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Old 24-11-2013, 09:46   #16
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Re: Hand held VHF range

When I got hit by lightning on Lake Ontario many years ago (1995) I communicated with the Coast Guard for a distance of nearly 200 miles. This was using a handheld. They must have a good antenna or repeaters somewhere, I don't know how that works but I was glad it did.
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Old 24-11-2013, 09:49   #17
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Re: Hand held VHF range

Line of sight. Any obstruction will interfere. Battery state?
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Old 24-11-2013, 09:57   #18
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Re: Hand held VHF range

here is a answer for you, I rescued two young girls out of sight on land in Rondou bay in lake Erie a few years ago and had a low battery cheap handheld on my inflatable dingy and when calling back to my anchored boat, Sarnia coastguard cut in and I had a clear as day conversation with them. Sarnia must be 30 - 40 miles away. they must of had all the power as I am sure I didn't. but, it worked out. they sent out Erieo fire dept. to complete the rescue. there was also 2 guys without PFD's standing on their overturned boat for over 8 hours. about 2 miles away.
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Old 24-11-2013, 10:14   #19
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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
Line of sight. Any obstruction will interfere. Battery state?
Very long story short, even your head will reduce the range. Try to face the receiving station and have the antenna vertical. Proved that one day off the coast of FLA transmitting from a kayak to a freighter I knew....
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Old 24-11-2013, 10:20   #20
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Re: Hand held VHF range

If your handheld has a screw-in antenna, check for corrosion.
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Old 24-11-2013, 10:45   #21
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Re: Hand held VHF range

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Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
I have three Standard Horizons of various vintages. With the newest one (an HX-850), I have done six miles from a Zodiac to the base unit (an old ICOM M-45) with a whip atop a 45 foot mast, over a low bar of land, and eight miles from the same boat's cockpit to a base unit with a 55 foot high whip, over water.

Those are just about records, at times of day when there wasn't a lot of traffic and I happened to be aware that atmospheric conditions were good. Reception of me by the base stations was reported at 1 or 2 out of 5...1 being "not sure if that's actually you". In every case, and not unexpectedly, I could hear the base units much better than I could be heard.

Handset to handset over open water and low traffic (unstepped on) conditions? About four to five miles. I consider my handheld reliable in all conditions to be heard by the rather sensitive stations of the CG to, at best, five miles for voice. DSC calls are better, but not by much, from a handheld.

Coastally, but beyond the 20-25 NM limit of base units to shore, a DSC-aided MAYDAY RELAY is possible with an intermediate boat to shore, but after that, it's satphone/EPIRB territory if the ocean occupies the bilges.
Same experience... Newest radio HX-850 has the best, but not marginally greater range.... 5-6 miles....
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Old 24-11-2013, 13:28   #22
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Re: Hand held VHF range

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Originally Posted by Vasco View Post
When I got hit by lightning on Lake Ontario many years ago (1995) I communicated with the Coast Guard for a distance of nearly 200 miles. This was using a handheld. They must have a good antenna or repeaters somewhere, I don't know how that works but I was glad it did.
Rick, the nature of VHF means (except in unusual "skip" conditions) straight line of sight. You can only improve on it by adding height at one or both ends. What identifies as "Prescott radio" on Lake Ontario is only based at Prescott. There are transceivers at the following (all relatively high) locations:

Prescott Fonthill 16, 26, 27, 83B Prescott Trafalgar 16, 24 Prescott Orillia 16, 26, 21B Prescott Cobourg 16, 27, 85, 21B Prescott Kingston 16, 24, 26, 23B, 83B Prescott Gananoque ** 16, 85 Prescott Cardinal ** 16, 26, 27, 21B, 28B Prescott Cornwall ** 16, 85, 23B, 83B
Off Toronto, we are working with the Fonthill transceiver, which has to be 1,500 feet high at the highest part of the Niagara Escarpment up near Shelburne. Farther east, it's Cobourg, and after that, Kingston. But Fonthill has got to be the "range champ". All the audio is then shunted to Prescott.
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Old 24-11-2013, 13:48   #23
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Re: Hand held VHF range

