VHF radios^

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MikeM
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VHF radios^

Post by MikeM » Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:06 pm

I'm trying to decide on which VHF to purchase as a relatively new sea kayaker. Advice would be welcome. But in putting together some info, I have produced this table comparing different Icom ones. If anyone can provide similar info for other manaufacterers, that would be great, if might prove to be a useful resource. There seems to be none that has all the features I would percieve to be needed as a sea kayaker, but your thoughts would be welcome. I do realise there have been previous discussions, but these are some years old now.

Icom M1
Waterproof: Yes
Power: 0.5, 1 & 5W
Battery: Li-Ion
Battery life: 1200-1400
Optional battery case: NO
Weight: 280g
Size: 52x129x30mm Small
Cost: Off martket

Icom M31
Waterproof: Yes
Power: 1 & 5W
Battery: Li-Ion
Battery life: 1150mAhr
Optional battery case: Yes, 6 x AA
Weight: 360g
Size: 61x135x41mm Standard
Cost: £100

Icom M33
Waterproof: Yes
Power: 1 & 5W
Battery: Li-Ion
Battery life: 980mAhr
Optional battery case: Yes, 5 x AAA = 2W power
Weight: 309g
Size: 62x141x43mm Standard
Additional features: Floats
Cost: £170

Icom M71
Waterproof: Yes
Power: 1, 3 & 6W
Battery: Li-Ion
Battery life: 2000mAhr
Optional battery case: NO
Weight: 280g
Size: 52x125x30mm Small
Additional features: Louder speaker. Shorter antenna
Cost: £150

Icom M87
Waterproof: Yes
Power: 1, 3 & 5W
Battery: Li-Ion
Battery life: 1700mAhr
Optional battery case: Yes, 5 x AA
Weight: 280g
Size: 62x97x39mm V. Small
Cost: £200

I have this is in table format in Word, but don't know how to maintain that format in this forum page!

Best wishes and thanks for your input.
Mike

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MikeB
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Post by MikeB » Tue Feb 26, 2008 9:48 pm

Send the Word doc to editor@ukseakayakguidebook.co.uk and I'll stick it on the server - it'll be accessed from the VHF page on the Alamanc.



Good resource to have, especially if we get other specs into it.



Mike.

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soundoftheseagull
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Post by soundoftheseagull » Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:09 pm

Mike
Recently bought the M31 and I have been happy with it.
It also came with an in car charger which is handy when on hols etc.
For me it was the history of the Icom product, dual battery pack and of course the price.
I have it securely attached to my PFD but if you have the cash I can see some benifits of the floating feature.
Good luck.
Dave

Rockpool GT

Speciman
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Post by Speciman » Tue Feb 26, 2008 10:40 pm

Have had the Icom M87 for the last few years. It has dropped down in price - the rrp was over £300.

I bought it as it's the smallest in their range and fits in my buoyancy aid pocket. It's great - does what it's supposed to - have no complaints. I don't keep it in an aquapac and rinse it after use.

It also has commerical PBR channels although you need a licence to activate that feature.

http://www.icomuk.co.uk/categoryRender. ... &cCID=5011

BoaterJH
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Post by BoaterJH » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:23 am

On my second M71 as had my previous one stolen and both have been great.

Also had an m1 Euro V. The M71 is miles better than the old M1, feels better in the hand, shorter aerial, and more power which is handy.
Joe H

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geyrfugl
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Post by geyrfugl » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:16 am

I have an Icom IC-M1EURO V (it says).

The battery has three external contacts (through which it is charged),
but there seems to be an external voltage present across these all
the time, which led to corrosion in sea water to the extent that I
eventually found I couldn't get the battery to charge. On the plus side,
when I asked Icom how to deal with this, they just sent me a new
battery by return of post with no hesitation. But they still didn't tell me
how to stop the terminals corroding in the first place.

More recently, the squelch and on/off/volume knobs became frozen
together, which effectively made the radio unusuable. I think this is
another salt-water corrosion issue. After a while I got the two knobs
to move separately, but what seems to have happened is that the
external squelch control has simply become detached from the actual
control, so that turning it does nothing. Whatever - the radio is not
usable now.

