If you look at Jon Broks later post you'll see where I was coming from with my 2 to 3 watts. Real output as opposed to nominal out put based on all the variables that Jon describes...connections, length of cable run, corrosion , type of antennae etc.
In my other career I'm a Signals Officer in the Army and so would have quite a lot of experience with hand held and fixed VHF both marine and otherwise.
Regularly when you test older kit you can find actual radiated output power from the antenna to be down on 50% of what you expect.
While endorsing all of what Jon has said I would tend to be more cautious on the miles and would "generally" say 3 to 5 miles for hand held and 15 miles for a RIB mounted Fixed VHF in good condition. The ranges quoted in RYA manuals are often based on sailing yachts with a much higher mast !! Again as Jon rightly says there are so many variables !!!
Not scientific ............but I did a test a few years ago .Me with a hand held swimming in the middle of one of the large Shannon Lakes at night with a one metre short chop had good Stength 5 comms with a fixed unit in one of the Boat Squad RIBs 3 miles away.
We have a saying in my unit which is " Promise less - Deliver more !!" or err on the side of caution !
Originally Posted by BrendanS
Not worried about the "."
Most people can surely work out that fixed is 25W. What concerned me is that you thought handhelds worked at 1-2W? Yes, as you say, handhelds work at 1W at times, but either you have to select a channel where that kicks in automatically, or select it yourself. The rest of the time it's typically 5W.
Anyway, I'm with you on having a fixed set with hand held for backup, but a hand held is far better than none at all. The next issue is taking the exam, and understanding these issues?