase it. Are there any brands/models that should be specifically avoided?
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Old 03-25-2012, 07:00 PM   #10
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Mine are both older model Motorolas and yes they are more expensive, but last forever.* They're very reliable and have worked flawlessly for 15 years.

But you can probably find other brands that perform just as well at a better priced.*

Larry B*
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Old 03-25-2012, 07:01 PM   #11
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

The fact that HHs are six watt and fixed are 25 watts is obvious. What wasn't said above (directly, anyway) is that VHF trans/receives in "line-of-sight". So a fixed antenna mounted on the flybridge or top of the pilot house has a huge advantage over a HH regarding distance for communication.
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Old 03-25-2012, 07:15 PM   #12
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Quote:
Giggitoni wrote:
The fact that HHs are six watt and fixed are 25 watts is obvious. What wasn't said above (directly, anyway) is that VHF trans/receives in "line-of-sight". So a fixed antenna mounted on the flybridge or top of the pilot house has a huge advantage over a HH regarding distance for communication.
And this makes a HUGE difference when it's time to call TowBoatUS or Sea Tow. Sometimes they are quite a hefty distance to call and I have played repeater tower for more than one boat that was stuck on a shoal and their HH couldn't carry the distance. Channel 16 is a very crowded frequency and a weak radio can get lost in the static. So maybe even the Coast Guard won't hear you. Keep that in mind.

I would STRONGLY suggest a fixed mount be your first purchase.
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Old 03-25-2012, 09:46 PM   #13
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Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Quote:
Giggitoni wrote:
*What wasn't said above (directly, anyway) is that VHF trans/receives in "line-of-sight". So a fixed antenna mounted on the flybridge or top of the pilot house has a huge advantage over a HH regarding distance for communication.
*Believe you're correct, Ray.* Like I said, it's even better on top of the mast.


-- Edited by markpierce on Sunday 25th of March 2012 10:17:14 PM
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Old 03-25-2012, 11:37 PM   #14
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Wonder what amperage/power the USCG operates with (and wouldn't be surprised they had repeater stations).* On the majority of onversations between USCG and boaters, I only hear the CG part of the conversation.* Usually, these relate to the Monterey and San Francisco Bays, some thirty to a*hundred miles away (with hills/mountains between)*from*home waters of*Carquinez/Mare Island Straits.*
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Old 03-26-2012, 01:33 AM   #15
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Quote:
GonzoF1 wrote:
I would STRONGLY suggest a fixed mount be your first purchase.
*Rest assured it WILL be the first purchase on my boat. The problem I encountered was while a guest on another persons boat. It is the reason for the urgency on my part to acquire a quality handheld. I discovered halfway through the days outing that the boat I was a guest on had no communication capability.

I decided the handheld would be prudent to keep that little surprise from happening again. It never occurred to me to inspect a friends boat prior to going out for a day of fishing. At least this will provide me peace of mind.

For the record, when I am a guest on another*persons craft the admiral and I always bring along our own personal PFD's.

Thank you all for your well thought out input. I am grateful.
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Old 03-26-2012, 03:43 AM   #16
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

If you travel in areas that have low bridges and opening bridges you will need both!

The antenna of the hard wired set will probably be down so will not transmit worth a damn.

Remember even on 25w sets some channels will not transmit on full power. so low power + flat antenna means a megaphone has longer range.

AS we are delighted with an air draft of 10ft 6 , so we installed a sailboat style "wonder Whip" , which may have less offshore range than a tilt up 12 ft stick but works just fine.

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Old 03-26-2012, 05:26 AM   #17
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Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Its not so much that the HH only has 6 watts...even with a rubber ducky antenna the USCG feels that over open ocean that is sufficient to call them from 20-25 miles out.* Sea Tow has similar or even better radio setups than the USCG Rescue 21 system.** It can all be in the antenna you have.

Before purchasing the fixed mount radio, get the fixed mount antenna (at least a 6db 8 footer) with an adapter for the HH.* It will dramatically increse the performance of the HH and now you have the adapter for later so you always have the HH as a good backup.

While height of antenna is important...gain is probably more so.


