Why You Shouldn’t Angle Your Boat’s VHF Antenna

No matter how tempting it might be to angle your boat’s VHF antenna for aesthetic purposes (like matching the angle of fishing rods), don’t do it.  

Boat VHF antennas

Sure, it looks sleeker to have them angled, but they’re designed to be positioned upright for a reason. Adjusting your boat’s antennas in anything other than the upright position severely limits your VHF radio’s range and effectiveness. 

How VHF Radio Antennas Work

Marine VHF antennas are omnidirectional, which means they transmit in a 360-degree circular pattern. The antenna sits at the center and the transmitted signals travel outward horizontally.

Boat antennas upright

These radio signals only travel in a straight line, so the receiving VHF radio must be in direct line-of-sight to the VHF radio transmitting the signal. Any object between two VHF radio antennas that blocks the line-of-sight (such as a landmass or the horizon) prevents the signal from being transmitted between radios. To maximize the distance a VHF radio can transmit, the antenna is mounted as high up on a boat as possible. The higher up the antenna, the further it can “see” and thus the longer its range.

How Angling a VHF Antenna Affects its Range 

A VHF antenna mounted in a suitably high position and coupled to a quality fixed-mount VHF radio could easily transmit/receive in a 25-mile range.

Boat VHF antennas signals

VHF signals travel out from the antenna in a horizontal line. So if you angle the antenna to give it that swept-back look, it makes half the VHF signals direct down toward the water and the other half direct up into the air. Any angled position hinders VHF antennas from transmitting levelly across the water. Their signals travel further and are more likely to be picked up by another VHF antenna and radio by keeping them upright.

Why you shouldn't angle boat antenna

Angling the antenna by just a few degrees could reduce your VHF radio’s effective range by several miles. This decreases the chances of your distress calls being heard, which puts you, your passengers and your boat at risk. You paid good money for a solid VHF radio system, so don’t limit its capabilities and effectiveness by angling it just to make it look stylish. It’s not worth the “cool factor” you might think you're getting from it.

 

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