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Old 17-03-2013, 04:51   #1
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VHF transmitter location

Hello Cruisers,


I have a Swanson 42 with the VHF radio downstairs at a navigation station, just to the starboard side as you step down into the cabin from the dodger. It has a repeater speaker up in the dodger that you can hear from the wheel.

I am replacing the existing older VHF unit with a new one. I was about to put the radio back in the nav station then I asked myself it if it would not be better to put it upstairs near the wheel. There are plenty of locations up top which I can use, probably just inside the dodger would be best, but I wonder if I am missing something in moving it away from the navigation station, as that seems to be a popular spot.

For what it is worth I do next to no paper based navigation downstairs, we mostly sail in semi sheltered waters near Adelaide in South Australia so we are up on deck nearly all the time, listening out for ship movements and checking in with the Coastguard as we come and go.

Is there any reason not to move it I should consider? (Wiring is not an issue in either location, so that's not a consideration here.)

Advice greatly appreciated on this one,

Matt
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Old 17-03-2013, 04:59   #2
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Re: VHF transmitter location

I prefer having the ability to operate the VHF from both nav table and helm. Even if you're not doing paper based navigation at the nav table, you might prefer to do the radio from there out of the weather and out of the noise of storm winds, for example.

Many VHF radios have a second station option -- have the main radio at the nav table, and the second station handset at the helm. That's what I do, and I am very happy with that arrangement. My radio is an Icom M604, but lots of VHF radios have second station options.
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Old 17-03-2013, 05:15   #3
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Re: VHF transmitter location

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
.... but lots of VHF radios have second station options.
Unfortunately mine does not have a second station option, so if you had to choose, which would you choose?

And I guess I should certainly consider the dual station option for the future, unfortunately the newish radio I have was bought for my Austral 20 which hardly justifies such a setup.

Matt
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Old 17-03-2013, 06:32   #4
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Re: VHF transmitter location

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Originally Posted by GILow View Post
Unfortunately mine does not have a second station option, so if you had to choose, which would you choose?

And I guess I should certainly consider the dual station option for the future, unfortunately the newish radio I have was bought for my Austral 20 which hardly justifies such a setup.

Matt
Well, you have to decide yourself. What suits my taste and way of working might not suit yours.

But since you asked, I personally wouldn't want to be without a VHF at the nav table. I get out of the weather for most radio conversations, and sure wouldn't want to be out in the storm if I were -- God forbid -- sending distress messages and communicating with SAR services. You might not be able to hear anything at all.

So I personally would go with the nav table, and use a handheld at the helm, if I were you. Any conversation you have while at the helm is likely to be short range, so handheld should be ok for that. I cruised like that for a long time before I acquired my present dual station M604, and it was ok. You leave the downstairs radio on, and the remote speaker at the helm on so that you can hear at long range what is going on on 16, and you can run down below in case you need to talk to someone at long range. Otherwise, for anything short range (like talking to harbormasters or berthing masters as you are entering a harbor, or coordinating evasive maneuvers with another sailboat which is about to crash into you ), you have the handheld in a cup holder at the helm.

Or flog the radio you just bought on Fleabay, and buy a dual station one.
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Old 17-03-2013, 07:31   #5
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Re: VHF transmitter location

Keep the old radio where it is and put the new one up top. It is always better to have redundant systems. You'll either need an antenna splitter or a separate antenna though. I have a hard top over my steering station and I put the fixed mount VHF up there where I can reach it easily. I haven't regretted that--I find that once in awhile I want to listed to weather or something down below, and I just use a handheld radio for that.

I find having the radio at the helm is much more useful than I imagined. For example, it picks up Coast Guard warnings at much greater range than a hand held, I can follow along in rescue situations better, sometimes while I am underway I need to call someone distant and I don't need to ask someone to take over the helm, plus the volume and clarity is much better on the fixed mount. I'm thinking of getting one of those new ones with built-in AIS and GPS.
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Old 17-03-2013, 08:07   #6
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Re: VHF transmitter location

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Keep the old radio where it is and put the new one up top. It is always better to have redundant systems. You'll either need an antenna splitter or a separate antenna though. I have a hard top over my steering station and I put the fixed mount VHF up there where I can reach it easily. I haven't regretted that--I find that once in awhile I want to listed to weather or something down below, and I just use a handheld radio for that.

