VHF antenna quality and trailering mistakes? Yeah, I know, this sounds like a pretty weird combination. But stick with me for a moment – believe it or not, the two are related. First off, let’s see if you can pick out what’s wrong in this picture:
If you’re an observant type, you might notice that the VHF antenna on this boat is a tad on the short side. That’s because I made a trailering mistake, when I pulled it out of the ramp the day before. Like a rookie, I failed to lower the antenna and forgot about it until I went under a power line at 25-mph. Snap! It shaved the top few feet right off. Lucky for me, it was a cheap antenna. The second-cheapest eight footer in the store, in fact. Here’s the thing about VHF antennas: cheap ones don’t perform any better or worse then expensive ones of the same length. The biggest difference in antenna price is construction quality; cheap ones have a plastic ferrule instead of metal, the fiberglass and polyurethane coatings a bit thinner, and they may have copper versus copper and brass elements. But performance? As long as antenna length and gain are equal, they’ll all let you shout as far as the next. And while more expensive antennas do have a longer life span, we’re talking 10 years versus five to 10 years.
So how does this fit in with my bone-headed blunder? I spent about $80 to get a model one level above cheapest, purely so it would have a stainless ferrule (the plastic ones shatter with some regularity). I could have spent three times this much, and have been three times as bummed when I trailered it to pieces. (Cheap and expensive ones snap just as easily, when they hit a power line at 25-mph.) Now ask yourself: if you have a trailer boat, what are the chances you’ll go better then five years without pulling a similar move, while driving under a bridge if not trailering under a powerline? Pretty darn thin. So, why spend the big bucks on a higher “quality” antenna? There’s little to no reason – so the next time you snap off an antenna, don’t feel bad about going cheap.