Written by Technology and Safety Expert, Matt Stockwell, Shakespeare Marine Electronics
One of the most overlooked aspects of getting your boat ready for the season, is making sure that your VHF and Antenna are up to par. Reinstalling the radio, connecting the power and antenna cables and turning it on may seem like all that’s needed. There is much more to check than whether it will just turn on or not. While the job may seem complete by keying the mic and verifying the TX indicator on the display, Shakespeare® Antennas has compiled a Spring VHF Commissioning checklist. Spend an extra five minutes now to avoid any potential problems with your VHF/Antenna system when you are out on the water and need it.
- Inspect your antenna for cracks or corrosion.Shrink wrapping, trailering and winter haul-out activities all tend to make these issues worse or even create them!
- Insure the antenna is seated properly and tight on the mount. If the mount came with an O-ring, ensure that it is in good condition. Else replace with a manufacturer recommended O-ring.
- Inspect that the antenna mount is securely fastened to the hull /deck / cabin and that it too shows no sign of corrosion or wear.If you have a ratchet style mount, ensure that it will engage rotate and re-engage freely but securely.
- Inspect the antenna cable from where it leaves the antenna to where it enters the boat, to ensure that there are no cracks, chafing, or breaks.
- Double check that any cable outlets are properly sealed with the grommet in place with no opportunity for cable chaffing or for water to enter the boat.
- Inspect the connector end(s) of the antenna cable. Make sure that connectors are securely fastened and show no signs of wear or exposed wiring.
Caution: Some radio side connectors have a limited number of v-notches on its mating face. To ensure proper engagement of the connector, line up the mating v-shaped protrusion on the PL-259 male connector with the notch on the radio side connector. Then push into place and hold while tightening down the connector using the spinning ring. Give a light tug on the cable to ensure that connector’s mating faces cannot disengage at a later time.
- Inspect the 12-volt power supply wire including the plug for corrosion, and that any fuse inline or at the panel is properly sized following specifications in your VHF radio’s manual.
- Plug in or Screw on the power connector to the VHF radio and power it on.
- Scroll through the radio settings and ensure that they are functioning properly.
- Conduct a radio check using Sea Tow’s Automated Radio Check, to get an establishment of range and to hear the playback of what your transmission sounds like.
Your VHF is arguably the most important piece of safety equipment on your boat next to life jackets! To ensure proper performance of your VHF/Antenna system, it is strongly recommended to conduct a VSWR (Voltage Standing Wave Ratio), check of the VHF/Antenna system. This can be easily done using the Shakespeare ART-3 or similar tester. It is recommended to have a VSWR < 2 (expressed as a ratio 2:1 by most manufacturer websites). The lower the better, 1.5: 1 being the most common spec. out of the box.