Saturday, January 28, 2012

New VHF Radio

Flush Mount
I purchased a VHF radio for the cockpit a few months ago.  It was a sweet setup as there was a very nice recessed flush mount kit..  I did this because the purchase price of $79.99 was less than a new (and discontinued) remote mike.  Everything worked fine until the microphone cord brushed against the volume control and the volume control snapped off.  Since I had purchased a plus plan from West Marine (not really necessary in this case as the radio was less than a year old) I took it back for a replacement.

The saga:
1.  The radio was discontinued so they could not replace it.  They agreed to replace it with the current version of the same radio.  The current radio had different physical dimensions so it would not fit in the recessed mount.  Not to worry, they agreed to get me a new flush mount kit.
2.  They forgot to do anything.
3.  I called them a couple of weeks later and they said whoops, don't know what happened, we will take care of it.
4.  The next day I got a call that the radio was in.  I drove down to find out that the flush mount kit was just a couple of metal brackets, not the nice recessed plastic mount from the previous radio.
5.  We looked for radios that would cover the hole in the fiberglass once the recessed mount was removed.  We came up with an ICOM and a Garmin solution.  I settled on the Garmin solution.  Since the (of course expensive) Garmin VHF 200 integrated with the rest of my Garmin gear I chose it.  As an aside, apparently all of the radios with wireless remote microphones have also been discontinued.

Garmin VHF 200
If you are interested there is a review of this radio at Panbo Electronics Review

6. When I got back to Reboot I discovered that the hole I had cut out was about 1/16th inch larger than the face of the radio.  Since I was going to have to build a new mount to cover up the hole this created the opportunity to obsess for a couple of days: do I mount the new really cool radio in the cockpit, or do I mount the old (with the volume control chewed by XO) radio in the cockpit and the new radio in the chart table. Ultimately I decided to mount the new radio in the chart table.   I had to expand the hole in the chart table.  The good news is that I got a NMEA 0183 out and NMEA 0183 in port freed up as the new radio talks NMEA 2000.  I will wire an outlet that lets me get to them from the front panel.  This will make it easier to hook them up to a computer.

The new radio does two interesting things:
1.  It links the AIS target MMSI to the radio so that I can poke the AIS target on the chart plotter, push a couple of buttons, and do a routine DSC call to the ship without having to enter the MMIS number.  A nice feature.  I wonder, however, how ships will react when their VHF radio buzzes with an "incoming call" alarm.  I will have to find a friendly ship and try it out.
2.  I can track up to three ships automatically.  Most DSC equipped radios have a feature where they will send a position report in response to a position request.  If I load in an MMSI the radio will send a position request every 5, 10, or 15 minutes (depending on if I am tracking, one, two, or three ships) and plot the result on the chart plotter.  It is a great way to keep track of ships in company that don't have AIS.  Of course the other boat needs to have configured "auto response = true" or they will get pretty tired of their radio beeping over and over.  Again, I need to find a properly equipped vessel that is friendly to try this out.

I was also pleased that in addition to providing fog horn, hailer, intercom and remote mike capabilities the Canadian and International settings are complete.  I discovered in Canada that many of the Canadian VHF marine frequencies were missing from my older VHF radio even though it had a Canadian setting.  So this is good.

Tomorrow I will mount the old radio in the cockpit and this project will be done.

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