VHF radio

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Kayak_ben
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VHF radio

Post by Kayak_ben » Sat Jan 21, 2017 8:53 pm

Can anyone recommend a good quality vhf radio, this will be my first radio, so doesn't decesseily have to be top of the range

PlymouthDamo
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Re: VHF radio

Post by PlymouthDamo » Sat Jan 21, 2017 9:22 pm

I've got two: one from each of the two biggest manufacturers: The Standard Horizon HX280E and the Icom M23. Both have lasted me for several years, and I can highly recommend both of them. Both manufacturers have provided exceptionally good customer service, and the radios do what they're supposed to without any problems - good power, functionality, battery life and waterproofing. They are cheap, basic models - no GPS or DSC. I'm happy with that as I've got other toys I can use for a GPS fix, and I've got a PLB for when I really need help. In the event of a genuine emergency, I'd use the radio to broadcast on 16 to any vessel that can read me. If you decide you need GPS or DSC, then I'm sure someone on here will be able to recommend something good, but be sure to bear in mind the likely limitations on battery-life.

I did my VHF certificate through my old diving club, but you will get away without this, providing you read up on how to use marine VHF. The only way you can get caught out would be by failing to observe the protocols.

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T4Mac
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Re: VHF radio

Post by T4Mac » Sat Jan 21, 2017 10:20 pm

I also have the standard horizon. I like the fact that you can buy a spare battery pack for it which takes aa batteries.

sleepyfolk
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Re: VHF radio

Post by sleepyfolk » Sun Jan 22, 2017 12:27 am

Standard horizon hx300e' floating handheld, it was a Best Buy in Practical Boat Owner test and I quite like the USB charging. Good value at £99.95 I thought, it's not GPS but as above I also have a PLB for the worst case

http://www.force4.co.uk/standard-horizo ... IP7e-vfWrU

Jonathan.
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Jonathan. » Sun Jan 22, 2017 12:56 pm

Last week I visited a small chandlery and when I asked about radios they told me they would only get them in to order but they stock none.

Apparently, manufacturers bring out new models so frequently that a small business can easily find itself stuck with old stock.

That's not a problem if you want something basic, but for anyone after a Vhf with lots of bells and whistles it may well mean recommendations from other users are out of date.
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Northshore Atlantic
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Chris Bolton
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Chris Bolton » Sun Jan 22, 2017 3:34 pm

HX300 is good, I have no problem with mine. I bought the AAA battery tray but have been disappointed - it will only run the radio on the 1 watt setting, not 5 watts - a kayak being low on the water I've always found 5W to be important to get yourself heard.

Caver Dave
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Caver Dave » Sun Jan 22, 2017 6:45 pm

I have a Standard Horizon HX870e which does have bells and whistles but at a pretty reasonable price. Seems robust and is easy to use. Similarly though, using the dry cell battery tray (comes with it) it only operates on 1 watt. You can buy additional LiOn batteries though... It does come with a car charger, so if you have access to a car on multi day trips then there's an option, or you could take one of those USB recharge batteries for true multi day trips. I have an electirc bilge pump so can always use the battery that powers it to recharge the VHF.

Given I regard a VHF as a "I'm in the do-do, please help" device I decided the additional features were worth saving a little longer for, after all I should have it for years, long after I've forgotten the additional cost, which I'd no doubt have spent on something else anyway ;-) It is my first VHF, but I tend to find that if I scrimp then sooner or later I end up spending again to buy an 'upgrade'.

Allan Olesen
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Allan Olesen » Sun Jan 22, 2017 8:26 pm

Regarding battery life on VHF radios with DSC:
I was worried about the low battery life of those radios. I do a lot of two day trips with 5-6 hours of paddling each day, and I would like to do that on one battery and have some juice left for an emergency.

After looking at the alternatives, I finally caved in and bought an Icom M91D with DSC and GPS. According to the manufacturer, it has a battery life of only 8 hours with 5% transmitting, 5% listening and 90% standby. Not really the battery life I wanted, but I was hoping that the battery would last longer in 100% standby which is closer to my use case.