Whilst it worked (several trips), it was good, but for an item like this,
I really want something that carries a 50 year or more guarantee !

Andy

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chris-uk
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Post by chris-uk » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:33 am

Have had the Icom M87 for the last few years. It has dropped down in price - the rrp was over £300.

I bought it as it's the smallest in their range and fits in my buoyancy aid pocket. It's great - does what it's supposed to - have no complaints. I don't keep it in an aquapac and rinse it after use.
How does the size affect operation with cold fingers? Or does it not make any difference? I'm guessing from your post that you have had no issues with salt water immersion affecting the radio?

Chris

Speciman
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Post by Speciman » Wed Feb 27, 2008 9:09 am

If you can use a mobile phone with cold fingers you can use one of these as the buttons are bigger. The push to talk button is also a reasonable size.

The radio gets rinsed under the tap after each trip. If you don't do this then the contacts on the battery may corrode (have seen this happen on a few units within their range).

The battery life on the M87 is very good (providing you're not transmitting all the time) and it holds its charge for a long time. I'm sure the cheaper models in their range are very good but I favoured size & payed more. If its too big there's less chance I'll have it on me most of the time.

ian johnston
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Post by ian johnston » Wed Feb 27, 2008 9:38 am

Certqinly get a set with a 5W output. You're very low down in a kayak and VHF is more or less LOS (Line of Sight) between antennae. The floating model sounds good - and if designed to float should have good sealing on battery connections/controls to prevent water ingress.

The ones we use onboard ship for our rescue boat are regularly drenched in salt water. Periodically (weekly) we remove the battery and clean the contacts. a very light smear of vaseline can be useful for certain types of connection.

I've heard that there are some models of VHF handheld incorporating DSC facilities. I'm not entirely convinced that this is overly useful for sea kayaking use. If the primary intended use of a VHF handheld is safety (ie making contact in a difficult situation) then the last thing you are going to want to do is to faff about with DSC, you will just want to make a voice call. I find DSC enough of a faff on a ship station never mind on a handheld when I've got a paddle in my other hand! Then there's the whole issue of MMSI registration, licencing of all users etc.

Whatever you get - do a course and get the ticket. That way you can (legally) use the set for routine traffic, calling coastguards for weather information, speaking between kayak groups, etc. The best way to use radio equipment effectively in an emergency situation is to practice using it in a routine situation...

wave skier
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Post by wave skier » Wed Feb 27, 2008 11:03 am

The standard horizon HX 270E is also definately worth a look. It is wateproof and ticks most of the boxes that the icoms do. I have an old icom which has been great but find the standard horizon just as good.
The local lifeguards use them and the radios regularly exposed to breaking surf,left in the bottom of a rescue boat etc and perform really well. It comes with in car and 240v chargers plus the availability to use torch batteries if the normal battery runs down.

£85 .99 in a number of chandlers.

No link with SH just think its a great bit of kit at a good price.

Harry.

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Chas C
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Post by Chas C » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:26 pm

wave skier wrote:The standard horizon HX 270E is also definately worth a look.

£85 .99 in a number of chandlers.

Harry.
I have this one, its pretty good too.

AllanJ
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Post by AllanJ » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:43 pm

ian johnston wrote:Certqinly get a set with a 5W output. You're very low down in a kayak and VHF is more or less LOS (Line of Sight) between antennae.
I'd agree that a 5 or 6W option is good but when line-of-sight is the limiting factor (which it often is in kayaks) a bit of extra power won't help much.
ian johnston wrote: I've heard that there are some models of VHF handheld incorporating DSC facilities. I'm not entirely convinced that this is overly useful for sea kayaking use. If the primary intended use of a VHF handheld is safety (ie making contact in a difficult situation) then the last thing you are going to want to do is to faff about with DSC, you will just want to make a voice call. I find DSC enough of a faff on a ship station never mind on a handheld when I've got a paddle in my other hand! Then there's the whole issue of MMSI registration, licencing of all users etc.
OTOH a DSC set will give you the ability to set a MADAY complete with position with only one button press. I was thinking of gettings a DCS handheld to replace my current (very old) radio - until I saw the prices...

