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Old 14-01-2013, 21:46   #1
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Radar Important for Inside Passage to Alaska?

I'm doing the inside passage in a 27 foot sail boat this summer. I'm wondering how important it would be to have radar. I've never used it before and there is not much room on my boat and I'm on a budget. If I just don't sail in the fog or at night shouldn't I be ok?
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Old 14-01-2013, 22:09   #2
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

It's not a have to have !! But it will increase your sailing days, because you know your gonna get fog !! Ive done it both ways and I will always have radar for the inside or outside passage to Alaska!! ya know that sooner or later you will be late to anchor up, and radar sure helps out and makes good sence! I would look for the smallest, cheapest unit ya can find !! Your trip will be just lot more restful with radar ! Just my 2 cents
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Old 14-01-2013, 22:13   #3
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

I agree with Bob. Also there are a few tide gates that you don't want to miss and radar might make that difference.
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Old 14-01-2013, 23:28   #4
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

You Don't need it.
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Old 14-01-2013, 23:34   #5
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

I don't think one is needed. I lived in Juneau for 15 years and sailed/motored from Ketchikan to Skagway many times and only could of used radar a handful of times. Lots of daylight in summer and plenty of good achorages. Just pick the right day for the bigger pieces of water - Sumner, Chatham, Lynn, Icy Straits etc.
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Old 15-01-2013, 09:38   #6
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

I would strongly recommend it.

We cruised SE AK in our C-Dory one summer without radar, and were lucky - had to stay put only a few times. One of those times was when we were trying to cross Icy Strait on the way to our "permit days" in Glacier Bay. Wouldn't have been able to make the schedule if it hadn't been fairly light fog and we were able to follow a fishing boat slowly across.

A more significant example: We were heading south from Ketchikan across the Dixon Entrance at the end of the summer, when fog is often thick and widespread. Three days in a row we got only a few nm south of Ketchikan when the fog started to close in. Clearly we could not safely continue our ~83 nm crossing, so we turned around and tried again the next day.

On one of those tries we heard a cruise ship announcing its approach on the VHF, and called them to ask how the fog was further out. They answered "zero", meaning zero visibility. Weather forecasts for fog conditions are only general - in August (Fogust) you could be waiting a very long time if you waited until trhey did not mention fog. Actual conditions reports for crossing the Dixon don't tell much about most of the route, either.

The most dangerous situation might be when you're well along in such a crossing and the fog sets in. Now you have a long way to travel in either direction, you're in an area where there's often traffic, and you can't see. We've had this happen rounding Cape Caution several times. I sure wouldn't want to run into a cruise ship or tug and tow in the fog, and with the radar on our current boat we have often seen and passed them going the other way. We travel slow most of the time, 6 knots or so whether there's fog or not, so long crossings can be somewhat wearing, but much more so in fog - even with radar.

We've also been able to make it safely back into a marina under radar, in conditions I wouldn't consider trying without it.

A low cost radar like Furuno 1623 could make the safety difference, but if I were shopping I'd get one of the new Simrad or Lowrance 4G broadband sets - low power requirement, and great clarity, especially at the shorter ranges that are the most important for collision avoidance.
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Old 15-01-2013, 09:57   #7
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

If Radar saves your buns only 1 time then its worth it- I would not go with out one!
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Old 15-01-2013, 09:57   #8
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

Thanks for the advice. The pro radar posts are more convincing than the cons I have to say. However the practical side of me wonders... how do you read radar in a small sailboat? I assume that the receiver must be in the cabin. But If I'm sailing or even motoring it would be hard to keep running down and looking. Is this what must be done? or can you read it from the cockpit if you place it facing aft, forward of the companionway? And is the best place to mount the transmitter by the spreaders? I'm a little worried about being zapped by radar up close.
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Old 15-01-2013, 10:10   #9
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

North of Van Isle I dont know. To the North tip not needed most the time. Kinda iffy on a 27 footer. If it was a bigger boat, I'd say just get it, very nice to have at times anyway. Late summer is the fog time of year, but I didnt see much on the inside of Van Isle.
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Old 15-01-2013, 10:32   #10
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

Quote:
Originally Posted by shutter puppy View Post
However the practical side of me wonders... how do you read radar in a small sailboat? I assume that the receiver must be in the cabin. But If I'm sailing or even motoring it would be hard to keep running down and looking. Is this what must be done? or can you read it from the cockpit if you place it facing aft, forward of the companionway? And is the best place to mount the transmitter by the spreaders? I'm a little worried about being zapped by radar up close.
Even the Furuno 1623 is waterproof. You need to mount the display where you can see it clearly while steering.

