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Old 17-08-2006, 10:37   #1
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Walkie (Boatie) Talkies worthwhile?

Hello - looking for advice or suggestions on hand-held, non-licensed, open-band, water-somewhat-proof, walkie talkies (or whatever they might be called at this point). Radios, CBs, I think there was another name, but I can't find any good info on the topic as it pertains to sailing.

The goal here is to have a ship-to-cottage connection with my folks as they go on long daysails or short overnighters. I can follow them down the shore somewhat if needed, so I'm thinking that 10 or 15-ish miles of range should do it. Sometimes only open water, sometimes there will be fields and forests in between receivers.

Any experience with these? Many have big ranges listed, such as 12 miles, but then they are careful to say that you shouldn't expect it to achieve max range in all situations and conditions. The reports I've had on the short-range models have been, well, really rather short.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
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Old 17-08-2006, 13:35   #2
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What exactly are you trying to do with them. Is this ship to shore, or on board use??

I have a funny story. Well I can at least laugh now. I came across some Uniden Tx/cvrs on Ebay. They were a twin set in a twin desktop charger. I liked the fact that they were US freqs so as people here in NZ could not listen to our conversations. I wanted something that Dawn could communicate from the bow with when aproaching a mooring, without having to yell at the top of her voice in a panic in a busy bay. I won the bid for US$1.50 for the set. These were brand new. But the seller would not send out of the US. So I had them sent to a friend and then my friend sent them on to me. They arrived and were about what I expected. We toddled off down to the boat and I had an arm full of bits and pieces including the radio set. As I got to the boat, I had a slight slip and one radio feel out of the charger, hit the rail around the board walk, did a lovely 3 and one half twist followed by a perfect entry into the water.
So now I have one radio in a twin desktop charger that won't work on anything else as it is on US freqs. Dang.
So we bought two new NZ radios to do the job. But in the end, all we found was that Dawn would still yell at the top of her voice into the radio, which only made the situation worse, as now I had a loud distorted sound on my radio that made it ipossible to interpret and the radio working in the pilot house stopped me from hearing her natural voise, so it was a big failure all in all. We now have a better method of picking up the bouys and we are getting quite proficient at it with much better communication skills, so we have never used those little radios again.
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Old 17-08-2006, 14:34   #3
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we use a set of the personal short range radios for communications between the bow and the cockpit during anchoring and when one of us is off exploring and the other is back aboard. They work great.
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Old 17-08-2006, 15:19   #4
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For 10 to 15 miles I don't think you can get there with the walkie talkies.
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Old 17-08-2006, 15:44   #5
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" so I'm thinking that 10 or 15-ish miles of range should do it. Sometimes only open water, sometimes there will be fields and forests in between receivers."
In the US (and each country will vary) nothing you can buy unlicensed and stick in your pocket, except a cell phone, will work reliably for a mile. The typical unlicensed handy-talky is an FRS radio with a ranbge of about 1/4 mile to 1/2 mile--regardless of the power claims.

Above that are GMRS radios, which require a license, and are available in higher power with ranged that might make 2-5 miles.

Then there's ham radio or various business class radios. The entry level ham radio license is the "technician" class, a $14 exam and no Morse Code required. That will open up more options--but nothing that guarantees you a 10-mile range "hand to hand" with something in your pocket.

Sounds like cell phones are your best bet if there's coverage in your area.
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Old 17-08-2006, 18:39   #6
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I agree with Hellosailor. A cell phone would be the most simple (and power efficient) option.

A question for the masses: Why not use a VHF base station on land and a VHF in the boat? People (aka businesses) do this all the time. Is there anything prohibiting the original poster from doing it?
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Old 17-08-2006, 19:01   #7
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Sean-
Again, rashly assuming they're in the US.<G> "Why not use a VHF base station on land and a VHF in the boat? " Well, a recreational sailor ON THE WATER doesn't need a marine VHF license. But once you step onto the land...you need a base station permit. Haven't checked that in ages it used to be a simple form and a fee but considering how much the VHF licenses (Ship/Air Station) have gone up I'm afraid to ask what a land base station fee is now. And they'll require a fairly precise antenna location (lat/lon) for that form, too.

