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Effectiveness of handheld VHF when in dinghy or kayak
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tomherrick



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 12:17 pm    Post subject: Effectiveness of handheld VHF when in dinghy or kayak Reply with quote

I'm about to acquire two new handheld VHF radios for our kayak trip to Florida's 10,000 islands. A tech rep at West Marine (said he was a ham operator) didn't think we'd have good luck communicating with the stubby antenna only being about three feet off sea level and likely being surrounded by mangrove. I was considering either the Standard Horizon HX890 or Icom M93D with their DSC capability, but if the likelihood of being "heard" is slim I'm not sure it's worth it.

I've read some articles about how VHF antennas work but don't have practical experience with handheld radios in this kind of situation where there might not be much line-of-sight.

What do you folks think?
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hardee



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just guessing here, but there will be 2 of you on the trip, each carrying 1 HH VHF. Also guessing, you will each be in individual kayaks. Yes?

For communication between the two VHF's, you would probably be good for a 2-4 miles or so, on open water. Given my experience in mangroves, which is very little, it is hard to guess, but in forest depending on the thickness, a mile is a stretch. In forest in the water, (mangrove), you might have some better but probably not much.

Looking at those antennas, I would not call them stubbies, (I think they are the 2 - 4 inch versions), but rubber ducks. Won't make a huge difference, but maybe slightly. I have communicated with a lost kayaker, my boat radio to his handheld at about 4 miles and was able to locate him via radar. (His GPS died, and he was stuck in the fog.)

If you are thinking the DSC would be for search and rescue, I think that would be a stretch, and would highly recommend a Personal Locator Beacon, (ACR or similar:

https://www.acrartex.com/products/aqualink-view-plb

much more reliable than a hand held. However, having the hand held can certainly be used to assist a searching vessel or helo with fine tuning directions once you can hear them.

Harvey
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tomherrick



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Harvey. Since my post I've been coming to that conclusion as well. A couple of decent floating VHFs sans DSC would be plenty after an epirb called in the cavalry. Thanks for giving me some corroboration on this.

All the best,

T
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Hunkydory



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tom, Ive used the Standard Horizon HX 870 with DSC capability, considerably to communicate with JoLee on the CD 22, when I was out & about in the rubber inflatable & before that with an older Standard Horizon when out exploring in the Mokai. Of course line of site is best, but weve been able to communicate when I was out behind small islands at a mile or so. When both of us in separate inlets with higher ridges between then no communication. This is with the one boat having an higher antenna, so maybe not applicable to you with just kayaks.

Jay

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robhwa



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Effectiveness of handheld VHF when in dinghy or kayak Reply with quote

tomherrick wrote:
.....
but if the likelihood of being "heard" is slim I'm not sure it's worth it.
What do you folks think?

I've kayaked Florida Everglade's "Wilderness Waterway", Everglades City to Flamingo, many times. Also, Bowron Lakes in BC, Canada, and, of course Puget Sound with about 200 camp sites for kayaks, and Chesapeake Bay with only a few. I like to keep a pace of my own, but get together for lunch, and sometimes camp together, but not necessarily always. Sometimes, I like to take a different route and meet up later. Same for backpacking.

If communicating and knowing where others are is what you want, absolutely, at any time, at any place, you can't beat a Garmin satellite GPS. It also will show you where a communicating member of your party is on your GPS, so you can plan how long it will take to get there, or where to "meet in the middle". It also can save your life as an emergency beacon.

Garmin topo and marine maps are pretty good to boot!

I use the Garmin 66i currently. Sends and receives great, though some of the features don't quite work as advertised. It is also fun to let friends and family know where you are with an email that shows you on a map.
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Hunkydory



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I, 2nd the recommendation of the Garmin In Reach. We use it to communicate to other boaters who have one & contact with friends & family when out of other forms of communication. I even quit carrying my Sat phone. I used to use it only for boat trips & turn it off the rest of the year, but now its always ready if needed, while snowmobiling, 4 wheeling & all other traveling endeavors including the rv & car for possible emergency, when out of Cell phone or other communication.
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tomherrick



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, all. Just off the phone with Marc Grove and he suggested the Garmin In-Reach as well. Also said that the CG has 100' towers along the shoreline so while boat to boat might not work, the CG will likely hear us. I'm gonna check out that Garmin product this afternoon.

All the best to y'all,

T
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thataway



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Garmin in reach/new hybrid GPS chart plotter, is a fantastic instrument. It may be a bit of overkill for two kayaks to communicate. It seems as if typing may be a bit awkward. I prefer ones where you can use the I phone key pad. but in a kayak / everglades, working with arrows, is certainly better than trying to use an I phone plus an Inreach.

There are montly plans which can add up. Plus the cost of the unit with chart plotter/Blue chart vs too maps. If you are going to be doing a lot of off grid then the setup would pay off

DSC will be picked up at a further distance than a voice signal. If you are within a couple of miles of other boats or a second kayak, any of the VHF hand holds would be fine. There are a number of great features on the SH HX 890, and I. have both an 870 and 890. For personal safety I would strongly suggest at least one PLB. They are in the $250 range, with no plan fees--and for emergency only. (I was reading this AM of a rescue where a crew member was blown off the deck of a vessel and the Coast Guard found him in the water over 10 miles from his vessel, via the PLB signal.

