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Old 25-10-2011, 00:50   #1
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Radar or Not ?

I'm slowly fitting out my new to me boat, I am trying to keep the budget as low as i can reasonably get away with. I have installed a vhf with ais and linked it to the plotter, I am wondering if it is worth the extra 1000 pounds to add radar?

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Old 25-10-2011, 01:06   #2
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Re: Radar or not?

We cruise full time and we have both radar and AIS. We find AIS more valuable when dealing with big ships but radar is invaluable for detecting smaller vessels in fog.

In Scotland I would have both!


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Old 25-10-2011, 06:43   #3
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Re: Radar or not?

Radar is definitely worth it and has dropped significantly in price. I consider it a safety feature more than a luxury. The ability to confirm shorelines, buoys, other vessels via radar signature is invaluable...not to mention being able confirm weather.
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Old 25-10-2011, 06:49   #4
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Re: Radar or not?

Radar is like insurance - both can be expensive to buy but more expensive not to buy
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Old 25-10-2011, 06:51   #5
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Re: Radar or not?

Depends on your cruising grounds. If the visibility is often bad, by all means, get radar. I have radar but seldom use it as I cruise the Bahamas. Usually only use it to see whether all the squalls have come through or whether there's more on the way when a front is coming through.
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Old 25-10-2011, 06:57   #6
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Re: Radar or Not ?

AIS is a great tool for avoiding collision with large vessels. It in no way replicates the functions of radar. If I had to choose between them, radar would (and up to now has) be a higher priority in a cruising environment.

Having said that, many of us cruised for years without either one, and many of us survived.

Your choice.


Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II now northbound, lying in Moreton Bay pending medico appointments.
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Old 25-10-2011, 07:01   #7
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Re: Radar or Not ?

I find radar valuable even in conditions of unrestricted visibility. You can navigate with it, measure the speed and relative direction of travel of other vessels, estimate the closest point of approach to shipping traffic, et cetera. When I set up a guard zone offshore, the radar often detects traffic before the person standing watch is aware of it, even during day watches. A trained radar operator can detect rain squalls at night, and even determine how severe they will be.

If you've ever been caught in a fogbank in a coastal situation where you have no choice but to continue on, especially if there are fishing vessels working the same waters, you'll think of radar as the best investment you've ever made on a boat.
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Old 25-10-2011, 07:20   #8
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Re: Radar or Not ?


Well, depends probably on how much you are going to use the boat.

Look at other devices like the Sea-Me, Mer-Veille, etc.. They are not radars but they do warn you, or warn the other ship and some provide directional info on where the ship is.

I would like a radar, but I am not sure it is justified if the boat is used only for coastal trips in the summer.

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Old 25-10-2011, 07:35   #9
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Re: Radar or Not ?

until i sailed south this past spring, i never used any radar or other such device. on this trip i used radar 3 times-- just to see if something was moving and turned it off again. bash and barny are smart-- save for later. decide whether you reallly NEEED it or just WANT it.
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Old 25-10-2011, 07:38   #10
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Re: Radar or Not ?

The radar will make your life much easier, and safer. I would say get one.
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Old 25-10-2011, 07:50   #11
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Re: Radar or Not ?

Our radar has been a fairly pathetic example of the breed - a "16nm" JRC that only ever saw 8nm (until zorched by lightning recently). If we were in foggy areas, we'd certainly have radar. But even though we're not cruising in fog, radar is useful for 2 reasons not previously mentioned:

1) For night approaches - we don't like them & haven't had to do them often, but sometimes we have to make them (us cats don't heave-to very well). Great for feeling your way in.

2) To check the accuracy of our electronic charts - our radar is connected to our NMEA bus (as a listener, not a talker) so it knows both position & heading. Therefore, it can give the Lat/Lon of headlands & such. When approaching a new area (like, say, the coast of Mozambique) we can use this to check how accurate our charts are.

As Illusion implied, when you need it, it's invaluable. We'll be replacing ours, even though it uses the resource we have the least of ($$) & even though we only switch it on ~2x/yr.
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Old 25-10-2011, 08:14   #12
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Re: Radar or Not ?

Hi Steven,

IMHO you'd find it useful down either UK coast and certainly if you aim to head south. We had one summer in N Brittany and without the radar, would have got no-where.

Likewise, it's not uncommon to have fog for half the length of Portugal and certainly common to hit it near the Gib Straights.

But beyond there .......... frankly not sure it would get too much use.

Maybe when you need it, link up with a fellow cruiser who has one and follow his transom!

Enjoy making the decision.
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Old 25-10-2011, 08:23   #13
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Re: Radar or Not ?

2 things...and my experience comes from a lifetime at sea as a pro and rec. One job... I was a marine electronics saleman/installer.

1. for years the cheapo 1-2 kw units were pretty bad. back in early 2000's Raymarine came out with the pathfinder series and it blew the competition away. Now after 2010...many smaller radars are better but still lag behind the 4kw ones and up in some aspects. So be careful who you listen to...based on what they have/experienced and their ability to use (many cruisers don't have enough experience with radar to give great advice).

2. The old joke is that if you don't have radar and the first time you get the living daylights scared out of you and radar would have'll be the first in line at the electronics store the next morning. Cheap when you consider what it actually can do for you. Anyone that limits what a radar can do...has never cruised with someone who uses it like a sixth sense. True bluewater cruising doen't need a radar for much as there's nothing to detect out there usually. Close's your sixth sense.
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Old 25-10-2011, 08:47   #14
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Re: Radar or Not ?

Since it is a slow refit, I'd go with the wait and see if money is tight. I really like having a good radar on board. We use it often on coastal passages, either to figure out what some distant lights are doing, or to try and work around storm cells. Having cruised a fair amount without radar, I wouldn't put it on the gotta-have list. Finding a used unit coming off a boat doing a refit might get you into a radar cheap.
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Old 25-10-2011, 09:05   #15
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Re: Radar or Not ?

Originally Posted by psneeld View Post
The old joke is that if you don't have radar and the first time you get the living daylights scared out of you and radar would have'll be the first in line at the electronics store the next morning.
That's not a joke at all! Between that exact occurrence, craptacular screens on dicey laptops, the very open-source UI on OpenCPN, and my inherent fear of traffic congestion, we went from dreams of cheap laptops and free navigation to a Garmin 740s + 18" HD Radar bundle wired to a VHS with AIS receiver capability. It all fits into my cozy little boat, and my cozy little budget (about $2500), and my cozy little electrical budget (2.5amps with EVERYTHING on, 1.8a in standby mode, 30s from a radar picture), and now I feel like I'm piloting the friggin' space shuttle! I still don't really know how my radar works - it's just blobs, mostly - but even I can avoid smashing into the blobs, even in the fog. And AIS - wow! "Hey stupid, that 30-knot ferry is going to run over you in 4 minutes if you don't do something." Magic, it is. Pure wonderful magic.


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