Frequently Asked Questions

Buying the correct marine antenna can sometimes feel overwhelming, and we want to help you select the most appropriate product for your needs and guide you through the installation process. We have assembled the answers to the most frequently asked questions, and hope this will help you before and after your antenna purchase.

If you do not see the answer you are looking for, please Contact Us and we will be happy to assist you.


Choose a category to see the questions:

General Questions

Do I lose anything by using a Combination antenna?

Yes, usually – depending on the type and quality of combination antenna. Generally reception performance for the VHF side is somewhat sacrificed. Shakespeare recommends using separate antennas if space is available for them.

Is it better to use a dedicated AM/FM antenna or a band separator?

Shakespeare recommends using a separate antenna for this purpose, if possible. Band separators were designed for boats that don’t have room for two antennas.

Be sure the antennas are mounted at least three feet apart.

What is antenna gain, and how is it measured?

Gain is an increase in effective radiated power (ERP) from an antenna, usually stated in dB (deciBels).

As a rule of thumb, you can multiply the radio’s output power by 4 for 6dB antennas and by 8 for 9dB antennas. A 3dB antenna gain gives an ERP of 2 times the radio’s output power. A Unity Gain antenna provides no increase in ERP.

Can I paint the antenna, and with what?

Yes. Shakespeare’s antennas can be painted any color you wish. Be sure not to use any paint containing metallic chips or lead bases.

To prepare the surface, wash the antenna with soap and water and allow it to dry completely. Paint the antenna with polyurethane or a lead free, non-metallic paint.

Can I repair the antenna if the fiberglass becomes frayed?

Yes. Wash the antenna with soap and water first and allow it to dry completely. Next, paint the antenna with polyurethane or a lead free, non-metallic paint. Then lightly sand the surface with 400-grit sandpaper. Additional coats of paint may be added, but are usually not really necessary.

What is the transmission line loss for coax?

This depends on the amount, as well as the type of coax used. On the average, 50 feet of RG-58 coax will have about 3dB loss, 50 feet of RG-8X coax will have about 2dB loss, and 50 feet of RG-213 (RG-8U) will have about 1dB loss.

What antenna should I use with what radio?

It depends on your needs and the amount of space that is available to mount the antenna. Some considerations are: the height at which you can mount the antenna; whether you have to raise and lower it to fit under bridges, boathouses or other obstructions; and how far you need the transmitted signal to reach.

The longer the antenna, the better coverage you can expect, generally speaking, if a larger antenna will fit on your boat.

Always purchase the best antenna you can afford, since the antenna is the most important part of any VHF installation.

Can I use two radios with one antenna?

Yes, Shakespeare offers the CS-2 and AS-2 switches, which allow for hook-ups of this nature.

The CS-2 switch permits using two antennas with one radio, or two radios with one antenna. The AS-2 is an automatic switch for two radios connecting to one antenna. It electronically senses which transceiver is used and switches the antenna.

Further instructions are on the packages.

What is meant by DC ground?

Some antennas are DC grounded and will indicate a short circuit when tested with an ohm meter. Antennas which do not use DC Grounding generally read as Open circuit on an Ohm meter

Do I need a license from the FCC? If so, how do I get one?

For non-commercial boaters using vessels which are not required to have ship’s radio stations, no FCC license is required for local cruising. “Local” means USA waters only. If you cruise and sail into foreign waters of Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, you must have an FCC issued license and callsign. Also, mariners who operate a marine SSB and/or INMARSAT phone must have an FCC issued callsign. The FCC callsign is also required for a marine “Sailmail” e-mail address.

If you have marine single sideband (SSB) radio onboard, or plan to have one installed soon, the law requires an FCC ship station license. If you cruise to foreign ports, any radio onboard must be licensed.

Even so, you may obtain an FCC license and callsign if you want one.

Since 1999, DSC (Digital Selective Calling) capability has been required for all VHF marine radios sold in the United States. If your radio has this feature, you must obtain a nine-digit maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) and install it into the unit before you transmit. The MMSI is unique, like a phone number, and can assist the Coast Guard in finding your vessel in an emergency, among other uses. If you’re not required to have a license, the MMSI is obtained from private companies.

