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Old 25-02-2019, 13:52   #1
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Walkie Talkie

Usually it is my wife and myself on the boat. When we need it (for example, to take down or hoist the spinnaker), my wife goes on the bow and I steer/ do halyards from the cockpit. When it is windy, we have a hard time hearing each other. We have developed a system of hand signals, but it works well as long as things go smoothly, and tend to fail when there is an unexpected problem (i.e., when you really need to communicate). Also, she may not have a free hand to be used for signals...

I have been thinking of trying walkie talkies. I figure that a shoulder speaker could be semi-permanently attached to the inflatable and the walkie talkie attached to the belt, with the wire to the speaker tucked in such a way that does not get tangled (kind of what cops wear).

My only experience with walkie talkies has been with horrible, cheap, rinky-dinky ones that would not be intelligible with a speaker outdoor in wind, but I am guessing that better ones must exist.

Has anybody used or is using walkie talkies with a shoulder speaker on the boat? If so, what's your experience? What brand/model do you use and how did you fit it to the inflatable?

Thank you!
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Old 25-02-2019, 13:56   #2
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Re: Walkie Talkie

I recommend you let the walkie talkie idea go and instead look into motorcycle intercom systems
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Old 25-02-2019, 14:00   #3
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Re: Walkie Talkie

We have kid's toy walkie talkies. Cost very little, from Toys R Us, a long, long time ago. We refer to them as "inter-galactic communicators."

The headset has a mike built in, and we put a little bit of sponge over it to cut down wind noise, fastened with a rubber band! Yes, mickey mouse, but works fine. Still need hand signals for the rain. I'm certain they are not water resistant.

However, I would exhaust the children's market before i went to motorcyclists headsets for hundreds of dollars.

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Old 25-02-2019, 14:41   #4
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Re: Walkie Talkie

Motorola T100, pair for ~$30, has a handsfree mode, use M6 type headsets if you want, $12 - 20 more.
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Old 25-02-2019, 14:56   #5
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Re: Walkie Talkie

Cheap half watt UHF CB radios that have rechargeable batteries installed are our radio of choice. These are compact and used most times. They aren't waterproof but at twenty bucks each, not a big deal. I also have a 2w UHF unit that is waterproof and floats if dropped in the drink which is good for inclement weather use or for communicating over longer distances.

Another suggestion is to use Chinese programmable radios that are sold under a number of brands including "Baefong". There are "waterproof" models in the range, but "water resistant" is probably a better description. These things aren't 100% legal to transmit with if you don't have an amateur license, but can be purchased on Ebay very cheap and, if you stick to legal frequencies and power levels, it should mean you only ever end up in a minimum security correctional institution at worst if caught transmitting with one. They need to be programmed with frequencies and power outputs (they can transmit up to around 5 to 8 watts maximum but can be programmed as low as 1w default on a channel by channel basis) to make them morally legal but the programming isn't too hard if done with software via a PC and there is plenty of files for UHF and marine VHF frequencies available on the Internet. These units are very well made and can take a knock considering the price; and use a high capacity rechargeable lithium battery for power. Some need 10VDC for charging, which is a pain, but some also charge from USB. They also have shoulder speaker/mics as option available for a couple of dollars and you can configure them for VOX (voice activated transmission) operation. Not saying that I own one personally, , but if I did I think one programmed with a combination of UHF CB and marine VHF frequencies would be a pretty good standby because this gives you essentially two radios in one. As a bonus, they also have an FM radio function and LED torch built in which is also a surprisingly handy feature.
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Old 25-02-2019, 16:37   #6
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Re: Walkie Talkie

I have been putting way too much thought into this lately although partly because I'm trying to cover longer distance comms.


There are some choices.


* There are the cheap FRS/GMRS radios. Quality is extremely poor overall and that manifests as poor audio quality, insufficient loudness to overcome a noisy environment, short battery life, and controls that are difficult to use. On the upside they are only $30 each.


* You can use handheld marine radios for this and from what I understand it is a lawful use. I have the Standard Horizon HX300 and like it, waterproof, submersible, long battery life, loud. They're typicaly $120 if you shop. Set them to an oddball channel like 72 at low power and you're good. No headset or shoulder mic available but they're loud enough and good enough it doesn't matter.


* You can purchase UHF business radios programmed to FRS/GMRS frequencies. Figure $250 and up for these with a number of choices. Some are submersible. There are a wide variety of accessories, and quality is high. These guys will set you up - https://www.buytwowayradios.com/


* If you both have amateur radio licenses, you can use amateur radio handhelds, which are in between the cheapo toys and the business band radios in terms of price and quality.
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Old 25-02-2019, 17:15   #7
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Re: Walkie Talkie

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Originally Posted by s/v Jedi View Post
I recommend you let the walkie talkie idea go and instead look into motorcycle intercom systems


100% They are rugged, comfortable and secure to wear, have high quality audio and best of all they employ a full duplex communication system. Meaning, it’s like talking on a telephone. No PTT, no VOX. My wife and I speak in regular voices the length of the boat while anchoring and anytime I go aloft. We also wear them when we ride our bikes. The set that we have, Sena SPH -10, will connect up to four headsets, you can Bluetooth connect your phone for music or calls. Something like a 1000’ range. They’re pretty cool, not cheap, but worth it.
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Old 25-02-2019, 17:49   #8
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Re: Walkie Talkie

I think handsfree usage in heavy winds is core to the OP use case.