And it did! In my own tests at room temperature, it actually lasts for 15-16 hours in 100% standby, which was approximately what I wanted.

I have not yet tested in cold weather. I have been on weekend trips in temperatures around the freezing point for the last two weekends, but on the first trip I charged the radio overnight from the battery for my bilge pump, and on the second trip I did not have the radio turned on all the time.

Two downsides to this model:
1. The battery indicator will show 3 bars until less than one hour before the radio shuts off. So the battery indicator is practically useless.

2. The radio is only watertight with a battery installed. If I pull out the battery, I can look directly into the electronics. So if I bring a spare battery and have to change it during an emergency, I will risk flooding the radio. I know that some other Icom radios have an individually sealed battery compartment, and I had really hoped that my model would also have this.

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Re: VHF radio

Post by PlymouthDamo » Sun Jan 22, 2017 8:54 pm

Further to what Allen has said above, here's an additional word of caution about battery life. One of my kayaking low points involved radio comms - but I'm sure you wouldn't want me to go into the embarrassing details... My radio was showing full battery bars, but within what seemed like less than a minute of talking to the coastguard, it died. I have no idea when it was last charged, but it would have been many weeks or months of regular use prior to this incident - I'd naively assumed that lots of bars meant lots of battery.

So don't be fooled - as soon as you start transmitting, a seemingly-juiced radio could die in a hurry. Like Allen, I now ignore the charge indicator and plug it in much more frequently. I've since checked it out, with the same battery, by using it for comms between dive boats, and it's lasted a long day no problem.

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Re: VHF radio

Post by pathbrae » Sun Jan 22, 2017 10:40 pm

On DSC sets, it seems to be the GPS which eats into the battery life. Switching off the GPS unless you think you might need it (remote or unknown area and solo?) and using it as a standard voice comms ony set should give the same or possibly even better battery life than a non DSC set as the battery in my DSC radio has a higher capacity than in my non DSC set.
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: VHF radio

Post by Allan Olesen » Sun Jan 22, 2017 11:32 pm

pathbrae wrote:Switching off the GPS
Yes, if switching off the GPS is an option. I have searched the manual for my Icom M91D for that, and I have not found anything. I think it is impossible to switch the GPS off.

ruralweb
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Re: VHF radio

Post by ruralweb » Mon Jan 23, 2017 3:17 pm

IMO DSC is really only an option in a handheld in a small. Boat where the handset is plunged into a power supply which will keep it fully charged all the time. In a kayaking scenario a standard VHF and PLB is the better option - remember DSC is a short range system But a PLB is satellite based.
If your having to turn off the GPs to get better battery life then it's a bit of a waste of money buying one except for day trips.
Mal

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Re: VHF radio

Post by pathbrae » Mon Jan 23, 2017 5:40 pm

I have searched the manual for my Icom M91D for that, and I have not found anything.
Mine is a Standard Horizon, I've never used an Icom DSC set.... but on the Standard Horizon it's
Menu
GPS Setup
Unit Power (Off or On)
So fairly easy to switch off if it's not needed - just be aware that it will take time to acquire a fix if it's been off for a while
So much sea - so little time to see it.

seawolf856
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Re: VHF radio

Post by seawolf856 » Tue Jan 24, 2017 2:16 pm

Have a look at the Cobra range as well. Mine has a fantastic battery life and it floats. If you are buying a unit without whistles and bells, I would recommend making sure you at least get dual watch or tri watch so you can listen out for your group conversations as well as Ch16.

Daker
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Daker » Mon Jun 26, 2017 11:36 am

I know this is an old thread but I am on the verge of buying a replacement VHF after my 10 yr old ICOM M71 finally died.

I was seriously considering the DSC ICOM M93 until I read all the comments about battery life so emailed ICOM to ask if the GPS could be switched of - - - - -
And they confirmed it CANNOT sighting some regulation that DSC should be available at all times.

Oh well, looks like Im sticking with a standard (non DSC) unit in order to manage week-long wild camping trips.