Allan

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Mike Marshall
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Post by Mike Marshall » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:46 pm

wave skier wrote:The standard horizon HX 270E is also definately worth a look. It is wateproof and ticks most of the boxes that the icoms do. I have an old icom which has been great but find the standard horizon just as good.
The local lifeguards use them and the radios regularly exposed to breaking surf,left in the bottom of a rescue boat etc and perform really well. It comes with in car and 240v chargers plus the availability to use torch batteries if the normal battery runs down.

£85 .99 in a number of chandlers.

No link with SH just think its a great bit of kit at a good price.

Harry.
I have one and it is perfect. The battery is still fresh after months of non use. Never "bag" it and works sweet. Dont need to spend a fortune to get some good kit (Think Lomo :-)

MikeM

markpawley
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Post by markpawley » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:55 pm

The six AA battery pack of the Icom M31 allows you to use 2500 mAh NiMH cells which is a decent upgrade to the 1150mAh standard battery. These can of course be changed on a long trip allowing the radio to be left on at sea, I dont like the common practise of logging a TR and turning off the VHF to conserve battery life.

My terminals on the standard battery also corroded overnight in a wet tent so be warned.

Owen
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Post by Owen » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:57 pm

OTOH a DSC set will give you the ability to set a MADAY complete with position with only one button press. I was thinking of gettings a DCS handheld to replace my current (very old) radio - until I saw the prices...

Allan
A DCS set will only do that if it has a built in, or is connected to a, GPS. The last time I looked, which was some time ago, there weren't any handheld DCS sets licenced for use in the UK; does anyone know if this has changed?

guy
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Post by guy » Wed Feb 27, 2008 12:58 pm

Latest thinking on battery life -

Do NOT store a lithium ion fully charged especially in the warm.

best option is to store it about half charged in the cold (fridge perhaps)

Worst case is a loss of around 60% capacity per year.

Guy

markpawley
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Post by markpawley » Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:08 pm

Whatever you get - do a course and get the ticket. .
What most people dont realise is once you have the qualification, you should still licence yourself with OFCOM. Do it online these days and its free. You can also get a T number which replaces the MMSI number for handhelds alowing you to register a DSC Handheld VHF.

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Jim
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Post by Jim » Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:26 pm

guy wrote:Latest thinking on battery life -

Do NOT store a lithium ion fully charged especially in the warm.

best option is to store it about half charged in the cold (fridge perhaps)

Worst case is a loss of around 60% capacity per year.

Guy
Where did this come from Guy?

Li-Ion don't get "memory effect", that is limited to Ni-Cad in very specific environments so is more or less a myth as far as practical use goes. Battery life is actually shortened by damaging due to overcharging until they are hot, which smart chargers are not supposed to do (fast charge about 95% and then trickle charge).

Are you sure the tip is not to store fully charged rather than do not store permanently on the charger? I guess in the latter case, especially in hot conditions the long term trickle charge is going to damage the cells.

I'm pretty sure that if you store batteries in the fridge for a long time, no matter what level of charge they have when you put them in, they will come out completely discharged. People used to deep discharge Ni-Cads by putting them in the freezer overnight to try and get them to take a charge again, it only works if the battery wasn't already damaged by overcharging though.

Obviously if your information is totally accurate, it throws into question all the previous knowledge of batteries, I am just wondering if the real emphasis should be to store batteries out of equipment, off the charger in a dry, cool place (not on top of a radiator, but not in the fridge either)???

My work laptop uses Li-Ions and runs almost permanently on mains power, I don't know what it's design battery life was but I can still get over an hour out of it and it is pretty old and abused. Using it as a desktop machine 5 days a week is almost the opposite of good battery care!

Interestingly the advice for my lead-acid based bike lights is not to stor the battery discharged, but to top it up before leaving it over the summer.

I'm really interested to find out where this new advice comes from, althogh to be honest, I doublt if I'll ever remember to follow it!

