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VHF Marine Radio: Fixed and Handheld VHF Radio Units

Is your boat equipped with a VHF (Very High Frequency) radio?
If you're depending on your trusty cell phone for communication, you might be in a pickle in case of an emergency!
Cell signals are notoriously spotty when you're on the water.
Unless you're docked, you don't want to trust a cell phone for getting help when you need it.
A versatile VHF Marine radio can be a lifesaver in case of an emergency on the water.
In fact, a VHF radio is considered such a vital piece of emergency equipment that you're not allowed to install another marine radio unless you first have VHF!

VHF marine radios

Boat VHF radios are a reliable means of two-way communication from boat to shore or boat to boat.
Because they have a range of 5 to 30 miles, they're most useful when you're reasonably close to shore or near a busy shipping lane.
They let you communicate with other boaters, a towing service, the Coast Guard, and officials like bridge tenders or a harbormaster.

    Their limitations
  • Since VHF signals operate on a line-of-sight principle, they're less useful where obstructions like mountains or very large ships are between you and that harbormaster.
  • If there's a lot of 'chatter' over the same frequency, your VHF Marine Radio will tune out everything but the strongest signal. That's why you should always start transmitting at low power and work your way up to where you can be heard. It's the polite thing to do. Otherwise, you may drown out everyone else from the start!

Fixed or handheld?

There are two types of VHF Marine Radios, namely, Fixed and Handheld VHF Radios, that each have advantages and disadvantages, some of which we'll list below:
  • Fixed-mount VHF radios draw their power directly from your boat batteries. That gives them plenty of power (up to 25 watts). All new fixed units are equipped with DSC (digital selective calling). As long as you've activated an MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) number, pressing the red emergency button will summon help even if you can't speak.
  • They're dependent on your electrical system for power, so if that fails, you'll lose your VHF radio. In a worst-case scenario, a fixed unit will go down with the boat.
  • Handheld VHF radios operate by battery power and essentially act like a walkie-talkie (for shipboard use only). That makes them an important back-up to a fixed VHF in case your boat battery fails. It also means they'll still operate from a lifeboat in an emergency.
  • However, their range is considerably less than a fixed VHF. Because their maximum transmitting power is only 3 to 5 watts, they can easily be drowned out by a stronger signal. Only higher-end handheld units are equipped with DSC.

  • Accessories for your VHF Marine Radio

    You'll need a quality antenna.
    It's the single most important variable affecting your radio's performance.
    You'll also need the proper coax cable and connectors to connect the radio to the antenna.
    Other VHF accessories to consider are VHF speakers, radio microphones, and hailer horns.
    They can increase the versatility and usefulness of your VHF radio.
    If you're looking for a VHF Marine Radio for sale, you can't do better than to check out our Fixed and handheld VHF Radio models!
    We've been outfitting boaters on the East Coast and around the world since 1938.
    That's a lot of experience to rely on when you're buying something as important as a VHF radio!