The Passive Radar Reflector Solution for Sailboats

34 Responses

  1. Jeffrey says:

    I have the The Firdell Blipper model on our sailboat, although this model tesing turns our to be disappointing we do not sail in an area that has much fog…Miami, FL…
    Here is a link to an old but very detailed test done on many radar reflectors…
    http://offshore.ussailing.org/Assets/Offshore/SAS+Studies/radar+reflector+tests.pdf

  2. I wouldn’t claim our testing was definitive, but I definitely saw Dan’s radar target weaken and then strengthen again when he doused and then reset the EchoMax 230I. We did it at one mile and then again at two, and the Raymarine RD418HD held onto its MARPA target for a long time as we drove away in opposite directions.
    Breeze Pleeze also looked bigger than nearby boats, even though she wasn’t, and that’s a good thing! As I once yakked about in a magazine article about radar reflectors: http://goo.gl/oSJPB
    At any rate, I think Dan’s done great work identifying a product that overcomes some of the problems of smaller reflectors and proving that it holds up even though it wasn’t really intended for this use. Thanks, Dan!

  3. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I consider the MAB report on Ouzo to be definitive. Since then there have been some half hearted attempts to justify other products, with little effect on the market. Why are so few sailboats flying these reflectors? Because inadequate is no better than useless.
    When a product passes the rigourous testing defined in the Ouzo report, I will buy it. But anecdotal evidence doesn’t get it.
    Dan I like your work and respect your opinion, but did you ask those tug captains if any other sailboats were visible?
    And I doubt an average work-horse tug or thirty year old ferry is going to maintain the radar capabilities of Gizmo. Hell, we can’t get many of them to install AIS!

  4. Dave says:

    I seem to remember a group test some years ago that concluded that a trash bag full of rumpled aluminium foil , hoisted up , was as good as the better refectors
    Dave

  5. Fishwife says:

    I have a motor yacht but Dan’s evidence convinces me. Although I’m sure my boat has a bigger radar reflection ability that the average sail boat I’ve had times when we have not shown up on another vessels’ radar. Our AIS signal was the only indication they had of our presence.
    I’ve ordered a Echomax and I’ll report back after a few months of using it.

  6. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Sandy wrote “Dan I like your work and respect your opinion, but did you ask those tug captains if any other sailboats were visible?”
    Glad you asked, in fact I did. In all of six unrelated communications (with professional working boats) I have been told either I appeared “larger than I should” for a sailboat, larger than nearby boats, “strong”, or some combination of the three. In each instance it was in good weather.
    I also have experience in bad weather, weather that dramatically increases the challenge of being seen on radar, and I credit this reflector in combination with carefully using my own radar for enabling safe passage.
    The best example, my family was most unhappy with. I got us caught in continuous rain and heavy thunderstorms traveling 20nm from Hyannis, MA to Nantucket in July 2009. Although not fun, it provided me an important data point as the rain was really heavy, the seas were 4 feet, and nearby fast ferries would confirm we are visible and in one case mistook us for another ferry.
    The heavy rain impaired my own radar, a 2kw 18” dome at the time, limiting my range to two miles before becoming all noise, within the two mile range it barely showed a 30 foot power boat 500 yards to the east on a course parallel to me. The ferries however were unmistakable on radar, out to about 2 miles. Unable to see the bow of my boat in the afternoon rain, I was near panic when the first northbound ferry approached quickly and head on, closing half the distance it was visible on the radar in half a minute. I hailed her on VHF, and received a confirmation I was visible on her radar, the powerboat however was not. After finding how friendly these folks can be, I made a point to talk to each ferry as it approached and scooted over a 1/4 mile east of the apparent path the ferries were following. Although I was no longer in the way after moving east, a northbound ferry would later reprimanded “me” (identified my boat relative to the position of a nearby buoy) for not answering on another VHF channel and for not following the correct company course. The confusion ended in apology and remark that he believed my boat was another ferry from his company based on a strong return from the radar.
    I can’t emphasize enough, that size matters when it comes to these radar reflectors and this reflector is quite large.

