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  #1  
Old 08-13-2010
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Radar Reflectors

Hi All,

I'm getting a new (used) boat and while the mast is down one of the things I thought about was mounting a radar reflector. Then I started to do some reading and found that 1) most radar reflectors available aren't worth much, and 2) those that work well are really expensive.

I'm considering a Tri-lens standard. Any ideas, thoughts, or suggestions?

Dave
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Old 08-14-2010
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First of all as you know a radar reflector is a must have. Second of all do not feel the need to spend a fortune for some fancy tri lense or other delux reflectors. For 50 or 60 dollars you can get a Davis echomaster, not the economy one for 20 or 30. Mount it high on your backstay or under a spreader and leave it hanging for the next 20 years or so. Three bucks a season, nothing on my boat is that cheap!
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Old 08-14-2010
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That is what I use now on my boat. After doing a little reading, I find that it isn't very effective even if it is mounted in the proper rain-catcher position. It is cheap, but cheap isn't a bargain if it isn't effective.

Here is a link to a study that the UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch did on radar reflectors after a fatal collision at night.

Dave
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Old 08-14-2010
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So, other than this quote from the report: "It is recommended that poorly performing radar reflectors are not fitted as it is possible that the user could be lulled into a false sense of security believing that their chances of detection has been enhanced.", what is the down side of having a radar reflector?
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Old 08-14-2010
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Fantastic report, thanks for posting it!
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Old 08-14-2010
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Great report.. Thanks for posting.

The report did bring up good questions, regarding false returns and radar returns that are bouncing around.

Recent observance
On our trip up from Florida’s Keys to Saint Augustine, while doing my 1 to 4 AM watch, I noticed a big white shinny object approaching from the stern.

Over a two hour period, it got close enough I could tell that it was not only a ship but a very big ship and we were on a similar course. So I contacted them via VHF, to confirm they knew we were there. Much to my delight the Italian accent radio operator on the Carnival Cruise line ship responded immediately, with no problem we’ve had you on radar for hours. We will be making a course change, prior to reaching you to head in to Port Canaveral.

So you should not even see a wake from us. Happy sailing


Which brings me to a question
If a ship radar operator does not see a sailboats aluminum mast sticking 50 feet in the air with an aluminum spreader cross some 35 feet in the air, then how is he going to see a 16 inches reflector?
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Old 08-14-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by southwindphoto View Post

Which brings me to a question
If a ship radar operator does not see a sailboats aluminum mast sticking 50 feet in the air with an aluminum spreader cross some 35 feet in the air, then how is he going to see a 16 inches reflector?

Fiberglass boats, masts & spreaders make very poor radar targets. Add heel and sea state into the mix and often times boats can not be seen with many recreational radar equipment.

This is a prime example, look close and you can see a boat under sail with NO reflector.


This is the same boat when it actually did echo a return, most of the time there was no return. She is the teeny tiny return just above the 18 foot spot off my stbd stern. The two boats ahead of me to port & stbd, J Boats, both had radar reflectors.. I also tried to hail this boat on VHF but surprise, surprise he was not monitoring the VHF either...




In my experience in fog, which is thousands of combined hours, I consistently find the Echomaster one of the best performing. I would also say, based on experience, is that ANY reflector, even a Mobri style, is better than none at all..
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Old 08-14-2010
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It has to do with the fact that radar likes hard edges and corners. A mast and spreaders general have neither hard edges or corners, being made to be fairly aerodynamic. A radar reflector, like a Davis Echomaster, has EIGHT good corners and the hard edges where the plates intersect to form those corners.

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Originally Posted by southwindphoto View Post
Which brings me to a question
If a ship radar operator does not see a sailboats aluminum mast sticking 50 feet in the air with an aluminum spreader cross some 35 feet in the air, then how is he going to see a 16 inches reflector?
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Old 08-14-2010
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I value the UK Radar Reflector evaluation and yet I will remain presenting my radar image with my simple three planes of aluminum with my "Plastimo" style reflector.

Here, my reflector is mounted on my triatic just forward of my mizzen at about 38' above the water. I commonly see these same reflectors easily visible on my radar when they are mounted on commercial fishing equipment at 4' to 6' above the water. I will not attempt to dispute that other reflectors may have a better test result, but it might be suitable to use a reflector such as mine and ask other boaters to give you feedback about your image on their radar units. I do a lot of New England summer cruising and I'm consistantly well seen on radar screens. Take care and joy, Aythya crew
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Old 08-14-2010
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I am very pleased with the large Luneberg Tri-Lens that I installed 15 metres up Sequitur's mast. This is my second boat with this device, and I have always received positive reports on its visibility. It is very comforting to talk with passing ships that we pick-up on AIS and to confirm that they "see" us both on their AIS and on their radar.

In June on our passage from the Galapagos to Lima, we were contacted by a yacht that had been watching us on their AIS receiver and on their radar. When we told them we could not see them on either our AIS or our radar, they replied that their AIS was a receiver only. They gave us their position, and we intensified our search of the radar screen, but still could not see them. We were on slowly converging courses, and we shortly picked them up visually, and over the next few hours as we came to within three cables of each other, we could plainly see their interlocking pie-tin-type reflector.

The seas were 2 to 3 metres on a slow 4 to 5 metre cross swell, and the motion of their boat seemed to never effectively point their reflector toward us. We never did pick them up on radar. We were a bit concerned that our radar might be duff, but those thoughts were quashed when we picked-up a strong paint on a freighter a few hours later, and then that evening very good paints on the steel-hulled members of the fishing fleet and adequate paints on the wooden ones.

This incident strongly re-inforced my opinion that 'cheapo" pie-plate reflectors are quite useless in anything but flat, calm conditions.
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