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Dirt Free
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Sure it does. Every sweep gives it information it can use to determine if the waves are large or small, or if there is a lot of precipitation, or there is another strong radar interfering, etc. It is just like you turning your knobs to get the best picture for the conditions. You don't use specific weather or wave information to do that on your set by turning a knob to "4' waves and light rain" - you just adjust the return picture accordingly.

The broadband doppler units have even more information on each sweep they can use - speed, direction, size, etc.

Which current radar unit do you have?

Mark
Marketing bafflegab built around doppler shift, then throw in a little "automatic" "Bird Mode" (where did they get that one from :) )and we have what is known as sales puffery.
Have at it, I'm done with this one.
 

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What about my explanation was bafflegab? I can see it work on my unit. The unit is doing the exact same thing you do with all of your little knobs, except it does it faster, more often, and usually better. The algorithm in your brain and the radar dome is exactly the same - adjust the parameters for good returns from real steady targets, while attenuating those more spurious returns that are waves and adjusting to better see through precipitation. It is very easy for a radar algorithm to differentiate real hard returns from precipitation, waves, interference, etc.

You avoided stating which current radar you own, even after demanding I tell you which ones can do what I claim. I think I understand why you are "done with this one".

I grew up academically in the golden age of computers. While the Apple II existed, all real computing was still being done on mainframes and mini computers. At the same time, all of the more complex languages had flourished and could do great things (for the time). We noobs were made to boot the damn PDP's through the front panel switches using machine code, and to program in assembly language. Of course, we were all learning Fortran, Cobal, PL/1, Pascal, and other higher level languages at the time and complained a lot about the stupid paper tapes and switches and assembly language. All of the old experts would bash all the noobs entering the field that never actually "learned" how to program the hard way, and would look down on any solution that put a layer between the programmer and the "bare metal". They would explain at length how bad it was that people were jumping into independent computers using easy languages to solve problems without actually "knowing" how to program. Almost all of them saw personal computers coming and denigrated them as toys for tots. All of them claimed that they could always beat any new computer at anything, and do it faster, using their old PDP8 and machine code.

I bet all of them were wrong. I never stuck around to find out because I moved on with the technology and learning.

Mark
 

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"Bird mode" is a fishing term for adjusting a radar to see and track very small targets with poor return characteristics. It has been in use by sport fishers for decades as they tweaked all of their manual sets to specifically see and track birds over everything else. In modern times, the radar sets became intelligent and computationally powerful enough to automatically do these adjustments, and this mode became a feature of many sets. There isn't any "sales puffery" about it, and the sport fishers took to it immediately - even the old gray hairs.

Likewise, FMCW broadband radar and doppler shifting has more recently become technology that can be packaged into consumer radars. All manufacturers have moved to this technology now. I'm sure you don't find the military and weather radars using broadband doppler just bafflegab and marketing.

Are you sure you know much about consumer radar? Particularly what has been developed in the past 10yrs?

Mark
 

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Some of you say you are experienced with, and even own, current modern radars, but your comments betray that. All current recreational radars are now broadband doppler units. Even many of the large array units are such. Most of the tuning stuff you describe doing isn't even relevant to these radars. It's like you are saying you prefer to file and gap the points, manually advance the distributer, adjust the tappets, and tune the carb every time you drive your brand new car. Brand new Tesla, even. It is nonsensical.

It is also ironic for someone to complain about all the features on new radars, while complaining that they don't have enough features. I don't know what features are in people's way, but I appreciate echo averaging, echo trails, true/relative motion, ARPA, etc. I also like plotter overlay and dual screens. To get to these features, I don't have to scroll through anything, or hunt through byzantine menus - everything is context sensitive and available with one touch or swipe. The only thing I had to "learn" was which side of the screen to swipe out.

Even on many of the previous generation magnetron radomes, all the manual tuning controls are there, and they are easy to access. I can change the power, timing, swept gain, etc on our 2yr old Furuno recreational dome connected to our chartplotter. It's all there in a neat little side bar while showing the results immediately in the large window - also gain, sea state, rain suppression, rotation speed, sector blanking, and many more.