Need to plan for worst case scenario when you need them the most.

*and* keep developing the sign language
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Old 25-02-2019, 18:42   #9
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Re: Walkie Talkie

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jammer View Post
I have been putting way too much thought into this lately although partly because I'm trying to cover longer distance comms.


There are some choices.


* There are the cheap FRS/GMRS radios. Quality is extremely poor overall ..........
FRS/GMRS is only legal in US

Quote:
* You can use handheld marine radios for this and from what I understand it is a lawful use. .........
At least in the US technically I suspect elsewhere only legal on a ship, or on shore with a special shore license.


Quote:
* You can purchase UHF business radios programmed to FRS/GMRS frequencies.
Still illegal outside the US regardless of how much you pay for them.

Quote:
* If you both have amateur radio licenses, you can use amateur radio handhelds,
Only would be legal where your license permits.
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Old 25-02-2019, 20:35   #10
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Re: Walkie Talkie

We use EarTech sets (full duplex, FM, noise blanking) for anchoring, sail work, and going up the mast. About $300/pair but well worth it...
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Old 25-02-2019, 22:13   #11
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Re: Walkie Talkie

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Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
I think handsfree usage in heavy winds is core to the OP use case.

Need to plan for worst case scenario when you need them the most.

*and* keep developing the sign language
That's exactly right john.
The best unit I ever used was an ultra sensitive fiberoptic earpiece that picked up your voice via your eustation tube and was a receiver as well.

Designed to plug into the old ICOM 2 jack portable VHF it was incredible in high noise or high wind conditions.

You could wear ear protectors right over it and was used a lot by engine makers doing running tests
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Old 26-02-2019, 00:30   #12
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Re: Walkie Talkie

There must be an app for this!
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Old 26-02-2019, 03:09   #13
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Re: Walkie Talkie

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Originally Posted by Reefmagnet View Post
. . . These things aren't 100% legal to transmit with if you don't have an amateur license, . . .

They're not even 1% legal!




But joking aside -- I think I agree with you, that if you stick to legal frequencies and keep the power down, it is unlikely that anyone will care.




Rule-following where radio is concerned, varies a lot by geography. In Greenland, as I discovered last summer, the local people use handheld marine VHF on land as a quasi-mobile phone system. Every Inuit person I met had one in his pocket. I suppose they would be amazed to hear that that is not legal.


I talked more on marine VHF last summer than the whole rest of my life put together.
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Old 26-02-2019, 03:18   #14
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Re: Walkie Talkie

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Originally Posted by ohgary View Post
FRS/GMRS is only legal in US . . . .


Still illegal outside the US regardless of how much you pay for them.


Only would be legal where your license permits.
There are similar unlicensed personal radio/family radio frequencies in many countries.


See: Walkie Talkies in Different Countries - Legal Issues


In Europe including the UK, it's PMR440.

An amateur FM UHF handy-talkie can be programmed to work on any of these systems. I have an Icom ID-51 handy-talkie which can even be set on 0.5 watts power. I've used it for this, but I always go back to ordinary marine VHF. Discreet ship-to-shore use is generally tolerated, at least around here.


For communicating with shore parties from the mother ship, or with the dinghy, I like marine VHF especially because you can use the DSC position polling function to see where they are.


Ship-to-shore use is not legal, but if you avoid calling on 16 and avoid blatantly describing that you are actually on shore, and you are not clogging up a busy channel, it doesn't seem to be a big problem.


Of course if there is mobile phone service, you just use that, so this whole issue has somewhat narrow application.




Quote:
Originally Posted by ohgary View Post
At least in the US technically I suspect elsewhere only legal on a ship, or on shore with a special shore license.

The OP proposed to use on board his own boat for communications between crew -- perfectly legal use of marine VHF.
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Old 26-02-2019, 06:31   #15
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Re: Walkie Talkie

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I always go back to ordinary marine VHF. Discreet ship-to-shore use is generally tolerated, at least around here.

For communicating with shore parties from the mother ship, or with the dinghy, I like marine VHF especially because you can use the DSC position polling function to see where they are.


Ship-to-shore use is not legal, but if you avoid calling on 16 and avoid blatantly describing that you are actually on shore, and you are not clogging up a busy channel, it doesn't seem to be a big problem.

Regulations vary by jurisdiction. In the U.S., it is legal to use marine VHF to communicate between a boat and a shore party that is using a handheld, so long as the shore party is adjacent to the body of water where the boat is located, that is, on a beach or dock or sea wall or whatever.


The enforcement cases I'm aware of have involved shore-based uses wholly unrelated to nautical activities of any kind. There was a case a year or two ago where an elk hunting party was using marine VHF to coordinate their hunt because the handhelds were cheap and available. They had been doing this every year on the opening day of the elk hunting season. Their hunt took place near the lower Mississippi and their transmissions were disrupting communications for commercial barge traffic. One year the FCC was waiting for them, took official measurements documenting their activities, and handed out a bunch of $10,000 fines.



Quote:
The OP proposed to use on board his own boat for communications between crew -- perfectly legal use of marine VHF.
That is my understanding also.
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