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Old 11-27-2015, 01:51 PM   #1
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A second radio for the helm

I'm thinking of installing a second radio for the helm that would enable monitoring the VTS channel as well as channel 16. I don't want one with AIS capabilities, as I already have that capability and do not want to complicate things. I'm looking for suggestions from the group, and have a few (perhaps stoopid) questions.
  1. I have an I-com hand held (for the dinghy). I might consider the IC-M604 if the price doesn't break the bank. It has a keypad for entering MMSI numbers for DSC. Otherwise I will just go with a more modest unit. Other suggestions?
  2. Stupid question1: Do I need another antenna or can I go with a splitter? My current radio antenna is on an extension.
  3. Stupid question2: Can the same MMSI number be entered into the 2nd radio? If so, should I enter it or just go with one radio with the MMSI?
  4. Stupid question3: I have never used the MMSI capability for contacting other stations. Am I missing out on something?
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Old 11-27-2015, 02:40 PM   #2
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Get another antenna. It makes no sense to be half redundant. Any ICOM or Standard horizon in your range will be more than adequate. Try to get as much antenna separation as possible. I wouldn't enter MMSI in the back up radio, personal opinion only. I like the ICOMS best. We have 7 fixed mounted VHFs aboard the tug.
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Old 11-27-2015, 02:50 PM   #3
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I was figuring that would be the response about the antenna. Its the separation on the antennae was my concern so I was hoping I could use a splitter. I guess that is something I will have to figure out. I was considering the I-Com M604 because it has a numeric keypad. I don't think that would be necessary if it isn't programmed with the MMSI number. It's considerably more expensive than the other units with DSC.


My current radio is a Uniden UM525.





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Old 11-27-2015, 02:56 PM   #4
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Greetings,
Mr. JD. There are NO stupid questions IMO.
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Old 11-27-2015, 03:05 PM   #5
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2 VHF's

I am in the process of doing the same thing!
I have a newer icom with the MMSI programmed that I use for the main radio. I have tried "tri-watch", scan and "dual watch" functions but still I have missed a few calls in between.
We quite often run in a group and monitor a "ship to ship" channel but sometimes I miss a call if the dual watch kicks in on 16.
So I decided to Re-install the old icom unit that is probably 15 years old as a back up and to stand by a selected channel. It will be a stand alone radio but I did add a separate antenna, actually I bought a new antenna for the new radio and used the old one for the old radio.
While researching this I found that there should be a minimum of 3 feet between the VHF and it's antenna. Mine were not, so I switched the flybridge and lower helm antennas side to side an then added the new antenna aft on the flybridge railing. I should have lots of separation now. I chose to solder new antenna connections but I am told the new solder-less ones are just as good.
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Old 11-27-2015, 04:24 PM   #6
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With antenna separation, isn't the issue with radios broadcasting simultaneously and not receiving? We have 2 radios in the lower helm and I can't say we've ever been broadcasting at the same time.
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Old 11-27-2015, 04:25 PM   #7
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Definitely a new antenna.. I bought a new VHF and antenna because my old one,vhf, was not working. After the new was installed I decided to take the Uniden to my local shop and he said it's fine. Got a new antenna and the old one now works well too. Splitting an antenna means if the antenna is the problem then both radios are hamstrung.

Some years ago I bought a handheld for which I bought a headset and used that for the VTS calls since I used to run in and out of Van. harbour every time we went anywhere. So the handheld can also serve. Use of the headset tell you without doubt which radio is blathering and the sound will be clear.

My main VHF is on a remote speaker so again it is absolutely clear which radio is active.

Before I got the remote speaker, when both radios were active I could not figure out which was which so I ,actually fairly often, missed important info by the time I sorted out the calls.

My old vhf will get its own remote speaker in a different location so again I know immediately which radio is most important and can turn the other[s] down.

I also suggest the use of a remote speaker for each radio. My own experience has taught me that the remote speakers are light years ahead of the vhf built ins for clarity and volume. Simply because the remotes are larger and usually better speakers and also they can be aimed at the primary operator, not at your feet, or chest or the person opposite. Keep them well away from each other also, AND THE COMPASS, so you know immediately whcih radio you want to listen to.