But anyone who has actually used one of these newer units would realize that it is very rare to need to do any of this - these units are very advanced at automatically adjusting themselves to conditions. Many (all?) now most certainly do automatically and continually adjust themselves for weather and wave conditions. Perhaps some of you bought the wrong units, or don't really have experience with newer units? I'm experienced with radar and its adjustments, and I can rarely do better than automatic outside of intentionally finding a small return that I know exists in a lot of noise - and that typically destroys the rest of the picture for the sake of the targeted return. Ours even has a "bird mode" that can tune itself onto a flock of birds, and I can't adjust any better once it has found them.

It seems like the only real complaint is some people want a bunch of knobs.
The closest thing I’ve used to a new radar is a 20ish year old Simrad so I can’t really comment on the automatic adjustments the new ones make that you refer to . But my problem wasn’t with the radar per se but rather with the overall unit it was a part of. It had everything from nav info to engine temp to radar info available and if I wanted to look at something on radar I had to go into the menu to turn the radar on, then adjust the range since it frequently wasn’t the same as my current chartplotter range, and I don’t even know how to adjust the gain. Whatever the picture it was, that’s what I was stuck with unless I wanted to go ‘ascrolling’ through menus. So yes, I’d like to have at least a gain knob and a sea clutter knob so I could make those adjustments easily any time I wanted to. With my old Furuno radar I once spotted a speck that looked like the rest of the clutter just off my bow but for some reason it caught my eye so I reduced the sea clutter and this speck remained for 2 more sweeps very close off my bow and as my eyes moved up to verify it wasn’t just clutter I saw a sea kayaker paddling furiously less than 50’ dead ahead. Another time, again with my old Furuno I saw a wooden lobster boat with no radar reflector just in time and once again being able to easily adjust my radar made it possible. Hopefully you are right and my new radar will be simple to operate and will automatically make the necessary adjustments in order to sort out very small returns from the clutter. I’m optimistic that it will and that’s part of the reason I’m spending so much money on it. But I still think there’s something to be said for a simple, manually adjustable, stand alone radar as opposed to the ones that are part of a chart plotter that requires scrolling through menus to make adjustments.
 

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I don't know which radar you are getting, but almost assuredly it will be better performance and easier to use than your old unit. We too moved from a 20yr old stand alone Simrad (actually Anritsu before Simrad branded it), to a new Furuno unit in 2012, to a newer Furuno unit in 2020. Each step was an amazing advance in performance, automation, and ease of use.

One thing most don't realize is that modern radars have all the computation and control built into the dome/array itself. Whatever is on the other end is just a display that contains a means to communicate user commands back to it. The radome does all the target analyses, adjustments, ARPA calculations, etc and just sends the video signal back to the display.

So there really isn't any difference now between identical radomes talking to a stand-alone display and a chartplotter display. The stand-alones typically have knobs and buttons if that's your thing, but most plotters now do a good job of presenting appropriate controls for the radar. Ours is context-sensitive, where menu side bars change their content depending on what the chartplotter is displaying. So when the radar is being displayed, all the controls for it are right there. Using your examples, if you wanted to quickly increase the gain to really paint a small target, all you would do is slide your finger up the "gain" bar (looks like the scroll bar on a computer window) on the side of the display. Same with sea clutter. But just turning on automatic features like echo averaging and echo trails really show small returns well without other intervention. I'll bet other brands are like this too.

Mark
 

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Wow thanks for the replies. I got busy and couldn't check back for a couple days. You guys went into a debate that I almost was able to follow. I've never actually seen a radar turned on, so everything I'm trying to understand is all just theory. It sounds like an old radar might be worth more than I gave it credit for. Do radars give CPA? I barely understand closest point of approach, but it seams like that is an AIS thing, and maybe a modern radar would calculate that?
 

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Do radars give CPA? I barely understand closest point of approach, but it seams like that is an AIS thing, and maybe a modern radar would calculate that?
Yes, CPA and TCPA are calculated by modern radars. Ours also shows closing vectors and a connecting line to the target at CPA showing where it will take place. Just like many AIS systems do. The radar can automatically pick up any targets and display them right along with AIS targets so you see boats that are not transmitting AIS. It also a nice sneaky way to compare how your boat is sailing against another boat!

