Date: Wed Aug 15, 2001 1:09 pm

Interesting about your happiness with radar. I'm thinking about adding one, mostly for watchkeeping. What unit do you have? Does the "guard zone" watch-keeping thing work OK, or do waves set it off?

Date: Fri Aug 17, 2001 11:02 am

During my upgrading for the sabbatical offshore around the Atlantic, I mulled over the matter and decided against it: more expense, clutter and weight up mizzen, clutter down and battery load. IWhat made it easier was: my programme did not include Maine (fog) or NW Europe (traffic and fog) where radar may make most sense.

I have never missed it on that year offshore, even (this summer) during 3 days of thick fog (10-30 ft visibility) between western LI Sound and Newport RI, with 2 gps active in case of failure at the wrong moment, and a deadline for a Fort Adams wedding. In fact, I arrived early enough to visit the fascinating Museum of Yachting, where Alan Eddy and his boat are missing among US international pioneers.

On the next morning, fog prevailed again, followed by very heavy and prolonged tropical thunderstorm right as I was heading into tricky Fisher Island Sound, which I entered and motored through in 2-5yards visibility. It reminded me of sloshing to school in inch deep waterlogged streets and curbs during the early monsoon in Saigon VN. There were flash floods with 8ft above normal max all over eastern Connecticut that afternoon.

Radar would have been zero help in that rain... But I am always eager to see my prejudices shattered!

Date: Fri Aug 17, 2001 12:03 pm

In the very early fifties I was a boy in a sailing family and the son of a retired Royal Navy skipper. His own experiences seemed the requirement to instruct me in the more traditional aspects of seamanship. By the age of about eleven I was providing creditable (but never to his demanding satisfaction) navigation. In my early twenties he and I left Center Island to cross Long Island Sound bound for the Direktor yards in Larchmont. We were piloting his employers 58 foot power yacht with a short string of four of the bosses' 5.5 meter racing yachts towed behind. Typically the sound quickly shrouded in thick fog. My Dad consulted his charts and gave me a course to steer.

The mist was blowing across the windshield and became confusing, my attention to the course wandered and he slipped behind me and sternly pointed out that I had wandered far off course and ordered me to get back to it immediately. A few minutes later my fear had grown as the compass appeared to be veering wildly of its own accord and I fearfully called him to my side. His answer was simple and direct. "Always trust your instruments and not your senses in a fog." Obviously I was never so relieved to see the breakwater loom out of the fog some time later and once again to return my faith in the sense of sight that had concurrently and mysteriously returned.

As I grew older I resisted the use of LORAN for years as not a "reliable instrument". Fog became just another important challenge of my skills and navigating safely within it's shroud when it's arrival was unavoidable.

Nearing the heyday of it's reign as the electronic, navigational instrument of choice I finally installed LORAN on my Tartan 27 yawl and became amazed at the accuracy of this marvel. Based upon that experience I soon began to carry a hand-held GPS on my frequent deliveries and it too certainly furthered my ability to navigate traditionally with the much appreciated emotional support.

Many of my deliveries have been on boats with radar and I began to include it in my routine but never became dependent upon it. I found the guard zone, on most radars, to be amazingly effective but not totally reliable. Rain and sea conditions were a definite factor that required frequent gain and tuning adjustments.

I agree that the electronic aids can be very comforting at times but once the navigator becomes less vigilant and more dependent he has relinquished control and responsibility.

But in reflection of all of what I believe in, all that I say and all that I have learned over fifty years I still would love to install radar on my boat. Technology sings a very enticing siren song. And I admit to being enchanted. Maybe, just maybe, my 'sense' of security might just be more comfortably supported.

Date: Fri Aug 17, 2001 3:40 pm

I put radar on my last boat, a wooden 35 foot Cheoy Lee sloop. The reason for radar was for two transatlantics up north, on the way over stopping in Newfoundland. Traffic across the Grand Banks is fierce, both deep sea shipping and innumerable fishing vessels. Icebergs - lots- make this quite an obstacle course. Toss in week-long fogs, and radar is pretty much needed. I found that in the English Channel it was a godsend as well, due to the heavy traffic and poor visibility. And no one slows down there.

Oh - both transatlantics were done via celestial. GPS was too expensive in 1991/2, and Loran didn't have transocean coverage. Today I'm not sure celestial makes much sense anymore (you can get 20 GPSes for the price of one good sextant!), but still run a few sights each passage for fun and practice. As an electronics engineer I'm sort of frustrated with people who worship their electronics... but would no longer go to sea without a GPS. And a sextant. Hey, whatever happened to the pride in a sailor's skills? Like whippings - people use plastic dip goo or even hose clamps instead of an honest tied or sewn-in whipping, just as easy to do.

So on my Seawind I had decided on no radar. I hate the cold so will never head up to the Grand Banks again! And coming back at 50 north into the wind and current was tough, something I have no desire to repeat.

