As a saltwater kayak fisherman there were a few requirements:
- Simple to use
- Corrosion resistant
- Waterproof (not just splash proof)
- Decent battery life
The unit is quite compact measuring in at 62 x 141 x 43mm, weighing in at 300g.
The transmit power is more than adequate at 5W (High), 1W (Low). I've carried out radio checks with the coastguard at a range of up to 7 miles without a problem, this was actually better than I'd expected, the general rule being 1W per mile.
The unit is somewhat rounded in shape making it quite comfortable to hold. As well as the large display on the front panel there's also 9 large buttons that provide simple straightforward operation. There's quick access to channel 16 as well as simple control of the volume and squelch functions.There's Dual/Tri-watch functions, the latter being my favourite as it allow me to monitor channel 16, the coastguard on channel 67 as well as my call channel for that particular day. The standard scan function allows 'tagged' channels to be monitored, handy for keeping up on the local fishing chatter.
The unit can be easily switched between International and American channel frequencies should the need ever arise.
The antenna is a detachable flexible item, not easily damaged.
There is the facility to 'tag' your favourite channels making accessing or scanning them straight forward.The display is quite large, measuring 32 x 16 mm
The display features a clear 2-digit channel number indication. The volume and squelch levels are shown in the display. LCD and key back lighting are standard features, ideal for night time operation. The battery life is also displayed in a clear 4 step indication.
Should the speaker or microphone become clogged with water, it can be cleared using the 'AquaQuake' draining function. This is activated by pressing the Scan and H/L buttons simultaneously, resulting in a vibrating sound that clears water away from the speaker grill.
The top on the unit houses the antenna, the ON/OFF switch and an optional speaker/microphone connector, the latter having no real use on a kayak.
The battery supplied with the radio is a Li-Ion battery proving approximately 9 hours of operating time, from the following ratio of usage: Tx (Hi): Rx: standby = 5:5:90. I've easily achieved 8 hours of usage with plenty of battery life remaining.
The battery is released from the base of the unit with the aid of a penny coin or the like. There's no real requirement to release the battery as the complete unit can be placed on the supplied charger, the only requirement being that the radio is switched off during charging.
My unit came with an optional alkaline battery holder allowing AA alkaline cells to be used in lieu of the Li-Ion battery. There's also an optional belt clip which affixes to the rear of the unit to allow external attachment to a PFD, etc. I've not utilised this item as it makes the unit a little to bulky to fit within my PFD pocket.
One reason I purchased the M33 was the claim that it floats, an important factor when kayak fishing!. It's something that hopefully wont happen for real, though just to check that it actually lived up to the hype, here it is floating away.
After three months of regular use it's still looking as good as new, a fresh water rinse post each trip no doubt aiding this. It's certainly a nice to have piece of kit, I don't consider it essential, I managed for over a year with a mobile phone kept in an Aquapak. However it is no doubt far superior in both it's abilities at communication, survivability in the marine environment, as well as ease of operation in an emergency situation.
If money hadn't been a consideration I would have pondered the Standard Horizon HX850S with DSC. Though for the distances I tend to fish, within 2 miles of the shore, I'm not convinced that I can justify the DSC functionality, as excellent as it is.
To gain a VHF license, a legal requirement to use a VHF radio, you are required to attend a one day 'Short Wave' radio course. The average cost, including the licensing fee, amounts to about £120.
To summarise, a worthwhile enhancement to safety and basic communications, and a quality piece of kit at an affordable price.
Please feel free to comment.