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Old 05-06-2011
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"I've never used radar before, here in the Great Lakes, it's not that necessary "

I would argue that point. Here on the great lakes we have a lot of freighter traffic and other big boats like car ferries. Radar is useful. If you have it, learn how to use it and make the best of it.
Radar coupled with AIS is VERY useful on the lakes.

Now, as far as safety; People should generally not be within the radiation pattern of any transmitter. It's just good practice to stay clear. Even though the manufacturer states a 30 degree pattern, there are "lobes" of radiated energy outside of that normal pattern, but usually at an order of magnitude less power, so from an exposure perspective they are good to avoid, but I would not get too crazy about it.
If it is foggy and I am on the water, I will opt for the radar over worrying about the radiation risk. It probably is less exposure that you get every day in a city because of all the (hundreds or thousands) of sources in our every day life. If it is someday proven harmful, your greatest cumulative exposure is not going to be from your vessels radar.

The fact is, that freighter you did not see in time to get out of her way will very likely kill you very quickly. The radar energy.. well, it's not even proven to be harmful at normal levels.
I do however take issue with the comparrisson to a "Small Microwave". While that is technically correct, that definitely should not be a safety endorsement. Getting in front of that emmitter beam directly would be excruciatingly painful in a few seconds.

Use your radar, it's worth it. But as a fellow boater, even though I am not afraid of it, I would prefer you did not operate it at the dock or in ancorage where I am .

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Old 05-06-2011
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I believe Canadian regulations require you to use your radar if you are equipped with one that is operational but perhaps someone can correct me. No need when at dock or anchored.
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Old 05-06-2011
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"The manual claims a 'vertical beam width' of '30', which I take to mean 30 degrees and I must assume that's 30degrees down from the horizontal,"
Not quite. A beamwidth of 30 (degrees) would be 15d above and 15d below the horizontal, a total of 30 degrees width. So you only have to measure down 15 degrees from the antenna, not 30.
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Old 05-06-2011
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I considered the 15down/15up scenario and figured it'd be more conservative to calculate the 30 degrees down instead. I figured they might have angled the antenna so the axis was not horizontal. At any rate, at 15 degrees down, the safe range is even better.

handson, I won't argue with you about the necessity of it on the great lakes. You make some good points about using it here in higher traffic areas.
I am comfortable with limited radiation exposure; in general, I feel that we are exposed to all sorts of RF radiation in our daily lives without ill effect. Radio stations, cell phones, and all manner of other things so I will sleep comfortably at night with use of the radar.

As for taking exception to the "small microwave" comment, well, that was a direct quote from the response by JRC. I won't try to support or defend the comment but I will remind you of the inverse-square law and that this radar has a documented peak output of 1.5kW and regular output of around 1,000W which isn't that powerful in the grand scheme of things. That power is quickly dispersed over a short distance and we likely absorb more radiation than that walking around on the streets.

delite, I'm not aware of any Canadian regulation for using the device, particularly on a voluntarily equipped vessel. However, I wonder if the collision regulations might come into play... having a collision in the fog with your radar turned off may imply that you did not take all necessary actions to avoid that collision.

Thank you all for replying with thoughtful and considered opinions.
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