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Old 11-08-2011, 09:25   #1
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Stealth Lobster Boats

I think drug and people runners are using the wrong boats to smuggle stuff!

I was out the other day for 5 hours in fog that I couldn't see 200 feet in. Had the radar going and even though I don't have a lot radar experience could pick out larger boats, land, and even lobster floats that had radar reflectors on them.

But more than once one of those little wooden lobster boats came out of nowhere crossing in front of me. These guys didn't show on radar, didn't have any lights on, didn't respond to any of my sound signals etc. If I hadn't heard their engines I never would have known they were even around except for the 20 seconds or so that they were visable. If they had been running their engine slower I probably wouldn't have see them at all because I wouldn't have been searching by eye to find them (unless I hit them of course whuch was close a couple of times as it was).

Funny how some lobster guys can put a reflector on their trap floats but some can not even put one on their boat! They could at least sound a fog horn after someone else had done so to let people know where they are.
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:29   #2
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

The guys here load up pangas (long, open top dinghies with an outboard) to the gunwales with drugs and just charge north from Mexico. Small, no lights, poor radar signature. They beach where they can, call from a disposable phone for their connection in the states to meet them with the truck, and all the cops find the next morning is an empty panga with traces of drugs all over it.

Gotta give the guys credit for effectiveness; it's a rather simple plan.
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Old 11-08-2011, 09:52   #3
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

Just think of the billions of dollars we spent developing stealth fighters. It would have been a lot cheaper to put wings on a lobster boat!
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Old 11-08-2011, 10:02   #4
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

This may be due to a combination of two factors. First, wooden boats reflect radar poorly. Second, your radar is programmed to ignore objects close in. Ask yourself why you can't pick up your own headstay on the system, no matter how much you boost the gain.

Next time this happens, tune the radar gain manually until the first lobster boat shows up as a target. This may mean you'll have to turn off the sea clutter feature. On some radars, it's a simple matter of selecting harbor tuning rather than open ocean tuning.
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Old 11-08-2011, 12:29   #5
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

A lot of people have the sea Clutter turn up to high and effectively reducing any returns from other vessel or flotsom.
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Old 11-08-2011, 12:44   #6
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

I'll look into the gain issue. But it wasn' because I was too close at first as I was on the same course for 20+ miles while crossing the bay. Thanks.
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Old 12-08-2011, 12:27   #7
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by boasun View Post
A lot of people have the sea Clutter turn up to high and effectively reducing any returns from other vessel or flotsom.
Ditto and also the Rain Clutter control. If both are up then you will not see anything close in. Radar requires retuning anytime you change the range.
- - It takes quite a while to learn the ins and outs of radar so keep experimenting. And frequently turn all the filters - rain and sea - down to zero and adjust them to get the picture you want.
- - And if that does not work get some "Spurrs" line cutter and install it on your propeller shaft to cut traps loose.
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Old 21-08-2011, 13:09   #8
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

We have crab pots and crabby crabbers in the PNW. At night or in the fog they are very hard to see, radar or not. When the season is open it's every man for himself.

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Old 21-08-2011, 13:29   #9
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

Don,

Wood and many fiberglass boats are poor targets but if it had an outboard it should reflect pretty well. Try adjusting your gain, clutter and try your "expansion" setting if you have it. Just got back from a 100+ nm delivery in pea soup this weekend and for 80nm we had about 150-400 feet of visibility. Not unusual conditions for those of us who sail in Maine.

Use your radar when there is no fog so you can be sure it is tuned well and that you're picking up all the targets you'd expect. Some boats are just POOR targets regardless.

Our Garmin remembers your settings for each range setting but you still need to tune depending upon sea conditions. Up here we pick up lots of lobster pot buoys as well so radar overlay can remove all the rocks and islets from the targets you need to be watching but not those pesky flags on the pot buoys.... I suppose if not sailing amongst the thousands and thousands of small ledges and rock outcroppings if Maine radar overlay would be less important..

My experience is that most all boats with reflectors show up very well, and I always look when we can see them, if it is a close passing. Had an older Halberg Rassy pass us within 60 feet crossing the Bass Harbor Straight and we could see her Echomaster in Double Catch Rain. She showed up like a tanker before we could physically see her when passing port to port....

Sailing in fog takes all the senses not just electronic ones....
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Old 21-08-2011, 14:53   #10
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

Good post Maine, I especially agree with the following "Use your radar when there is no fog so you can be sure it is tuned well and that you're picking up all the targets you'd expect. Some boats are just POOR targets regardless."
Even when I have the radar dialed in on one setting I'll boost the gain periodically just to look for the "stealth" boats.
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Old 26-08-2011, 10:11   #11
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Re: Stealth Lobster Boats

If you have an elevation setting that will change the azmuth of your signal try that for closer objects. Radar usually is designed or hard wired to electronically filter out signals near the "main bang" or antenna site. If a target only produces a small return adjusting the gain will not increase the target but will produce a stronger picture of that smaller return and may pick up more ground clutter. A good "mechanical" radar reflector can make a small target appear to be a much bigger target or vessel. As mentioned some targets just produce poor returns. This has been my experience in setting up portable radar units.
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