To obtain a license, if you need or want one, contact the FCC at The information in this answer is located here.

What FCC license do I need?

Currently, an FCC license application does not need to be filled out unless your boat is over 65′ or unless you’re applying for a DSC number.

See this link for further information.

Do I need a different FCC license for a base station?

Yes, contact your local FCC office for particular license requirements, of visit the FCC at

VHF Marine Antennas

Can I cut the cable on my VHF antenna?
Yes, if you need to. However, you should leave at least three feet of coax, measured from where the cable exits the antenna.
Note: This is NOT true for all antennas. CB antennas’ coax generally should NOT be cut. See separate question regarding CB antennas’ cable length.
Reasonable lengths of excess cable can be rolled in a coil of at least 8 inch diameter and stowed in an out-of-the-way place.
How can I check the VHF antenna to make sure it is working?

You should transmit to a friend’s receiver from a range of known distances. Have the friend assess your transmission for quality. Note that the U.S. Coast Guard frowns on radio test calls made to them.

To measure the efficiency of your antenna/radio system more scientifically, Shakespeare makes an antenna / radio testers – the ART-3 Tester.
The ART-3 measures transceiver output power, antenna VSWR, and proper receiver sensitivity.
See the Troubleshooting Video for other information and suggestions.
How do you install the PL-259 connector?

An instruction sheet for installing the PL-259 connector is included with the antenna. Follow the instructions and consult the diagrams.

For true ease of installation without soldering, check out Shakespeare’s innovative Centerpin® solderless connectors. The PL-259-CP and PL-258-CP connectors are gold-plated brss construction.
The web pages for the connectors include links to download PDF versions of the instruction sheets, including PL-259. Connectors instruction sheets are available at here (PDF).
Also see How-To Install a PL-259 Marine Connector, online here and on YouTube.
Will metal or other objects that are close to the antenna affect it?

Yes. It is best to locate the antenna at least three feet from any metal objects or other antennas.

Can I mount the antenna beside the radio?

No, it must be at least three feet away from the radio, so transmission will not interfere with the radio’s reception (usually resulting in a squeal coming out of the speaker).

Do I need a ground plane for a VHF antenna?

Not necessarily. Shakespeare VHF and CB Marine Band antennas are designed with independent ground planes built in.

SSB antennas, on the other hand, must be properly grounded.

What is the antenna's wavelength?

It can range from 1/4 wave to 5/8 wave, depending on the length and style of antenna. Please see the antennas’ specifications section for information on your particular antenna.

How high must the antenna be?

There is no particular height requirement. However, the higher the antenna, the better the antenna’s range and performance.

Satellite Radio antennas only need a clear view of the Southern sky – for them, height is not as important as the unobstructed view to the satellites.

What range can I expect from the antenna?

To determine the range of an antenna, multiply the square root of its height (In feet) above water by 1.42. This gives the range in miles.

Remember to perform the calculation for BOTH vessels, then add the results to get the range between two vessels.

What is the receiving zone for my antenna?

On all Shakespeare VHF Marine antennas the receiving zone is 360 degrees – or omni-directional.

What is the half power beam width for my antenna?

The beam width for all Shakespeare VHF Marine antennas is between 24 and 26 degrees.

What are the differences among the many styles of antennas?

The antennas differ in type and size of their elements, plus the way the antennas’ fiberglass is wrapped, and the coax that is used. These factors determine the basic cost of building the antennas. To this, add the relative cost of the finish that is applied.

How much power can I put into the antenna?

Maximum power input varies with the model and type of antenna. Please see the antenna specifications pages.

The marine products catalogs contain convenient side-by-side comparison charts for each antenna type.

A comparison chart for Shakespeare European operations is online here.

CB Marine Antennas

Can I cut the cable on my CB antenna?

Generally NO! On all Shakespeare Galaxy® CB antennas and all but one Shakespeare Classic CB antennas, the coax is part of an electronically “tuned” system and should NOT be cut or altered. Changing the length of the cable on one of these antennas will destroy the antenna – damage that cannot be repaired. You cannot simply splice the cable back together and restore the correct performance.

