There are many pieces of communication equipment that you should equip your vessel with, but the most important of all your marine electronics will be your fixed-mount very high frequency (VHF) system. This radio is essential for just about any boat that leaves a dock, whether it's on an inland body of water or the ocean. In addition to allowing you to contact other boats, they also enable you to reach out to the U.S. Coast Guard and other marine officials if you need assistance. Our VHF systems come with a variety of feature sets. The system you choose will depend on the needs of your crew as well as the location that you'll be boating.
Digital Selective Calling (DSC)
By law, all VHF systems are equipped with DSC, which allows you to transmit digital messages indicating your vessel identification number and a distress call if you're in trouble. Our VHF systems feature a button that will automatically begin transmitting a digital emergency signal to the nearest U.S. Coast Guard station or maritime authority, letting them know that you need assistance. Additionally, if your VHF is connected to your GPS, it will send your position coordinates so that you can be located quickly by rescue teams.
Fixed-mount VHFs have a range between five and 20 miles. This depends largely on the wattage of your system as well as whether or not there are any obstructions that are blocking its signals. VHF radio waves travel in a straight line, so if you're blocked by rocks, a mountain or some other object, you will experience a weakened signal. Fixed-mount VHFs are legally limited to a maximum 25 watts. The closer that your unit can get to this output, the easier it will be for others to receive messages.
Your VHF will draw power from your boat's battery pack. This means that as long as your batteries have a charge, they will power your radio. However, it's important to note that in the event that you have a dead battery, you won't be able to use your system. For these situations it is crucial that you also have a handheld VHF that runs on its own power supply for emergencies.
Selectivity is a specification that determines how well your VHF picks up on the clearest signals when you're offshore. In a given area, your radio will be detecting signals from hundreds of sources, and it is important to have a VHF that will drown out weaker radio waves and focus on those that are the closest or most powerful. Generally, a VHF will have decibel (db) ratings for three areas: Adjacent channel selectivity, spurious response rejection ratio, and intermodulation rejection ratio. For each category, a 60 db rating should be sufficient for less crowded waters. But when you're off the coast from a city or crowded boating area, 70 or 80 db may be necessary.
For most VHF systems, it is possible to receive weather reports and warnings, including automated alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Why not use a cell phone?
Cell phones become very unreliable as you get farther away from shore. The signals they receive can easily be dropped. Furthermore, rescue workers will be listening to their VHF radios, which means that you'll get a more immediate response if you contact them via your radio rather than your cell phone. This could be extremely important if you're faced with an emergency and time is of the essence.
The fixed-mount VHF systems we sell come with a number of other features which aren't listed here. If you have any questions about these boat parts and which system is best for your needs, give ePal a call today at (877) 245-8649.