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Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
Rick, the nature of VHF means (except in unusual "skip" conditions) straight line of sight. You can only improve on it by adding height at one or both ends. What identifies as "Prescott radio" on Lake Ontario is only based at Prescott. There are transceivers at the following (all relatively high) locations:

Prescott Fonthill 16, 26, 27, 83B Prescott Trafalgar 16, 24 Prescott Orillia 16, 26, 21B Prescott Cobourg 16, 27, 85, 21B Prescott Kingston 16, 24, 26, 23B, 83B Prescott Gananoque ** 16, 85 Prescott Cardinal ** 16, 26, 27, 21B, 28B Prescott Cornwall ** 16, 85, 23B, 83B
Off Toronto, we are working with the Fonthill transceiver, which has to be 1,500 feet high at the highest part of the Niagara Escarpment up near Shelburne. Farther east, it's Cobourg, and after that, Kingston. But Fonthill has got to be the "range champ". All the audio is then shunted to Prescott.
Thanks, I thought maybe they had a mile high antenna in Prescott.

In skip conditions I've talked to boats in Rochester from Toronto.
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Old 24-11-2013, 16:20   #24
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Re: Hand held VHF range

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That would be SeaTow, in the Annapolis area, Channel 27.
you are correct, chris. i used it today and the automated radio check here in ponce inlet is provided by sea tow, not tow boat u.s.. but it's on channel 26 here, not 27. i suppose that local providers have made local agreements with the coast guard to use one of the old radiotelephone channels.

i like the idea because you know where the antenna is which makes it easy to measure distances; when you get an 'ok' from another boater you don't always get their location....
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Old 24-11-2013, 16:27   #25
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Re: Hand held VHF range

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Originally Posted by HappyMdRSailor View Post
Same experience... Newest radio HX-850 has the best, but not marginally greater range.... 5-6 miles....
i also have an hx-850 and got loud and clear at six miles from the automated radio check. neither their antenna or mine were especially elevated. great little radio.
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Old 24-11-2013, 18:36   #26
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Re: Hand held VHF range

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you are correct, chris. i used it today and the automated radio check here in ponce inlet is provided by sea tow, not tow boat u.s.. but it's on channel 26 here, not 27.
How does one go about using that automated system?
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Old 24-11-2013, 19:08   #27
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Re: Hand held VHF range

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Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
I have three Standard Horizons of various vintages. With the newest one (an HX-850), I have done six miles
This radio is a 6W transmitter instead of the normal 5W. Maybe that makes a bit of difference? I'm now thinking of Spinal Tap's amplifier that goes to 11

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Old 24-11-2013, 21:43   #28
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Re: Hand held VHF range

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How does one go about using that automated system?
it's not available everywhere, so you might want to call sea tow and ask them if it's available in your area.

from what i can deduce, they are using the old radiotelephone channels - 24, 25, 26, and 27 i think - but of course only one of the channels is used in your area.

assuming you have it, just key your mike on the proper channel and say 'boat name, radio check'. then let the key go. the automated response will be a short message followed by a repeat of the message you sent followed by another short message.

you will know they received your message by the response, and you will know how clearly your message was received because they repeat it as well as they heard it.

pretty neat.
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Old 25-11-2013, 04:34   #29
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Re: Hand held VHF range

Here's a bit more info on automated radio checks:

Panbo: The Marine Electronics Hub: Automated VHF radio checks, Sea Tow & USCG

and this page has Sea Tow's locator service, where you can plug in your location and find the closest ARC station:

Automated Radio Check Service | Sea Tow
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Old 25-11-2013, 08:38   #30
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Re: Hand held VHF range

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How does one go about using that automated system?

Just hum a few bars on your radio using that channel... the system automatically broadcasts back exactly what you said. Usually preceded by an ad for SeaTow.

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