VHF Radio recommendations (USA if it matters) and IR Beacon

3 months 6 days ago #37507 by MCImes
Hey all,
I've been watching the Coast Guard Astoria / Cape Disappointment series on youtube (coast guard rescues around the Columbia River in Oregon, what a nasty (and fun looking) place!). After watching the really easy rescues vs really hard rescues, it reminds me to prioritize a VHF radio.

Many of their distress calls come in from a VHF and the easiest rescues were ones where the victim talked the coast guard helicopter and guided them directly to themselves.

I've looked at some best-of lists but am wondering what radio people like and why? The comparisons make them all seem very similar.

Also, the FLIR camera is pretty awesome on the CG Helo's. This inspired me to look into a compact IR light. An IR light sticks out like a lighthouse from many miles away based on how the show makes it appear in the couple cases that had an IR beacon. They had some of their easiest searches when the victim had an IR beacon.
Im picking up 2 of these -
flashlight.nitecore.com/product/nu05mi ($27 on amazon)
They seem like a cheap, small and light insurance policy. I'm taking them with me hiking as well.

Currently - Swordfish S in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10 g0, Stellar SR g1, Fenn XT g1
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

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3 months 5 days ago #37522 by tve
I've had a Standard Horizon HX40 permanently in the front pocket on my PFD for a year and a half. It never comes out, just gets rinsed with the PFD. Once a week or so I turn it on to make sure it's not dead, the LiPO keeps its charge if you don't use it much. The size is right, the price is right.
I also have an HX870 (has GPS and panic button to TX location) but it's too bulky for everyday use. The first one I got had a water intrusion and the manuf. replaced it on warranty without any hassle, so they do honor their warranty.
NB: the IR is interesting, does it work during the day? Note that the Nitecore's description doesn't include the word waterproof anywhere that I could find.

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3 months 4 days ago #37524 by zachhandler
Where i downwind there is no coastguard and likely nobody monitoring the vhf radio who could be of any help.  I carry hx40 to talk to my paddling partners in case we get separated. I have no illusions that it would summon a rescue party if i needed one. For that reason i have not gone to a bigger DSC capable vhf. There is nobody to pick up the vhf based DSC signal and act on it. Also from what i have read vhf transmission is line of sight plus a little help from refraction. But basically the distance you can transmit around the curve of the earth is highly dependent on the height of the two VHf antennas. If one of those antennas is being held 4” above the water by a guy floating in his pfd, i think transmission distance is extremely limited. You would probably have better luck if you are in a place where there is a coast guard vhf antenna mounted high above the coast on a mast or cliff.  I have chosen to use a PLB instead. You have to keep the antenna above the water but the signal gets picked up by a satellite from anywhere on earth. Most PLBs have an infrared strobe built in as well. So my emergency devices are the smallest vhf i can carry (hx40), plb, and cell phone. Takes some practice to remount with all of that in the front of a pfd. Its a lot  to carry but if things went wrong miles off shore in cold water it would be the only chance I had.   

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3 months 4 days ago - 3 months 4 days ago #37526 by MCImes
Well if both you carry the HX40 I think I'll join the gang. Indeed the others looked rather large.

Thorsten and I are lucky in that there is a coast guard station next to both of us in Santa Barbara and Oxnard harbors, just around the corner from where we normally paddle. I see a CG helicopter patrol the coast on occasion as well so I bet there's a CG air station at Point Mugu naval air base  a few miles down the coast as well. Since we have coastal mountains by us, I bet the tower is on a peak with the other communications towers so I would think our effective range is likely larger than the flatland in the midwest or a large coastal plain like the LA basin.

Good point about water proofness in the IR beacon. The manual says IP66 rating, so not technically submersion rated, but in practice I have a lot of digital precision measuring tools I used in my job as a machinist rated 66. They were often soaked in coolant or oil and never had a failure due to liquid ingress. its probably not a high enough rating to use as a single rescue device, but would bet it works after regular normal dunkings. I guess I'd put it in a ziploc bag for normal storage. For $30 I think I'll try it out.

Thanks again for the recommendation

Currently - Swordfish S in Southern California's ocean waters
Past Boats: Epic V10 g0, Stellar SR g1, Fenn XT g1
"When you've done something right, they wont know you've done anything at all"

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