Shakespeare makes some of the finest antennas in the world. They are a global company with headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina. They have a marine line as well as a line of military grade products that can be found in any good marine retail outlet. These are serious antennas made for the worst conditions on earth.
Marine frequencies tend to be "line-of-sight" signals meaning the distance that the signal travels is a result of how high the antennas are mounted. For powerboats that tend to stay on trim, the higher gain antennas produce better results.
Shakespeare's core products are VHF antennas however, they also have an innovative line of cellular booster systems, high-end television antennas, and AM/FM antennas that we will mount to the aft mast. We have a complete range of Shakespeare antennas.
Shakespeare offers three grades of antennas: the Classic, Galaxy, and Phase 3. The classic antennas are fine but the Galaxy and Phase 3 offer a premium finish, upgraded internal materials and superior hardware. Phase 3 is the top of the line with the strongest connectors and hardware available. This is important if you need to stand up to salt water, and make long runs of heavier coaxial cable (like a LMR400). We used Galaxy grade VHF antennas because they mount directly above the Wheelhouse where the runs are short and we can easily get to the antenna. We used Phase 3 grade antennas for AIS mounted on top of the A Frame, and aft VHF because of the difficulty to access.
Although it is possible to combine antennas with splitters, it's better to have one antenna for each communication device. This eliminates the possibility of interference between two devices. It also provides redundancy in the event one antenna gets taken out by a storm or bridge. And, let's face it, having a lot of antennas looks cool. That said, there is one antenna for every device on the boat!
We have three VHF radios. Two radios are in the Wheelhouse with the antennas located on top. The third is near the aft mast and the antenna is positioned above.
We chose two 5309-R antennas. These measure 23 feet with a gain of 9dB. We are mounting them about 25 feet above the water so the total height is about 48 feet above the waterline.
For the emergency backup system, we are using a 6225-R on the aft mast. This is an 8 foot antenna with a gain of 6dB. We will be mounting her about 50 feet above the waterline.
We have two AIS radios; Class A transmitter/receiver that connects to the navigation computer. We also have an AIS receiver that plugs into our chartplotter.
We chose the Phase 3 grade 6396-AIS-R and are mounting one antenna at each end of the yardarm on top of the forward mast. The antennas are 4 feet in length with a gain of 3dB. These are mounted about 56 feet above the waterline, and about 4 feet from the radar and GPS.