How to Choose, Configure and Test a Marine Radio Antenna

radio antenna

Most anglers know that your expensive and good quality boat will be useless when you are having a poor or a second-rate antenna. A quality radio antenna is definitely reliable and has a good performance in any marine radio. From the largest seagoing ships to the smallest ones, your antennas must be held up for years under the worst marine conditions. And it performs to their best and maximum design capabilities.

In order to know how the VHF antennas work, I will show you how to choose, configure and test a marine radio antenna.

How to Choose Marine Radio Antenna

radio antenna

Besides, a radio is the means of communication between the shore and the sea. Now, let me show you how to choose the right marine radio antenna for you!

Antenna Length

Length is one of the major factors you need to consider when choosing an antenna. Antennas can range from inches to over 20 feet. Because of many sizes made for your vessel, you can have a shorter antenna for convenience and portability for better communication. VHF radio only works on the line of sight principle.

Two Kinds of Antenna Length

Physical length refers to the measurement of the length of the “non-conducting” whip. The other one is the electrical length. Electrical length refers to the “operating” length of the antenna that is based on its electrical structure.

When choosing the best marine radio antenna you’ll need to determine the range you need. If the VHF devices are a line of sight, the power of the signal depends on the length of the antenna. That is why length matters! Therefore, the taller the antenna, the better the signal you’ll gain and reach!

Materials Used

The internal and external components of the antenna are also important. It will affect the quality of transmission and reception. Antennas that will definitely give you the highest performance are made of stainless steel and fiberglass. There are also four main elemental cores used. These are brass tubing, copper wire, copper and brass tubing, and silver-plated brass tubing.

Low Quality

The low-cost antennas are made from stripped down coaxial cable that was held in place with foam inserts. This kind of antenna is non-metallic ferrules, less robust fiberglass housing ad crimped internal connections. They are also often made of nylon or plastic ferrules which are not durable. But this low-quality antenna will only reduce the performance of your VHF radio.

Medium Quality

Medium quality has a better quality antenna. It often comes with twin brass and copper radiators that will boost the performance of your device. They are moderately priced antennas that have often silver plated brass elements. They are also good for recreational boaters and anglers.

High Quality

These high-quality antennas have polyurethane coating which is more durable because they are polished with high-grade stainless steel ferrule. They are also popular and great to use for bigger ships and vessels that always and routinely go out.

How to Configure a Marine Radio Antenna

radio antenna

The installation of a marine radio antenna is also important. You might need to consider the follows tips to make sure that your installation is right.

  1. As high as possible, mount the antenna because the number one rule is: the higher the antenna, the better the range.
  2. Make sure that the fiberglass is not vertically close to any metal object for it can change the radiation pattern of your antenna.
  3. You have to rout the coax exactly so it will not deform or pinch. Just keep it as far as possible from other metal, electronics, and cable. Keep it to at least 3 feet from the cable to the antenna is the best tip to do.
  4. A good connection to the radio is also important. You must check the antenna cable for any sign of damage or breakdown from sun exposure. The connectors must always be soldered to the end of the coaxial cable properly screwed into the radio’s antenna port.
  5. Do not also sue “antenna combiners”. They allow the same antenna to use on both AM and FM broadcast receiver.
  6. You can also cut the coax and support the antenna properly.
  7. Keep the antenna tuner close to the antenna.
  8. Use amplifiers when needed.
  9. High-quality coaxial cable and connectors are excellent to have consistent signal strength.
  10. If you want to clean the antenna, do not use cleaning solvents, adhesives, or other chemicals. Don’t let them near the antenna. This will definitely destroy the antennas finish. If you want to clean it, use a mild dish washing liquid.

 How to Test a Marine Radio Antenna

radio antenna

Buying those expensive antennas will be worthless if you do not know how to test it. Now, I will give you the following ideas and knowledge on how to test a marine radio antenna.

  • It is also possible to make an on-the-air radio check by asking for a confirmation from another boat when you receive the message.
  • Avoid using Channel 16. This is for mailing purposes only.
  • You can also switch your radio power to low power which is basically 1 watt and monitor yourself on handheld VHF.
  • Turn down the volume. And keep it as far as possible from the main radio and your antenna to avoid a loud feedback squeal from the portable set.
  • Another way to test that your radio is transmitting is to watch your boat’s ampere meter when you are depressing your radio’s mike transmit button.

Operation Tips

There is a common operation error which is called miss-setting radio’s channel mode. All marine radios can operate to three different channel groups: Canada, United States of America and even International. The incorrect channel-mode setting can give you the inability to communicate on some channels. Check the icon on your radios’ screen which indicates your radio’s operation.


Remember, low-quality antennas could possibly lead you to nowhere. Choose a great quality antenna for your great VHF device. Choose the best VHF antenna for your boating needs.

I hope that this article on how to choose, configure and test a marine radio antenna will help you gain more knowledge and awareness. So make sure to choose wisely!