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Dan Corcoran (b393capt)

Radar Reflectors - Informal Survey

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I was stunned how few boats I encountered with radar reflectors on my 400 mile round trip these last two weeks. I am talking about boats that actually travel some distance from their home harbors and obviously crewed by other than fair weather sailors. There were far fewer reflectors per dozen boats compared to fair weather boats .. and if the reflectors are in storage, that's bad ... because I was in conditions that warrant reflectors being deployed.

If you have read this far, I ask that you please answer this survey even if your not proud of the answer, so statistically I have something valid. Thanks !!

1) What type of boat (sail / power), length, model/brand ?
2) What radar reflector do you have on your boat ?
3) Permanent or Temporary Mount ?
4) if Temporary, of the last 4 times it should have been setup, of the last 4 how many times did it instead stayed stored away somewhere ?
5) What complaints do you have about your radar reflector ?
6) How do you use your boat ? Daysailing, over night, ,multi day cruising, live aboard, racing ?

Thanks !

8 Replies

  • Dan, the British MAB did a very thorough analysis of radar reflectors following an investigation of a three-fatal collision. It is very much worth reading thoroughly, as it concludes that all passive radar reflectors are virtually worthless. I'll dig up the links.

  • Come on Sandy, participate in the Survey, Thanks !

    By the way, I am familiar with the report. The conclusion more precisely was that the type of reflector the Ouzo had "although popular and widely sold is of little benefit to a boat that is frequently heeled" as it is ineffective "if the unit is tilted even a few degrees", and "comes supplied with holes drilled for connecting to a halyard which encourages the unit to be hung in the incorrect orientation".

    My personal experience is that in bad weather most ferrys either go out of their way to avoid me or attempt to raise me on the radio as they did when I got caught in a bad storm last week in Nantucket Bay. In that case two ferries contacted me, five went way out the way to go around me, and two responded to me when I hailed that they could see me on radar and will be far enough away I need not worry. This was impressive ... as my understanding is that most radar sets won't see our small boats beyond 1 mile in heavy rain .. yet each of these vessels were out 2 miles or more.

    Maybe with the latest generation of radar, it will be even more productive to have a reflector on board ?

  • In my personal experience above, I meant to write, my personal experience while using a passive radar reflector is that other boats see me even in heavy rain. When I ask how well, they will respond "very well" or something to that effect.

    While traveling on this recent trip I attempted to determine if boats show up better on my 18" radar when they are using reflectors ... but it has been very hard to evaluate. Very few boats had them in use or the weather was to crappy to see the boat visually to determine if they had one reducing my sample size. Also, when I leave the radar in auto mode too many boats don't appear ... which affected the safety of my own passage, and when I adjust the radar manually, almost every boat appears when the weather is ok.

  • Is nobody willing to reply to this ?????????

    Come on, I contribute quite a bit here, please respond to my survey ... Thank You !!

  • 1. Island Packet 37, sail
    2. I have the aluminum "ball" which collapses flat, and which is hoisted with a flag halyard.
    3. Temporary mount
    4. Since my First (and only) Mate prefers sailing in fair conditions, if the weather looks like the kind where we would be needing the reflector, we stay where we are and wait for better conditions. Since we are retired, we are typically not on a set schedule, so our long cruises sometimes are longer than we originally planned. So I have to answer that I can't remember a time when I was in conditions in which the reflector should have been rigged.
    5. No complaints. A cruising buddy seems to like the "cylinder" style which attaches permanently to a shround near a spreader.
    6. We sail in Grand Traverse Bay (MI) on daysails, and usually take several longer multi-day cruises each summer (North Channel, Door County, WI) as well as multi-day shorter cruises (Charlevoix, Boyne City, Leland etc)

    I am interested in some of the products you have been beta testing and reporting on. Could I contact you by email "off-forum" and ask you a couple of questions?



  • I have two Davis reflectors on board, but they are not permanently mounted, and to tell you the truth, I'm not spending much time underway in bad weather either. I also have AIS B which I run in silent mode unless the weather is closing in. On the Chesapeake Bay I see about four times as many AIS A reports as B reports, so I suspect other AIS B owners do the same.

    By the way, thanks to your lead Capn Dan, I went for the Airmar PB200. Wow. This is MAJOR good stuff. I display in on a Garmin GMI 10, and my chartplotters (full function right out of the box) and on my PC via Airmar's N2K to USB brick. The Airmar software sees and displays the data from all my other N2K stuff. I've just ordered Airmar's DST800 N2K Depth and speed transducer too. It transmits at 235 Khz so as not to interfere with my Interphase, and fits in the old ST60 paddlewheel housing! I really looking forward to seeing how all this data will be integrated.

  • Just saw this post and here's my input:

    1. Sailboat, Fuji 32 Ketch, 32 ft.
    2. Firdell Blipper (my second one)
    3. Permanent
    4. n/a
    5. No complaints though my first one got blown off while in Guam during Super Typhoon Paka (Dec 1997) in winds over 130 kts. The mounting ripped away from the plastic covering ... or vice versa. But then, so did the Windex!
    6. Liveaboard past 23 years cruising North and South Pacific and Southeast Asia (Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand).

    I've had good reports from ships (the ones that would answer). Now that I have AIS (receive) and call with ship name and call sign I get almost 100% response. Wish I had DSC for that purpose but my ancient VHF hasn't given up the ghost yet!