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Old 20-05-2010, 10:07   #1
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Do I Really Need a Masthead Antenna ?

We have a hand held Standard Horizon HX850 that I am thinking of hooking up to a mast head antenna.

As of right now our trip will consist of taking our pocket cruiser (with an emphasis on pocket because people on this forum sometimes get the wrong idea of the size of our boat and thus the size of our budget and vision) from Erie PA to Buffalo where we will drop the mast, then down the Erie Canal to the Hudson and we will pull out somewhere in New York city. I have been going back and forth about whether I really need a masthead antenna, the only stretch that I feel it might be necessary for is the lake Erie part. Maybe that's $200 that would be well spent elsewhere. What do you think?

I wish there was some other alternative like an emergency antenna that we could hoist up the mast in a pinch but that I other wise didn't have to deal with the hassle of installing. The only thing I could find that looked like that was this: Shakepeare 5911 10 VHF Antenna - 5911 - Buy.com and that only has a ten foot tail my mast is 25 feet.
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Old 20-05-2010, 10:12   #2
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I'll be the first to answer with a resounding NO! you don't need a the extended range for what you're doing. Really, how far out in the lake are you planning on being?!?!? If you feel you need more range from time to time just put an antenna on the end of a wood dowel with 40' of coax connected to it. when range is needed (if ever) attach a halyard to the stick in two spots and raise the antenna up the mast. (if done correctly you'll hoist the antenna above the masthead and have the tail of the coax in the cockpit to attach to the handheld.).
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Old 20-05-2010, 10:40   #3
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That's kind of what I thought. We certainly won't be going off shore on lake Erie, just heading along the Southern Coast.
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Old 20-05-2010, 11:17   #4
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I sort of think that the gain you'll increase by the antenna will be lost by the line loss of the cable all the way up the mast. You can check that based on the type of cable used here:
Attenuation & Power Handling Calculator

Try 150 MHz and the number of feet in the cable and the cable type. That'll give you a dB loss. See how that compares against the dB gain of the antenna. I'll bet it's close.

You do gain horizon distance with the antenna up high though but can 5 watts really reach past the horizon to anything but a huge Coast Guard type antenna anyway.

I'd bet that with a 5 watt handheld, you'd be much better off by just standing up when you need more transmission distance.
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Old 20-05-2010, 11:43   #5
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Oh yeah I wasn't even thinking of that. A hand held really doesn't have the same wattage as a fixed unit, does it?
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Old 20-05-2010, 11:44   #6
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Our masthead VHF broke off in a storm just before we got the the Gulf of Aden... we always have this sort of crap... we lost the radar reflector the night before crossing Singapore Straits...

Anyways, I'm thinking of putting the new one up on the backstay if the masthead wire bitty-bit is stuffed.

I just need a clampy sort of thing to latch onto the backstay and hold the vhf thingo verticle.
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Old 20-05-2010, 11:47   #7
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I just need a clampy sort of thing to latch onto the backstay and hold the vhf thingo verticle.

Maybe a bent alu thingy and some hose widgets
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Old 20-05-2010, 12:06   #8
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Maybe a bent alu thingy and some hose widgets
Thanks. I shall go to the chandler with your recommendation

I just need to translate that into Turkish first...


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Old 20-05-2010, 12:20   #9
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You'd be much better off fitting a 3db antenna to your pushpit. That will radiate much better than the rubber ducky on the handheld.

And, if you're so inclined, for just about $100 you could buy a waterproof marine VHF and install it in the cockpit somewhere (or belowdecks), and connect it to the pushpit-mounted VHF antenna. This would give you 25 watts instead of 5 watts, and would extend your range and options.

Added benefit: it would work well even with the mast down.

Bill
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Old 20-05-2010, 12:26   #10
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Not really mentioned yet is an antenna on a sailboat needs to be a low gain antenna that has a wider lobe so the antenna always has a portion of its lobe pointed towards the horizon as the boat heels.

Longer, high gain whip antennas are more for boats that do not heel much.
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Old 20-05-2010, 13:23   #11
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You'd be much better off fitting a 3db antenna to your pushpit. That will radiate much better than the rubber ducky on the handheld.

And, if you're so inclined, for just about $100 you could buy a waterproof marine VHF and install it in the cockpit somewhere (or belowdecks), and connect it to the pushpit-mounted VHF antenna. This would give you 25 watts instead of 5 watts, and would extend your range and options.

Added benefit: it would work well even with the mast down.

Bill
What is a pushpit?
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Old 20-05-2010, 13:25   #12
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What is a pushpit?
rail around the stern
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Old 20-05-2010, 14:04   #13
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rail around the stern
It's slang that has become a generally-accepted term.
Pushpit (rail around the stern) = opposite of Pulpit (rail around the bow).

A handheld, even with the rubber ducky antenna, should be fine for your use. In an emergency, a short whip antenna clamped onto the pushpit isn't a bad idea either, but you will need to adapt the connector to fit the small jack (usually a SMA jack) on the handheld.
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Old 20-05-2010, 15:19   #14
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Improving reception

I have done with a handheld VHF with "quarter wave" antenna for a few years. Reception was OK at sea but poor or null in estuaries. Now that I have a masthead antenna, I am able to receive weather forecasts even a few miles inland, because the antenna isn't masked by the river banks. IMHO, this is well worth the hours I spent trying to pass the cable in the mast conduit.

Alain
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Old 23-05-2010, 13:21   #15
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I have never had any problem with reception with a run-of-the-mill shakespeare 5ft whip mounted on my pushpit. Except for people thinking it is something to hold onto as they climb aboard, it has been trouble free. Everywhere from Anacortes to Anderson Island.

I think the masthead antennas are superior, but I still get multiple WX channels everywhere.
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