  7. Rob Beebe / SY Acorn says:

    I’ve been using the Lensref 8″ diam. reflector for a long time, and with good success. Sadly it is no longer made, but they ARE effective reflectors to use for a sailboat heeled at any angle. Maine fog is often thick and this reflector has done well, judging from reports I get from all kinds of vessels that can easily see me on their radar. The design is unusual: a very compact and wind-resistant sphere.

  8. John Simpson says:

    Hi Sandy,
    We were sent the MAIB report before it was published for our comments as my EM230 was one of those tested. Following our comments they altered three or four of their statements but there were still other opinions expressed which we did not agree with, here are some of them.
    The EM230 tested had no serial number so was more than 6 years old and was not of latest design. We started numbering the units as soon as we obtained the Ships Wheel Mark in September 2005. The MAIB rang many chandlers to get them to check their stock to verify that all stock on the shelves were numbered. They refused to make this note on the published report.
    They refused to acknowledge John Firths,the echomax inventors preferred method of fitting for sailing yachts which was suspension from the cross trees of halyard which enables compensation at heel and virtually eliminates mast shadow. Their answer being we supply mast brackets which are requested by the public, our dealers and sold by our competitors.
    Our website and literature states the clear advantages of suspension.
    The MAIB/OUSO conclusion that the Trilens was the best reflector was surprising bearing in mind it had virtually half the SPL in the vertical whereas the EM230 had a SPL of 4.7M2. All motor vessels and cats are positioned around the vertical so how can a reflector with half the response be the best one for these craft? Had the MAIB taken on board John Firths preferred fitting for sailing craft then virtually all the 4.7M2 would have been available for sailing yachts. Recent tests by one of our popular sailing magazines found that there was no discernable difference at heel. In this test the EM230 came out best buy as it was still responding at 7.3 miles when they ceased the trails.
    The MAIB refused to acknowledge that the Echomax symmetrical array excites during real sea conditions. This fact was well documented in the MCA/QinetiQ sea trials in January 02 where the EM230 at 5 miles plus recorded 100% paints at X band and 80% plus at S band. QinetiQ stated that the S band results defied all the laws of physics and at their request two further EM230 were sent to their anechoic chamber for testing which confirmed the sea trial results. This was attributed to John Firths ‘Glint effect’ which is a reaction of the phases, rather like the mirror on the hill scenario.
    Echomax is one of the very few radar reflector manufacturers in the world to publish independent data on each and every product it makes.
    The EM230-400 are taken regularly by the US Navy and other foreign navies for target use. The EM305PE is fitted by the US Nuclear Subs, Hawaii.
    Regds John

  9. Henning says:

    There is also the following report published by MAIB but carried out by QinetiQ:
    http://www.maib.gov.uk/cms_resources.cfm?file=/Radar%20reflectors%20report.pdf
    The preface says that it also was created following the Ouzo accident but this is a radar reflector for pleasure craft comparison, not an accident report.
    This test also includes an electronic X-band radar target enhancer (RTE), the Sea-me, which compares favorably to all passive reflectors, especially in that it is less affected by angles of heel.
    Since the report, 3 other models of RTE have entered the market so that there are now two models each from the manufacturers Sea-me and Echomax. Each company offers a X-band only model and a combined X- and S-band model.
    A yachtig magazine (unfortunately I can’t find it right now, it would have been either Yachting Monthly or Sailing Today) tested the X-band models of both manufacturers against each other and found the Echomax superior because it has equal or better RCS but significantly less power consumption. There is no test that I know of of the combined X- and S-band models.
    An RTE, apparently, should go on a sailboat’s mast top (not sure exactly why but it seems they all are). With a passive reflector, that is probably not the best location because it is waving around too much so the return, while it may be good, apprears in different places on subsequent scans of the radar and therefore, may fall victim to seaclutter suppression.
    Mounting it on deck level is not recommended either, for reasons of range, so the truth is probably somewhere in between, wich, on a sailboat, would mean something like halfway up the mast.
    A passive reflector that is hidden behind metal, like a mast, is ineffective, no matter it’s RCS.
    Given all this, I can see why Dan’s setup works well (halfway up the mast, away from the mast, large) but still I would much prefer a fixed mount close to the mast on my own boat.
    From the reports above and the tests that I know of, I have concluded that in order to be more or less sure to be seen, you must carry an electronic RTE.
    As everything electronic can fail, you are well advised to also have a passive reflector but this is intended as a backup.
    My criteria for a passive reflector are:
    – because of it’s function as a backup, it does not have to offer the highest RCS
    – It should work well when mounted directly to the mast
    – It’s performance should be affected by heel as little as possible
    – I will accept low performance but it must be reliable performance
    This is why I am planning on a Trilens Standard size mounted to the foward side of the mast, halfway up. The Trilens extends outside of the mast profile so I expect resonable performance even with a radar looking at me from dead astern.
    This will go with an Echomax X-S-band RTE.
    The RTE will go on the mast top. There is an expensive but nifty combined anchor- and tricolor LED navigation light by Hella Marine (http://www.hellamarine.com/default.asp?a=3&t=3&View=FullStory&productID=792&pcid=191) that allows another device to be mounted on top of it and the cables of the other device to pass through the center of the light. I think this would work with the RTE and this will avoid problems with partially blocking the light with the RTE.