I find having the radio at the helm is much more useful than I imagined. For example, it picks up Coast Guard warnings at much greater range than a hand held, I can follow along in rescue situations better, sometimes while I am underway I need to call someone distant and I don't need to ask someone to take over the helm, plus the volume and clarity is much better on the fixed mount. I'm thinking of getting one of those new ones with built-in AIS and GPS.
That's a good idea! The only refinement I would suggest would be to use a separate antenna. You will have great losses through a splitter -- no one ever seems to be happy with them. And a switch means you can only use one radio at a time, and will be always forgetting to switch it over. A separate antenna will mean true and full redundancy, which is surely a good thing. Put it on a spreader to avoid interference with the masthead one, or even on the pushpit.
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Old 17-03-2013, 08:33   #7
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Re: VHF transmitter location

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The only refinement I would suggest would be to use a separate antenna. You will have great losses through a splitter -- no one ever seems to be happy with them.
I've wondered about that. You would think there would be some sort of high-quality automatic splitter these days, which would not require the user to flip a switch. I've been on some big powerboats that had something that connected two or three radios to one antenna and did it automatically, but I am uncertain what the equipment was.
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Old 17-03-2013, 08:58   #8
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Re: VHF transmitter location

A word of caution...I am not in favor of having a transceiver that includes a GPS and other gizmos. If that radio goes down, all other gizmos will go down as well. Most sailors are neither electrical engineers nor capable of isolating/bypassing circuits affected. The attraction of a small foot-print and all-in one radio/gizmos are not worth the trouble. Mauritz
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Old 17-03-2013, 14:37   #9
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Angry Re: VHF transmitter location

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
I've wondered about that. You would think there would be some sort of high-quality automatic splitter these days, which would not require the user to flip a switch. I've been on some big powerboats that had something that connected two or three radios to one antenna and did it automatically, but I am uncertain what the equipment was.
Shakespeare makes/made(?) a model AS-2 automatic splitter (I got one on ebay a couple of years ago but haven't installed it though it is 'real soon now').
The specs should be on the Shakespeare website (I have a trove of equipment pdf's but that computer is down ATT).

The AS-2 needs its own 12V power source, it has two "Radio (1/2)" inputs, one "Antenna" output. It's not supposed to affect the reception for either input VHF, and upon a given VHF transmitting, will switch to output the active XMT radio to the antenna.
There are also some manual VHF-antenna switches available from Shakepeare and different vendors.
I don't know whether it is a good thing or not, I'll give it a try though.


On the general topic of VHF though: A brand that gets little mention is Uniden (they make/made West Marine branded VHF's too), probably because their quality has been very uneven (in my experience with the Uniden's).
They have produced reasonably priced radios that have had brilliant feature sets, but their mfg execution and quality was lacking, a real pity (display failures and WHAM4 useful battery life) .

In particular, I have a both a UM625 (color) and UM525 DSC model. These units allow the boatwide use of remote wireless 'handset/mics' of two different configurations, the WHAM (900MHz) and WHAM4 (2.4GHz) with wireless links to the base VHF radio (belowdeck at navsta). The WHAM supports all the base VHF unit basic functions, while the WHAM4 does almost everything the base can do, plus communicate with other WHAM4's (which allows intra-crew comms).
I jes luvs the overall concepts of the Unidens, but the battery life of the WHAM4's is atrocious (uses 3 AAA's, they last 2 hours on standby, or the equipped NMHi rechargeables about the same). I'm rigging up a small portable battery pack adjunct until somebody makes a super AAA.
One other neat idea is the WHAM4 remote inductive recharging cradle; no contacts, so it can be mounted above (and somewhat exposed), and the remote left cradled and charging.
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Old 17-03-2013, 14:47   #10
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Re: VHF transmitter location

