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Small Boats

Choose the Right VHF Antenna — Small Boats

Zodiac - Click to enlarge
Swinging davits, trailers, and pitching guests mean the antenna for a small boat, such as this Zodiac RIB, need to be rugged while maintaining a low profile.

On a tender or runabout, even the owner who wants the best possible performance is likely to be limited to the size of antenna he can realistically fit—the maximum is probably an 8-foot, 6dBi antenna. And short cable runs mean there is no need for the highest quality feeder. A good choice would be Shakespeare’s 5101 ($104.95). If an 8-foot antenna looks out of proportion, Digital Antenna’s 528-V ($115.95) at 4 feet and 4.5dBi would be a reasonable alternative.

For boats that are likely to have a real rough-and-tumble life, whether stored in a transom garage, launched with a swinging davit, or spending time on a trailer, it may be worth sacrificing communications performance for protection against damage. This can be accomplished with a removable antenna such as Digital’s 3-foot, 3dBi 222-V ($82.35), or even a 1dBi “rubber ducky” helical antenna—just a few inches long and protected by a rubber sleeve—like the 6-inch Glomex RA111 ($115) or the 7-inch Shakespeare 5912 ($76.50). Compared with a 9dBi antenna, one of these will be almost like transmitting on permanent low power...but because you’re unlikely to break it, it will be there when you need it.