-- Edited by psneeld on Monday 26th of March 2012 05:27:40 AM
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Old 03-26-2012, 02:45 PM   #18
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Quote:
CPseudonym wrote:GonzoF1 wrote:
I would STRONGLY suggest a fixed mount be your first purchase.
*Rest assured it WILL be the first purchase on my boat. The problem I encountered was while a guest on another persons boat. It is the reason for the urgency on my part to acquire a quality handheld. I discovered halfway through the days outing that the boat I was a guest on had no communication capability.

I decided the handheld would be prudent to keep that little surprise from happening again. It never occurred to me to inspect a friends boat prior to going out for a day of fishing. At least this will provide me peace of mind.

For the record, when I am a guest on another*persons craft the admiral and I always bring along our own personal PFD's.

Thank you all for your well thought out input. I am grateful.

*While we are on the subject a hand held is of great importance when you depart in the dink.* I have a friend that was out on a river in NC with another boat.* My friend and his wife got in their dink and he was a bit lazy and didn't want to take the engine off of it's mount so he rowed to the other boat a couple of hundred yards up river for dinner.* After dinner the two of them departed the up river boat and found that the tide was now in their favor as in going out to sea.* As luck would have it that is when the oar lock broke on the dink.* 10:00 PM no radio and one oar which gave no steerage at all.* Lucky their friend was sitting on the back of his boat watching them.* He realized*they had passed their boat and were on their way to the ocean.* He got into his dink and started the motor which took several minutes but got underway and caught up to them.* He towed them back to their boat and off he went to his.* Roger wrote an article about this and it appeared in Sailing about five years ago.

So don't leave home with out the hand held.* You just never know.*In addition to the HH when I'm on the dink*I have my waist auto*inflatable vest*on, my lanyard secured around my wrist for the engine kill switch, the registration for the dink and the dink bag with*two additional life vests, anchor, hand pump bilge pump and the foot pump for the dink as well as the lights.
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Old 03-26-2012, 07:36 PM   #19
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Quote:
markpierce wrote:
Wonder what amperage/power the USCG operates with (and wouldn't be surprised they had repeater stations).* On the majority of onversations between USCG and boaters, I only hear the CG part of the conversation.* Usually, these relate to the Monterey and San Francisco Bays, some thirty to a*hundred miles away (with hills/mountains between)*from*home waters of*Carquinez/Mare Island Straits.*
Here in the PNW, Puget Sound, we share several mountain top sites with the USCG, at Gold Mountain about 1800 ft tall, near*Bremerton and Mount Ellis West*of Port Angeles nearly 2700 ft tall.* Both overlook a large geographic area.*

Mount Ellis,*is a hair raising ride up a 15 mile*broken rock switch back*Cat road*with shear drop offs the last few miles and high winds, but it's almost worth the ride*for*the most scenic*view over*the straits of Juan De Fuca, the San Juan Islands, Victoria BC*and the South end of Vancouver island.**Our Ellis site provides VHF radio coverage for*the entire length of the straits from Tatoosh Island to Whidbey Island roughly 100 miles.* Our main frequencies are*50 watts transmit, some of the minor frequencies are limited to 5 watts (due to the proximity to Canada.* Even at 5 watts they cover nearly the same foot print.*

It's not the transmit power that is important, it's*elevation*plus good quality high gain*antenae equipment that make it possible.

Larry B
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Old 03-26-2012, 09:37 PM   #20
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RE: Handheld vs Hard Wired/Built-in VHF Radio

Signal propagation is kinda my thing professionally and as Larry and Ray pointed out, antenna height is the major contributor to range, followed by power and antenna system efficiency.* It's the line of sight rule that mostly controls range, but a lousy transmitter or poor antenna connection can also have very detrimental effects on range.

If I was looking at a single radio for installation on a two-helm vessel, I'd go for one with a remote mic capability to allow its use at both helms.* Conrad mentioned the Icom Command-mic which is what I use with my Icom 422. It works well, but the speaker audio quality is limited by its size.*

I also like the ability to feed an aux speaker from the radio for improved readability.* I think most if not all radios now come with the DSC capability for one-buttom distress calling and position reporting when connected to a GPS feed.

I'd imagine if you stick with the major brands, you can't go wrong.*
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