PS Advisor: 09/05
Remote Units for VHF Radios
Your July 15 issue review of fixed-mount VHF radios didn't address one common problem. When I'm on board alone, at the wheel of our Aloha 28, the radio is below in the cabin and I can't easily get to it to make or respond to calls. My solution is to use a handheld VHF for most of my communications, and use the unit down below only as a monitor, a back-up, or for emergency calls. But aren't there other alternatives? Am I missing something here? Over.
This current issue contains another article on VHF radios, which makes mention of remote units that are expressly designed to resolve the dilemma you aptly describe. These units are ordinarily wired directly into the main unit by way of an extension cord that is sold with the remote unit. These cords—meant to be permanently installed down below—are suitably long enough to locate the remote unit somewhere convenient to the helm on most boats.
Most remote units are part mic, part speaker, and part control module; they essentially do everything the main unit does. You can select channels, control volume and squelch, and activate scanning features.
Unfortunately, it appears that many economically priced fixed-mount VHFs (like those we featured in our July 15 issue), don't accommodate remote units, but there are some options available to sailors in your situation. Standard Horizon's RAM+ Remote Access Mic ($119 at West Marine) is one of the least expensive options we've found, but it must be coupled with an existing VHF or the new Phantom PS1000 or PS2000 Blackbox VHFs.
Depending upon the kind of VHF you have on board, you may be able to use a wireless remote mic. These are made by various companies (Uniden for one), and can peform most of the commands on the main unit from distances up to .5 miles away. We found two models for around $140 (again at West Marine, but others are available elsewhere).
If the two options described here don't suit you or won't work with the VHF you already own, keeping a handheld VHF handy when you're soloing is probably the most economical solution to this problem.