Do I need a radar reflector? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 62 Old 07-28-2008 Thread Starter
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Do I need a radar reflector?

I plan to sail my new boat on the St-Lawrence river where cargos are frequently present. I am installing a radar reflector but was wondering why the aluminium mast does not reflect radar itself? I am just curious to understand the difference especially since my reflector seems to also be made of aluminium??? Thanks for any source of info.

"Gromit", 1975 Grampian 26
St-Lawrence river, Québec
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post #2 of 62 Old 07-28-2008
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Thin Profile and rounding of mast tends not to show up WELL. Lots of different facets on reflector do a better job at reflecting radar waves back to the sender.

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post #3 of 62 Old 07-28-2008
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I read an article where they tested radar reflectors. Many performed very poorly. There are active ones that listen for a signal and shoot a beam back with a transmitter. They are very effective. The amount of fog, night time sailing, and proximity to commercial traffic would help decide if the cost is worth it.
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post #4 of 62 Old 07-28-2008
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US Sailing and the RORC have both performed tests on radar reflectors. Both sets of tests seem to indicate that the Davis type, (round interlocking panels that create "pockets") mounted in a "catch rain" position is among the most effective passive reflectors available. It's also one of the less expensive. Actual results can vary because of the way the reflector is mounted, the angle of heel of the boat, the height of waves, and a lot of other technical stuff. We used ours last week in Buzzards Bay with about 200' of visibility, and were glad to have it deployed.
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post #5 of 62 Old 07-28-2008
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Speaking as someone..

Speaking as someone from the foggy state of Maine all I can say is YES!

Radar likes right angles and flat surfaces to reflect signal back. Rounded masts are not a good reflector. While many boats do show up without a reflector the target definition and target itself on screen is usually quite small and can be mistaken for a lobster pot or buoy or sea clutter. Make your boat show up on someones radar screen and definitely buy a reflector..


Oh never mind I'll just show you. I took this photo a few weeks ago at my mooring during the set up and install of my new Garmin HD radar that replaced a Raytheon CRT unit.

The target labeled in red as "C-30" is a Catalina 30 with no radar reflector. The much bigger target labeled in green as "M-28" is a Morris 28 with a radar reflector. Hopefully seeing is believing...!

LOOK BIG!!

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Last edited by Maine Sail; 11-11-2008 at 07:41 PM.
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post #6 of 62 Old 07-28-2008
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I bought one today; SD convinced me when he was on my boat a few weeks ago, and he also gave me some tips on mounting the reflector gained from his experience. Thanks again Dawg!



You know, I still have not read SD's post linked in his signature that he keeps telling everyone to read.

Edit: Hal, that radar screen looks sweet; it puts my 1997 model to shame. I guess I will add HD radar to the list!

Last edited by max-on; 07-28-2008 at 11:28 PM.
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post #7 of 62 Old 07-28-2008
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Originally Posted by max-on View Post

Edit: Hal, that radar screen looks sweet; it puts my 1997 model to shame. I guess I will add HD radar to the list!
And that was "out of the box" auto settings! I had not even begun to tweak or play with the settings! I really do like it but the Garmin instructions for radar are NON-EXISTENT!! Not kidding they don't have ANY!!!

If you buy a Garmin you better already know how to operate a radar and what the lingo means cause they won't tell ya.....

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post #8 of 62 Old 07-28-2008
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I am definitely of the belief that you want to do everything that you can to make yourself visible to the big guys. Even if a reflector didn't do much, I would feel better having it up there. I am hoping to do a test on my boat from another boat with a CRT, with and without reflector at different ranges. I know from running my radar that different boats give vastly different returns, but the best are from the bouys that have the chambers like the Davis (we call them Cormorant motels).

Hal- I noticed that in your screen shot you don't have a "cone" at your location, are you mast mounted or pole? Excellent picture, how do you like color radar for night use, is there a different palette like on a plotter?

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1988 Brewer 40 Pilothouse

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post #9 of 62 Old 07-28-2008
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i put two up above my top spreader - they are round and attache to the stays - one on each side

had an interesting example on why 2 - recently was coming north in the ocean and another sailboat was following me - we both had our sails up and as he went from my starboard to hard off my port as he went more towards land i lost his footprint on my radar at times - we had talked on radio a bit and i asked if he had 1 or 2 reflectors as as long as i could see the reflector my radar could track it but when his sail covered it - it was a spotty reception and at times i would lose his track all together - i tired using marpa but it would at times tell me no signal - 2 reflectors up high take care of that problem as well as the heeling problem
just my opinion
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post #10 of 62 Old 07-28-2008
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A Caution

Radar deflectors in my opinion are one more of those aux gears you can have to make safe voyage passages (and yes I have on on my Barberis). However, nothing accounts more on a boat than standing proper visual watches - anywhere you transit. Odds are on a sailboat under sail - you are the one that needs to get out of the way - not the other way around.

-- Jody

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