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Author Topic:   Do I need VHF radio?
Milepost43 posted 01-29-2004 05:30 PM ET (US)   Profile for Milepost43   Send Email to Milepost43  
I have a 220 Dauntless on order and am meeting with Dealer to finalize electronics, trailer, etc. Will be using the boat mostly on inland lakes but will be in SW FLA for 2-3 months/yr.

Have had several bass boats but this is my first CC boat and one set up for salt water. Have no experience with VHF. Do I need it and what equipment is required? Am thinking of just having the Dealer leave a designated location for VHF equipment but not buying now. Any and all comments much appreciated. Thanks. Allen

wayne baker posted 01-29-2004 07:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for wayne baker  Send Email to wayne baker     
I think of a VHF as a piece of safety gear. On inland lakes I suppose the chances of someone coming close enough for you to hail them might be a bit higher than sitting in the middle of a sound or way back in a tidal creek somewhere. I like the piece of mind knowing that someone is always on the other end of a VHF. I sat in my boat 20 miles offshore one Saturday and listened as a vessel corresponded with the coast guard the vessel in distress had an injured person on board. the person had broken leg and injured back the boat stayed on anchor as the coast guard flew a helicopter to there location. the coast guard went so far as notifying the mans wife he was being transported to the hospital before they even got on the scene. A VHF is a worthy expenditure on any boat. I hope I never have to call for any type assistance but if I do I will be glad to know I have one on my boat and I think you would too.
elaelap posted 01-29-2004 08:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for elaelap  Send Email to elaelap     

If you're going to sea, yes! My father didn't have a VHF radio in his sailboats (and his one Owens cabin cruiser) when I was growing up, which is probably why I didn't bother in my first sailboat. But they're so relatively inexpensive and reliable that I've had one (at least) in each of my subsequent boats, both for safety (see Doobee's comment over in General in the current topic, "Ten Ways to Die in a Whaler") and pleasure (fish finding hints to and from others, listening to and occasionally contributing to the banter and gossip, relaying messages to home, listening in to the commercial guys and the Coasties, etc).

My little 16/17 has a console-mounted VHF with oversized six-foot antenna, and I carry a immersible Standard Horizon handheld in my pocket along with my back-up GPS when I'm alone at sea, which is often, just in case...


triblet posted 01-29-2004 08:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
Is it legally required? No, unless in some commercial uses.
Is it an incredibly good idea? YES.


wayne baker posted 01-29-2004 10:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for wayne baker  Send Email to wayne baker     
Please excuse spelling error in above post and I still think haveing a VHF is a good idea.


HAPPYJIM posted 01-29-2004 10:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for HAPPYJIM  Send Email to HAPPYJIM     
Updated weather reports are nice to have on the VHF also.

I won't go out on a boat without a VHF.

When I go out on charter boats I take my handheld....just in case.

Moe posted 01-29-2004 10:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
If you're surrounded by other boaters, and you pop an orange smoke flare, odds are that someone will notice and approach your boat, at least within yelling distance, typically after they sit around waiting to see if someone else is going to go first.

If you're surrounded by other boats, have a handheld VHF, and call for help when out of range of the Coast Guard, there will probably be someone there who can get the details of your emergency, and relay them to the Coast Guard. Then they'll relay the Coast Guard questions and instructions back to you and so on.

If you have a good radio rig, you can make an emergency call to the Coast Guard directly, get their questions and instructions back yourself, save time, and not have to rely on other boaters.

These days, depending on where you might be, if you don't respond to a radio call from a USCG or Navy boat, you may get some automatic weapon warning shots across the bow.

They're also handy for communicating with marinas and fuel docks on approach, etc.

Buy a good radio now.


tombro posted 01-30-2004 07:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for tombro  Send Email to tombro     
Thankfully, I've only had to make an emergency call once with one of the 4 different VHF's I've owned on various vessels. But, they are also invaluable for communicating with other boaters for fun. I talk to friends when we buddy up and compare fishing notes, and I just plain like listening to the chatter. Sometimes just sitting on the beach with the handheld. With practice, you learn to filter out the noise, and listen in on the sharpies. You can weed out non-productive water fast in the big ocean by listening to those folks...;-)
ocuyler posted 01-30-2004 01:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for ocuyler  Send Email to ocuyler     
Do you need a VHF? Absolutely! Not only does it give you direct commumnication with the Coast Guard, but all/most of the other boats in your area, should you have an "issue". On the other side, it also puts you in a position to assist a fellow boater in distress that may be close to you.