With business radios, no problem--if you pay the fees and IF the business service is allowed for land and maritime use, as opposed to land mobile, aeronautical, etc. Odds are business radios are going to be rather pricey too, as the commercial quality radios often are built quite a bit tougher.

I'm just wondering...since the cellco's all damn well ought to remember how many phones they sold to boats, even back in the analog days, why none of them bothers to make a water-resistant cell phone. Doubtlessly more profitable to sell replacements. (sigh.)
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Old 17-08-2006, 20:44   #8
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I appreciate the replys, although disappointing. I hate it when people who actually know what they're talking about tell me that my plans won't work. Ah, well - I guess that's why I asked. I suppose we'd still be able to make use of the 1/2 mile range just for supplies and idle nonsense chatting.

Cell phones don't work in our area, sadly (although not really all that sad, if you know what I mean). We're in a fairly rural part of the Great Lakes, Canadian side of Lake Erie, and often lucky to get a weak signal at the dock.

Thanks.
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Old 17-08-2006, 20:57   #9
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The cheapo FRS FM walkie talkies seem to work OK. Realistic range is about 1-2 miles, but they do come in handy. Elusive bought me a pair of them a few years ago, and a set for himself. We used them when he was in this harbor, and they worked great. THe battery packs that came with them were short lived, as the charger was even shorter lived, but they accept AA batteries, and I have found this to be more convenient anyway. For on deck communications, I have encountered similar problems to Wheels, but to add a bit of frustration, my wife is still radio shy, and will go out of her way to not talk on the radio. Still, we have made good use of the radios over the years.
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Old 17-08-2006, 22:14   #10
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Kai - glad to hear it .. was wondering if they were still useful to you all.

I HAVE seen in stores (for less than $100 USD) a set that CLAIMS up to 10 miles. They are the same as Kai and I have, but (obviously) a longer range. They don't say, on the outside packaging, what, if any, license is required to operate at the 10 mile distance. I have been curious about them for some time now; think that I'll ask one of the sales types what they know.
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Old 18-08-2006, 00:52   #11
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Mate, if you can get 10miles, I wouldn't want that thing anywhere near my head.
Anything broadcasting in using FM is pretty much line of sight. If you are up high or have a high antennae, then you can get further than just the small one on the HH. Most HH's are in the 1W and 5W range because of battery drain as well as power output vs safety with proximity. Anything with power above 5W is of little benifit if you are in a direct line of site to the other reciever. Once below 5W, distance does start playing an issue. A 5W will transmit just fine over most usable distances a person standing would "see". 3W is about half that. I do say "ABOUT" half. 1W is about half again. Duplex systems using an intermediate repeater station have the benifit of cvr station antennae being up high. It recieves a weak signal and boosts it out over a wider area allowing for a very large coverage area.
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Old 18-08-2006, 01:47   #12
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I get 12 miles + out of my hand held "oregon scientific" vhf and use it frequently to communicate with the boat while I am out exploring in the dinghy. also use it when I don't want to abandon the helm as my main radio was in the nav station below. don't see what the prblem is?
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Old 18-08-2006, 12:21   #13
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Bob - these do not operate on the marine VHF frequencies.
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Old 18-08-2006, 12:45   #14
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Bob, I hope you haven't rowed 12+miles away from your boat. :-)
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Old 18-08-2006, 13:51   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Payne
The goal here is to have a ship-to-cottage connection with my folks as they go on long daysails or short overnighters. I can follow them down the shore somewhat if needed, so I'm thinking that 10 or 15-ish miles of range should do it. Sometimes only open water, sometimes there will be fields and forests in between receivers.
You could install a conventional CB in the cottage and put an antenna on the roof. Likewise, you could use a typical car/truck CB in the boat. It isn't handheld, but it does the job. A major advantage here is to get higher antennas, so the horizon is more distant.

(b.t.w. The horizon is further away for radio waves than it is for visible light. I use 15% more as an approximation; you can look up the formulas in Bowditch and work out the exact value.)

A second advantage is the higher power. More power doesn't help if you have a clear line of sight, but it can help if there are obstructions. Your signal will be reduced by trees, certain types of buildings, or even rain. It will be completely blocked by hills or other types of buildings. (Though I doubt an area with no cell phone coverage will have many buildings to block your signal. )

I don't know if this will actually work in your area, but it might.
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