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Old 27-10-2014, 12:26   #31
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Re: Radar - what to look for

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Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
Most cruisers in offshore situation with good visibility do not have the radar turned on at all. We may, occasionally turn it on a at night if we see something we want to track, but it gets used lightly offshore in good visibility.
It's absolutely up to you to decide how to do your watchkeeping, but if you have a good modern radar which doesn't produce many false returns, I would suggest considering the fact that the radar never blinks -- unlike the human watchstander. Even in good visibility, it will detect objects far earlier than you can see them with your eyes, which is a really good thing. And you don't necessarily see everything immediately with your eyes even when it's visible, since you can't look everywhere at once. There are a lot of advantages to using radar offshore.

Radar is a lot less useful in coastal and heavily trafficked situations because you have to turn the alarms off. But when you are far offshore with nothing in sight, I find it to be just fantastic to get an automatic warning when there's something out there.
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Old 27-10-2014, 12:31   #32
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Re: Radar - what to look for

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Originally Posted by Cheechako View Post
I haven't bought a radar in quite a while, but I did notice that the "Clutter" etc settings became automatic at some point... I would want one that you could switch to manual on refining those type of settings... re: Sea Clutter, Rain Clutter etc.... you need to be able to tune out the white caps etc...
All the automatic settings offer a manual override. On my Furuno set, the auto settings are superior to my manual adjustments in almost all cases. I've had a few incidents where I couldn't figure out why a target was showing so poorly. Turned out I had left the manual settings on.
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Old 27-10-2014, 12:31   #33
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Re: Radar - what to look for

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Originally Posted by NSboatman View Post
I concur that offshore, and in good visibility, many cruisers do not run their radars at night, or set them up to do periodic sweeps. The advent of AIS has provided an excellent new tool that probably reduces radar use offshore - but it dangerous to presume that all significant targets will be AIS active.

I was taught commercial old school, which specifically references the colregs and sets up typical on-watch duties to maintain an acceptable degree of situational awareness. To me, the crux of the matter is in the definition of this.

On a well lit night, in good conditions, little to no traffic, with an able watchstander and experienced visual lookout, I have no issues NOT running the radar. Nay, in fact I would postulate that a tuned-in watchstander (human), with well-adjusted night vision, keen and attuned hearing, and a sharpened sense of awareness that comes from relying on all of ones senses in an open cockpit; would be in better command of situational awareness than one who is constantly losing their night vision and sense of awareness from fiddling with knobs on a chart plotter or radar. I can say that this has saved me from collisions with floating objects on many occasions - things that I would definitely not have seen if I were relying solely on radar and plotter. Plus - It's a lot nicer!

However, if i am uneasy at all about the conditions, the traffic, watchstander ability (including my own - fatigue for example), the equipment on the vessel itself, or anything else... I'll use every dang input for situational awareness that I can get my eyes, ears and hands on. And I'll still try to step out of the cockpit many, many times during the watch to look and listen.

obviously YMMV...
You make a very good point about the dangers of trying to watch a screen and keep a visual watch. In my experience, it's just about impossible to keep a decent visual watch at night while watching a plotter or radar screen.

When there's enough crew on board, I like to double the watches at night and have someone specifically doing the visual watch, while someone else (usually me) watches the radar and AIS from the nav table. But you can also set the AIS and radar guard zone alarms and turn the screen off. I do that sometimes.
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Old 27-10-2014, 12:31   #34
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Re: Radar - what to look for

Basic question: How long does it take HD (pulse?) radar to "warm" up and get a read on the surround? If you're content to maintain a periodic check, can you not just fire up the HD radar on that schedule?
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Old 27-10-2014, 12:36   #35
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Re: Radar - what to look for

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul L View Post
All the automatic settings offer a manual override. On my Furuno set, the auto settings are superior to my manual adjustments in almost all cases. I've had a few incidents where I couldn't figure out why a target was showing so poorly. Turned out I had left the manual settings on.
Same here.

Although I do fiddle with the manual overrides from time to time just for the sake of being sure, I have never seen a single case where I could get a better radar picture than provided by the auto setting.
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Old 27-10-2014, 12:42   #36
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Re: Radar - what to look for

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It's absolutely up to you to decide how to do your watchkeeping, but if you have a good modern radar which doesn't produce many false returns, I would suggest considering the fact that the radar never blinks -- unlike the human watchstander.....
AH, but sometimes they both blink. I was 35 miles offshore of Cape Fear in December at 3am. Had a 2 mile guard zone on the radar. I just did a look around into the black cold. Saw nothing. Did a quick peek at the radar. Saw nothing. Took a sip of hot tea and heard a loud slam and crash. Jumped up and saw nothing. Then just 100 yards behind the starboard quarter I saw a ghost like shadow of a cabin cruiser style fishing boat. Quickly turned the boat around and saw the other boat turn on his running lights. Who knows what he was doing that far offshore with no running lights and no one on watch. Any way, I missed the target and so did the radar -- but the bow found it.
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Old 27-10-2014, 12:43   #37
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Re: Radar - what to look for

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Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
Basic question: How long does it take HD (pulse?) radar to "warm" up and get a read on the surround? If you're content to maintain a periodic check, can you not just fire up the HD radar on that schedule?
Up to a couple of minutes.

But yes -- if you're having it wake up and do a periodic scan (if it has this function), I don't see why you couldn't do it the way you suggest.

