Before every trip on the water, the radio system should be tested.  A simple method is to make a series of transmissions to a friend’s boat, from a range of known distances on a non-emergency channel.  Both owners can then assess the quality of each other’s transmissions.

Performing a solo test starts with tuning in a distant VHF weather station.  After disconnecting the antenna at the radio, the signal should weaken or disappear.  Reinserting just the tip of the coax connector should produce a signal that will improve as it is fully reconnected.  If instead the signal disappears again, there may be problems with the connector or antenna.  Likewise, if wiggling the connector causes large changes in signal strength, its connection to the cable itself may be faulty.

More accurate and sophisticated testing comes with the help of a meter that measures system performance.  The ART-3 Antenna Radio Tester from Shakespeare Electronic Products Group offers a cost-effective method of ensuring the radio and antenna are performing to their best efficiency.  Simple to use, the Shakespeare ART-3 tests radio output power, antenna VSWR (efficiency) and receiver functionality.  Designed with boat owners in mind, the ART-3 displays RF output power up to 30 watts on an easy-to-read, built-in scale.  It has an internal battery or can be connected to the onboard 12V DC power supply.

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