VHF pricing & safety

That is a bit harsh… They are not useful in remote areas without sea rescue services. In Canada the Coast Guard does mostly air patrols. due to vast areas. A PLB is far more useful as it transmits on the correct frequency. Not being waterproof is not a big deal. there are electronic dry bags that you can operate the radio through.

Seems like you always paddle in a group and always paddle where there is emergency coverage by boat… We are all guilty of confirmation bias…

Aside from the weather radio feature my I COM M 24 is a good radio but where I go its essentially a brick for all other functions. ( Lake Superior… very few boaters and no commercial traffic)

I agree with Kayamedic, never understood the emphasis on VHF radios. Useful for weather and maybe making a securite call, but if I were say a big guy having a heart attack, I’d want a plb to call in the calvary asap. A cell phone in a waterproof case is probably just as useful, especially for a front country venue where there is lots of boat traffic, most likely going to have cell reception. For back country a satellite phone and plb is the way to go imo, and save the vhf for weather reports if they’re available.

@PaddleDog52 ,

Several months ago I picked up one of those relatively inexpensive Cobra MR HH125 handheld VHF radios. I bought it specifically because of all the paddling I do on a working tidal river and back bay/inlet paddling - tugs, barges, container & oil tanker vessels, and pleasure boat operators. I have found its addition during my time spent out on the water to be a most valuable one, and having it has increased my personal safety immensely. Nothing like being well informed & aware of local heavy traffic when navigating the same waters used by many others.

sure may be on a lake or river they is no one listening. On the coastal regions and big lakes it’s better. You may get other boats to help you long before rescue . For 80 bucks I’ll get a waterproof one even if you do want to bag it. Personally I would not want to fumble with a VHF in a bag in a emergency.

@kayamedic It is a rare occasion when I paddle with someone except my wife. I am out all winter myself and go out at night in the summer. Winter I have a cell and two VHF’s one on the kayak deck and one on my PFD. I rarely like big groups as they tend to be slow and usually go 7-8 miles. Had one good partner for winters & summers we were both usually hard fast paddlers.

I would have a PLB for remote areas but I have never been to places like that yet.

In your area, PaddleDog, a VHF radio makes sense as there’s boat traffic year round so there’s someone to hear you. The Great Lakes and the other large inland lakes are empty of traffic now, except for the freighters that may be hundreds of miles away.
True, there’s traffic in the spring and summer but VHF radios require line of sight for communication. I read of an incident last month where two groups of paddlers could not communicate with each other because they couldn’t see each other.

Initially I planned to buy a VHS/DSC but instead opted for a PLB which works both on water and on land. I also carry a cell phone, but there are waters I paddle where there is no cell coverage.

I’m thinking I’ll have to start doing some radio check calls to the coast guard. After taking my VHF course I was under the impression that the CG has lots of towers around the great lakes with very sensitive receivers. I’m mostly paddling southern Georgian Bay, and tripping farther north up that same shoreline. I was in Pukaskwa (Superior) this summer and had my radio, but honestly wasn’t sure if it would have been effective to signal help. Heck, even the inaccurate weather didn’t justify having it.

Maybe times are changing and PLBs are the was to go? They just seem so “single function”. Couldn’t take much to build it in with a smart phone or GPS or something.

@Sparky961 The USCG has an app which allows you to summon emergency help. They request you give details about your kayak, including a photo of your boat, to assist in identification. You can include multiple boats.


I once hit the “emergency” button by mistake. The next screen asked if I really needed emergency help and gave an option to cancel the request, which I did. The problem with my cell phone is the difficulty in seeing the screen in bright sunlight, so the PLB is Plan A.

Do any of you have a good way to WEAR a radio? The fatalities in Maine were due in the most part to the radio being in the kayak and not on the people in the water.
My PLB fits on the PFD… The radio is considerably larger and I am at a loss.

@kayamedic, I clip mine to a strap on my pfd, or clip it to the neck of my shirt underneath my vest when using - luckily I am tall in stature so the antenna does not hit me in the neck region too much. I have been thinking about a better way to carry it - small lanyard or attach it somehow to the loop on the pfd zipper perhaps?

My vhf fits nicely in my pfd pocket. However, my prior pfd had no such pocket, so I purchased a radio harness similar to what a ski patroller might wear. It is worn over the pfd.