I suggest you consider a 5 watt waterproof handheld offer by several vendors (makes an excellent Fathers Day present). A couple more bucks, but it's portable to different boats and you can take it with you if the boat leaves you (God forbid). Better yet, of course, is a hard wired 25 watt unit AND the handheld as a back-up in the ditch bag.

David Ratusnik posted 02-04-2004 03:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Ratusnik  Send Email to David Ratusnik     
Milepost- I boat half the time with the wife and 3 kids. I note that you have grandkids- and, probably will boat
with them on the Gulf. I wouldn't leave the dock without a VHF-- safety. They are no big deal to learn to use. Recommend taking 2 of everything else the Coast Guard requires. DLR
Buckda posted 02-04-2004 04:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Inland lake use (notable exception - the Great Lakes) it is probably not necessary if you're carrying your cellular phone as well; however for all the reasons listed above, it is a good idea. Minimum, a Handheld, which is all I have (for now).

The biggest benefit on a regular basis (and justification enough for getting one) is weather radio. My father always taught me to listen to the VHF on your way out of port. We had about a mile and a half of river (no wake) to traverse until we hit Lake Michigan, and the entire time, the WX was tuned in - it was also an hourly update - we'd listen to the WX band for 15 minutes at the top of the hour when fishing. First and foremost, it is a safety / bad day prevention tool.

Secondarily, it is an important tool to help you get assistance when you make a mistake or have an accident/equipment failure. Calling for help should not be like asking should do it automatically when you find yourself in trouble..doubly so in worsening conditions. At the very least, you may not need physical assistance, but can receive important messages and relay important information about your condition with it.

Yeah the fishing tips, and banter are fun - you'll really come to enjoy that too.

CHRISWEIGHT posted 02-04-2004 05:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for CHRISWEIGHT  Send Email to CHRISWEIGHT     
cell phones are not really the best of idea's in that they are for the most part not even splash proof.

I have wrecked two of mine in boats this year and I could not even see water in them when taken apart.

we take a 5 watt hand held + 25 watt main rig + cell phones, ok call me paranoid but I have called the coastguard many years ago in terrible conditions and because our one VHF was swamped and we were unable to reply to them, they actually sent a VAN to our aid.

If it hadn't been for other boaters in our vicinity, instead of my friend needing a few day's in hospital (hyperthermia) it could have been much worse.

That day the forcast was ok and the day itself looked fine until the wind came up and our unsinkable boat was full of water up to my armpits, swamped by a wave huge compared to all the other's.

radio's are inexpensive, buy both and be prepared.

regards chris

kglinz posted 02-04-2004 05:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for kglinz  Send Email to kglinz     
I think that a VHF is a necessary piece of equipment for any boat. One point of interest. Last year, on two occasions, I heard the Coast Guard talking to boats taking water and on both occasions the Coast Guard requested the number of the skippers cell phone and took to asistance to the cell phones. This was in the San Juans so cell coverage was good.
cmarques posted 02-04-2004 09:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for cmarques  Send Email to cmarques     
Yes, get a vhf. I just upgraded my radio and antenna and may get a backup handheld sometime. I already carry an E-trex to backup my mounted GPS unit. I've never used mine for an emergency but once had the Coast Guard contact me off Cocoa beach as they were about to begin a training exercise and I was too close the their area. Also coming in on one rough day heard the Coast Guard calling for any vessel to assist a sailboat with a broken mast and 2 people in the water until they could reach them. If we were closer than 15 miles we would have assisted and helped, the same I would hope someone would do for me.
Cell phones are good in some areas but my Nextel was worthless more than about 7-8 miles out.


daveweight posted 02-05-2004 04:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for daveweight  Send Email to daveweight     
I dont know about the US but here in the UK now most maritime distress calls are made using cellphones,this is fine if you have an idea of where you are but if you have no GPS and no electronics then the coastguard will not be able to Direction Find your cellphone signal.I spent nine years as a Royal Navy signalman. My advice buy the best that you can afford and then take out a bank loan to improve on that. Don't be cheap with safety gear, if you haven't got it you cann't use it.
Clark Roberts posted 02-05-2004 09:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for Clark Roberts  Send Email to Clark Roberts     
In addition to the excellent advice above, a VHF radio is handy to alert lock attendant when locking through and also to contact local marinas re: fuel, service, local info etc. I wouldn't leave home without one (or two). Also cell phone coverage is sometimes (most times for me it seems) lacking when needed! Happy Whalin'.. Clark... Spruce Creek Navy
Milepost43 posted 02-05-2004 09:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for Milepost43  Send Email to Milepost43     
Thanks for all the great advice.

