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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation > Is Radar an absolute necessity?
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Thread: Is Radar an absolute necessity? Reply to Thread

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Topic Review (Newest First)
11-21-2002 02:38 PM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?


Sometimes we get all pumped up about our particular knowledge of a subject and fail to either respond to the post or acknowledge how the real world works.

First, the Pardeys - wonderful folks with an astounding set of accomplishments, both sailing and commercial - view electronics as tho'' they are still being built of transistors in the early 1980''s. Radars today are not only highly reliable but flexibly programmable. There''s no reason amp draw should categorically remove radar from use on a boat capable of offshore or alongshore cruising; just set your zone and scan timing to suit your needs.

Once a collision occurs, along with a loss for which you are seeking coverage while hoping to avoid blame, all facts associated with the collision will be considered. There''s no giant maritime rule book that says you will or will not be covered, fined or sued should you be equipped with radar but not use it. OTOH the issue will be in part whether each party conducted themselves in a prudent, seamanlike manner. Since half of each day is dark, sailboat crews at sea are often short-handed, and there''s often less than unlimited visibility, it''s pretty easy to imagine how lack of a radar''s use could be seen as contributory to the loss. And yes, the ROR''s have been used as the legal basis for radar non-use to be considered contributory.

Radar is a big help to offshore, short-handed crews. It''s no panacea but is close to adding a crew member, assuming it''s properly tuned and programmed for the conditions. One of the things we found most helpful about using it - even in the clear Caribbean - is that it allowed us to anticipate close crossing situations well before visual sightings made this possible (even in clear daylight), after which a patient, professional call on VHF resulted in the ship changing course to suit the sailboat many times. When running down wind with all sails vanged and on the vane, this is a big labor savings...and it''s usually fun to talk to the other ship''s crew, too. Using radar effectively is a bit like playing a musical instrument; you get the most value from it when you apply some effort to its use - as opposed to a knotmeter or, oftentimes, a GPS readout. I think that''s why some folks undersell radar; they turn it on and then occasional stare at it, expecting it to ''do something'', I guess.

Radar has no downsides that I can see except the financial one. Whether it justifies the expense is a function of multiple factors: the cruising grounds, size of crew, how long it will be earning its keep, what effort the crew makes to use it effectively, and what one must not buy because of installing radar among them.

For Sailnet fans, you might want to look at Liza''s article on this topic:

11-21-2002 07:11 AM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?

Radar is not an absolute necessity but can add a lot of safety and make the difference between being snug in an anchorage or waiting until daybreak to enter an unlighted harbor.

I live and sail in San Francisco and have not really felt the need for radar in the legendary fog on the bay. When I was in Mexico a few years ago radar went a long way to make up for the lack of functioning navigation aids (lights).

My use of radar is so intermitant that I dont see it as being a big threat to the amp hour budget.

As to choosing between being in the cockpit or looking at your radar display, why not do both? Put a waterproof LCD display in the cockpit.

I enjoy reading the Pardees books but have not removed my engine or thrown my batteries overboard yet. Actually I have found that the electronics on my boat rarely disappoint me and add a lot of convenience and safety to my sailing adventures.
11-19-2002 11:46 AM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?

In an article several years ago - maybe even like 10 - in Cruising World or Sail there was an account of a couple in their 35 some foot sailboat, under sail, in a channel in heavy fog. They were involved in a collision. They had radar, but it was not on because of battery drain. There were cited as being partially at fault because they were not using their radar,
11-18-2002 04:53 AM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?

Nope. I''m the “Pirate of Cape Ann” everywhere I go. It''s the only moniker I use. My wife is "Pirate''s Maiden", and boy, don''t she hate boats! ; )
11-17-2002 06:08 AM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?

Hey Pirate of Cape Ann, are you also BigRed59 going by another nom-d-net.

11-16-2002 08:04 PM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?

Okay, I guess I’ll ring in on this one too. I would assess your boating style. If you’re spending a lot of time off shore and away from the common shipping lanes, the extra drain on your batteries would be a great consideration. If you spend most of you’re time along shore, coastal cruising and in poor visibility, radar is a great asset. In neither case is radar a critical piece of navigation equipment, sailors had been getting by without it longer then they have with it. Like all electronics aboard, never trust the information unless you agree with it and always be ready to pick up plotting with DR incase the failure of some 59 cent item turns your $5000.00 worth of electronic gee-wizardry into a pile of useless ballast!
11-16-2002 05:23 PM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?

Have to concur with JeffH about radar. Have spoken with various ships at different times which, when asked if we (a 38'' sloop with reflector hoisted) appeared on their screens, replied that they did not have their radars working for reasons such as "It''s a clear day."
11-16-2002 05:02 PM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?

Hi Rich,

I am just not seeing how rule 6 (below) requires the use of Radar if you have it. Rule 6 seems to require use of radar in such conditions where speed would be otherwise be limited without its use.


Rule 6 Safe Speed

Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be
stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.

In determining a safe speed the following factors shall be among those taken into account:

(a)By all vessels:

(i)The state of visibility;

(ii) The traffic density including concentrations of fishing vessels or any other vessels;

(iii) The manageability of the vessel with special reference to stopping distance and turning ability in the prevailing conditions;

(iv) At night the presence of background light such as from shore lights or from back scatter from her own lights;

(v) The state of wind, sea and current, and the proximity of navigational hazards;

(vi) The draft in relation to the available depth of water.

(b) Additionally, by vessels with operational radar:
(i) The characteristics, efficiency and limitations of the radar equipment;

(ii) Any constrains imposed by the radar range scale in use;

(iii) The effect on radar detection of the sea state, weather and other sources of interference;

(iv) The possibility that small vessels, ice and other floating objects may not be detected by radar at an adequate

(v) The number location and movement of vessels detected by radar;

(vi) The more exact assessment of the visibility that may be possible when radar is used to determine the range of vessels or other objects in the vicinity.
11-16-2002 01:51 PM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?

Actuallly Jeff, this is covered in Rule 6, not Rule 5 of ColRegs. Ive had this defined several times by admiralty attorneys: "If you have it you must use it". If my memory serves, its also included as a question for 100T ticket.
11-16-2002 09:16 AM
Is Radar an absolute necessity?

Actually, Rich, with all due respect, what COLREGS says that "Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight as well as by hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision."

This is often misconstrued to mean that if you have radar it must be on. It really means that Radad only must be employed when the conditions are such that failure to so creates a hazzard.

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