PS Advisor: 09/05

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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.

John Souvage
Burlington, ONT


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.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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