Two Shakespeare CB antennas are specially built to allow trimming the coax: the Galaxy® Style 5223-XT and the Shakespeare Classic Style 5207.
Note that this answer applies to CB Marine Band antennas – VHF antenna coax is not part of a tuned system, and can be trimmed.

Reasonable lengths of excess cable can be rolled in a coil of at least 8 inch diameter and stowed in an out-of-the-way place.

Can I take the Marine CB antenna's PL-259 connector off to feed the coax through a hole?

No, this will change the tuning of the antenna – and also voids the warranty.

If coax needs to be passed through a bulkhead, you can add additional coax, which can be cut or altered, with a bulkhead mountable barrel connector that passes through the hole.
Reasonable lengths of excess cable can be rolled in a coil of at least 8 inch diameter and stowed in an out-of-the-way place.
Can I tune the CB Marine antenna?

Most Shakespeare CB Marine Band antennas are pretuned at the factory and do not need any additional tuning. Shakespeare’s Galaxy® Style 5223-XT and the Classic Style 5207 can be retuned after the coax has been cut. Instructions for doing so are packed with the antennas.

See the installation support section for links to the antennas’ instruction sheets.

Why does my antenna system have a high SWR?

There can be quite a number of reasons for this. The most usual reasons are coax having been cut or altered, coax running through conduit, antennas located near metal objects, or people standing too close to the antenna while SWR readings are being taken.

Do I need a ground plane for my CB Marine Band antenna?

No, all Shakespeare CB Marine Band antennas have independent ground planes built into them.

Which way should the radials for the Style 318-GBT Pogo Stick point?

The radials can point either up or down. Neither direction will affect the performance of the antenna.

Do I need to cut the Marine CB antenna's coax in wavelengths?

No. Shakespeare’s CB antennas do not require this type of tuning.

Also see the question regarding altering cable length.

Marine TV Antennas

Can the Shakespeare SeaWatch® 2020-G, 2025 and 2030-G Marine TV antennas receive digital TV signals?

All Shakespeare SeaWatch® Marine TV antennas are digital HDTV receiver ready. However, if your TV is not digital ready, a digital to analog converter box is required.

How can I tell if my Marine TV antenna is digitally ready?

If the TV antenna was purchased after 2001 and has gold-plated connectors, the antenna is digitally ready.

How can I tell whether my antenna is affected by the 2002 USCG Safey Alert?

Only units of Style 2040 and 2050 which were manufactured in 2000 are affected. Style 2030-G was originally listed erroneously by the USCG. A corrected Alert removed the 2030-G from the list. For complete information, click here.

How can I check the SeaWatch® Marine TV antenna to make sure it is working?

Check the voltage from the power supply for 17 vAC on AC operation and 12 vDC on DC operation. If you are experiencing difficulties, try moving out of the slip to see if interference from other boats might be causing your reception problem. VHF TV transmission is line-of-sight, so at sea level you’re quite possibly out of “view” of the TV signal.

Why can I pick up some channels but not others?

Marine TV antennas have the same limitations as the ones that install on top of your home. Poor reception can be caused by location, height (for example, is your boat at sea level?), atmospheric conditions, and power.

Can I mount the antenna upside down or sideways?

Yes. However, be sure to seal the coax connector located on the underside of the antenna.

Can I mount the antenna in an enclosed area?

No. TV signals bounce off of flat, reflective surfaces, which would effectively shield the antenna from the station’s broadcast.

Can I use the Style 2020-G or Style 2030-G for my house?

Yes. In fact, the reception can be excellent, depending on where you are. For best results, mount the antenna in a clear area, away from obstructions.

Why does the power supply's red light stay on when I run the unit in AC mode?

This modification was made by Shakespeare to show that power is getting to the antenna. This is true only if the power supply on your unit is black in color.

Why can I get better reception on my boat with a pair of rabbit ears?

Your Shakespeare SeaWatch® Marine TV Antenna is doing its job too well. It’s delivering too much signal, overloading the TV’s Automatic Gain Control circuitry. Use an in-line attenuator (available at most Radio Shack stores, for example) to reduce the antenna’s signal to a usable level. Shakespeare’s SeaWatch® 2025 Marine TV Antenna System uses dual amplifiers to permit boosting or attenuating the signal as needed. The control panel for the 2025 is available as an upgrade for other Shakespeare antennas as SeaWatch® Style 2025-CP.

