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Old 12-28-2019, 05:33 PM   #1
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Handheld Radio Advice

I am looking at handheld radios and was wondering if there is any advice to best quality, range needed etc. Boat has radio but we are looking for something I can wear when I go out solo and emergency comes up (e.g. MOB). Thoughts? Thanks
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Old 12-28-2019, 05:45 PM   #2
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Consider a PLB Personal Locator Beacon if you go solo often. Until then wear the engine kill lanyard.
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Old 12-28-2019, 06:32 PM   #3
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Two items, buy em used, just get better looking newer ones.

1. First generation Spot, folks are practically giving these away. You will need a subscription once you get the little device. You can emit an emergency signal with this unit and send an "I'm okay" message and another message which says phone me.

2. You don't need a complex VHF, so something basic that floats will work well. Icom and Standard Horizon are two excellent brands. Get one that has a rechargeable lithium battery. Again used is the way to go.

You should get by with both items for a total bill of roughly $200 and not pay tax on them.
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Old 12-28-2019, 08:41 PM   #4
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RSN48, I am looking at the Standard Horizon radio, looks good. What's a Spot? Is that a personal locator beacon?
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Old 12-29-2019, 02:22 PM   #5
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This is a pic of the 3rd generation Spot, you really don't need anything more advanced than the first generation. Don't get me wrong, I love Garmin Inreach with all its functions but in my gut I know I don't need one, just want one.

https://avalanchesafety.ca/product/s...BoCqPkQAvD_BwE

I was a Captain in the Canadian Army reserves working with teens. For 7 summers, I spent two months just slight outside Whitehorse Yukon working in operations for a cadet adventure program. This program took them all over the Yukon in some very isolated areas.

We started using Sat phones, but if you have used them a lot in isolated areas, you know they can be a pain in the butt, and sometimes don't work that well. Teens would go out with adults in "platoons" and we would issue them first generation Spots. We then downloaded a map of the yukon and with their Spots on a signal was generated every ten minutes letting us know in operations just where they were.

Twice groups got lost and we were able to contact them before either of them even knew they were lost to let them know the correct route, this info from Spot and watching their course on the Yukon map.

Sometimes we monitored up to 8 groups, often one hundred miles or more from each other, knowing where they were, where they took breaks, and an ability to roughly estimate when they would arrive at their destination.

One time a teenage guy broke his femur and was in great pain in the middle of nowhere. The Spot emergency signal was activated, I received a call from I believe Texas notifying us of a problem, they then called the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) informing them of the crisis.

We at first tried to get a helicopter in but none were available, a busy time of the year for them. Fortunately this kid who was in distress, was beside a river so an Otter was flown in landing on the river, picked up the kid and took him to the hospital in Whitehorse.

If you want the best get Garmin Inreach, but you really don't need the best to send out an emergency signal, have someone be able to track you, and the ability to send out signals to let them know everything is fine, and to phone you if you need non-emergency assistance.

As you can guess, from my experience in the Yukon, I purchased a first generation Spot in something like 2007 which I still have. I've tried to rationalize why a Garmin would be better (and they are) but I know my Spot really provides all the services I need. It really is an emergency devise and worked much better than early Epirbs. The early Epirbs were terrible. There was only 7 satellites, 4 of them Russian, they covered a too wide an area and reaction times were slow. Russia would have to contact someone in the States, etc., etc. The newer ones offering GPS location assistance are much better. But Spots are just as accurate and have been involved in many rescues to date.