Quote:
A word of caution...I am not in favor of having a transceiver that includes a GPS and other gizmos. If that radio goes down, all other gizmos will go down as well.
I agree 100%. I would also have other handheld VHF radios and other GPS units too. It would just declutter the helm location to incorporate these things into one unit, eliminate quite a bit of wiring, and it would be another backup to other systems.
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Old 17-03-2013, 15:07   #11
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Re: VHF transmitter location

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Originally Posted by Tx J View Post
Shakespeare makes/made(?) a model AS-2 automatic splitter
Hmm. Antenna splitters often fails and can leave you with NO working VHF.

Put a second antenna up, even if it's much lower than the main, it will make a great ship-to-ship radio and backup. Sailboats could put the second antenna on a radar pole, or even on a short 1" pipe extension on the pushpit.

/;Marcus
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Old 17-03-2013, 15:27   #12
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Re: VHF transmitter location

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Originally Posted by Shipraiser View Post
Hmm. Antenna splitters often fails and can leave you with NO working VHF.

Put a second antenna up, even if it's much lower than the main, it will make a great ship-to-ship radio and backup. Sailboats could put the second antenna on a radar pole, or even on a short 1" pipe extension on the pushpit.

/;Marcus
Understood. Like you(?), I was in the systems and radio (primarily microwave P-P) biz. Multi-redundancy in most apps/systems is a given with me.
I have not only dedicated handhelds (for utility, and ultimate ditching backup), but a separate base VHF with its' own rail-mounted antenna as a 'working backup' comm sys. While the main VHF uses a masthead antenna.
I plan (you know how that goes) to mount a second 'main' VHF unit in the cockpit, hence the experiment with the AS-2, while singlehanding.
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Old 17-03-2013, 15:34   #13
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Re: VHF transmitter location

In my opinion, as a lifelong sailor, professional captain, marine electronics specialist, and extra class ham (over 40 years), DO NOT use a splitter.

You will lose a bit of ERP (effective radiated power) due to attenuation within the splitter. But, more importantly, you run the risk of possible harm and interference with your main VHF radio which is, in my considered opinion,
THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTRONIC SAFETY DEVICE THAT YOU HAVE ON BOARD.

Why in the world would you want to do ANYTHING which could compromise that system?

Especially since there are several other effective alternatives which don't cost an arm and a leg?

Either:

1. Get a VHF which has a remote cockpit microphone, and install the mic in the flybridge or the cockpit; or

2. Get a second waterproof VHF transceiver and install it in the flybridge or cockpit with its own antenna mounted on the pushpit or radar arch. This gives you total redundancy which is a good thing, and gives you an alternative in case of a dismasting.

You can buy a very nice little VHF for around $100 these days which would be perfectly adequate to install in the flybridge or cockpit. An antenna and coax would add, maybe $50 more. So, for less than $200 you've solved the problem and you've greatly increased (doubled) the likelihood of having a working VHF radio in case of an emergency.

Bill
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Old 17-03-2013, 16:38   #14
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I hold an opposing view. Splitters are reliable devices , and are now integrated into many major manufacturers AIS solutions ( Garmin , Ray , Digital Yacht , etc).

Your VHF antenna on the mast head spends most of its time doing nothing, so utilising it for AIS is quite useful.

If , and its a remote if, the splitter fails , its a simple matter to directly connect t the masthead antenna to either the AIS or the VHF directly. Most people have backup VHF handhelds and a spare antenna anyway , not to mention EPIRBS, etc

I see no reason not to use a good quality automatic splitter, especially one integrated into the AIS.

Dave
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Old 17-03-2013, 16:43   #15
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Re: VHF transmitter location

The failure rate of splitters may be debatable but the inherent insertion loss created by using one isn't. Considering both the potential for failure and the loss, splitters are a bad compromise.
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