My dealer is recomm RayMarine53 w/ant installed for $450. Since I don't know anything about VHF, what do you'll think? Thanks. Allen

Moe posted 02-05-2004 01:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
Icom and Standard Horizon are generally recognized as the best VHFs, but if you want a Raymarine to match other Raymarine equipment, that should be fine as long as its at least the 53 DSC, to transmit your position in an emergency.


rescue whaler posted 02-05-2004 04:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for rescue whaler  Send Email to rescue whaler     
This is my 2 cents: From a professional point of view, you must have a VHF! Cell phones are not reliable!!! Your call for assistance via a VHF is heard by all in your area and would be relayed by Cost Guard over there transmitters to greater distances. In 70% of Coast Guard tasking, a vessel of opportunity is able to assist prior the Coast Guard or dedicated rescue response in your area.

As for what type, ICOM is the mainstay manufacturer of all VHF units within the Canadian Coast Guard. I have handhelds and fixed mounts on board my whaler. Electronics like this seam to be less money here in Canada than in the US. I donít know why. Shop around!

HawaiianWhaler posted 02-05-2004 06:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for HawaiianWhaler  Send Email to HawaiianWhaler     
Once after boating a big fish, the GPS showed I wouldn't get back to port until midnight. I knew the wife would panic before then, but there was no cell phone coverage 35 miles out, so I picked up the VHF to tell the Coasties not to come look for me if my wife called them. They came in on my Standard Horizon as loud and clear as if they were standing next to me, and they even put in a landline call to my wife for me. You should 100% for sure get a VHF if you're going offshore, IMHO.
cmarques posted 02-05-2004 08:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for cmarques  Send Email to cmarques     
The radio I just installed is a Raymarine Ray53. I just installed a few weeks ago along with a Shakespere 5101 Centennial antenna. Bought at Bass Pro Shops- radio was $179.95 and antenna was $39.95 at Boat U.S.. I installed mine myself (took a couple hours or so) with GPS and compass on a Dauntless 160. Hopefully they are providing you with a better antenna than me at that price and not sure what they figure for labor?
[url] [/url]
I have mine linked to my Eagle gps for the DSC function and went to to register for a mmsc? number to program in.
There are a lot of good radios availible with more features/functions at same or better prices but as I mentioned in another post my choice came to the smaller size and
to match other components -oh so pretty ;) Other radios display lat/long and some other data. I have yet to test it's tranmission but it will hopefully be better and more reliable than what I had before- nothing like disassembling a radio 20+ offshore to find a broken solder joint that wouldn't let me talk with a friend 1/2 a mile away! I will let you know how it works when I'm out this weekend.


Buckda posted 02-06-2004 04:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
I didn't mean to mislead you as far as cellular phone coverage thought process goes like this:
If you're on a small, inland lake (with few exceptions) and you have engine failure, have numerous other choices than when in the Great Lakes or the Ocean

1. Make a phone call (the signal should be sufficient for most inland lakes except for some in remote areas and out West where cellular coverage has more gaps.
2. Use your voice - most inland lakes are small enough that you can be heard from shore - either immediately, or within a half hour of wind drifting.
3. Most inland lakes have considerable recreational boat traffic during the season, and you are likely to be able to flag down a fellow boater with your coastguard mandated flare/signal kit, or by sounding your horn (or whistle)
4. Many inland lakes are small enough that a strong swimmer can swim to shore from mid-lake, however I recommend abandoning your boat as a last option - especially on a heavily used lake - she's not going to sink and you're easier to spot.

Now - for the bays, and sounds in the ocean, and nearshore, you should at the minimum have a handheld - it is a great investment for any use, but provides the added security of weather updates, and the ability to instantly communicate your problem, location and what you need.

For offshore use or on the Great Lakes, I recommend a fixed mount unit (though I need one yet for my 15') with at least a 6' antenna to give you greater broadcast range.

Please don't think that I was endorsing a cellular phone as adequate for all or even most situations; but it is a very powerful and useful tool, and it should be brought along - despite it's sensitivity to water intrusion - for good measure.


triblet posted 02-06-2004 08:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
There's a really nice cell phone case built to put in a bike
waterbottle holder. And Pelican has a new line of small
cases that will hold some of the smaller phones.

Get a case with a clear front so you can see the phone without
taking it out of the case.

VHF is my primary communication mechanism, but I take the
cell phone too.


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