But so many people tell me they use the guard zone successfully it's hard to ignore this, especially with so much of my sailing being singlehanded! I have an old Combi radar detector that does a great job detecting ship radar, but at least 1/2 the ships I see do not have their radar on. At sea alone I get up every 30-60 minutes for a look-see, but a 20 knot ship can go a long way in that time. And sometimes I doze too long.... A few weeks ago on the 1000 nm passage from Provo to Norfolk I had to stop three times to let ships go by. They were too close for comfort. And if one hit the heavy-duty Seawind hull, no doubt the poor ship would sink causing all sorts of legal hassles!

Current consumption worries me, since even when you program the silly thing to sweep and then go to sleep I'd imagine the magnetron is still on. Also, does that mean the magnetron's life is shortened a lot? Also, our nav stations aren't huge... placing a display might be a problem.

Date: Fri Aug 17, 2001 10:30 pm

Regards radar, having worked as an Captain, 1st Officer, and 2nd Officer on board ship crossing some 22 seas, and oceans I strongly encourage ever sailor, solo or otherwise to use a radar as a defense strategy. The facts are that on board ships many of us have 3 radars, 2 that are on, and one on standby. Of the two, one is set on short range to pick up any small fishing or sailing vessel, we hope, and the other is set on long range to pick up the 1,000' tankers or japanese fishing fleets. Along with that we have two spotters with 10 x 50 binoculars looking for anything and one person steering, and the Officer doing the navigation and giving heading changes to the helmsmen. Even with this activity going during the night watch, I have on many occasions come within 1/10 of a mile before one of my spotters called a vessels light in sight,sometimes just a single dim red at 1 O'clock. When this occurs, we look at the radar and find that the swells have hidden the small fiberglass vessel and after the binoculars have indicated the location, we can just see a small split second blip on the close in radar. Each and every time my spotters have saved the day so from my point of view I strongly advise everyone to have a radar as a means of protection, you see its a lot easier for you to see us, a large ship than it is for us to see you, a small vessel hidden from the sea with lights that are very dim even at 1/10th of a mile. Also I might add that turning a large ship quickly is out of the question, even if I order a 30 degree rudder change, That's all there is, the tonnage of the ship prevents much of a turn, so at 1/10th of a mile dead ahead your a gonner, now you know the meaning of dead ahead, and we may not even feel anything of a collision. I have hit logs over 4 foot in diameter and over 30 yards long in Papua New Guinea (the coral sea area) and never felt a thing and they were mostly sea logged.

I sure hope some of you will reconsider radar as an effective protection for you self, I have a Furuno on my Seawind and would not be without it. It protects me from those big ships out there who can't see me.

Date: Fri Aug 17, 2001 10:44 pm

Our radar is a Furuno. We selected the low end of the commercial market rather than the yachties models. Todays models that have stabilization would be my choice if installing one today, but I stay away from the top end of them because they have to many bells and whistles, extras, I like a plane jane model because in dangerous or stressful situations the complex models cause one to become task saturated. I remember coming out of Port Vila at midnite during a particulary heavy rain, the Captain was stessed to the nth degree because the narrow opening is 14 miles long, I took bearings off the land points every 4 minutes, port and starboard and indicating our position on a night that you could see absolutely nothing any other way. The plane jane radar did the job wonderfully, in just under 5 minutes, the Captain on that trip, said " its your con Don "and left the bridge to get some sleep. With a fancy radar, I could'nt have done it. PS, that radar was also a Furuno.

Saturday, June 16, 2012 10:26 PM

Hello Chic and welcome,

I don't have a radar, but 20 years ago I mounted a loran antenna and a windvane for an autopilot on the mizzenmast, and unstepped the mast to do it. Unstepping was not difficult: a little planning and a couple of helpers to tend the guy lines during lowering did it.

The mast has a wall thickness of about 3/32 inch and weighs about 75 pounds. It is not welded to the step but simply rests on it. The step consists of 3 pieces of aluminum bolted together: the step proper, a butt plate shaped exactly like the mast's section (to carry the weight), and a plug which fits the inside of the mast exactly (to prevent lateral movement).

I too was concerned about water intrusion. I decided to pass all the wires (for the loran antenna, windvane, and binnacle) through a piece of CPVC tubing (1/2 in ID, 5/8 in OD, about 8 in long) leading from inside the mast, through the 3-piece step and the cockpit sole. There is just enough room to mount the tubing near the forward end of the plug. Care must be taken to avoid drilling into the deck beam that supports the mast. Measure carefully.

When finally assembled, the tubing (well slathered with caulk) extends from the sole up inside the mast several inches. The wires exit, of course, above the engine. I have had no trouble with leaks.

My mast step was badly corroded so I had a new one made and installed it at the same time. The location of the 5/8 in tubing hole is shown on the attached drawing of the step proper.

This is probably more info than you wanted. Anyhow, I hope it helps.

Odorilla 045K