Talk Radio: Simrad RS 86

The latest VHF radios are more than glorified walkie-talkies-they're integrated communication systems that offer so much versatility you'll wonder how you ever chatted without one. The Simrad RS 86 is no exception. We used this dVHF radio for the season aboard Boating's Albemarle 268 project boat.

We mounted the black box transceiver belowdecks and connected it to the fixed-mount control unit at the helm via a single-cable arrangement. Both the control panel and the handset provide Digital Selective Calling (DSC) emergency calling capability. For DSC calling to individual vessels, there's an internal directory to hold Marine Mobile Station Identifier (MMSI) numbers. We liked the RS 86's iDSC feature. When the radio is integrated to a Simrad chartplotter, it displays DSC messages on the unit's display.

The RS 86 has such standard features as channel scanning and NOAA weather, plus options including a loudhailer speaker, voice scrambler, manual or automatic foghorn, and speakers. If you don't want a fixed-mount radio on your helm, the black box is compatible with the RS 87 dVHF, a full-function handset. The transceiver also accommodates four RS 86 and RS 87 combinations, if you want redundancy.

And finally, yes, the RS 86 works well as a VHF radio.

Price $1,250 Contact Simrad, 425/778-8821, www.simrad.com