  10. Roger B says:

    I recently purchased a motor cruiser in Wales and brought it to France.
    The first thing I did before leaving was to fit a Echomax 230 (rigid not inflatable).
    This purchase decision was made following months of research including reading the Ouzo Report.
    I am amazed at the number of boats that do not have radar reflectors fitted or rely upon the cheap (and totally ineffective) tubular products. Despite being described as such in the Qinetic report, this reflector is still on sale in most chandleries in Europe.

  11. Michael says:

    Does a 46′ aluminum sailboat with a tall carbon fiber mast and aluminum radar mast need a passive reflector?

  12. Taniwha says:

    A question for Dan,
    Have you had a look at / considered, the active reflectors.
    As Henning mentioned above, Echomax & Sea-Me now both have dual X- & S-band active reflectors (RTEs). Looking at the spec.s for power usage, they both look fairly low draws: the Echomax product spec.s from 23mA up to 200mA draw, depending on how many radar “hits” you are experiencing. The PBO magazine test linked through the Echomax website says that 5 active radar hits draws about 23mA from the single X-band device, 10 draws 32mA, etc. To me that seems like a pretty low current draw for the huge extra safety gained. Even at an average 40mA draw, the device is only drawing 1Ahr every 24 hours – seems like a no-brainer to me.
    And, if combined with an AIS transceiver, I would think it would create a “hard to miss” envelope.
    If you did look at RTEs, why did you dismiss them? And would you reconsider them given current products (the Echomax products were not around when you installed your passive device).
    BTW, thanks for bringing this topic back up. We’ve been sailing without a reflector because all the testing I had read convinced me that they weren’t worth bothering with. I think that with the newer products (esp RTEs), there are now products that make it silly not to have one up all the time. We’ll be putting an Echomax Active-XS on our boat, with a backup inflatable such as you use.
    Cheers,
    Paul.

  13. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Taniwha/Paul : As I wrote above (more detail here), I purchased an active radar reflector (See-Me) at a West Marine closeout (at $49, it was practically free in 2006), but then returned it (buyer’s remorse) due to the difficulty in installation (many), its weight (including cables) and the serious limitations it had interacting with more than one radar at close range. I am not familiar with how RTE’s improved in the last two years.
    While I am not inclined to think about RTE for myself since the Echomax inflatable is doing it for me, I applaud your interest in including a reflector/RTE solution for your boat AND a transceiver based (not just receiver) AIS. More boats need to be equipped with this safety gear.

  14. Taniwha says:

    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for your reply.
    Sorry for the redundancy in the question: I had read that post of your, but then I got engrossed with the report in the link that you posted, and then with the Echomax & Sea-Me websites, and by the time I wrote the post I had forgotten about your comments on the Sea-Me(that’s one of the dangers in skipping around a few different websites whilst researching a topic).
    Thanks for posting a great topic and discussion starter.
    Cheers,
    Paul.
    P.S. our yacht’s name is Taniwha, hence the user name.