Pulse radars are usually kept in standby, however, for such duty, as far as I know.
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Old 27-10-2014, 12:46   #38
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Re: Radar - what to look for

Concerning radar guard zones: It seems that not all radars work equally well for this. Here is a thread about how they work on one Furuno set:

Furuno 1715 Radar Unit Review

complaining that they don't work that well. The thread gives an interesting picture of methods of using guard zones, too.

I was surprised; since we know that the radar picture is as good as anything, I would have expected the guard zones to work flawlessly as well. That could be a reason to choose the Navico radar, whose guard zone alarms, in my experience, work flawlessly.
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Old 27-10-2014, 15:25   #39
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Re: Radar - what to look for

I installed radar last year and have used it enough in clear weather to be comfortable that what I see on the screen is what is around me. I have a Standard Horizon cp300i on the flybridge, SH uses Si-Tex radar so I shopped on eBay for a compatible unit and found a 4kw MDS 10-5 open array. Ended up with less than $2000.00 in system including the display, the 7" screen was to small to split or overlay so I searched and found a Si-Tex 7" colormax display with transducer and black box fish finder for $300.00. I used it for a dedicated radar display, sold the ducer and black box and still had less than $2000 in everything. It works fine for my needs and I'am still learning the things it'll do. I didn't want to invest in a new setup because there are other things to spend boat bucks on, the Si-Tex antenna is over $5000.00 new and that would buy a lot of diesel. In the research I did Furuno probably makes the most dependable and best supported gear, there was some problems with the guard alarm on the low end 1623 2kw model, but that's the only complaint I've heard about Furuno. If you're comfortable doing your own install I wouldn't discount buying later model used radar. I do like the dedicated screen on the bridge, I just bought a larger 12" screen at the lower helm because of space and can overlay but have not decided if that is a benefit or not, the larger screen is definitely easier on my older eyes. Good luck on deciding what you need for your type and area of boating.


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Old 27-10-2014, 15:47   #40
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Radar - what to look for

My radar is an old Si-Tex from 1989. Monochrome, takes about 5 minutes to warm up, uses lots of juice, display is at the nav table, not interfaced with anything, shares a screen with the same vintage chart plotter, you have to switch from one to the other. Problem is it still works, nothing wrong with it. Any thoughts on if I should spend the money replacing this old but functional electronics?


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Old 27-10-2014, 16:06   #41
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Re: Radar - what to look for

I would be hard pressed to spend money to replace something that still functions as it should and that I'am comfortable using with newer gear unless there was big enough upgrade in performance to justify spending the money.


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Old 27-10-2014, 16:32   #42
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Re: Radar - what to look for

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Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
Basic question: How long does it take HD (pulse?) radar to "warm" up and get a read on the surround? If you're content to maintain a periodic check, can you not just fire up the HD radar on that schedule?
On ours (Furuno), by the time the chartplotter boots and is active for use, the radar is also ready. When the radar is on standby, it turns on instantly when the activate button is pushed. It forms a complete picture of the surround by the second scan (~2 sec).

The guard zone function on our Furuno DSR4 works remarkably well. The gain, sea and rain clutter controls are always available and easy to adjust/play with. The only time I find manual control on it better than auto is in calm conditions where I can crank the gain and set the sea clutter to 0. That really makes small targets pop.

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Old 27-10-2014, 16:45   #43
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Re: Radar - what to look for

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...Radar is a lot less useful in coastal and heavily trafficked situations because you have to turn the alarms off...
Gotta disagree with this. Coastal and heavily trafficked situations are precisely where radar is most effective. Forget about the alarms. Look at the display. It could save a collision or worse..
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Old 27-10-2014, 16:45   #44
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Re: Radar - what to look for

I'd support the argument of radar unit selection based on your chart plotter and other instruments, and making sure they interface properly.

Personally I have a 3G Lowrance (By navico) and use a PC (laptop) as the MFD, with OCPN. The guard zones work well, and as commented above, they will often "see" another vessel before the person on watch does. This solution does of course allow integration - Plotter/Radar/AIS/Sonar etc, AND can be duplicated to a tablet via wifi or even bluetooth. All at very low cost in comparison to other systems. However, it depends on which other systems you have to see if it is worthwhile.
We too use our radar all the time on passage, especially if short handed, which we normally are.

I previously (until about 2 years ago) used a Nobeltec radar (made by Koden) on Nobeltec's PC software. It is an excellent system, but not cheap. The OpenCPN path is not as polished, and slightly less functional, but pretty close now, for a lot less $. That's why I changed when my old radar died - it was about 10 years old.

Good luck with your selections!
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Old 27-10-2014, 18:01   #45
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Re: Radar - what to look for

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Gotta disagree with this. Coastal and heavily trafficked situations are precisely where radar is most effective. Forget about the alarms. Look at the display. It could save a collision or worse..
I should have said "less useful for watchkeeping. That is because you have target overload in coastal and heavy traffic situations and have to turn the alarms off.

Of course I agree that radar is extremely useful in heavy traffic situations, and yes, by looking at the screen. But it's still relatively less important than it is in the open sea, because in these situations the visual watch becomes much more important, proportionally. In heavy traffic, radar really shines when visibility is limited. In the open sea, you need it equally in all visibility.

"Visibility limited" does not mean a clear night. Pre-AIS, we English Channel sailors used to always prefer to cross at night. Because visual interpretation of a ship's aspect is much easier when you judge by the nav lights on a clear night, than by the silhouette, in daylight.
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