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Old 02-09-2009, 15:21   #1
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Radar in the Down East Fog: Helpful or Essential?

Hello all,

I'm planning a trip for about as far as you can go up the coast of Maine next year and I'm struggling with the question of radar. There is tons of fog where where I'm going, with tons of small and medium sized lobster boats zipping about everywhere.

Normally I don't use a gps or chartplotter but I will be buying one for this trip. That should keep me covered when it comes to avoiding the rocks. It's also been recommended to me various times to get radar, not for the rocks so much as to avoid other boats. Some people seem to think it's a no-brainer but my budget is very limited and radar is expensive. Also my current battery power situation really would not accommodate the equipment without some changes. I don't know whether it's a good sign or bad that lots of fisherman there don't find it necessary to outfit their boats with radar, although most of the bigger ones do. Would it be enough to slow down, put up a reflector, keep a dedicated watch, and sound the airhorn? Or do I really need radar?

Any advice is much appreciated,

Jack

P.S. For anyone that says I do need to buy a radar setup, can you recommend one to me? thanks!

Jack
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Old 02-09-2009, 15:44   #2
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Fog or not, radar is always helpful at night. Additionally, it paints a picture of what is out there in real time. If there is even the smallest chance of getting one then do so. Don't depend on others to avoid you.

You can get small stand alone radars for very cheap now. I have seen real basic radars down to $1500 now.
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Old 02-09-2009, 16:03   #3
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Jack,

I saw you other post re: alternator not charging on your 2004 15HP Merc. You didn't say whether it was a 2-stroke or 4-stroke, but I believe these engines were fitted with 6 amp alternators.

Just so you know....when you begin to talk about radar and GPS/plotters and such, you're really upping the ante, both in terms of complexity and cost. You'll need a really good electrical setup to support their draw (especially the radar), and they're not cheap pieces of gear. Neither is the means of charging them (forget the outboard) nor the energy storage system.

Do you need a radar in Maine waters? Well, it sure is helpful if you contemplate navigating in fog. Fog is frequent in the summer months and is somewhat unpredictable. If you're not in a hurry, you can sit in harbor and wait for the fog to lift. And you can keep your hops short so you're likely to be in the next harbor in daylight without fog. But if you plan to keep any sort of schedule, you'd certainly benefit from radar. So....one can say it's very nice to have and sometimes even mandatory.

Cost? Minimum of $1500.

Chartplotter. Depends on how you plan to do it. Small chartplotters can be had for a few hundred dollars. Larger ones cost $1500-3000. In general, these draw much less power than do radars or laptops.

Batteries. One strategy might be to have a sizeable house battery bank, and carry a small generator for charging that bank when at anchor. At a minimum, IMHO this would involve a bank of 220AH ... say, two Trojan T-105 golf-cart batteries in series ... a Honda 1000EU portable generator, and a 45-amp battery charger like the Iota DLS-45/IQ4. Better setup would be the same battery bank but the Honda 2000EU generator and a DLS-75/IQ4 charger. This would allow you to recharge the batteries much faster. Don't know how much room you'd have for the generators on your 26-footer, though??

While solar panels can work well in temperate climes, I'm afraid they're likely to be unreliable in Maine, where there's not a lot of sunshine much of the time. Might be OK as a supplementary charging method, but not as a primary.

So, what's all this gonna cost? At a minimum:

Batteries...........................$300-500
Honda 1000EU generator............$600
Iota DLS-45/IQ4 charger............$150
Chartplotter.............................$600
Radar...................................$1,500
Unforseens & miscellaneous...... $250
Total.........................$3,400-3,600

Do-able? Yes, for sure, if your budget will allow.

Bill
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Old 02-09-2009, 19:42   #4
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Well, if you elect to go without radar, have so many reflectors that anyone with radar will think you are a supertanker. But I agree with others that radar is a very good idea for the NE, and not just in Maine.

Let me add that the lobster boats are much less of a problem than the lobster pots, and the radar won't spot those.
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Old 02-09-2009, 19:50   #5
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What's your price of the safety for everyone on the boat?
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Old 02-09-2009, 20:08   #6
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I've got one

Hola.

