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Icom IC-M33 VHF Radio

One of the most important items on our Safety List is the VHF Radio, having a VHF radio will not only give you direct access to the Coast Guard, but also all other water users around you. It is the duty of all watercraft users to listen out for others in distress and if requested by the Coast Guard to attend and make the rescue.

A mobile phone on the other hand will only get through to one person at the rescue services, that is if you can get a signal!

The Icom IC-M33 is my second VHF Radio, my first radio being the Entel HT640 which is still going strong, although now rarely used, the Icom IC-M33 being considerably more user friendly.

The IC-M33 has accompanied me on all my trips over the last two years, sitting in the pocket of my Palm Kaikoura Tour PFD, being subjected to some very damp, often wet conditions.

Being long sighted means that glasses are a must for close up work, but are unnecessary for the majority of time, this can be a pain whilst afloat, so a radio with intuitive use, large bright screen and buttons is paramount. The Icom IC-M33 ticks all these boxes and more with its 32x16mm LCD screen and large 2-digit channel number indication, both the LCD and key pad is backlit, which is ideal for night fishing.

One thing I do like is a small indiscrete on/off button, on the IC-M33 this is placed on top of the unit beside the aerial, its well protected meaning no accidental turning on or off, which can be disastrous on an overnighter when you find the radio has been accidentally switched on all night when you know you switched if off the night before!

The volume control is controlled by the main key pad, thankfully not integrated with the on/off switch, a pet hate of mine. With an integrated switch every time you move, the volume goes up or down… annoying.

Whilst on the point of volume the Icom IC-M33 speaker is superb, voices are crisp and easily heard even in my PFD pocket, should the speaker become accidentally soaked, the AquaQuake feature vibrates the speaker grill clear of any water, giving you a clear sound once again.

Battery life is very good, the specification details says the 980mAh Li-Ion battery pack provides 9 hours of operating time, I get a bit more out of it, but not much.

Should you run out of charge, there is an optional Alkaline Battery case, this could be invaluable if going away for a few days off the beaten track.

On the subject of charging, the charging unit is quite small compared with other manufacturers. Battery charges overnight.

The battery is the only area that caused me some issues with what is an excellent product. Recently the middle contact at the base of the radio has corroded away, searching on the web this is a common issue, but means that the battery will no longer charge.

Having written to Icom about this issue, and due to the radio being out of warranty they could only offer the purchase of a replacement battery, RRP £54. The fact that it has corroded is slightly annoying as I am very particular about all my gear and the IC-M33 is no different, being washed and dried after each use. Below is the PDF sent out by Icom on how to look after your radio and battery.

Icom do however offer an extended warranty of 3 years on their VHF radio’s, I would strongly advise taking this out, especially as it is free, and just requires an online registration.

Something I haven’t mentioned in this review is that the IC-M33 was the world's first marine VHF transceiver that floats in water, guaranteed to a 1m depth for 30 minutes, equivalent to IPX7. Drop it over the side accidentally and it will reappear floating on the surface. The radio does however float aerial down, only a small amount of the base shows above the surface, being black it can be hard to see. Would be wise to stick some Solas tape on the base. Have asked the question whey the radio couldn’t be a brighter colour aiding in location when dropped, the reply was that there are rules on colouring communications equipment, the bright colours are reserved for the rescue services.

Overall the Icom IC-M33 is one of the best VHF handhelds available to the Kayak Fishermen, it’s a quality well built piece of equipment that will serve you well. Would I buy another, no, because mine still has a few years left in it, but I will be replacing the battery, I wouldn’t go afloat without it.

Icom IC-M33 Specification

  • 5W output power
  • Dual/Tri-watch functions
  • 4-step battery life indicator
  • 2-step power saver
  • Auto scan function
  • 70 programmable channels
  • Instant access to Ch 16 or programmable call channel
  • Tx:156.000–161.450MHz
  • Rx:156.000–163.425MHz
  • Type of emission: 16K0G3E (FM)
  • Power supply requirement: 7.4V DC (Icom battery pack only)
  • Current drain (at 7.4V DC, approx.):
    Transmit:1.5A (at 5W output) 0.7A (at 1W output);
    Receive: 200mA (AF max.)
  • 20mA (Power save)
  • Operating temp. range: –15°C to +55°C
  • Antenna impedance: 50Ohms (STUD)
  • Dimensions: 61(W) x 141.5(H) x 43(D) mm (projections not included)
  • Weight (approx.): 305g (with BP-252, FA-SC58V and MB-109)
  • MIC impedance: 2K Ohms

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