On the sea, river or the lake, reliable communication is a basic safety MUST! Choosing the best marine VHF radio could save your life!
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This is a great radio for the more experienced mariner. With a built in GPS, you can send an instant distress call with your vessel’s GPS location. This is a fantastic feature enabling you to push your level of experience with the safety of knowing help is not too far away.
This unit can float if dropped, not only that but it can continue to transmit it’s GPS signal even if submerged.
The HX870 is able to both send and receive GPS distress signals.
BenFeng is a well known name in the marine world and has a long history with handheld radio’s
This is a fantastic transceiver for the mariner on the go or a beginner getting used to the water. With a rechargeable 24 hour battery, this radio will be on hand when needed.
The tough outer shell makes this unit very durable and won’t give up the ghost if accidentally dropped.
This is a great starter VHF radio for anyone looking to communicate with fellow boaters, kayaker's or have a, "just in case", back up VHF radio.
The long battery life and water resistance means it can stay in water for up to 30 minutes whilst still being fully usable.
A bright and clear LCD display makes seeing this unit at night simple.
This is a lower priced unit that does not scrimp on features. It is constructed with a buoyant design and can emit a strobe light when immersed in water.
This unit can remain submerged in 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes whilst still being fully functional. It has full access to all USA / Canada and other international frequencies.
A quick access button puts you onto channel 16 for emergency calls.
Having a radio on the water is a requirement for motorboats, yachts, and ships. However, a radio is sensible safety equipment for anyone out on the water. I have a radio on my person when kite surfing, windsurfing, and kayaking.
In most cases, the decision of whether to get a fixed or handheld radio is decided by the type of vessel you have. Smaller boats, kayaks, and dinghies which don’t have room for larger marine batteries, mean having a fixed VHF radio is impractical and a handheld radio is the only option.
Fixed VHF’s usually have greater power, range, and features.
These types of radio’s don’t have antenna built in, and require an external antenna to be fitted.
Being able to monitor multi channels is a big plus and something to consider if you are planning long-distance trips. Weather channels, and channel 16 are some of the channels you should monitor on a regular basis.
Digital selective calling (DSC), is a feature that most modern fixed mounted radios have, and is a good safety feature. It means that anyone, even with no radio experience, can send a distress call. In some cases, handheld radios have this feature as well, so keep an eye open for this feature.
Once your radio has been set up correctly, you can use DSC to make instant distress calls at the press of a button. If you have a GPS system built into your radio or connected, your position is sent out along with your distress call.
In order to be able to use this function, you will need to have an MMSI number (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) This number is a unique identifier for your craft. Fixed mounted VHF radios are required to have an MMSI number, whereas portable radio’s don’t.
Having a GPS on board is extremely useful. Having a GPS built into your radio, especially for small crafts is a great space saver. If a GPS is connected to your radio your position can be sent out along with your distress call.
Some VHF radios have the facility to broadcast your position to other boats in the vicinity. This is especially useful when sailing in a flotilla.
As most radios are mounted either in the cockpit or close to the hatchway, it’s very likely it will get wet If you have a handheld radio it’s even more likely. Having a decent IPX rating is imperative if you wish your radio to be fully functional after being hit by a few waves.
Hey, I'm Brad - the founder and editor of Watercraft Watch. My love for boating is what prompted me to start WatercraftWatch.com – helping people find the right equipment and supplies so they can enjoy their time on the water. I hope you find the articles on the site useful, and share in my love for boating.