One of the first early marine rescues occurred off of Australia when a sailboater got into trouble. Another well known early Spot rescue occurred in the Canadian high North involving a Canadian military aircraft, someone in the downed aircraft had brought one along to be used outside of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
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Old 12-29-2019, 06:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark P View Post
RSN48, I am looking at the Standard Horizon radio, looks good. What's a Spot? Is that a personal locator beacon?
I can recommend the SH 850 and 870. Their current top of the line is 890, I believe.
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Old 12-29-2019, 07:37 PM   #7
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I just bought the SH 890, in fact it is schedule to arrive tomorrow, 30 December. But I also have a basic Icom handheld (and also an Icom dedicated boat VHF). Because the 890 has been released, look for deals on the 870, it has replaced. The 870 is excellent and will give you DCS and GPS. The reason I prefer spot over relying only on DCS is that where I live and boat is much more secluded, easier spots to get into trouble, and some genuine "in the middle of nowhere" places. Also wind and fog are big in the off season, which is when I do some of my cruising. So DCS only works as far as your VHF broadcasts, which may be far if there are repeaters in your area, or not that far if relying solely on VHF range, depending on how high your antenna is. With Spot and Garmin Inreach, or modern Epirbs you have much further reach, signals bouncing off of satellites.

With DCS if used in the busy season, a Mayday relay can be set up to get help from the Coast Guard or whomever. If off season and not any boats around, then a Mayday relay won't be available. Or you could get both, a first gen Spot and SH 870 or 890.

The reason I'm flogging first gen Spots is that most people don't want them with better stuff out there, but they work fine, do what needs to be done and you should be able to pick one up for $50 or so, maybe even cheaper. Go price an Epirb.....lol.
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Old 01-03-2020, 08:23 AM   #8
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For a wearable backup VHF, I’d recommend the SH HX40. It doesn’t float but, it’s very small and light. You can buy an optional float koozie for it if you want but, a belt clip and lanyard should suffice. Defender has it $100 and SH has a $20 rebate til March. $80 +tx is hard to beat for a quality radio.

If you want GPS/DSC, Icom has a $20 rebate on their M93D. The SH HX890 also looks nice for DSC but seems pretty chunky (for my hands) as radios go. I’d play with all of them before deciding.

Choice between basic radio and DSC; I’d say consider if you’ll be able to describe to a rescuer where your boat decided to wander off without you. If not, a DSC button would be handy.

You might consider a PLB but, where I assume you are, the CG should hear you and you might even have cell coverage. (I have two, so I’m not trying to talk you out of it.)

There’s a reason they’re practically giving away first gen Spot. I don’t think you need one for your purpose given other more reliable and versatile options that also don’t have a monthly fee. For me, I don’t trust my life to used, outdated equipment.
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Old 01-03-2020, 01:47 PM   #9
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Portable VHF is better than nothing, but still not a very effective MOB device. The range is based line of sight. At water level, it will not be a large radius. Intermittent if you're in decent swells.

Once you're in the water you don't really have an effective means of identifying your location. That is, unless you had recently looked at your Lat./Long. and committed it to memory. (Ask yourself honestly whether you regularly look at and commit to memory your coordinates throughout the day and as you move).

If MOB is what you're trying to solve, then a PLB is your actual solution.
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Old 01-04-2020, 05:03 PM   #10
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There’s a reason they’re practically giving away first gen Spot. I don’t think you need one for your purpose given other more reliable and versatile options that also don’t have a monthly fee. For me, I don’t trust my life to used, outdated equipment.

There is no reason for a Spot to wear down and be useless unless incredibly abused. General rule if it looks new, it will probably work. Spots just aren't used that much in one year. Maybe one month is high use. And first generation Spots are really like basic VHF handheld radios, the basics are there but nothing else.
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Old 01-04-2020, 06:31 PM   #11
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All handheld radios have the same transmit power so performance is close amongst brands and models. The differences are in the features; size, floating, battery capacity, etc.

Buy an Icom or Standard Horizon when they go on sale or look online for coupons. Standard usually has a promotion in the spring.

West Marine's VHF's have good reviews and are on sale frequently.

I'd stick with Icon or Standard Horizon. I've had good luck with both brands.