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Re: VHF radio

Post by Chris Bolton » Mon Jun 26, 2017 12:25 pm

I can see why switching off GPS on a DSC set could be a problem. Pressing the SOS button would send a distress call with the wrong location, resulting in wasted search effort. A radio could be built to automatically re-enable the GPS when the button is pressed, then wait until the position is updated before sending, but in a panic situation the user might not wait. I don't think the UK legislation on radio licencing really takes account of battery powered transmitters, so the regulatory view is "leave the GPS on, why not".

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Re: VHF radio

Post by Allan Olesen » Mon Jun 26, 2017 7:05 pm

Chris Bolton wrote:
Mon Jun 26, 2017 12:25 pm
I can see why switching off GPS on a DSC set could be a problem. Pressing the SOS button would send a distress call with the wrong location, resulting in wasted search effort. A radio could be built to automatically re-enable the GPS when the button is pressed, then wait until the position is updated before sending, but in a panic situation the user might not wait. I don't think the UK legislation on radio licencing really takes account of battery powered transmitters, so the regulatory view is "leave the GPS on, why not".
This is somewhat covered in the manual (though obviously mostly intended for the situations where the built-in GPS receiver is turned on but has not yet received a valid position). The interesting pages are 22-24. It can be downloaded here: http://www.icom.co.jp/world/support/dow ... EURO_0.pdf

Summary:
When you make a DSC distress call, the radio will wait for up to 15 seconds for a GPS fix before it transmits the call. After 15 seconds, if no valid position data are available, it will send the last known position and the time where this position was recorded (so the search team can see that the position isn't fresh). Positions older than 4 hours will not be used. Positions from the last time the radio was turned on will not be used.

After each 3.5 to 4.5 minutes, the distress call will be automatically retransmitted as long as no distress acknowledgement is received. The manual doesn't say so, but one could hope that any newer position will be included in the retransmittal. Anyway, this doesn't help much if a distress acknowledgement was received on a distress call with old or non-existing position data.

The "USA and Export versions" (which apparently excludes UK, Dutch, German, European and Australian versions) will further automatically retransmit the distress call if valid position data are received after the call was transmitted - even up to 20 minutes after a distress acknowledgement was received.

So it actually seems that the radio has the functionality built in, so it could behave sensibly after enabling a switched off GPS during a distress call. But some of that functionality is disabled in some regions. I guess that this hints at such functionality not being permitted in those regions - which seems quite unfortunate.

By the way: I am pretty certain that I have seen someone mention that the Standard Horizon DSC-enabled VHFs can turn off the GPS. I don't know how they behave during a distress call. (Edit: It was actually in this thread I saw it mentioned, the last time it was active.)

Stoney Mike
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Stoney Mike » Sat Jul 08, 2017 3:00 pm

Hi all, my first post here. I hope you don't mind me jumping on the back of this thread.

I too am looking to buy my first VHF. I also intend to buy a PLB. I've been reading a lot of the debates on here about DSC or not and after much deliberation I'm thinking of going for the Standard Horizon HX870E (with DSC), but would like to run my reasoning past you lot first!

90% of my trips will be short, a few hours at most, so as long as I remember to charge it up before hand battery life shouldn't be a problem. If I've understood correctly from a post further up, I would have the option of disabling the GPS to extend battery life if I go on any longer trips. Plus, a DSC distress will get the attention of any DSC equipped vessel/CG in line of sight, where as a call on #16 could potentially get missed. My local coastline has plenty of VHF blackspots, hence getting a PLB too.

Does this sound reasonable? I realise this topic has come up a lot, but it seems that most of the limitations of DSC against non DSC are based around longer trips.

Cheers,
Mike

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Re: VHF radio

Post by Owen » Sat Jul 08, 2017 4:03 pm

Stoney Mike wrote:
Sat Jul 08, 2017 3:00 pm

Plus, a DSC distress will get the attention of any DSC equipped vessel/CG in line of sight, where as a call on #16 could potentially get missed. My local coastline has plenty of VHF blackspots, hence getting a PLB too.

Cheers,
Mike

Any mayday call will get everyone's attention whether on channel 16 or DCS. The biggest limitation with any handheld VHF is their lack of range, having DCS won't improve this. If you're in a VHF blackspot neither channel 16 or DCS will be heard so getting a PLB is a good idea.

