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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Atmospheric Conditions and Your Radio

When I was the pilot boat captain for the Penobscot Bay and River Pilots Association there were many occasions when I had to get underway during the pre-dawn hours in order to meet a ship. Invariably, during those early morning runs, a very strange thing would happen. Right around sunrise, VHF radio communications between the ship and pilot boat would become difficult if not impossible to complete. Turns out something happens in the atmosphere at or before sunrise that interferes with a radio transmission. (For more on this subject click here.)

Not too long ago, while in the process of moving my boat from up river to Rockland Harbor, I came across a friend's son who was out to haul his gear. We stopped to talk, then drifted apart and took our conversation to the VHF. Even though he was only a couple of hundred yards away, I could barely hear him. I suggested he get his radio checked, and then another fisherman, probably more than six miles away, interrupted our conversation to say he could hear us both just fine. I couldn't figure that one out until I got home, then it hit me.

My friend's son's radio antenna must have been blocked by his dry exhaust stack. There's no other explanation.

It's certainly something to consider when you're out there and you have to get a call out.


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