After thinking about it, I feel safer out in my kayak than almost anywhere I go these days. Our society is full of creeps, druggies, criminals, drunks and bad guys; out on the water there are a lot fewer around. What ever nature serves up, I like to think I’m ready for it, but if worse comes to worse, I do have my phone. Where I paddle, there’s always cell coverage. Anyway, the biggest threat out paddling in general are the bull Stellar sea lions and they’re not around all the time.

Kayakmedic…Some PFDs have a pocket for the VHF. https://kokatat.com/product/bahia-tour-pfd-lvubat

All…1. Remember that good VHF reception/transmission depends upon line of sight. The higher up the antenna the better. The closer station to station the better. Kayak vhf antenna is maybe 3’ off the water. Waves, points of land, hills, buildings, can block the signal.

  1. Handheld VHF sometimes are meant to be used ship to ship, ie local, so the wattage is low. For Example, The Standard Horizon HX300 Floating Handheld VHF Radio has 5W power. My boat mounted unit has up to 25w power.
  2. I had to turn my VHF down this weekend because some … person…was making obnoxious blind transmissions criticizing others for what he thought were rules infractions at a busy boat ramp. Sometimes the chatter isn’t so business like.

In the SF Bay Area, VHFs are great. Lots of boating traffic in area, coast guard has towers around, etc. But in less urban areas, such as some of the remote coastal areas, they do get more spotty/less useful.

I normally carry in the VHF pocket of my Kokatat MsFFIT PFD. But sometimes when I am using a less extreme skirt, I use one that has a bag on the deck and keep the VHF there. For that, I am using the Seals Extreme Tour skirt (not as extreme as its name sounds) with a gear bag on top. The VHF is always tethered.

I do carry a PLB in the water bladder of my PFD, so it I always with me. But VHFs have uses beyond that call for life or limb emergency help, so good to have both. Very common for use in group management, reporting hazards to navigation, hearing about whales in the area (turns out that whales in shipping lanes are hazards to navigation, so are reported), tracking ships, weather reports, etc.

After using a VHF for 6-7 years I still have not found a great place for it on my PDF. Pockets don’t fit, I bought the Kokatat accessory holder they are all a PITA but I like one on my PDF. Been using Caribiner on my shoulder strap and then bungee radio to my other shoulder strap so I can’t lose it.

Radio: ICom ICM24
PFD: Kokatat Outfit

Radio fits well into pocket, using the wrist strap to attach to D-ring inside pocket.

I bought this radio due to the best battery life/power I could find at the time, AND that its totally waterproof and floats. Many are waterproof and don’t float.

Biggest complaint with this setup is that I regularly get an antenna up the nose if not being careful.

Just a quick added note in regards to my own use of a handheld VHF radio when out kayaking the local tidal river & bay area, I like to check the online Mariners Advisory webpage for any pertinent information pertaining to important notifications set forth beforehand. Posted restrictions, work & safety zones, drills, ongoing dredge operations, surveying, etc, etc, are all posted to alert the general public who use such waterways. Many of the announcements I read online, can be heard transmitted over the VHF every hour or so when I am out paddling.

I kind of laughed and chuckled a bit when I read the comment that @Peter-CA made in his post regarding whales. My own local advisory had recently posted up an announcement from the U.S. Coast Guard regarding speed restrictions for larger vessels in a sector of the Delaware Bay, specifically for the purpose of protecting the North American Right Whale, and preventing ship collision. Obviously the post doesn’t effect me in my little ol’ 17" foot kayak, but it was pretty neat to read about it and to be informed.

There is probably a NOTAM for the Hudson River in NYC… Big Humpback. whale… Little Minkes are very common here but also FInbacks

@kayamedic said:
There is probably a NOTAM for the Hudson River in NYC… Big Humpback. whale… Little Minkes are very common here but also FInbacks

This might kind of hijack this thread, but here are some pics of that one: http://www.nymediaboat.com/blog/2016/11/humpback-whale-in-new-york-harbor-monday-1121-update

Here are Humpbacks in San Francisco Bay, as captured by a kayaker friend of mine and reported on the news:

And a gray whale inside SF bay that I tok:

whale came up by me like that I’d be having a heart attack and no longer posting here. I have 2 Standard Horizons 851 which floats.

I looked and the M25 is a little bit smaller in size.

@PaddleDog52 said:
whale came up by me like that I’d be having a heart attack and no longer posting here.

Ditto. Never paddled the ocean yet, though I’m trying to get up the nerve to try it soon.