The remotes were not expensive, about $20 20 yrs ago, from Radio Shack. I know that option is gone, R.S., but a decent one should not cost an arm and leg. I also have a powered speaker which now resides in the garage because I cannot throw anything out. A powered one is not needed unless the wheel house is extremely noisy. Not likely in your case unless the grandkids have taken over.

For a remote just check the impedance specs. of the radio and the speaker. For best performance they do need to be matched, usually either 4 or 8 ohm.

Sheesh, back again. Yes, antenna separation is needed. Check the radio spec.

I solder the plug/cable connection. Those press on MAY be ok for a few years but eventually minute oxidation occurs which degrades the signal, coming and going. I have gone through a few folks installations in the last few years and after getting rid of those press fit connections and soldering the radios perked up.

As for channel switching I do not consider the keypad an advantage. I now have one of each,a keypad and a rotary knob. The knob is faster and easier especially if rough.
You may not have a choice particularily if the rest of the radio is what you want. I would not turn my pad radio down for that reason but just don't see it as an great thing and not an improvement.
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Old 11-27-2015, 04:39 PM   #8
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Ant separation only needs to be 3' or more. If you had one on each side of your FB or house, that would be plenty.
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Old 11-27-2015, 05:14 PM   #9
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Good answers to questions 1 and 2. As far as putting the same MMSI number in both radios, I don't see any downside unless there is some rule against it. And, yes, you are missing out by not using your radio's DSC (MMSI) capability.
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Old 11-27-2015, 05:16 PM   #10
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agree...MMSI in both radios...why not?


second antenna... consider as a short one if the other would be lowered for approaching bridges.
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Old 11-27-2015, 05:18 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry M View Post
With antenna separation, isn't the issue with radios broadcasting simultaneously and not receiving? We have 2 radios in the lower helm and I can't say we've ever been broadcasting at the same time.
As I recall from my old ham radio days, if the antennas are too close together then one will absorb some of the energy from the one which is being used for broadcasting. Probably not something to really worry about, but technically they should not be too close together. However, as someone already noted, having them on opposite sides of the FB should be plenty sufficient, as the wave-length at VHF frequencies is pretty short.
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Old 11-27-2015, 05:21 PM   #12
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2 radios with MMSI numbers

If you enter the MMSI in both radios be sure that they are both connected to a source that will enable them to read and transmit your GPS location, otherwise that little red emergency button will be somewhat useless.
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Old 11-27-2015, 06:21 PM   #13
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Our set up on the Hatteras: A higher end non AIS Standard Horizon at the lower helm with a RAM mike/controller on the FB, ICOM M88 handheld as the secondary. A smaller non-AIS SH on the FB, so we essentially had two VHF at each helm, the FB being the more frequently used. Each VHF with its own antenna. The fixed units courtesy of the PO, we added the RAM and the handheld. Ideally, would have a RAM mike capable unit on the FB with a RAM downstairs, never got around to it as the M88 is great for calling bridges and monitoring things that were going to be well within its range by default. Same FCC issued MMSI in both fixed units and registered to the EPIRB as well.

We really like having dual unit capability at each helm, as well as the comfort of the redundancy on a very important tool.
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Old 11-27-2015, 06:23 PM   #14
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Just added a second radio to my pilot house, Icom M506. This will be my primary with a 14' Shakespeare antenna and tied to my NMEA 2000 network. My back up is an older Icom on a 3' antenna. My thinking was to have a back up with a short antenna for those times when I have to lower the 14' antenna to clear a bridge. Also like the idea of a dedicated radio for locking and swing bridge communication.

Definitely recommend separate antennas for complete redundancy.

MMSI programmed into both for redundancy.

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Old 11-27-2015, 06:31 PM   #15
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A few random comments:

- I really like having two VHFs for the reason's you suggest - redundancy plus being able to monitor one channel while yakking on a working channel.

