VHF handhelds and weather reports

I’ve read a couple msgs on the ICOM handhelds and was wondering if anyone can assist by telling me if they have ever been in a location where they could not receive weather reports or alerts? I have a cheapy oregon scientific weather radio that I took to the Le Cheneaux islands in the UP of Michigan a couple weeks ago and was very difficult to get any reception. I noticed that some folks mentioned the VHF handhelds are “line of sight” units, therefore, my next question; if you have an emergency and need to contact the coast guard or something what are the chances they or someone will receive the transmission?

I would love to get the M88 (but $300 is pricey), the M72 isnt bad but battery life @ 15 hrs probably not acceptable, the M2A implies it has the same waterproof construction as the M88 (JIS7) and I see no info on battery life but the price is much better than the M88. For as much use as I would put it thru I may be best to go w/one of the cheaper models.

thx, kurt

Cheaper and reception
We had an experience this year in Maine that was an argument for getting a better quality (eg more expensive) VHF handheld if you may be in areas where reception is poor. There was a mistake of some kind in the programming that NOAH uses/sends out to stations, and for the weekend of July 4 suddenly the marine forecast was missing from most NOAA stations’ broadcasts all along the coast of Maine and New Hampshire. It was particularly bad timing, since that Sunday brought unusually high winds and seas all up the Miane coast. An annual gathering at Popham apparently turned into a great opportunity to practice assisted rescues in conditions. Where we were further north, we were seeing seas at the mouth of our cove that we’d normally have to get out a mile plus to encounter. Basically, it was really bad day to be flying blind.

However, there was one station out of Ellesworth that was unaffected. We had four handheld VHF units at our cabin between my husband, myself and a paddling friend who was visiting, two smaller Cobras, our pricier ICOM M200 and hers that was closer to the ICOM in quality. At full price the ICOM was the most expensive and heaviest duty (also heavy) of the lot. And the ICOM was the only handheld unit of the four that could get Ellesworth from the mainland.

We like smaller Cobras for their size and weight, but we would be much more uncomfortable if we didn’t have the ICOM to back them up.

A shame we don’t know how
Uniden woulda done

I can ask
I don’t think our friend’s radio was Uniden, but I’ll ask Monday. Apparently no one at Popham could get anything useful, but Popham is a good bit further south and thus away from Ellesworth than the midcoast region where we were. We did find that the Cobras could get a half inaudible version of Ellesworth a mile offshore on an island Saturday, but the conditions Sunday were such that we weren’t about to paddle a mile offshore just to get the report.

Those most affected would have been anyone who was island hopping and camping. Baaad time to be trying to guess whether the open crossing that you can’t see yet is safe.

You have to live with it and accept that you may not have good reception and possible transmission in the case of an emergency. Alot of factors will come in to play.

How far you are away from certain stations and the weather. We just left from a trip around the island of Isle Royale and had spotty reception of NOAA on the north shore. Turning to the south shore, we had incredible reception with the NOAA broadcast out of Marquette. The next morning we had strong winds, some clouds and could barely pick up the same broadcast from the same spot just a day earlier.

We have both the ICOM M88 and M72.

I wouldn’t worry about the battery life on the M72. I had it turned on for 10 days, 3 or more hours a day and the battery indicator was still full. I didn’t transmit, but I would have still carried enough power if I needed it.

ICOM prices
When I got my ICOM M72 recently from West Marine ($200), the deal on the M88 was $300 but a $50 mail-in rebate.

– Mark

ICOM is good stuff.
My M2A has a long battery life. I can also use regular AAAs. I get wx at home. 100 miles from ocean, 400 feet above sea level. Also, have another ICOM fixed mount on my cc.

Remember, just because you can hear them, that doesn’t mean they can hear you. Know your range.

VHF Radios
The best radio to use and not be out of range is a 2 meter FM ham transceiver. They work into repeaters that are numerously scattered throughout the United States and abroad. Getting a technician license is pretty easy and only requires one test. A good 5 watt unit (Icom IC-T2H) costs about $100 and runs on AA batteries. It also picks up NOAA weather broadcasts. Hams are happy to relay messages esp. emergency comms. Kim

Uniden Voyager Solid
In some side by side comparisons, the Uniden Voyager could hear anything the Icoms could and if anything better. Its a solid radio.

If one does some exploring on the web, NOAA provides coverage maps for their radio stations in Maine,as well as who is responsible for the various stations in terms of forecasts and operations.

The trick with Muscongus Bay is that it is at the outer limits of coverage from both Falmouth and Ellsworth.

Relying on the forecasts while paddling on the Maine coast is a very tricky business because the forecasts are for a huge area. Far better to monitor broader info on fronts and the synopsis, then correlate those to what you observe. You need to be your own weatherman.

M72 Price
I just picked up an M72 from Marine General in Duluth, MN for $159. They were running a sale at $179, and I told them that I wasn’t going to pay that much for it, so they dropped the price to $159 for me. Because there is no margin in electronics, I gotta believe I picked it up close to their cost.

Missing NOAA marine forecasts on July 4
Yep, we noticed the missing marine forecasts on July 4 weekend too, in Northern Casco.

You shudda heard the paranoid theories batted around, many involving the primary colors associated with various states and the pattern of those colors on a US map. Another theme was Senator Santorum’s efforts to shut down NOAA’s public forecasts so they wouldn’t “compete” with the commercial weather forecasters in his home state (and elsewhere).


Sure, but…
…try calling the Coast Guard on one. While your certainly correct about distances, there are more important considerations for a marine radio.