I never addressed your original question, but others gave good advice. Old radars are old radars. They will not perform as well as newer ones, they will use much more electricity, if they have been used a lot in the past the magnetron is toward the end of its life, parts will be almost impossible to obtain, and they will likely take up an inordinate amount of space.

But if they are working well, they are not useless.

Mark
 

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It also a nice sneaky way to compare how your boat is sailing against another boat!
Admit to doing this all the time. If some unknown boat is behind us, I check to see their SOG to decide if I need to put my lunch down and go trim something. :)
 

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I bet all of them were wrong. I never stuck around to find out because I moved on with the technology and learning.
Aheh. Welp, I can tell you - as someone who came into it in the 80s (to process chemistry data - typically FTIR spectroscopy), when the PC revolution was really getting underway (and all the PDP-8s and PDP-11s were being hauled off for scrap Au extraction), that it only continues, and those of us who are now fusty old long-bearded Unix nerds scoff at how the fanbois want to shove everything into containers! ;-) Plus la change, plus la meme chose.

I came in to read this thread because one of the things on my shopping list is radar for WX - but really, ideally, a Chartplotter/GIS/AIS/RADAR system. The focus for us on radar is about picking up squalls, and to a lesser degree navigation in fog (though AIS probably addresses are biggest concern - tracking other vessels).

Yes, as someone who works in research computing I can attest that "AI" (learning algos) will easily outperform people who insist on manually tweaking knobs, for just about any kind of instrumentation. The days are long gone when we manually tinker much with things like network packet size, etc. The dynamic adjustments are - as you say - based entirely on the same sets of calculations and observations we'd make manually, and they do it much faster and continuously - we'd never keep up. This certainly extends to almost all scientific instrumentation anymore; auto-calibration and self-correction for drift are commonly employed, and provide vastly greater accuracy than a person.

What I haven't seen, and would really love to know about, is whether the WX component can reliably show you storms/squalls far enough in advance. We get pop-up t-storms starting in July, through early Sept, which can really hammer you - microbursts. These aren't huge, don't last terribly long, but are fairly intense. Because they tend to be localized, you might get either hammered or just have a nice bit of breeze and a few gusts - so you might actually want to be out there, rather than scurrying for shelter. I've also had the experience a couple of times where I'd be watching a larger cell further off, moving in a particular direction (say, west of me, tracking NE), and suddenly one would pop up elsewhere very nearby and I'd have to make a run for it.

I can see these things on a weather app (NOAA radar) while I'm out on the bay, because the cell coverage has been shockingly good, but I'd prefer not to rely on a cell phone (again, because I'm entirely too familiar with the software development and dependencies of these systems - the same reason I would NEVER depend on a cell phone for navigation - I don't trust how much a clueless coder-bro introduced inadvertent dependencies on some service from AWS). I see ranges like 35nm bandied about - can you reasonably see these kinds of pop-up storms far enough in advance to generally take evasive action? I mean, obviously if it pops up on top of you, there's not too much you can do.
 

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I don’t think we need to belabor the point that computers are wonderful things and can think and automatically adjust the settings on our radars faster and more accurately than we can do it ourselves and that’s great 95% of the time. But since that same smart computer that usually does such a good job for us can’t read our minds, how does it know whether, at any given moment, I’m trying to see the drift of the 20nm distant thunderstorm or the fishing boats close aboard in the fog, or maybe I don’t want the “optimum” picture because I temporarily am willing to put up with a little more sea clutter than normal to be sure I have a chance to see the sea kayaker I’ve heard on the radio is in the area and then once I think I’ve spotted him I might want to adjust it again to be sure. I know how to quickly and easily adjust an older radars various settings to give myself the best chance at seeing these things and even if you don’t know, it’s pretty intuitive and clear when you notice that turning this knob this way makes this type of return easier to see, etc. So, though I have no argument that modern smart radars can automatically give me the optimum picture in many various conditions, for someone who understands radar, the easy and direct access to various controls on an older radar can be quite useful.
Using a 25 year old vintage Furuno radar I have successfully painted a “rain shower” and adjusted my course in order to successfully dodge it. I’m not sure if a modern, more energy efficient radar will do that as well but I’m very interested in finding out once my boat is launched in the spring.
So, if an older boat comes with an older radar that still works, and if you’re on a limited budget,don’t be in too big a hurry to replace it. By practicing with your older radar in clear conditions you will become familiar what the different adjustments do for you, and by practicing watching targets drift down your scope that you can also see visually you’ll soon be able to discern which ones are potential threats and which are not, not as quickly as a new radar can, but soon enough to avoid them.
 