- Some people use DSC a lot. Is seems to be especially popular in Europe. Personally I find it utterly useless for placing calls. The integration between an AIS display and placing a call (click on the AIS icon and select "call", for example) doesn't work except in a few cases between like vendor products. I've never seen it work. I don't know if the standards don't exist, people don't implement them, or they don't work together. In the absence of a simple click-to-call interface, DSC calling is SOOOO much more complicated than simply hailing someone that I doubt anyone will ever use it. Just read the directions on how to place a DSC call with your favorite VHF. My reaction is "you've got to be kidding".

- Because I think placing DSC calls is a joke, I wouldn't put a high priority on having a keypad for entering MSSI numbers. A keypad is still a nice added touch for switching channels when they are not near each other, but you can change pretty fast spinning a knob too. The downside of a keypad is that the VHF takes up a bunch more space, and of course costs more.

- I DO think that DSC for emergency calls is a very important feature. The panic button is great for emergencies, especially with untrained passengers and crew. And receiving DSC distress calls and seeing them light up on your plotter is great too. So I love the safety aspect of DSC.

- Because the emergency aspects of DSC are so important, I would definitely enter in the MMSI, hook up the GPS, and connect it to the chart plotter. Even if just for redundancy.

- Definitely two antennas, spaced as far apart as practical. If too close together, transmitting on one VHF will break through to the other even if they are on different channels.

- The M604 has been replaced with the M604A. Not sure what the differences are.
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Old 11-27-2015, 06:52 PM   #16
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The UM525 that you have is, in my opinion, the best VHF made (not made now) for the $$$. They bring more money now used in good shape than they did new. I buy them when they come up on ebay. If I were you I would get another one just like it. And maybe even the remote mount hand held that goes with it.
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Old 11-27-2015, 11:10 PM   #17
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I'll butt in again.
--If the radios will both accept the MMSI then agreed , put it in both. The day you need it, if entered in only one radio you do not want to find that's the down radio.
--I do not use the DSC for calling.
--Does mean that each must have a GPS feed or have the GPS built in.
--Both radios should be on SEPARATE, from each other and as much as possible from all other equipment from the main panel/buss so failure in another piece does not affect the VHFs.
--I use my old radio for monitoring other than channel 16. That way I can converse without interfering on 16 when travelling with another boat yet still fully monitor 16. Or monitor VTS. On those days if companion travelling and monitoring VTS that is when I use my handheld with the headset for VTS. THat is not a frequent occurrence. No, my boat is not the neatest.
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Old 11-28-2015, 12:22 AM   #18
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Thanks a ton, all of you for your advice! I agree with you Peter about the DSC. It seemed complicated to me too, but I thought it was just me. WRT the antenna: I certainly agree that they aren't created equal. I was convinced to upgrade my VHF antenna for my AIS and it made a big difference. I would also like to put that same unit on my tall extension. And yes Clark, I agree about the soldered connections on the coax. I did my first one with the AIS and it worked fine. WRT antenna: sometimes it's the other guy's antenna that's the problem with the transmission that is received.

Sounds like I will get another antenna as well. The radios are often on sale at the boat shows. Not sure about the antennae.


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Old 11-28-2015, 04:29 AM   #19
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Couple of comments:

Bay Pelican has two fixed mount VHF radios at her helm. Both have separate antennas.

Underway during the day one is set to channel 16 the official hailing channel in the Eastern Caribbean and one is set to channel 68 the cruisers hailing channel in the English speaking Eastern Caribbean. At anchor channel 16 is ignored. Underway at night we switch the second radio to the channel the group traveling together has selected for communication. 68 is usually not used as a security measure.

MMSI, we use this all the time as a security measure as the VHF radio is essentially our telephone at anchor. By using MMSI our cocktail hour/dinner plans are not broadcast over the entire anchorage and the few land based characters who use the radio broadcasts to select their targets.

In both cases having a second installed VHF and the use of MMSI are called for because of local conditions.
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Old 11-28-2015, 06:58 AM   #20
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We have two identical radios so we don't have to think about how to work which at any given time, both the same...
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