I bought Icefire in Yarmouth, ME. She had been sailed in the Maine waters for her whole life before she met me. At some point in the past, one of the POs fit her up with a fairly decent Raytheon radar, no doubt thinking the very thing you are. If you ask me, he/she didn't run the cabling very well (the damn things don't run far enough into the cabin to allow the repeater to actually be mounted anywhere....I have to sort of set it atop the counter and hold it steady.....when I have the time and cash, fixing that jacked-up wiring situation is one of my top things to fix on Icefire....that and getting the autopilot working).

My battery bank consists of a starting battery and a deep-cycle house battery. Only charging mechanism is the engine.

It seems to me that if I were ever underway in a real pea-souper (like can happen up north there.....or hell like can happen here in Charleston sometimes, too) I'd fire up the radar without hesitation. One thing I've learned from my Navy time is that Safety of Ship (tm) is the most important concern. Run the engine to keep the thing powered for long duration. But it's really hard to avoid collision in really bad visibility without a radar. Collision = really bad (read: possibly fatal to all involved in those conditions).

Spend the cash, if you have it to spend. Otherwise, don't go to sea if it looks like there will be reduced visibility. In the Navy we call that Operational Risk Management, but really it comes down to good seamanship.


Just my $.02
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Old 02-09-2009, 20:59   #7
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Jack,

Here some advice based on lessons learned from 25 years of sailing in Maine, some of it in dungeon thick conditions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
I'm planning a trip for about as far as you can go up the coast of Maine next year and I'm struggling with the question of radar. There is tons of fog where where I'm going, with tons of small and medium sized lobster boats zipping about everywhere.
True.

Quote:
Normally I don't use a gps or chartplotter but I will be buying one for this trip. That should keep me covered when it comes to avoiding the rocks.
In your situation (small boat, weak electrical system) I recommend a battery powered GPS with charting capability and plenty of spare batteries. You should also consider having a spare. I use a Garmin GPSMAP 76, which goes for ~$150, plus the cost of charts. (I also have a chartplotter at the nav station, but the handheld is very convenient and I have never really missed a large color display.) Don't forget to bring a paper ChartKit.

Quote:
It's also been recommended to me various times to get radar, not for the rocks so much as to avoid other boats. Some people seem to think it's a no-brainer but my budget is very limited and radar is expensive.
Radar is very useful and gives you peace of mind, if you can afford it. While I have a radar now, I have sailed the Maine coast for many years without radar. It can be a little nerve wracking, especially when approaching a deep water bell that everyone else aims for and you feel like you're in a downtown traffic jam. If you do get radar, make sure to frequently turn it on in clear visibility so you get practice interpreting the display and tuning it.

Quote:
I don't know whether it's a good sign or bad that lots of fisherman there don't find it necessary to outfit their boats with radar, although most of the bigger ones do. Would it be enough to slow down, put up a reflector, keep a dedicated watch, and sound the airhorn? Or do I really need radar?
Actually, virtually all lobster boats in Maine now have radar, and the vast majority of other vessels. Slowing down, a good radar reflector, a sharp lookout, sounding a horn, are all good things to do whether you have radar or not. In addition, it is prudent in fog to do a periodic "securite" broadcast on Ch 16, announcing your position, course, speed, and the name of your vessel. Other boats, especially ferries and tugboats, also do it. It's like a poor man's AIS. Radar really helps, but in my opinion it is not absolutely essential. Lack of radar would not stop me from sailing in Maine, although without it I would not normally leave a secure harbor when it's dungeon thick outside. It's important to resist the urge to keep a schedule!

Quote:
P.S. For anyone that says I do need to buy a radar setup, can you recommend one to me?
I think Furuno makes excellent rugged and reliable low end radar units (see Furuno 1623). You can get one for ~ $1300. In addition, you'll need a mount ($200) and a ram mount or similar to mount the display so you can see it from the helm.

