By Ben Ellison
Eartec TD900 Walkie-Talkies
Hand signals are certainly better than shouting, and a handheld is better still, but—at least conceptually—radios with hands-free headsets are the ideal way for a captain and crew to communicate while docking a large boat, particularly one with thorny sightlines. The problem has been that the radios used—VHF and FRS—are simplex, i.e. can only transmit in one direction, so the only way to make them hands-free is with voice-activated transmission (VOX), which often doesn’t work well. VOX also has an annoying delay, not to mention the possibility of talking over someone and missing something important.
All that is why Eartec’s duplex walkie-talkies are significant. My wife and I tried a pair and can testify that they are as easy to speak over as a telephone and sound great. We also purposely put ourselves near running engines, electronics, and refrigeration without interference problems. The TD900s use the 900-mHz band familiar from cordless phones and have a reported maximum range of a quarter mile.
Eartec has a long history serving the likes of racecar drivers and football coaches but is new to the marine world. That may account for the fact that the charger for the TD900’s rechargeable batteries is 110V only (so far), and the units are not waterproof. A pair costs $299; additional units are optional but only communicate with the master.
Eartec Phone: (800) 399-5994. www.eartec.com.
This article originally appeared in the August 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.