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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Classic boat restoration expert and wooden boat builder Stan Hunter recently sent us this great ...
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Cobourg Yacht Club - 2015 Sailing instructorsKatherine Stone

Like many other harbours on Lake Ontario, Cobourg has seen its fair share of changes. Screams used to be heard from kids piled into a toboggan on wheels that went hurtling down a wooden slide into the harbour. Above it all was the bustling din from the waterfront of ship’s whistles, train engines, foghorns and thundering coal cars. It is now a rather serene place for the locals and visitors to enjoy various watercraft. Fortunately, the beautiful beach that lines the waterfront is still a star attraction for the town.

Located 95 kilometres east of Toronto and 62 kilometres east of Oshawa on the north edge of Lake Ontario, United Empire Loyalists first starting arriving in the area as early as the 1780s. The first settlement in 1798 was called Buckville, later renamed Amherst, then called Hamilton (after the township) and also nicknamed Hardscrabble. It wasn’t until 1819 that they finally settled on the name of Cobourg, which was incorporated as a town in 1837. In the late 1820s large schooners with passengers and cargo had to anchor well off shore, as there was only a landing wharf. A group of Toronto businessmen formed the Cobourg Harbour Company which built the wooden Eastern Pier from tolls charged for the use of the harbour.

Read more: Cobourg Yacht Club...

Boat Reviews

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New at the end of 2019, the 58 Salon Express design features large windows to flood the living ...
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The newest member of Beneteau’s Gran Turismo line is the GT 36 and this yacht brings the style and ...
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CY Virtual Video Boat Tours

Virtual Boat ToursWe all love boats and nothing can break us up! So, what better way to spend our time than looking at interesting boats and going aboard in a virtual ride or tour. We have asked our friends at various dealers and manufacturers to help us assemble a one-stop online resource to experience some of the most interesting boats on the market today. Where the CY Team has done a review, we connect you to that expert viewpoint. Our Virtual Show will continue to grow so visit frequently and check it out. If you can’t go boating, you can almost experience the thrill via your screen. Not quite the same, but we hope you enjoy our fine tour collection.

 

Read more about the CY Virtual Boat Tours....................

 

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1As boat builders clamber to create ever-bigger platforms for ever-more generous budgets, the entry-level cruiser has become an elusive animal. Sure, if you want to daysail, there are plenty of small open boats from which to choose, but if you want a freshly built pocket cruiser, you’re in for a long search. Enter French builder Groupe Beneteau, which identified this gap in the market and set about creating the Oceanis 30.1, an adorable little cruiser that resembles her larger siblings in all but length and price. With all she offers, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call her a mini yacht.

Read More about the Beneteau Oceanis 30.1..................

Destinations

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NW Explorations, a Bellingham, Washington-based yacht charter, brokerage, and marine services ...

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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Kevin Monahan is a retired Canadian Coast Guard officer with more than 20 years of experience ...
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After decades of perusing charts and guidebooks as part of planning a cruise, it was a totally ...