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I don’t think we need to belabor the point that computers are wonderful things and can think and automatically adjust the settings on our radars faster and more accurately than we can do it ourselves and that’s great 95% of the time.

Using a 25 year old vintage Furuno radar I have successfully painted a “rain shower” and adjusted my course in order to successfully dodge it. I’m not sure if a modern, more energy efficient radar will do that as well but I’m very interested in finding out once my boat is launched in the spring.
So, I think the point that was elided in the earlier comment is that it is possible to bypass the idiot-light default dashboard on almost all of these systems. I agree that many modern UIs don't actually allow for this (I'm looking at a lot of Windoze), and that when they do allow for it, finding the control is not intuitive and may be cumbersome. It seems like @colemj is saying "yes, all the controls" (plus a bazillion additional confusing features) are there still, if you have the need to tweak them. My experience with computers and electronics is that often a lot of the unhappiness with new interfaces is just due to the startup cost/pain of learning a new system. Once you've learned how to work a complex system and fully understand it - a lot of sunken intellectual effort - having to re-learn a new one is a PITA.

However, thanks for giving me the clarification on dodging rain showers! This is what I really wanted to know. My wife is more risk-averse than I am, so both the squall and heavy fog experiences we've had really scared her. I'm all-in, this will be a sound investment.
 

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When within comfortable cellular range, I've found various radar apps to be invaluable and very accurate. One needs to understand latency, but the apps usually have time lapsed historic movement, so it's not hard to estimate the 5-10 min latency movement. Some have future prediction too, but sometimes charge for that. I use both NOAA and Storm.

Makes me think to include one other form of weather radar I don't think has been mentioned: SiriusXM marine weather. You need a pricey receiver (several hundred), a monthly subscription ($30-$60/mo) and compatible display (chartplotter), but it's far more reliable than cellular. More importantly, it's a top down view of activity. I'm not sure anyone made the point that onboard weather radar can't always horizontally "see through" the weather, given it's characteristics. You may think you're heading into a defined squal, only to learn it's far deeper than it looked. Sat images show the whole shooting match. However, while it's been around for quite a while, I don't actually know anyone who has sat weather in the boat. It's very common in aircraft.
 

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Yep, I use NOAA radar on the cell phone. I love that top-down view and the time-lapse loop. I do wonder how well the satellite data updates when you're in weather! I haven't had satellite service for TV in over ten years, but I do remember heavy storms impacting reception. Of course, the bandwidth demands for streaming video are a heck of a lot greater than a few time-lapse radar images.

Great advice on the caveats for WX visibility from vessel mounted radar.
 

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I do wonder how well the satellite data updates when you're in weather!
I've never had satellite weather on the boat, but have had it in aircraft for a couple of decades now. I've never had actual weather prevent a download, but you also never fly through a thunderstorm, while I boat may very well find themselves beneath one. The more storm activity there is, the longer it takes to download it all. There is a timer that shows how long it's been, since the last update (which itself was latent to the actual view). When very little to no data, it updates every minute or two. When storms are everywhere, its common to see new data every 6-8 minutes. That could mean 15 minutes or more, since the image was actually taken. In that amount of time, a storm could move a few miles, but one's margin of error should far exceed that, if avoidance is the goal.
 

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process chemistry data - typically FTIR spectroscopy
I started out in FTIR but moved quickly to mass spectrometry, which was just starting to bloom at the time.

What I haven't seen, and would really love to know about, is whether the WX component can reliably show you storms/squalls far enough in advance.
Pulse radar is great at picking up weather events like squalls, and even light rain showers. You will see large ones 10-20nm away. It can track them so you know direction and tell if it is going to meet you. Used it yesterday to squirt between a couple of squalls. Broadband radar isn't as good. It used to be absolutely terrible, but now it can pick up the heaviest of these events. Neither will tell you wind direction or strength in a squall like the weather doppler radars do.

