I see sailboats with the radar scanner mounted in a number of diffrent areas, some on the mast, some on a pole in the cockpit, and on the backstay, etc. Is there a best place to mount the scanner? I am going to purchase a radar system in the spring and would like to plan the installation ahead. My boat is a 27-foot Catalina.Sue & Larry respond:
Each of the locations you mention for mounting a radome will provide more than satisfactory results for most sailors. The one you choose will probably depend upon the space you have available, and the look you wish to achieve.
As radar is a line-of-sight device, a mounting position just forward of your mast will have a positive result of providing greater range due to its increased height. The mast mounting bracket is usually less expensive than other mounting methods, and in our opinion it provides a cleaner look. On the negative side, it puts weight up high, magnifies the affects of heeling, and can on occasion be in the way of your headsail. This mounting location further results in a small "blind spot" directly aft of the boat.
With stern pole or radar arch mounts, affects from heeling will be less due to the reduced radome height. Your scanner is more accessible for maintenance with this application, and thereís a lower center of gravity for your entire rig. This type of mount will provide slightly less range, but still plenty for most sailboat needs. Because of the additional parts needed, the installation costs will be higher than mast mounting, and special care must be taken to ensure that itís final position end up at least three feet above any crewmember who may be standing on the cabinhouse as the rays emitted can be harmful. Mounting your radome on a backstay provides similar pros and cons to the stern mounted pole. An additional negative is that a backstay mounted radome may suffer degradation of signal due to backstay pumping in heavy air.
For mounting your radar in all of these locations, special gimbaled mounts are available. These mounts allow the radome to remain level to the horizon as your boat heels over. Some of these mounts can cost as much as the entire radar unit alone. In our opinion, for most sailors, the benefits gained are not warranted by the extra cost of these types of mounts.
Best of Luck with your new radar installation. Before you start, check out our article: Choosing and Installing Radar, here at SailNet.