Can I run two or more TV's off of the same antenna?

Yes, two TV’s will work with one antenna, as long as the total coax run is kept relatively short.

How long is the warranty for the TV antennas?

SeaWatch® Marine TV Antennas carry a Shakespeare Limited Warranty for 1 Year from the date of purchase. You can inspect the warranty’s terms here (PDF).

Will a booster help me get more signal?

No, a booster just amplifies the signal that is being received. Boosters are used for increasing signal strength for multiple TV installations with long runs of coax.

Can I replace the preamp myself?

No, this is not a stock replacement part from Shakespeare. The antenna head has to be returned to Shakespeare for repair.

What is the difference between Shakespeare units having the gray power supply and those with the black power supply?

In units having the black power supply, the RED light stays on in AC and DC operation, and a thermal fuse has been added.

What is the difference between the 2020-G and the 2030-G TV antennas?

The Style 2030-G is larger (21″ diameter, instead of 14″), and also heavier (11 lbs., instead of 3 lbs.). The Style 2030-G is designed for maximum omni-directional performance in the marine environment. The 2020-G is the ideal smaller marine TV antenna where styling and size are the predominant factors. It’s perfect for close-in, or stronger signal areas.

Marine Cellular Antennas

What type of connector is used on the Motorola bag phone?

This connector is known as a Mini PL-259 connector or Mini UHF connector. It is currently available only for RG-58 coax.

How many feet of coax can I use with the cellular antenna?

The only limit is practicality. However, remember that at the frequencies of Cellular communication, great line loss will be encountered with long coax runs.

For best performance, keep the coax short and be sure it is the best grade possible.

Shakespeare’s Lo-Max® extra low-loss coax cable is specifically designed for cellular antenna installations.

How can I check the cellular antenna to make sure it is good?

Unfortunately, there is no sure test. The best suggestion is: if the signal strength meter on the phone is low or shows no signal, there could be a problem.

Connect the phone to the antenna in a known-good reception area, and check that the antenna is working.

Why do I get better cellular reception with my pigtail antenna?

It might be the location of the antenna. Try mounting the antenna as high as possible or shortening the coax.

Will other objects close to the antenna affect its performance?

Yes they will. It is best to locate the antenna at least three feet away from any metal objects or other antennas.

Phase III Series Antennas

Do all of the antennas have silver-plated elements?

No. The VHF, SSB and cellular antennas have silver-plated elements.

How can I mount my new Phase III antenna?

All Phase III antennas have a standard 1in-14 thread bases that will work with standard marine mounts. The antennas have the added bonus of being mast mount ready with appropriate U-bolts or strapping.

What coax should I use with my new Phase III antenna?

Any 50 ohm coax may be used with the antenna (except AM/FM and SSB) as long as it is sized appropriately for the cable run needed.

How do I clean my new Phase III antenna?

A mild detergent or soap and water may be used to clean the antenna. The use of abrasives or cleaners that contain any solvents should be avoided.

Can I use a smaller ferrule for the base of my antenna?

Yes you can! Shakespeare offers a replacement ferrule that is a fraction of the size of the ferrule included with the antenna. The style number is 6006.

What is the warranty on Phase III antennas and how is it tracked?

Each antenna has a serial number associated with it for tracking purposes. You should write the serial number in the section provided on the instruction sheet and retain it for your records. The antenna has a five-year limited warranty (PDF).

Do I need to tune my antenna?

No, this is not necessary as these antennas are pre-tuned at our factory for maximum performance and efficiency.

Can I paint my Phase III antenna?

Not in its current state. All Phase III antennas have a special aircraft grade finish and gloss coating that protects the finish. The surface would have to undergo special preparation for any paint or coating, and this is not recommended.

What does foam filling do for my antenna?

Filling the antenna with foam helps protect the internal elements from moisture, damage and vibration.

Why is silver plating the antenna element good?

There are two main reasons to silver plate an antenna element. First, silver is a much better conductor than brass or copper alone. Second, over time, as the silver surface oxidizes it becomes silver oxide, which is a better conductor than the oxides that form on un-plated brass and copper.

If you do not see the answer you are looking for, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help you get the answers you need.