Most people have a decent VHF radio on their boat – it’s pretty standard equipment for everyone. My current radio was going bad, and really didn’t have the features I needed for saftey reasons. I went out to investigate some of the newer features of the radios out there, specifically:
DSC – digital selective calling
GPS – interfaces with on-board GPS for location information and when distress calls are made/come in
I am a “no wires” kind of guy, and one of my initial criteria was that the external mic/handheld must not have a hardwire connection to the base unit. That limited my choice to basically one major manufacturer – Uniden.
Installation was straightforward and easy – brackets for a number of different options for mounting, etc. The radio has an extra antenna mount for using the WHAM series of wireless handhelds longer distances away. According to the manual, because I only wanted to use the WHAM x4 on board, I didn’t need an antenna. Using the base station was very easy – menus were obvious and easy to use, and the quality of the reception was better than the old radio I had previously.
Installation of the WHAM x4 was easy as well – simple connection for charging. Pairing it with the base station was a bit kludgy and not very well documented. Using the wireless mic was very easy, and the UI and usage has been designed very well.
I connected the base unit to my GPS so that I could use the automatic distress functionality within the product. It’s designed to send GPS coordinates in the event of an emergency when someone presses the distress button on either the base station or the handheld. This connection also means that when a distress call comes in from someone else nearby, the radio will know where they are (potentially) and can plot a course and feed it into the GPS system.
One thing I’ve noticed in using the system is cutouts while listening to others talking on high powered channels. I’m not sure if it’s the radio or my old antenna. Still investigating here.
The wireless mic is extremely handy. Rather than having the radio on really loud from below, or having a fixed-mounted system, I can move around the boat and always hear radio traffic nearby. The other really important advantage, and one of the main reasons I wanted this system, is for safety – having a GPS enabled distress call capable wireless handheld in case I have a problem while singlehanding.