Antennae250At least one marine electronics dealer we interviewed said your VHF antenna was an item that should be replaced annually. Ken Harrison at Summerhill.ca on the other hand, said that a good antenna should last 5 to 8 years (depending on whether or not it was used as a grab handle)!

One manufacturer told us that 80% of all VHF problems are antenna related. Everyone agreed that the antenna and cabling was the greatest factor limiting the performance of your VHF radio. Alan Stovell at Western Marine Distributors and Transat made the sage comment that, “…the antenna was the ‘low price football’ in many VHF radio deals.”

This is not hard to understand. Buyers search out and are “sold” by the radio’s features and quality. The antenna is a low interest item and the cable gets barely a second thought from many boaters. They are just necessary pieces in the deal. And hey! What can possibly go wrong with an antenna?

Well, it turns out that there are several potential points of failure. The wiring inside the actual antenna can be damaged or broken and that limits or ends the signal. The internal connections are relatively delicate and pounding over waves, whacking an overhead obstruction, banging on the gunwhale during trailering and, of course, when someone uses it as a grab bar, all can cause failure. So can water or moisture intrusion, especially in salt water.

Buying a better bracket is an excellent investment in preventing your antenna from vibration fatigue. One distributor told us that yellow plastic has no ultraviolet inhibitors so it will become brittle overtime. Stainless steel will stand up the best for brackets. Using the shortest cable can enhance performance but it takes an expert installer to shorten a cable and add a connector with “factory” precision.

Antennas generally all look the same but reliability and long-life directly traces back to the quality of construction. Features like strong mechanical joints and having the radiator and electrical elements encased in a fiberglass rod all improve quality. The element inside the antenna is always slowly corroding, so you're losing performance at all times.

Silver-plated elements and gold-plated connections ward off corrosion. Antennas with foam filling greatly reduce or eliminate vibration that causes fatigue and wire damage or moisture intrusion. Top quality antennas are sometimes finished in an epoxy for maximum UV resistance.

Height is the most important factor in getting the greatest range, so choose an antenna that can be placed as high as possible. Antennas on sailboats can be a 3-foot to 5-foot antenna mounted on the masthead. Powerboats 16 to 25 feet in length generally use a standard 8-foot antenna while larger vessels can support larger antennas that can offer greater “gain”.

Gain is a rating stated in decibels [dB]. Generally, the higher the gain, the greater the communicating range. However, the higher the gain, the more compressed the beam width becomes. A 3 dB pattern is sort of round shaped and easy to receive while the 6 dB and 9 dB antennas have successively narrower patterns that travel further but can cause fading in rolling seas. Small boats, which will roll excessively in heavy seas, normally do not use a gain rating above 6 dB. Consult your dealer for the best option.

The same advice goes for cable. Better cable lasts longer and suffers lower losses while often being more UV stable. Low-end friction-fit connectors can work loose. Look for more durable solder-fit connectors. One expert advised us that regular boat maintenance means check and replace your VHF cable every three years.

By spending only a few dollars more you get a far better antenna. By spending only 25 to 30% more than the cheapest antennas [which are as little as $50 anyway] you get a dramatically better product.

Since many factors influence the selection of a proper antenna, we encourage consultation with your dealer.

Lifestyle

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Boat Reviews

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J99By Katherine Stone

All set to pull out the Code 0 before dousing the jib.

It was a very cold and wet beginning to the summer and we never thought it would arrive in Southern Ontario. Doing a 100 miler race on Lake Ontario (billed as the COOLEST race on the lake) with my 8 layers of thermal clothing, woolen ski toque and ski mittens, along with a neck warmer kept me on the edge all night, just out of frostbite reach. I shouldn’t have complained, as we also had wind!

July and August arrived, and it has certainly warmed up, in fact, its too warm, AND we don’t have wind. We are now counting 5 Wednesday nights in a row without wind to race. 

Read more about the J99 Offshore Shorthand Speeder.....................

 

Cruisers Yachts 38 GLSBy Andy Adams and John Armstrong

The North American power boat market has begun to see a new trend toward larger day boats for luxurious onboard entertaining and the new Cruisers Yachts 38 GLS is right on trend plus, it brings a different flavour and set of cruising attributes to this market.

The new Cruisers Yachts 38 GLS carries on the styling and accommodation quality of the company's Cantius line of cruising yachts while beginning an entirely new family of day boats. 

 

Read More about Cruisers Yachts..................

Destinations

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KingstonBy Amy Hogue

Cruise into the city of Kingston, Ontario, and it will quickly become clear that this city and surrounding waterways have something special. Built around the northern shore of Lake Ontario, Kingston is the place to go if you love to explore new waterways, fantastic views, and exceptional boating opportunities.

Sitting at the intersection of three world-class Canadian bodies of water, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal (Cataraqui River from Kingston to Newboro), the water’s influence is deeply woven into Kingston’s culture and history. 

Read more about Kingston......................

 

Marine Products

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