I had done some research on the topic of radar usage and type. I still needed to do more but was running out of source material. The magazines were more of a wish list and research than actual on hand cruising results. Most of the books were 3 - 5 years old, prior to most boats carrying radar. With the little bits and pieces of information available I decided on a small unit with a limited range. I purchased the Furuno, with a 12 mile range and LCD screen. The LCD screen meant water proof and small footprint on the boats navigation station.
I had asked around about the placement of the unit. Whether it was better up the mast or to put it on the back of the boat on a bridge or tower? It seemed that it didn't make much difference to the range if it was half way up the mast, at the spreaders, or on a bridge, or tower on the stern of the boat. I, therefore, looked and based on worst case scenario, (my usual method) if we lost the mast we would lose the radar too. It also meant that there would be an enormous amount of weight up the mast that would make the boat heel more than it already did, thus making the trip potentially more uncomfortable. The answer was therefore simple. It was to go on the back of the boat.
I originally wanted a bridge arrangement and had one designed. It was not completed on time, so I canceled the order and opted for a tower type arrangement. I purchased the standard pole and base for the radar from Edson and installed it on the port stern corner of Mouse Pad. I had purchased the Air Marine wind generator and it's pole system from West Marine and installed them on the starboard stern side of Mouse Pad. I put a cross bar between the two poles at there support points. I then put the solar panel on the cross bar. The perfect system. We eventually added a second solar panel and it gives us just about all we need for power, except on heavily overcast days.
The 12 mile range has never proved out. I mean that the best we get a target from is between 9 and 10 nmls. That includes land masses as well as other vessels. I have asked around to the other cruisers who have the same unit and they all get about the same, even when it is up the mast. That just goes to show that the advertised range does not always match up to the actual range. I spoke to one boat (Lazy Jack from England) who had two of the prior models on board, mounted on top of each other. He got different ranges from his 2 units.
So, do not be fooled by salesmen that tell you, "you must put the unit as high up the mast as you can to get results". My tests have proven that it makes no difference if it is on top of the Eiffel Tower on a 12ft pole on the back of your boat. The range you get is all you are going to get, without tweaking the electronics inside.
Created by the Skipper of Mouse Pad.
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Revised: 19 September, 2005 .