Should i use a radar reflector - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 27 Old 04-26-2012 Thread Starter
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Should i use a radar reflector

HELLO FRIENDS Should i use a radar reflector?I have a alluminum mast that is over 47 feet above the deck,isnt that enough to reflect a radar?my opinion is that i do not need one,please give me your thaughts
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post #2 of 27 Old 04-26-2012
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Re: Should i use a radar reflector

I was just pondering the same thing. Took mine down for the last hurricane. We DO live near commercial shipping lanes. I just wonder if modern day electronics are making it less necessary for larger boats (my mast is 50-ish feet too).

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post #3 of 27 Old 04-26-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Should i use a radar reflector

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Originally Posted by old-sailer View Post
Are your local laws different than ours down here? We have to have one like it or not.. it's the law.

It's only $30
I haven't checked the law on radar reflectors,and the 30 dollars is not an issue when it is about safety.MY question was simply if I NEED ONE OR NOT ???
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post #4 of 27 Old 04-26-2012
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Re: Should i use a radar reflector

A lot of countries have rules for using radar reflectors. Some of them requires their use during weather that decreases eye vision. The problem with most reflectors is that they do not produce enough reflection. That means you are not visible on the screen although you use one.

The active ones amplify and return the amplified signal. The bigger ones return a bigger echoe. But most of the smaller ones are just for the rules.
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post #5 of 27 Old 04-26-2012 Thread Starter
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Re: Should i use a radar reflector

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Originally Posted by dvuyxx View Post
I was just pondering the same thing. Took mine down for the last hurricane. We DO live near commercial shipping lanes. I just wonder if modern day electronics are making it less necessary for larger boats (my mast is 50-ish feet too).
Since posting this I have checked on some older posts,and the concences is that I do need one.Something about the round parts of the mast not reflecting as well.Two are better than one .one on each spreader ,for the heel effect .And apparently there is an electronic version that sends signal back when it detects radar,should be even better!!!
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post #6 of 27 Old 04-26-2012
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Re: Should i use a radar reflector

If your question is strictly one of compliance, then hoist the cheapest, less obtrusive things you can find. Most don't work well, particularly on a heeled sailboat, whether you have one on both sides or not. The tube style that attach to a spreader are the least effective, I believe. I think the simply fact that most install them on an angled spreader renders them useless immediately. If you hang one of the intersected circles (ie EchoMaster) from a spreader, you will want two blocks up there. One to take the line up from the reflector, then across to another before it returns to the deck. Otherwise, chafe is a real problem.

If you want to be seen, I believe the intersected circles (ie Echomaster) are among the best reflectors or get an active system. Better yet, get an AIS transmitter. Radar is really so primitive by today's standards that nearly all recreational boats are going to confuse an uncharted return with noise anyway.


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post #7 of 27 Old 04-26-2012
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Re: Should i use a radar reflector

The shrouds on sailboats seem to create a blind spot for radar. I have noticed that sailboats appear much later and more indistinct than powerboats on my radar. In the pea soup, you really need all the help you can get. Answer to your question: unequivocally YES. They are a major PITA but necessary. I attach mine semi-permanently with small diam. Dyneema, attached at three points so it is somewhat stable.

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post #8 of 27 Old 04-26-2012
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Re: Should i use a radar reflector

The best radar reflectors are the corner cube variety (intersecting circles of reflective material) but to work they have to be oriented in the "Catch rain" position and when you see them on boats, very few are oriented correctly. If oriented correctly and weighted so they are always in this orientation no matter how much you heel they are very effective. They are difficult to mount properly. So, I decided to develop an inflatable version like a beach ball only to find that a brit company already had the patent and made them.
NOW, they are available here:
Echomax EMA031 Inflatable Radar Reflector

KInda pricey but a very good idea. I'm gonna get on now that I can.
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post #9 of 27 Old 04-26-2012
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Re: Should i use a radar reflector

I use radar quite often here in the PNW and sailboats without reflectors invariably are weak targets. It's counter intuitive that with a big tall aluminum mast and all the SS rigging that it wouldn't make for a good reflector but the fact is that they don't show up very well. The cheap Davis Echomaster consistently rates "best" in Practical Sailor tests.

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post #10 of 27 Old 04-26-2012
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Re: Should i use a radar reflector

The aluminum mast and its height do not reflect radar signals very well. When the Stealth Bomber was designed it was determined that radar needs a flat surface in order to get an adequate reflective signal back to the receiver. Consequently, that aluminum mast doesn't fall into that category.

Most radar reflectors provide an excellent, reflective target surface, one that can be seen for miles. The signal is NOT protected by the sailboat's shrouds, nor are they enhanced, which is another of the many myths pertaining to those cables. Today's modern 3G and 4G radar systems, however, has the ability to read the miniscule reflected signal, even from semi-rounded objects such as the boat's mast. However, that mast may show up as being similar to a slim piling on top of another, larger mass that could be mistaken for a tiny island or boulders protruding from the water's surface.

Their are some jurisdictions that mandate radar reflectors, while others merely suggest them. The biggest problem, however, is that there are times when commercial vessels do not have someone monitoring their radar displays, which means that even if you are equipped with a reflector, they other vessel may not be watching the screen. At that point you could end up being a boat pizza.

There are a couple of recommended locations to install the reflector--the back stay, and suspended from the end of a spreader arm--both of which are very effective. And, in the case of radar reflectors, size matters--the larger the reflector, the more powerful the signal reflected back to the transceiver.

Good Luck,

Gary
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