Ask Sail

Wobbly Cells

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Chet Sturgis of Chicago, Illinois, asks:

"Recently, I installed a cell phone amplifier—I don’t recall the manufacturer’s name—to increase my range when I’m sailing off the coast. Although range has improved, when I’m back in my slip I can’t get good reception from someone who is calling me from just several hundred yards away until I turn off the amplifier. What am I doing wrong?"

Gordon West replies:

Many inexpensive imported and uncertified cellular amplifiers—which is what I think you have—tend to oscillate when they are surrounded by multiple cell-phone users. That’s why you are having reception problems when you’re in your marina. All the established manufacturers have worked hard to minimize this problem, which is why I expect the FCC will take action soon on the makers of these pieces of equipment.

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