The doppler radars available for boats are not like the weather doppler radars. They just do not have the power. The doppler effect is great for differentiating moving targets around you, but not for weather.

One complicating factor is that all of the consumer manufacturers are switching to broadband doppler radar, so it is difficult to get a new pulse radar in dome form now. Fortunately, they are becoming better at painting squalls, but still not anywhere near a pulse unit for this.

Below is a picture showing how squalls show up, and us using this information to sail between them. None of those returns are land. Note how they look - none are hard returns like land, but the squall to our forward port is much stronger than the squall directly above it, and stronger than the larger spread squall to our forward starboard. This is the type of information you can get, but the returns tell nothing about wind strength and direction. FWIW, we used the radar to get through the clear path between the squalls. We saw and tracked them early, changed direction and slowed down to let some pass and time a path through a break. We do this a lot, and radar is invaluable.

We are chickens. When there is squall activity around, and our radar (and eyes) pick up a squall moving in our direction that we can't avoid, we just drop sails and turn on the motor. Any high or swirling winds only last a short time and then we put the sails back up. Others may be more brave, but we have been caught too many times around squalls where the winds clock 180* and go from 15kts to 30-40kts. By the time we get things under control again, it is gone - so we choose to just begin that way instead.

Mark

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But since that same smart computer that usually does such a good job for us can’t read our minds, how does it know whether, at any given moment, I’m trying to see the drift of the 20nm distant thunderstorm or the fishing boats close aboard in the fog, or maybe I don’t want the “optimum” picture because I temporarily am willing to put up with a little more sea clutter than normal to be sure I have a chance to see the sea kayaker I’ve heard on the radio is in the area and then once I think I’ve spotted him I might want to adjust it again to be sure. I know how to quickly and easily adjust an older radars various settings to give myself the best chance at seeing these things and even if you don’t know, it’s pretty intuitive and clear when you notice that turning this knob this way makes this type of return easier to see, etc. So, though I have no argument that modern smart radars can automatically give me the optimum picture in many various conditions, for someone who understands radar, the easy and direct access to various controls on an older radar can be quite useful.
Radars don't "self optimize" like you imply they do. They optimize for the best possible returns, not on any particular type of return. A distant thunderstorm is about the easiest thing for a pulse radar to detect, so it isn't worried about those, and it won't drown out the signal from the fishing boats close by. Not to mention you wouldn't have it set at 20nm range if you were most interested in the fishing vessels at 3nm. To put a finer point on it, you might just set it at dual range for the above situation, and it will be optimized at both ranges for your use - in specific timing, gain, sea state, and rotation speed for both different ranges on the same screen.

But all of the controls are still readily available if you want to use them. They likely won't be individual knobs, but they are quickly and directly available otherwise.

Again, if you get a modern broadband radar, much of what you think you know about optimizing isn't even relevant to them. I used the simile of adjusting points on a modern automobile, and it is appropriate.

Mark
 

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Bluescruiser
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WHY are modern marine electronics so packed full of features we never use, and the controls we’d like to have so difficult to access? I guess the idea is that they are smart enough to automatically make necessary adjustments themselves so we don’t need to?
The development engineers keep finding new uses for their latest technology, encouraged by the marketing guys ever-eager to one-up the competition, whether we need it or not. I would be happy to have continued with my old Furuno 1721 ( circa 1990) but two weeks of immersion while sunk was the end of that.( sigh)
 
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I'm curious to understand what features some of you find crammed in today's radars that are onerously in the way and you would like removed? As well as which controls you find difficult to access, or no longer available?

I've been using consumer radar throughout the years, and have had a unit from every generational technology leap right up to literally today. I have experience with most of the major brand offerings - Raymarine is the single exception (I only have some experience with their older units).

I personally don't see these complaints in today's offerings (or those for at least the previous generation). So it makes me wonder if these are from experiences that are different from mine, or if it is just a catch-all complaint about technology advances and large companies sticking it to the consumer in general.

Mark
 
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