Jim

AllanJ
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Post by AllanJ » Wed Feb 27, 2008 1:51 pm

Jim wrote: Interestingly the advice for my lead-acid based bike lights is not to stor the battery discharged, but to top it up before leaving it over the summer.

I'm really interested to find out where this new advice comes from, althogh to be honest, I doublt if I'll ever remember to follow it!

Jim
Lead-acid batteries do not like to be fully discharged and should always be stored charged.

Many years ago I worked with one of the battery manufactures developing a battery charger / analyser for Tornado aircraft (for both sealed lead-acid and ni-cad). I got the impression then that battery care was more art than science with the required 'regime' changing on a daily basis. The only rules seemed to be;
# don't leave a lead-acid discharged
# don't excessively charge anything
# ni-cads sometimes enjoy a deep discharge (to say 1V per cell).
# don't let your screwdriver touch both terminals of an aircraft battery at once.

Allan

ian johnston
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Post by ian johnston » Wed Feb 27, 2008 2:30 pm

I'd agree that a 5 or 6W option is good but when line-of-sight is the limiting factor (which it often is in kayaks) a bit of extra power won't help much.

From experience, using a 5W set from a small boat to a ship we can get good reception out to a decent range. Using the 1W setting (which is designed for close work (like from the bridge of a ship to the focsle when mooring) will not do much more than a mile. A prerequisite is line of sight, but more power equals less attenuation therefore greater range. You may well have Line of Sight on an antenna from 10 miles away in good conditions, but a 1W set simply won't reach it effectively

OTOH a DSC set will give you the ability to set a MADAY complete with position with only one button press. I was thinking of gettings a DCS handheld to replace my current (very old) radio - until I saw the prices...
The type of DSC call referred to here requires a GPS feed to input the position automatically. Also, it's not a "one button" operation. I'm assuming that handheld DSC works in the same manner as fixed station equipment (which it should to satisfy SOLAS and GMDSS regs). To make the call you need to select the type of distress call from a menu - the options are Fire, Flood, Collision, Grounding and Undesignated (I think that's all the options, I'm not at work at the moment). This type of handheld set would certainly require a licence, normally to get an MMSI number or the T number referred to above.

GrahamKing
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Post by GrahamKing » Wed Feb 27, 2008 5:22 pm

markpawley wrote:...You can also get a T number which replaces the MMSI number for handhelds alowing you to register a DSC Handheld VHF.
Unless things have changed in the last year, you can register a DSC handset (at least in the UK) and get an MMSI. In the UK, the MMSI starts with the digits 2359..., signifying a portable station. The T number is allocated only with a Ship Portable Radio Licence (DSC or non-DSC), in lieu of the ship's callsign that would have been allocated with a Ship Radio Licence. Hope that helps clarify.

(Those with trainspotter tendency syndrome might like to look at the Wikipedia article on MMSI numbers :)

Owen
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Post by Owen » Wed Feb 27, 2008 8:16 pm

Now I'm totally confused, I was under the impression that although you could buy handheld DCS sets in the states, you couldn't get them here because the licensing authority wouldn't license them for sale here. I'm not talking about the ships license I mean the company needs a license to sell a particular model.

I'd be interested to know whether anyone's actually brought a handheld DCS set in this country; and if so where they got it.

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Jim
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Post by Jim » Wed Feb 27, 2008 9:51 pm

As far as I know the only issue with handheld DSC sets is that there was only ever one on the UK market and it is currently not on it, and even when it was it didn't have a built in GPS so the chances are it wasn't going to be very suitable for one-touch distress calls with position attached. I don't think having cables attaching your radio to your GPS make it very convenient :-)

I further believe that there are some (maybe just one?) on the market in the US, the only problem with importing is that the bands are slightly different so you need to do some research.

At least I think that's what I learned in old threads? Electronics move pretty fast, surely it won't be long before someone packages a complete solution in one handset, if they haven't already?

GrahamKing
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Post by GrahamKing » Wed Feb 27, 2008 10:35 pm

The Uniden Mystic was (is?) on sale in the US, and incorporates GPS with DSC. It can be got over here by mail order. When setting up the handset, you tell it whether to use US, Canadian, or International VHF frequencies. For the UK, choose "International" frequencies - you then get all the standard marine VHF channels except M and M2.

