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Old 05-11-2011, 20:29   #1
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Shopping for a Handheld VHF

Looking for a user friendly hand held vhf for the cockpit. Should be water proof or even better if it floats. Not looking to see what's the latest thing or the most complicated and expensive. Just a dependable radio that talks good. Is there one that stands out as a good radio at a decent price?
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Old 06-11-2011, 05:46   #2
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

The Icom IC-M34 & IC-M36, and the Standard-Horizon HX290 handhelds all float.
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Old 06-11-2011, 05:53   #3
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

I have an Icom M34 that I have been very happy with. It has even survived being played with by my youngest child.
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Old 06-11-2011, 06:15   #4
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

Picked one of these up at Defender's Spring sale a couple of years ago and it's been rock solid for us. Outstanding battery life and good acoustics for what it is (a VHF hand held)

https://www.cobra.com/detail/hh330-f...-vhf-radio.cfm
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Old 06-11-2011, 06:20   #5
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

We have a SH (older) that has great voice quality and range. The PPT button is a bit hard to push. I used Ray and I liked the fact that it worked on plain alkalis or NiMHs. If you go with NiMHs then it will charge them while in the cradle. This is very neat and practical.

Someone in another thread said the SH with GPS will output NMEA thru the cradle - a nice feature too.

Finally you can get a unit with DSC, but these are not sold in some countries.

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Old 06-11-2011, 09:47   #6
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

I have a quite elderly, no frills SH 260SX, a middle aged but compact SH 471S I wear on my PFD on other peoples' boats and a newer SH 850, which is a DSC/GPS model. Only the 850 floats. All work very well and each has its own strengths.

I have used the GPS function a few times in unexpected ways. One was to report a floating log to the Coast Guard; I read the GPS co-ords right off the display as we passed the log, and also gave an estimate of direction of drift. That's helpful to them and presumably to all nearby.

I like the cradle and the way the newer models can get a lat/lon from the chartplotter wired to said cradle, and can transmit that as part of the DSC "mayday". Even if it's been on deck for six hours, that's going to give SAR a start point, a vector from the actual transmission and therefore a fairly narrow search pattern to run to save you if you are in trouble. Short of an actual EPIRB or PLB, I think it's a good thing to have with you at the cockpit.

I rarely use my base VHF and favour the immediacy of hanging a handheld on a lanyard.
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Old 06-11-2011, 16:57   #7
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

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Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
I have a quite elderly, no frills SH 260SX, a middle aged but compact SH 471S I wear on my PFD on other peoples' boats and a newer SH 850, which is a DSC/GPS model. Only the 850 floats. All work very well and each has its own strengths.

I have used the GPS function a few times in unexpected ways. One was to report a floating log to the Coast Guard; I read the GPS co-ords right off the display as we passed the log, and also gave an estimate of direction of drift. That's helpful to them and presumably to all nearby.

I like the cradle and the way the newer models can get a lat/lon from the chartplotter wired to said cradle, and can transmit that as part of the DSC "mayday". Even if it's been on deck for six hours, that's going to give SAR a start point, a vector from the actual transmission and therefore a fairly narrow search pattern to run to save you if you are in trouble. Short of an actual EPIRB or PLB, I think it's a good thing to have with you at the cockpit.

I rarely use my base VHF and favour the immediacy of hanging a handheld on a lanyard.
Thank you. I've pretty much decided on the newer HX 851. Your endorsement of the GPS function of the SH radios was an aid to my decision. Wow, talk about features. Uniden had one similar that they discontinued a few years ago at more than three times the price without a lot of what this one has.
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Old 06-11-2011, 17:20   #8
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

I'm very happy with my Icom M34, we use them at our sailing club and they are very robust and idiot resistant not proof LOL.
We had some Unidens which did fare so well.
Hope this helps.
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Old 06-11-2011, 17:21   #9
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

I bought a STANDARD HORIZON HX851 last year and cannot say enough good about it. Clear reception, easy to use, prob my best buy. No affiliation, just a happy user.
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Old 06-11-2011, 17:42   #10
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

Another vote for the HX851. GPS, floats, and a strobe built it. VHF is booming clear and has a reasonably good speaker (for a handheld). Great to carry around in the dinghy in case something happens or the Catalina Island fog decides to set in while you're in transit.
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Old 07-11-2011, 07:21   #11
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

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Originally Posted by vintageray View Post
Thank you. I've pretty much decided on the newer HX 851. Your endorsement of the GPS function of the SH radios was an aid to my decision. Wow, talk about features. Uniden had one similar that they discontinued a few years ago at more than three times the price without a lot of what this one has.
There are others, like the ICOM line, that have similar features, but I've had good results with SH gear. It very much depends on your usage. Let's face it, most people just use it to cover 16 in the cockpit and to avoid buying one of those expense remote mics...which is fine. But as I frequently go out in changeable weather alone, I want the ability to take the radio with me if things go pear-shaped. I also punch the WX button a lot to hear if weather buoys upwind are showing different weather than I'm having, which keeps me ahead of the game in terms of sail area and set.

I like the newer base unit VHFs with built-in AIS as well...an obvious but not widely implemented feature.
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Old 07-11-2011, 07:26   #12
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

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Another vote for the HX851. GPS, floats, and a strobe built it. VHF is booming clear and has a reasonably good speaker (for a handheld). Great to carry around in the dinghy in case something happens or the Catalina Island fog decides to set in while you're in transit.
Hey, I forgot about the strobe!

A Coast Guard guy (who should know, right?) puts strobes high on the list of "things that will get you rescued" here:

Will you change anything?
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Old 08-11-2011, 12:15   #13
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Re: Shopping for a Handheld VHF

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Hey, I forgot about the strobe!

A Coast Guard guy (who should know, right?) puts strobes high on the list of "things that will get you rescued" here:

Will you change anything?
The "strobe" is a blinking white LED. It's pretty bright, but don't kid yourself that it's as serious as your lifejacket strobe. It certainly can't hurt though.

I'm pretty well acquainted with one of the two Dave's that had their J80 Heatwave drop it's keel and capsize outside the Golden Gate in the dark during the Farallons race a couple years ago (see:Latitude 38 - 'Lectronic Latitude). Their bacon was saved primarily by a handheld VHF that by luck they had stashed in a cockpit bag, and by more luck hadn't fallen out when the boat capsized. Talking to him afterwards, he kept stressing that for basic safety when short handed (and otherwise) you want a good lifejacket with a VHF radio attached to yourself. Makes sense. It's the quickest way to get help.

I do a lot of double handed races, so I promptly bought the HX851 and keep it tied tightly to my lifejacket. The guy I usually double hand with did the same. The HX851 made the most sense to me because it has a GPS, allowing you to talk anyone you can contact to your exact location. The strobe will certainly help, and provides a backup in case your lifejacket strobe fails. Plus it floats. Seems like cheap insurance.
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