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Old 16-09-2019, 07:20   #1
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How to use a radar effectively?

Our boat came with an impressive (to me) set of electronics package from B&G. The manuals are really worthless...

I use the radar during night passages but honestly, I'm never too sure what I'm supposed to be looking for beyond a blob in the direction we're headed.

I'm really trying to learn all the settings and how to increase our safety through the use of the radar. For example, what blobs are important, how can I see squalls, what are all of the 100's of settings?

Is there a book (ebook) or online resource available that you would recommend?
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Old 16-09-2019, 09:00   #2
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Starpath has online learning for radar imagery interpretation.
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Old 16-09-2019, 09:02   #3
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Practice in daytime with good visibility so you can see the blobs and learn to interpret.
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Old 16-09-2019, 09:22   #4
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Starpath has a kindle book that I read when I installed my radar. Quite useful and goes beyond my actual needs.

What really helped was anchoring out in a fairly open harbor and watching boats come and go on the screen. Also, realizing that most of the blobs were land or buoys.

It will all make sense if you give yourself some time to practice with it, preferably without having to drive the boat at the same time, so you can give it 100% of your attention.
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Old 16-09-2019, 09:29   #5
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

The starpath book opened my eyes to the fact that a radar can be used for far more than dodging silly people in the fog. It is also a very powerful navigation tool that is not your GPS. Another very positive recommendation for the Starpath book, which is also available in softcover. (not affiliated)
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Old 16-09-2019, 09:41   #6
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

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Originally Posted by Mainebristol View Post
The starpath book opened my eyes to the fact that a radar can be used for far more than dodging silly people in the fog. It is also a very powerful navigation tool that is not your GPS. Another very positive recommendation for the Starpath book, which is also available in softcover. (not affiliated)
It's loading on my Kindle right now!
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Old 16-09-2019, 10:05   #7
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Consider Radar for Mariners by David Burch
His tip on colored dry erase markers has been huge on tracking squalls and multiple targets. I commend you on following up on building your own skills rather than just buying the gear and hoping for the best. When we belonged to Blue Water Cruising Association they arranged a workshop at a professional mariners school in Vancouver BC that had radar simulators and we spent 1/2 a day training there. Perhaps someone on this board knows of a similar place near you
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Old 16-09-2019, 11:44   #8
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

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Originally Posted by cal40john View Post
Practice in daytime with good visibility so you can see the blobs and learn to interpret.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jalmberg View Post
What really helped was anchoring out in a fairly open harbor and watching boats come and go on the screen. Also, realizing that most of the blobs were land or buoys.

Very important practice. You can look out and see what the radar is reflecting (ha!). You'll also be able to see things like the semicircle of a very large target at close range and the implications of weather.



Radar is a wonderful tool. You have to learn to use it. You're on your way.
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Old 16-09-2019, 13:02   #9
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Before you head out to practice make sure the radar is “zeroed” to the front of the boat or north. Most boats I deliver with radar are off.

Let me clarify, I always run my radar in “heading up” mode. This ensures what I see out in front of the boat is at the top of the MFD.

IMHO north-up is nice, but requires me to rotate the display on my head to coordinate with the real world. When things are going ugly, North-up is one more opportunity for a mistake.


Once the radar is aligned, one can overlay radar over the chart and use radar to confirm the chart or if the chart disagrees with radar to navigate off what the radar is “seeing”. One way the overlay helps is that he makes identifying the tails of buoys vs tails of small boats anchored and fishing. Yes they are supposed to have lights, but if visibility was that good- ya wouldn’t need radar!

Radar for Mariners by Burch is also a great book. The key is to practice regularly on good weather so when you need the radar it is second nature.
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Old 16-09-2019, 13:16   #10
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Snore View Post
Before you head out to practice make sure the radar is “zeroed” to the front of the boat or north. Most boats I deliver with radar are off.

Completely and absolutely agree with you, absent radar overlay which you also addressed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Snore View Post
Let me clarify, I always run my radar in “heading up” mode. This ensures what I see out in front of the boat is at the top of the MFD.

Agree, but wait....


Quote:
Originally Posted by Snore View Post
IMHO north-up is nice, but requires me to rotate the display on my head to coordinate with the real world. When things are going ugly, North-up is one more opportunity for a mistake.

I don't know if I diverge from you here or not.



For radar I prefer heading up, not course up or North up. As you note the mental connection between looking out the window and looking at the screen is really fast and simple.