It is waterproof to JIS7 standard, and the DSC features are pretty straighforward.

Disadvantages? The GPS software is rubbish (and almost unobtainable for UK waters), but the GPS of course still gives you and the rescue services your coordinates perfectly adequately. Oh, and it costs an arm and a leg, and the VAT then costs the fillings from your teeth..

As far as I know it's the only such set on the market. The other manufacturers are surely missing something!

ian johnston
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Post by ian johnston » Thu Feb 28, 2008 8:34 am

The difference between US and International VHF channels (referred to as IMM) is something that needs to be factored in when considering VHF handhelds. Make sure that any set is capable of the IMM intership channels (6, 71 for example). US channelisation is suffixed by the letter A when used outside US waters.

I still think that DSC is less useful for a kayak, it will need two hands, one to hold the set and one to select the menu functions etc - and is not a "one push" operation.

What I'm not sure about is: If a set is registered and issued an MMSI number (which you then programme into the set - as well as the MMSI numbers of any other stations/handhelds you might like to call), and the operator holds the correct licence, whether GMDSS GOC or the VHF ticket, does the set fall within the testing regime for a maritime mobile station? If so, a testing schedule involving daily internal and weekly external tests must be implemented and recorded..... Seems overkill, but it is SOLAS regs for all maritime mobile DSC. Perhaps any yachties on the forum might have some info on how their equipment is tested.

The item I want to see attached to a VHF handheld is an AIS transponder - now that would really help safety in making shipping aware of our presence. Believe me, from a 40K tonne tanker, a kayak isn't that visible - I recently saw Douglas Wilcox in his boat from the bridge of a ship, but not until 1.5 miles range.

AllanJ
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Post by AllanJ » Thu Feb 28, 2008 8:50 am

ian johnston wrote:
The type of DSC call referred to here requires a GPS feed to input the position automatically. Also, it's not a "one button" operation. I'm assuming that handheld DSC works in the same manner as fixed station equipment (which it should to satisfy SOLAS and GMDSS regs). To make the call you need to select the type of distress call from a menu - the options are Fire, Flood, Collision, Grounding and Undesignated (I think that's all the options, I'm not at work at the moment).
There is at least one handheld with a built-in GPS. Also you don't have to select the type of distress - it's optional - so the sequence is; press the red button once, then press and hold for 5 seconds. This sends an undesignated distress.

Bit academic as they are too pricey. A better bet might be a PLB and a non-DCS handheld - or develop a more self-reliant approach to paddling!

Cheers

Allan

MikeM
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Post by MikeM » Sat Mar 01, 2008 4:14 pm

Hey, thanks veryone, thats been an active response.

The Standard Horizon HX270E does seem another good option. This is comparable to the Icom M31, but a little smaller and a v good price. It has NiMH rechargable battery rather than the LiOn as in the Icoms......is this important. It takes AA batteries...which seems fairly important to me.

Below are details of this and two other VHFs for comparison. (The editor as asked me for the whole table comparing all these listed to put on the Almanac, might be a useful resource. Any others to add to the list? Any mistake let me know)

Features in same order as before

Raymarine Ray 101E
Yes
1, 5W
Ni-MH
1300mAHr
Yes
360g
61x141x43mm
Standard
£160

Standard Horizon HX270E
Yes
1, 2, 5W
Ni-MH
1400mAHr
Yes, 6xAA
380g
58x120x30mm
Small
£90

Standard Horizon HX370SE
Yes
1, 2.5, 5W
Ni-MH
1400mAHr
Yes, 6xAA
380g
58x120x30mm
Small
Distress strobe light
£165

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GordB
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Post by GordB » Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:03 pm

Standard Horizon has a few new offerings.

The top dog of the bunch is the HX850s

http://www.standardhorizon.com/indexVS. ... Archived=0

Built in GPS and DSC, floats, 6W

I may have to walk off to the nearest supplier and have a look at it.

Gord

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