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Author Topic:   VHF Hand Held Radio with External Antenna and Power
will posted 06-18-2007 05:23 PM ET (US)   Profile for will  
The original VHF on my 1991 Whaler no longer works. If I have to replace it, I would like to buy a hand held model. If I purchase a hand held, can I plug it into the existing VHF antenna to extends its signal range? Also, can I plug the hand held into the existing power source on the boat? Thank You - Will
David Pendleton posted 06-18-2007 05:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton    
You can connect a handheld to an external antenna, and it will increase your range over the "rubber ducky" antennas that come on most handhelds.

You will need an SMA to PL259 adapter, which frankly would be so unweildly, you will hate using it. It's likely that it will eventually break the SMA connector on your handlheld too.

As far as external power source, check the specs carefully. My Raymarine handhelds do not accept external power connections.

Personally, I wouldn't bother. Get a decent fixed-mount. It will cost the same, work better and last longer.

I only have handhelds to use in my Zodiac.

Chuck Tribolet posted 06-18-2007 08:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
You can connect SOME handhelds to an external antenna.
Some (SH HX470 comes to mind) have a permanently attached

If you can attach, it the adapter required varies. Some
have BNC connector (best choice in my mind), some have SMA,
some have various propriatary connectors.

I'd get a fixed-mount before the handheld.


Dick E posted 06-18-2007 10:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick E  Send Email to Dick E     
Handheld give 5-6 watts of transmission power.
Fixed gives you 25 watts.
There will be big difference in transmission capabilities
where2 posted 06-18-2007 10:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
I'd get a Standard Horizon PS2000 (and a Microphone for it)and stuff the unit in the console. The microphone has everything you need to operate the radio is in the palm if your hand. You can remove the microphone when you leave the boat.

I once had a handheld. I'll probably never go that route again... Too many fun things coming in on the VHF frequencies these days like DSC.

will posted 06-19-2007 06:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for will    
thanks to all!
jimh posted 06-29-2007 09:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There is not much reason to get a hand held radio and then make power and antenna connections to external devices. A hand held radio ought to be used as a hand held. Actually, hand held radios are more expensive than fixed mount radios these days, so if you need a radio connected to an external antenna and to the boat's power system, get a fixed mount radio.
Moe posted 06-29-2007 09:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
One reason for using a handheld with an external antenna is when a fixed unit used as the primary has died, or your vessel electrical system fails. I believe it is foolhardy not to buy the handheld antenna connector (BNC on ours) to SO-239 cable to use the much better than rubber ducky antenna.

In that situation, you may also want to have the 12VDC adapter for longer battery life. As said, the handheld gives you independent power if the vessel electrical system dies. I also prefer a handheld that includes a separate waterproof AA battery pack for when the rechargable dies. The AA pack can also provide higher amp-hours than a second rechargable.

There is also a reason for blow boaters, if not stink potters, to use a handheld with an external antenna and 12VDC charger as primary. Behold:

Standard Horizon GX5500S Fixed
Specifications, at 13.8 volts:
1500 mA Receive
500 mA Standby
TX: 5.0 A (H)/1.5 A (L)

Standard Horizon HX270S Handheld
Specifications, at 7.2 volts (1400 mAH NiMH battery):
200 mA (Receive)
40 mA (Standby, Saver Off)
TX: 1.4 A (H)/0.9 A (M)/0.5 A (L)

Even if fully dead, the handheld battery charges overnight at anchor from the 12 VDC charger drawing 173 mA (my measurement) or about 1-3/4 AH from the 12 VDC battery, even keeping it on standby. According to the specifications, the fixed unit would use 12 AH for standby alone over the same 24 hour period.

While it certainly isn't as powerful, the handheld appears much more efficient, probably because it has to be with battery power. Note the handheld transmits on high (5W) using the same current the fixed unit is spec'd for low (1W), and the handheld uses 1/3 the current for 1W. The receive specs are comparable or better than the fixed's. This is a huge reason if you use solar charging rather than outboard alternator (which many small boats don't have at all, or don't have much of).

Use of a handheld versus fixed GPS can net similar large power savings, at least according to the specifications. I don't have one yet, but this is the reason I let the fixed GPS unit go when we sold the 150 Sport. The cost here, of course, is the tiny screen of a handheld, compared to that of a fixed unit.

This may not seem like "much reason" to those who's GPH is greater than our QPS (quarts per summer), but it is to us. :-)


HAPPYJIM posted 06-29-2007 10:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for HAPPYJIM  Send Email to HAPPYJIM     
I'm just plain sold on handheld's. I can take it on any boat I go on. If I ever have a need to go over the side, it will be in my pocket and the lanyard attached to my wrist. My handheld GPS will be with me also. My plan is to report my SOS using GPS position and when the search aircraft is in my sight, I can talk them in to me.

I have a Lighter receptacle and can plug it into my jump starter/air pump/12 volt power supply that I carry for emergency jump start.

jimh posted 06-29-2007 10:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Antennas on hand held radios which attach with a removable connector, particularly a BNC, tend to be a weak point mechanically, and that ultimately results in a weak point electrically. Most of the standard miniature coaxial cable connectors were never designed to be mechanically rugged enough to support a short whip antenna. The were just designed to be small connectors for cables which were not under tension or stress. Some radio designers have employed them to connect a removable antenna, but if you look at the better, commercial quality radios, I don't think you will find they use standard coaxial connectors to attach the antenna to a handheld. Check Motorola hand held radios; they're the gold-standard of hand held radios.

I have a hand held radio and the antenna is not detachable. The antenna seems to be quite firmly attached to the unit. I would gladly trade the greater durability of a non-removable antenna for the possible convenience of removing the antenna and attaching an external antenna in some particular situation.

As far connecting a hand held to an external power source, this is usually possible as most hand held radios have some provision for recharging their battery.

Moe posted 06-30-2007 07:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
I'm glad there are choices and that I have BNC antenna connectors on my Cobra handheld CB radio, Realistic VHF/UHF scanner, Icom 2m/440 ham radio, and Standard Horizon marine VHF. They are widely used in consumer grade equipment, some of which gets heavy use, especially in amateur radio. They've proven up to the task of supporting a lightweight, flexible "rubber ducky" antenna, as well as mobile use with external antennas.

The only places I've personally seen BNC connectors become a mechanical weak point is on test equipment that sees daily connecting/disconnecting (i.e. after years of 1-3 classes of student use/day), or when used to mount a solid, telescoping antenna that has significant leverage over them. I'm not disputing that a permanent antenna isn't more robust, only stating that BNC connected ones have proven adequate for countless many.


Moe posted 07-02-2007 07:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Well, my memory was wrong about the Standard Horizon HX-270S having a BNC connector. I checked this weekend and it has a proprietary screw type connector the rubber ducky or antenna adapter connects to. Just setting the record straight.


jimh posted 07-02-2007 09:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Those relatively large diameter threaded connectors are much better suited to handle the mechanical stress of the antenna. Motorola uses a similar connector.

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