Occasionally VHF signals will "duct" thru the troposphere, and go long distances. I often can hear CG near ST. Petersburg FL in Pensacola --many hundreds of miles away--but don't count on it. A 100' tower will give only 14 miles to radio horizon. Two 100' towers will give 28 mile horizon. 100' plus 3' will give about 15 miles to the radio horizon--Plus you are only 5 to 6 watts...However the CG Rescue 21 towers are well. in excess of 100 feet high.

Here is the VHF DSC coverage for that area:


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gulfcoast john



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="tomherrick"] A couple of decent floating VHFs sans DSC would be plenty after an epirb called in the cavalry."

Only VHF radios with DSC are compatible with the Coast Guard's Rescue21 system (and hey, it's 2021!). Others are obsolete in that regard. Since you may be using those HH in a dinghy or even the TC255 in the future, I'd spring for the DSC capability. Otherwise, you could just use waterproof floating 'family radio' walkie talkie toys.

Sure is fun spending other people's money...

Happy Shopping!
John

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hardee



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PostPosted: Tue Jan 12, 2021 11:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I consider my handheld VHF's as part of my safety equipment. NOT a place to skimp, IMHO. Either one of those 2 you are looking at are certainly capable.

Harvey
SleepyC Moon

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T.R. Bauer



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2021 7:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a west marine hand held and I'm always surprised at how well it does work. You are not going to reach out and touch the world with it, but you will probably be able to reach out to someone, at least eventually, even up here when boating in the middle of nowhere. If you're really worried about being able to call 911, just rent a sat phone for the trip as you can do that.
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ssobol



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

T.R. Bauer wrote:
I have a west marine hand held and I'm always surprised at how well it does work. You are not going to reach out and touch the world with it, but you will probably be able to reach out to someone, at least eventually, even up here when boating in the middle of nowhere. If you're really worried about being able to call 911, just rent a sat phone for the trip as you can do that.


Problem with a sat phone (or any other phone) is that you have to know the specific number you want to call. If you call 911, who knows what police department you're going to get (probably depends on where the ground station is located). It could be on the other side of the country.
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robhwa



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

T.R. Bauer wrote:
If you're really worried about being able to call 911, just rent a sat phone for the trip as you can do that.

Regarding the original post, which was about using a VHS radio kayaking. I am mostly a kayaker/canoer, and previously and currently paddle much more than I motor my C-Dory.

Before you invest in or rent (lots of $) a satphone, realize the limitations. There are some, and under less-than-ideal conditions, including during paddling where there is wind and waves, those limitations may render a voice radio or satphone useless.

I have an Iridium satphone fairly longterm and I have not renewed subscription plans since I got used to the satellite messanging on my GPS. Initially, I loved this thing, and used it to contact my students and coworkers (i.e. "bring a shovel"). I once used it to call for a pickup during a weeklong class (10 students, 2 teachers) backpacking trip when I had a behavioral problem with a student.

I also have two portable VHS radios. Inside a boat cabin, or at times where it is quiet, you CAN use the Iridium or radios very well, but kayaking and anywhere there is wind you will be reduced to "repeat, repeat, repeat" and hearing "repeat, repeat, repeat" from the other side.

In some cases, you will absolutely NOT be able to communicate by voice. You will be trying to find a place that is out of the wind.

You will likely NOT be able to use either satphone or radio if you flip into the water during anything but calm conditions, and in that case, you probably won't flip.

Sometimes, the Iridium just didn't work when I wanted it. I needed to wait for a stronger satellite signal. No such problem so far with the Garmin.

When I took boy scouts to paddle the Bowron Lake circuit in BC once, maybe 15 years ago, I took my Iridium. During orientation, I mentioned I had it. The ranger told me to "please pack that thing away and don't take it out. Do not try to communicate to us with it". They then mentioned a satellite phone call they got a few years earlier that resulted in a full-blown rescue because they couldn't understand what was being said over the satphone. It wasn't a serious emergency, just a sprained wrist.

On my latest Bowron trip they said if possible to use their own rescue system if not life-threatening, but if it was really bad to use the emergency feature of the Garmin or other rescue beacon. The Garmin operators would be able to see exactly where the message originated from on a map and would then call the Park emergency number and law enforcement/emergency numbers. It would likely take seconds.

BTW; the Garmin links to most portable phones, including my iPhone, which I use for navigation. That makes entering text easy.

I do not work for Garmin. There may be other options, but I probably won't ever take that Iridium satphone on a kayak trip again. I do take my VHS radio. It can be useful where there are other boats navigating in larger water, though I really haven't seen that much kayaking except in Florida Bay, where nobody seems to be listening. I've contacted tugs here in Puget Sound to make sure they see me. They do respond. I would suggest Kayakers in 10,000 islands/Florida Bay or other large water areas to have a blaze orange signal flag to make themselves more visible when a boat is approaching. In my experience, Floridians and Gulf powerboaters motor intoxicated a lot. A signal flag (like used for waterskiing) could save your life.

Enjoy 10,000 islands! Take lots of bug spray and sunscreen!
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alainP



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Would the Garmin Explorer 66i be a good choice or would another model be preferable? A friend is offering a used one at an attractive price.
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tomherrick



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PostPosted: Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to all for your considered suggestions. I've learned a lot.

I've decided at this point to go for a PLB and two handheld VHF radios. I think we'll be pretty well covered in case of problems where we need assistance in the near-shore environment.
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