The broadband radars use so much less power that you need not worry about getting zapped by the beam.
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Old 15-01-2013, 11:24   #11
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

Quote:
Originally Posted by shutter puppy View Post
Thanks for the advice. The pro radar posts are more convincing than the cons I have to say. However the practical side of me wonders... how do you read radar in a small sailboat? I assume that the receiver must be in the cabin. But If I'm sailing or even motoring it would be hard to keep running down and looking. Is this what must be done? or can you read it from the cockpit if you place it facing aft, forward of the companionway? And is the best place to mount the transmitter by the spreaders? I'm a little worried about being zapped by radar up close.
All my units, even on bigger boats have been below. It depends on what you are looking for I guess. You can usually see a blip on the screen by peering below. Or you can mount it "swing away" at the companionway also.... especially with today's smaller displays. Under the dodger would be great if there's room.
"otto" is usually steering for me anyway....
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Old 15-01-2013, 13:23   #12
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

On the inside of Vancouver Island I have encountered fog just about everywhere. But I guess if you do it enough times that will happen.

BTW - A really nice use of radar is an aid to anchoring. If you have problems judging distance to other vessels use the VRM to measure the distance. I anchored in Port McNeill in fog at night with that method. It works like a charm.
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Old 15-01-2013, 15:17   #13
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

On a small boat the swing out mount in the companionway works well.
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Old 15-01-2013, 15:45   #14
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

For a typical 27 footer I would mount it inside, just beside the companionway. Maybe you can contrive a swinging arm of some sort so you can place it directly in the hatch for visibility in the cockpit, and out of the way for ingress/egress. Or maybe you could build a housing for the display/control unit, in the cockpit. Perhaps a flip-up cover with the front of plexiglass or something.

Don't forget, you want others to see YOU on THEIR radar, too. Get or make a corner reflector. It could save your life. An AIS B transciever is cheap compared to the radar, so consider one of them, too. An all-in-1 chartplotter, radar, and AIS display would be great. Everything on one instrument.

A corner reflector is easily made. Two circular pieces of sheet metal or aluminum are cut, with a slot as wide as the material is thick, running from center to edge. Slide them together so each is captive in the slot of the other piece. Cut four quarter circles with an inch or so left over on the straight edges. Bend that excess up at a 90 degree angle. Mount these quarter circles at right angles to the axis of the two whole pieces. Drill and bolt together. Drill holes top and bottom and add swivels and a halyard. For less wind loading, cut out 2" holes near the center junction in each piece. Or go and buy one for 3 times the price and half as effective. This same type of reflector is used on longliners' "high flier" bouys because they paint so well on the radar. Carry one of these high in your rig and you will be pretty obvious on radar.

Know your fog signals and consider a horn with an automatic feature.
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Old 15-01-2013, 16:27   #15
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Re: Radar important for inside passage to Alaska?

I live in Juneau, and have spent 20 years around southeast AK commercial fishing and sailing - currently in an Albin Vega (27' like yours - with no radar or any intent to add it).

Bottom line - no, it is not necessary, unless you are on a tight time schedule which is an accident waiting to happen here. If the fog is thick (which is rare anyway - more likely it will be rainy with low clouds, but you can still see 5+ miles), sit on the anchor longer and wait for the weather to clear - good time for beachcombing or just reading a book. If it is getting foggy, duck into the nearest available harbor and wait it out (there are plenty and they are usually not far apart).

Darkness isn't an issue at all until late August, as well. In July you will need tinfoil over your windows to sleep.

A simple handheld GPS or an IPhone can pinpoint your location pretty easy, and the fog is rarely thick enough to not see shore in the summer, unless you are way out in the middle. If I am out and it starts to get foggy, I put up my radar reflector, run towards shore, and find the nearest harbor to wait it out.

A couple recommendations: make sure you have a solid engine and enough fuel on board to motor 150 miles at least. Sailing here is "fluky" at best. If the weather is bad, just stay put. It's not worth getting beat up. Make sure you have plenty of anchor rode - you will need to anchor regularly in 50+ feet of water - most anchorages are 45-80 feet. I carry 100' of chain with 100' of nylon rode, and it is marginal.

Feel free to PM me if you have any questions about northern SE alaska (sitka north), I might be able to help.
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