Recommendations for specific models are not that helpful. Most people recommend what they bought to validate or justify their own selection.
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Old 01-05-2020, 10:37 AM   #12
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All great info Well, as luck would have it, my coworkers gave me a West Marine gift card when I retired last month, so I put it to good use right away! I bought the Ocean Signal PLB1 beacon (very small and will fit in life jacket pocket) and the Standard Horizon HX210 that has belt clip. We'll see how it goes - will set these up shortly when back at the boat. Thanks again.
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Old 01-05-2020, 10:44 AM   #13
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I picked up the hx210 last year. Hasn't gotten a lot of use, but battery life seems good, it holds charge well between uses, and sound quality is good. So for the cost and being waterproof and floaty, I'd give it a thumbs up.
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Old 01-05-2020, 12:03 PM   #14
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'Lo All, I had my Apelco VHF 501 Plus handheld radio retrofitted with lithium batteries. I store it in my "Go" bag when going out on my little runabout. The boat has no storage onboard, so I keep the radio in a bag (with other boat items I may need when out on the water) in a closet at home. The old batteries were always discharged when I went to use it, so had it retrofitted with lithium batteries. Had to get the charger modified, too. I just now dug it out of the closet and turned it on. It still seems to be fully charged. I don't know the last time I used it or charged it, but it was well over a year ago - before Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018. I don't remember who modified it, but I imagine there are many places who can do it now. The Panama City SeaTow station is a little over 10 miles away over a point of land. I have had no problem communicating with them - usually a radio check when departing from the dock. This is an older vhf, but is a great basic communications radio with all the WX channels and can monitor CH 16 when on other channels. I highly recommend retrofitting VHF radios with lithium batteries if the old batteries discharge rapidly. A handheld VHF with dead or weak batteries is pretty well useless in an emergency.
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Old 01-06-2020, 10:44 AM   #15
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VHF broadcast distances can be easily calculated.

VHF Distance in nautical miles = 1.23 x (√SAf + √RAf)
-> Where SAf = Height of Senders Antennae in Feet
-> Where RAf = Height of Recipients Antennae in Feet

So if you're standing on your deck at roughly 6 ft, and your deck is 3 feet above water (SAf = 9 ft).
Let's say the Tow company has an antennae on the building's roof (20 feet?)

√9 = 3
√20 = 4.47

1.23 x (3 + 4.47) = 9.1881 miles

Now if the sender is in the water (SAf = 0) and the Recipient is a small boat (RAf = 10), that range reduces dramatically (3.89 Miles).
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Old 01-06-2020, 11:47 AM   #16
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The standard for CG Rescue 21 towers is to receive a signal from a one watt transmission six feet above the water twenty miles away. It looks like all of the east coast is covered including substantial areas landward.
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Old 01-06-2020, 11:58 AM   #17
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The standard for CG Rescue 21 towers is to receive a signal from a one watt transmission six feet above the water twenty miles away. It looks like all of the east coast is covered including substantial areas landward.
Transmit range for both US and Canadian Coast Guard stations is typically similarly good. I fairly regularly hear Canadian CG transmissions clearly on 16 despite their closest transmitter site being about 50nm away (across the lake) and the tops of my antennas only being 16 - 16.5 feet off the water.
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Old 01-06-2020, 04:06 PM   #18
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CG VHF towers are typically very high.
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Old 01-06-2020, 05:34 PM   #19
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I was just noticing that the floating Icom M25 is charged via usb. That is attractive to me, to not have to find the cradle and/or special cables.
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Old 01-06-2020, 07:34 PM   #20
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I have the Icom M25 and love it, very simple, reliable, speaker clarity is excellent, the charge seems to go on forever even after I've left it in my car glove compartment over a winter during snowy conditions.

I did buy the Standard Horizon 890 handheld for its DSC and GPS as my main dinghy radio for extended touring in my dinghy where I have travelled some distances. The Icom will go in the dinghy grab bag as backup in case I forget the SH back on the boat and I am to lazy to go back and fetch it. One charge will probably last two seasons.

A short review of the Icom:

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