Recently, a friend described a problem he was having with his VHF radio and asked me if I could give him some help fixing it. Luckily, I didn’t have to lift a finger.
I’ve seen this problem a dozen or more times through the years, especially on small open boats like trailered bay boats and center consoles. Is this a problem you’ll probably encounter some day? The chances are good – if you haven’t had this happen already.
Here’s what happens: sometimes when you use the VHF your transmissions are garbled, and some folks can’t even make out what you’re trying to say. At other times, they can hear you clearly. You figure it’s a jiggly wire or maybe there’s an issue with the VHF antenna but no matter what you do you can’t find it, and the usual eventual fix is to replace the radio.
Chances are, however, that you leave your mic face-down or face-up on the helm for extended periods of time, instead of hanging it vertically on a clip. The problem is that moisture builds up inside. It can’t vent through the grill if it’s sitting face-down, or on the other hand, you leave it sitting face up, spray can find its way into the mic. Either way, you’re speaking through water so your transmissions are garbled and you sound like Elmer Fudd mumbling in an echo chamber.
An easy way to ID whether or not this is your problem is to pay attention to when the problem is at its worst. On dry days, as temperatures climb the mic tends to dry out and work fine. On rainy or rough days, the problem won’t go away at all. If this is what you see happening, the fix is simple: mount a clip that hangs the mic horizontally. Better yet, if your boat has a T-top, move the VHF overhead and into an electronics box where the mic is always protected. Either way, problem solved.