I would not let the lack of radar keep me from a Maine summer cruise (my wife might disagree, though!), but if you can afford it, by all means get it.
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Old 03-09-2009, 05:02   #8
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OrangeCrush

Just asking the question probably means you already know the answer and should have the radar.
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Old 03-09-2009, 05:22   #9
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Quote:
If you do get radar, make sure to frequently turn it on in clear visibility so you get practice interpreting the display and tuning it.
If you can get access to AIS at the same time, it will really assist in understanding the picture you are looking at.

If you are not experienced in understanding what radar is giving you, then the above advice is very very important. Even the Navy practices pilotage by radar with a safety visual look-out.
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Old 03-09-2009, 06:01   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
... It's also been recommended to me various times to get radar, not for the rocks so much as to avoid other boats ... Would it be enough to slow down, put up a reflector, keep a dedicated watch, and sound the airhorn? Or do I really need radar? ...
I sailed the Maine Coast and Nova Scotia for quite a few years without radar, but finally added a small Furuno unit in year 2000. I now wonder why it took so long to wake up to reality (neglecting the fact that practical units for my small cruising boat only became available recently). Prior to adding radar, I relied on GPS, loran, depth sounders, radar reflectors, my five senses, and a cautious approach. Somehow I managed to avoid trouble.

The problem as I now see it was that I was relying on others to assure my own safety. I hoped I would be "seen" and that other vessels would take actions to avoid me. I was ignorant enough of the true situation to realize that lobstermen and fishermen (and of course women) were working for a living and had more important things to do than spend time avoiding wandering pleasure boats (such as feeding their family). Radar and AIS now allow me to take positive action to assure my own safety and the safety of other vessels. That is the key reason I would urge anyone interested in cruising in these waters to have radar capability.
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Old 03-09-2009, 07:12   #11
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I'm selling mine. Check the classified ads section. Worked fine for my trips in the Gulf of Maine.

You should keep a watch anyway, but if you can't see more than a couple of boat lengths....
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Old 03-09-2009, 09:38   #12
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Learn how to do very basic radar plotting. Mostly creating a relative motion line over a period of a few minutes. If you have a very basic radar it can be done with a grease pencil on the screen.
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Old 03-09-2009, 09:59   #13
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You might want to look at one of the new broadband radars. It's claimed that they only draw 17 watts while working and only 1.5 in standby with no warmup. That's probably workable even with an outboard alternator.
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Old 03-09-2009, 10:02   #14
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i put the new Garmin Hi def radar on my boat this past winter along with a garmin plotter. I think the radar is the best I have ever seen. Amazingly clear and accurate. Would do it again in an instant. What convinced me to get one was finding myself approaching the Bay Bridge when a pea soup fog descended. The GPS told me where the buoys and the bridge were (or where they were supposed to be) but it was very unnerving to be able to hear other boats out there but have no clue where they were. I would hate to be out in fog without a radar. Never again.
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Old 17-09-2009, 10:20   #15
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Radar plotter combo options?

Hello all,

You have all thoroughly convinced me that radar is worth the price and now I am looking for the best option. I know it's a bit late, but if you're still following this thread I have another question.

Since I need to buy a GPS chartplotter as well, can I save money and/or possibly get a better setup that uses a chartplotter that is also radar compatible? I know some of the higher end garmin chartplotters are compatible with garmin radar.

So.... if you can help me I'm deciding between these two arrangements.

1) Foruno Radar (the cheapest setup is around $1,300), plus a separate chartplotter (something in the $400-$500 dollar range, hopefully)

2) Garmin GPSMAP Chartplotter (maybe GPSMAP 3010C or GPSMAP 3006c?) and Garmin Radome? This would be about $1,000 for the plotter and $800 for the radome by my estimation This seems to be a little more expensive since only the more expensive plotters incorporate radar, but it might be worth the difference.

Does anyone have a specific model in mind that might serve my purposes? Are there other components I will need that I'm not taking into consideration? Does anyone have an opinion on these two alternatives, or can you suggest another arrangement altogether?

Any help is much appreciated,
Jack
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