I work with both analog and digital radars and while the display on the digital is very tough to beat, the cost makes me reconsider.
- I'd look for the radar with the biggest antenna/dome because that will give you the best resolution.
- I'd look for one with plenty of power so that you get some good long range detection and consistent tracking.
- I'd look for one with a big screen
. When you get a dozen targets on the radar, a 5" screen can make detection and analysis difficult.
- I'd give some consideration to color although the standard two color displays give the same info.
- I'd really consider adding ARPA (MARPA) as it will do a lot of the number crunching for you. Many low end ARPA cards will track 5-6 targets, giving you much of the course/speed/cpa/tcpa info you'd get from AIS
- If radar overlay or ARPA data was available on my chart plotter, that'd be nice too.
- I'd look hard at how you get things done on the radar. Some manufacturers seem to think you need to think in RPN, others think just the way you do. If you've got to dig out the manual to figure out how to do things, you might want to reconsider.
- My radar would: be reliable; allow me to set guard bands and alarms; allow me to sleep the radar; provide an external alarm
trigger (I sleep pretty soundly and all those buzzers sound alike); and be user friendly.
- I would probably pass on a new manufacturer. I'd be willing to pay the extra for a company that's been in the marine
radar biz a while, has several ranges of products, and most of the hardware
kinks worked out.
- If radar were really high on the need list (not want, not "be nice") then I'd be looking at X-band as it'll give you a lot better image than S-band. The disadvantage to X-band as it sees through rain better than S-band, and S-band's where I want to look to find that hole in the deluge. However, if you're coming into safe haven at night, in a driving rain storm, X-band is the way to go.
So: big antenna
, high power, big display, time delay, external alarm
, and ARPA are the things I consider most important. The rest of the items are nice, but not needed.
I'd want the radar as high as possible and gimbal mounted so that it stays close to horizontal in most situations. I'd prefer a closed array as, if properly installed, the antenna
are better protected (This doesn't mean that you should neglect pulling the cover off and looking inside the enclosure, at least during your haul out
.). For me, that means on the forward edge of the mast
about waist height above the spreaders and that may mean a modification to the jib
If I were to cruise
the high latitudes or in areas where fog was an acknowledged condition (BTDT), then I might move it up on the list. I'm interested in warmer weather
cruising or leaving the anchorage later in the morning, after the fog's burned off. IMO, radar is one of those things that'd be nice if, after all the other important things are done to make the boat seaworthy
and safe, and I had this wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket, I might splurge on.