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Re: VHF radio

Post by TheEcho » Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:19 pm

A DSC mayday call will have a bit more range than a voice mayday, due to signal processing, and it is harder for a half-asleep or busy crew to ignore a DSC alarm than a voice over the speakers that can be muffled by engine noise and whatever else is going on at the same time.

Stoney Mike
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Stoney Mike » Sun Jul 09, 2017 12:35 pm

TheEcho wrote:
Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:19 pm
A DSC mayday call will have a bit more range than a voice mayday, due to signal processing, and it is harder for a half-asleep or busy crew to ignore a DSC alarm than a voice over the speakers that can be muffled by engine noise and whatever else is going on at the same time.
That was my thinking. Plus a DSC would automatically send my position if in range, while I could see potential for the position to be not understood in a voice call due to very weak/broken signal if I'm bobbing around in the water, hence my thinking that a DSC radio would be a better choice for short trips of a few hours, but happy to be corrected by someone with more experience. I didn't know about the slightly great range of a DSC call though.

My PLB's in the post!

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Re: VHF radio

Post by Ken_T » Mon Jul 10, 2017 8:00 am

Hi Mike,
I have an HX870E, my wife has the previous model, I have found the battery life to be acceptable, but it can be extended by switching off GPS. The radio does drain a small amount of power when it is switched off (both models, the Standard Horizon non DSC sets don't, but they have a mechanical on/off switch), so if it is not used for a few weeks it is worth recharging the battery.
Ken

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Re: VHF radio

Post by Allan Olesen » Mon Jul 10, 2017 6:58 pm

Owen wrote:
Sat Jul 08, 2017 4:03 pm

Any mayday call will get everyone's attention whether on channel 16 or DCS.
Any mayday call with adequate signal strength to break through the squelch setting on the listening radios, that is.

And we don't know the squelch setting of those listening radios since it is a user defined setting.

Stoney Mike
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Stoney Mike » Mon Jul 10, 2017 9:43 pm

Thanks Ken, I took the plunge and ordered one yesterday, it's in the post. Glad to hear you find the battery life acceptable even with the GPS turned on. Looking forward to having a play with it.

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Re: VHF radio

Post by PlymouthDamo » Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:56 pm

Re. battery life: don't be fooled, like me, into thinking "full bars" means a usable amount of charge. I had an embarrassing incident where mine cut out half way through a brief conversation with the coastguard, despite it showing full charge when I set out. Thankfully, I'd already told them clearly that a rescue wasn't needed so I avoided the embarrassment of wasting the lifeboat's time.

I'd been impressed with my battery life, which seemed to magically stay on full for several months. In fact, my radio just has a chocolate-tea-pot battery indicator. As receiving uses negligible power, whereas transmitting uses loads, you can be lulled into a false sense of security. I've posted this on a previous thread on here and people with other models/manufacturers reported the same. So keep charging yours regularly, and, if possible, test it out to get a feel for how long you can leave it between charges whilst still retaining enough power for any necessary transmitting.

Daker
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Daker » Tue Jul 11, 2017 8:50 am

Interesting comment re battery indicator.
I previously had an ICOM M71 which had the facility for a battery charge check every time you switched it on and was excellent.

However, have just bought an ICOM M73 which makes no mention of this facility in the manual and seems to only has the battery indicator bars which are far from informative.

Jordan Silva
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Jordan Silva » Tue Jul 25, 2017 4:54 pm

Uniden MHS75 is pretty nice. I have only had to use it 3 miles out, and it worked well.

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Re: VHF radio

Post by seawolf856 » Thu Jul 27, 2017 11:25 am

My PLB's in the post!
[/quote]

The best solution.

Jordan Silva
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Re: VHF radio

Post by Jordan Silva » Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:41 am

TheEcho wrote:
Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:19 pm
A DSC mayday call will have a bit more range than a voice mayday, due to signal processing, and it is harder for a half-asleep or busy crew to ignore a DSC alarm than a voice over the speakers that can be muffled by engine noise and whatever else is going on at the same time.
My thoughts exactly.

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