For charting I insist on North-up. I used to think I was just old and curmudgeonly. With additional *ahem* maturity I realize I'm smarter than I thought. *grin* There have just been too many times on too many deliveries when the autopilot kicks out. Heading up on charts gives no context for where the right direction is. It adds to confusion which is not the role of a tool. People may not remember the course but by golly they remember the orientation on a North up display to get close. Add the big picture of correlation with paper charts, whether you carry them or not, and I insist on North up for charts.



The obvious question then is how to display radar overlaid on charts. *sigh* I see this as radar providing supplemental information to charts so I default to North up.



I don't have any trouble doing the spatial convolution of split screen radar heading up and chart North up. I know some people have trouble. I think I can fall back on old and curmudgeonly to say "Practice." Mr. Perry would say "HTFU" but he didn't have my matronly great aunt to answer to. *grin*


Quote:
Originally Posted by Snore View Post
The key is to practice regularly on good weather so when you need the radar it is second nature.

Absolutely.
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Old 16-09-2019, 17:25   #11
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

I think a book will explain it better but here it goes. The most important setting is gain. The higher the gain the more visible the echoes are. Next, you have a control called sea clutter. When you turn up sea clutter you are reducing the intensity of the echoes close to your boat. This is helpful offshore, where you get a lot of noise from the windward waves. It is very important to remember this control and periodically bring it down to zero so that you do not miss targets close to your ship. You can read about rain and FTC controls in a book. My suggestion would be to go out in your marina and start tracking boats passing by with sea clutter said to zero. Play with the gain to see how big the echoes become. Find a control called echo enhancement and check that one too. You should be able to clearly distinguish between boats, buoys, etc. by adjusting the gain. Make sure the magnetron has warmed up for at least 15 min. Then practice with Marpa. Good luck.

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Old 16-09-2019, 17:52   #12
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Auspicious View Post
Completely and absolutely agree with you, absent radar overlay which you also addressed.





Agree, but wait....





I don't know if I diverge from you here or not.



For radar I prefer heading up, not course up or North up. As you note the mental connection between looking out the window and looking at the screen is really fast and simple.


For charting I insist on North-up. I used to think I was just old and curmudgeonly. With additional *ahem* maturity I realize I'm smarter than I thought. *grin* There have just been too many times on too many deliveries when the autopilot kicks out. Heading up on charts gives no context for where the right direction is. It adds to confusion which is not the role of a tool. People may not remember the course but by golly they remember the orientation on a North up display to get close. Add the big picture of correlation with paper charts, whether you carry them or not, and I insist on North up for charts.



The obvious question then is how to display radar overlaid on charts. *sigh* I see this as radar providing supplemental information to charts so I default to North up.



I don't have any trouble doing the spatial convolution of split screen radar heading up and chart North up. I know some people have trouble. I think I can fall back on old and curmudgeonly to say "Practice." Mr. Perry would say "HTFU" but he didn't have my matronly great aunt to answer to. *grin*





Absolutely.


I was not clear enough— I use heading up. For as a 64y/o it keeps things KISS. Likewise when I show new owners it makes it KISS for them. There is a skill to rotating things.

If the world goes to pooo, then the MFD will have a spiffy line where the rhumb line lays. Also if things go ugly, having heads-up is one less thing to deal with. ‘Is that the marker for the inlet coming up, or a small boat?’

If it all goes dark, then it is down to the compass heading. On long runs, I have been known to write that on painters tape.

In the end, for many who like north-up that works. So like red cars and green cars- what works for you works.

Regarding Mr Perry, I would have no issue telling him to “sod’s-off”. Based on other exchanges I’ve had with him he would chuckle and move forward.
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Old 16-09-2019, 18:07   #13
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Auspicious View Post
Starpath has online learning for radar imagery interpretation.
+1, StarPath has that and many other good classes.
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Old 16-09-2019, 18:08   #14
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie in WA View Post
Consider Radar for Mariners by David Burch
His tip on colored dry erase markers has been huge on tracking squalls and multiple targets. I commend you on following up on building your own skills rather than just buying the gear and hoping for the best. When we belonged to Blue Water Cruising Association they arranged a workshop at a professional mariners school in Vancouver BC that had radar simulators and we spent 1/2 a day training there. Perhaps someone on this board knows of a similar place near you
Fair Winds
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David Burch, for those who dont know, is the guy behind StarPath.
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Old 17-09-2019, 07:26   #15
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Re: How to use a radar effectively?

Quote:
Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
David Burch, for those who dont know, is the guy behind StarPath.


Thanks. Filed away for future reference.
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