marine radio help

I need some help/suggestions on marine radios.

My parents recently retired to Lake Norman in North Carolina. Built a nice house on the lake and got a boat (small speedboat type, about 18 feet, Caravelle I think). My mom, brother, and I want to go in together and get my dad a marine radio for Christmas.

So, does anyone have any suggestions on brands, types, features to look for, etc.? Any difference between handheld and fixed mount? The boat stays in the lake, they have no intention of taking it to a large bay or ocean. Most likely uses would be to monitor, call for help if needed, talk to other boats within line of sight, get weather reports. Thanks.

I’d go with a fixed mount. No worries about charging the batteries, forgetting it, or dropping it – just switch it on. The disadvantage is that if the boat’s battery is dead the radio is too.

The other advantage is performance: more transmitting power, a bigger speaker, and more audio output. But the biggest performance advantage comes from being able to use a full-sized antenna instead of a rubber duck.

I’ve had good luck with Icom radios.

Standard Horizon also has a good reputation.

Are you going to get a radio for the house as well? The ideal setup would probably to get two of the same fixed-mounts for familiarity and run the home one from a 12VDC power supply.

Marine vhf use from land

– Last Updated: Nov-30-04 9:50 PM EST –

is not legal if i recall correctly.

Why not a hand held and jack into an antenna and power on the boat. Then if you boat is deak you should have a fully charged batery on the vhf to call for help.

Thanks for the reminder
I knew at least a couple of powerboaters who had a marine VHF at their shore house, but now that you mention it, they did say that they couldn’t legally transmit. They just left it on as a monitor, and family members transmitted blind. Although nowadays, I guess folks use cell phones for inland ship-to-shore.

is VHF even monitored?
Check with the local marine gear shops and DNR if they even monitor VHF. Cell phone might be a better option.

I used to tote my VHF on SC and NC lakes. Never even heard it squawk once. Salt water is active though.

Any alternative?
What might the alternatives be, any VHF that is legal, say on Lake George, NY or Lake Champlain? Cell does not cover all so help is appreciated here.

Channel Assignments, et al
Per FCC rules - 47 CFR 80.371© & 80.373(f)VHF allows (actually compells) the operator to become a part of the marine safety network. Each VHF channel has a specific assignment,(i.e. some for general public use, others for commercial use, others for marine operator contact and others for navigational and safety communications). VHF use proceedure requires that when under way one regularly monitors ch 16.

Ch 16 is the Coast Guard monitored frequency. While on ch 16 on a quiet day you will hear periodic frequency calls from various monitoring stations, (e.g. last week during a four hour paddle off Assategue Island I monitored frequency calls on my handheld from Coast Guard Stations ranging from NC to NJ). On a busy day you may also pick up a distress call or a call for assistance.

When transmitting a non-assistance related message the proceedure is to identify yourself and your intended party and then request to switch to an appropriate channel for the duration of the conversation. Folowing that call you would naturally resume monitoring ch 16.

As identified, the primary advantage of a fixed mounted unit is the ability to install a longer antenna which will offer the operator greater range (although the range of a handheld’s shorter antenna will often be sufficient for inland use). Of course, most handhelds will also permit the operator to remove the short antenna and plug the unit into the fixed antenna as well as allow the use of an external speaker/mike system should the built in speaker/mike be insufficient. The big bonus of a handheld is portability - it can be easily transfered boat to boat and can be used onshore for monitoring only. As most radios also offer a weather band, the ability to monitor the weather forcast while on land can also be quite useful. In addition, if you’re concerned about unit integrity, handhelds are inexpensive and small enough for it to be feasible to carry a second back-up radio. All-in-all I’d tend to prefer a portable unit both for it’s flexible applications and the fact that it has it’s own seperate power capacity.

Really Big Lakes…
it’s legal to have VHF. Lake Champlain for sure. I remembered seeing the Coast Guard boat bustin’ out of it’s boat house in Burlington, VT, crossing out into the breakwater, and immediately hitting and flying up over these steep six foot plus waves. It was in a mighty big hurry… Probably a VHF radio call for help.


VHF and GPS in one
Uniden has an integrated vhf and gps unit, discount price about 300 dollars. In situations of fog and distress it makes a distress call with your exact location. Is this just another way to spend money or something to consider?

Might Make Sense
paddling in areas you don’t know. Save on an extra piece of equipment. On the other hand, probaby more power consumption and an electrical failure could result in the loss of both…

I have both VHF and GPS. Honestly, since I am paddling mostly waters that I know, I don’t take anything but the compass these days. I’ve been developing more and more an aversion to too much equipment. It’s like if I have to pack tons of gear, I don’t even want to go. Who knows… Someday I may regret not bringing everything along.


uniden makes a nice handheld M-VHF for $99 that has nicad battery pack, charger, 12v charge line, stationary mount, and a battery pack that holds AA’s and it gets all weather channels.

I would check to see if anyone in area of use, monitors marine radio, before i would make a purchase.

IN THE HEADWATERS of the Missouri River as an example, if I was not within a few miles of a marina… the radio except for weather was useless…

if coverage is available, a cell phone may be your best bet.

Marine Radios
I would go with Icom. They make very nice stuff. I prefer a scanning VHF with weather alert, especially on the Great Lakes.

will check it out!
I will check it out, Gracias

Icom MIV
not the newest model, but highly dependable for me. After many countless rolls in salt, it still functions. So much so, that when the first got stolen in my car, I just went and bought another…

I always listen to the weather report over the VHF before heading into the salt.


I vote handheld
Sounds like your parents boat is kind of small, so I would go with a handheld. Of course if your parents are always forgetting their cell phones then maybe a handheld is not for them. I have a handheld Shakesphere and it has lasted for years. The new ones have not only the rechargeable batteries but can also use double A batteries in an emergency.

Third to the ICOM
We have a handheld that has rpven to be very hardy. And with the rechargeable back it doesn’t eat a lot of batteries - nice since the GPS unit is pretty voracious.

Look for Weather Alert feature, a couple of channels, a good degree of water protection (submersible), ease of use, good sound quality (a weather report that hardly anyone can understand thru the static is of little use) and a droppable case. It’ll run over $200 unless you find a good sale, but safety is worth that and more.