Radar Reflectors: How well does yours work? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 11 Old 10-25-2010 Thread Starter
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Cool Radar Reflectors: How well does yours work?

When delivering an OSV to Ecuador through the Panama Canal from Amilia Louisiana.
The seas were running about 12 to 14 feet while off the Western point of Cuba. I spotted a Ketch of about 40' sailing north from Panama. Got him on the radio. Surprised that a yacht wanted to talk with a scuffy 180' work boat.
Anyway he wanted to know how his reception on my radar was.
He had a brand new Davis radar reflector. I had to tell him that even though I had him visually, BUT! I never saw him on my radar. I tried adjusting the radar but nada for seeing him on it. Gave him the bad news... He did sound disappointed...
It could have been that he was totally buried in the sea return. And no matter how I adjusted the radar, due to the sea conditions at that time he would never have been seen, but via visual means.
He was a Fiberglass vessel with metal sticks. So basically at that time he was a sleath vessel...sneaking up on the Good old USA. Good thing it was before 9/11/01.
So!! Have you check on your radar visability with other vessels? How was it?
Are your Navigation lights nice and bright?? For at night those lights might be the only way they might see you.....

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Last edited by Boasun; 10-25-2010 at 02:17 PM.
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post #2 of 11 Old 10-25-2010
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I was doing a race boat delivery from Maui to Vancouver this summer. When I got within range of Tofino traffic, I contacted them. Even after I gave them our position, they could not see us. The reflector was an octahedral mounted on the backstay (not quite the catch rain position).

The boat I use for going around Vancouver Island has an octahedral mounted in the catch rain position. Tofino has no problem tracking us.

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post #3 of 11 Old 10-25-2010
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I have been seen and make a good return (have an echomaster), but those were in mild conditions. In those kinds of seas, not sure you would make out a aircraft carrier. But a good question Boasun and thanks for bringing it up!!!

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post #4 of 11 Old 10-25-2010
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I think they are dubious. It is often enough that another yacht has no 'footprint'. Radar really need a big flat surface to bounce off.

Twice I saw yachts in the midle of the Gulf of Carpentaria - and I turned on the radar - I could not discern them from the noise.

It has been useful only on a couple of occasions - but it was very useful!


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post #5 of 11 Old 10-25-2010
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This study shows that in a kayak, a tinfoil hat has about the best return....

That's why I wear one when I sail.

That's the only reason I wear one when I sail.

Really!

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post #6 of 11 Old 10-25-2010
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I'll bet he didn't have the radar reflector hung in the catch rain position or very high up the mast. I have mine hoisted to the second set of spreaders and in the catch rain position and I have been told it shows up quite well.

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post #7 of 11 Old 10-25-2010
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I did some thinking about this issue a while back and wrote some thoughts down on my Blog a while ago in this article.

In general, my feeling is that most reflectors will work in ideal conditions, but few will work well in non-ideal conditions. The best best, I think, would be the large Tri-Lens I mention there. BTW, I think it was SD that got me thinking about this to begin with, I can't recall.

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post #8 of 11 Old 10-25-2010
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When I came up the coast last year, we were contacted several times in poor visibility. The boat and spars are wood, the radar reflector is Davis.
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post #9 of 11 Old 10-25-2010
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I know this has been mentioned before, but this 2007 UK study is an excellent professional comparison of Radar reflectors - give it time to load to your computer - it is a PDF file:


“Performance Investigation of Marine Radar Reflectors on the Market”


This quote is rather telling "Finally, it is essential for yachtsmen to be aware that, notwithstanding the type of radar reflector fitted, in certain circumstances their craft may still not be readily visible on ships’ radars and thus they should always navigate with caution."

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post #10 of 11 Old 10-25-2010
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After reading the reports, I see the expensive "aerodyanmic" reflectors mounted on shrouds and backstays and laugh. We use a Davis, and check with the ferries to see how the return is working. Of course, we're not dealing with 12' seas most of the time.
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