  15. john simpson says:

    SOLAS does not distinguish between metal, wooden or glass fibre vessels. When viewed from the bowes or stern the vessel would have a very low radar cross section so it would be wise to ignore the composition of the hull and for safety sake fit a passive reflector with the largest possible RCS and also an RTE if budget permits.

  16. Alabtross says:

    I have a question… I own a 40ft steel trawler with a 14ft beam and 24ft mast. The entire thing is made of steel. Do I still need a radar reflector? I frequently cruise near the major shipping lanes in the Great Lakes and I always wondered how visible I was to commercial traffic.
    I just always assumed that a big steel box would have a pretty significant radar return.
    Curious…

  17. john simpson says:

    Message for Albatross/Alabtross
    The radar signature of a vessel is governed by the number of radar emmissions that are received back by the interrogating radar. If the radar is fitted with ARPA then you need a hit rate of 50% plus to be shown on the radar screen. Beam on the vessel may have a radar image of several hundred or thousand M2 but this will be a spiked image and not neccessarily a consistent one. However the same vessel with a sleek bow or stern and slanting cabin may only have a very limited radar image when viewed bowes or stern on. I only know of one sea trial where a small glass fibre sailing yacht had a beam on spikey inconsistent image of around a hundred M2 but its bowes on was limited to single figures. The responses were generated from the cooker,engine and mast etc.
    A vessels radar image can easily be tested by approaching a known vessel from about 8-10 miles to see when and what appears on their radar screen.To test the stern response you would steam away from the interrogating radar. This is how the benefits of a passive reflector or RTE can be seen. Stealth bombers are very large but have virtually no radar image as none of the radar signals are returned to the transmitting radar. Likewise the US nuclear subs although 300ft steel objects are basically like large tubes so have a very low radar image when surfaced.
    Perhaps a word of caution that all sea trials are subjective and weather and sea state can vary the results substantially at any given time. No two tests will be the same.
    Re Michaels Mast radar reflection image
    An aluminium mast in a vertical position would give some radar reflective response however at heel would have none. I know of no tests that have been carried out on carbon fibre but suspect it would respond with same qualities as alluminium.

  18. paul shardpaul shard says:

    Here’s another vote for AIS transponder. We have sailed with one now for 18 months. We also have a radar and use it in conditions of reduced vis. We usually see other sailboats at least 3 miles away and often they do not have radar relectors.
    I have not tried an inflatable radar reflector but would like to see a much more definitive test before buying one. So many great looking designs of passive reflectors have turned out to be not very effective (such as the tube ones). The Sea Me active one is commonly used here in Europe where I would guess that more than 50% of boats have some form of reflector.
    But nowadays the ships are relying more on AIS and offshore in any kind of seaway I think all passive radar reflectors are going to be largely ineffective. Why not get an AIS transponder? Not so expensive and ALL ships will see you guaranteed.

  19. Marc Dacey says:

    I think the best way to determine and understand your own visibility would be to have someone else take your boat to see and you follow in a boat with a similar radar setup. Nothing would prove more valuable than “seeing yourself as others see you”, because I think general statements about visibility to radar have to be understood selectively.
    You may find, for instance, that at certain angles of heel and bearing, your boat “paints” well and effectively vanishes at others. Knowing this, you could take action to “reveal” yourself to traffic.
    Or you could get an AIS, I suppose.
    I have a steel pilothouse with a fairly high aft deck. While I “paint” quite well, as expected, I can see how in heavy seas, my cambered deck and relatively modest aluminum mast might not reflect as well as I assume to be.

  20. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Some additional thoughts:
    1) Paul implied we just use AIS, really? I don’t believe AIS is a substitute for a good radar reflector and that his experience at usually seeing sailboats at 3 miles in reduced vis, is normal. Maybe Paul is an exceptionally talented radar user, has a BR24 or Raymarine HD, or maybe reduced vis is just light rain and seas less than 3 feet? I feel AIS won’t help a sailboat such as mine to avoid collisions with other boats that don’t use AIS, as a passive reflector would. I consider the use of all three (radar, a passive reflector, and AIS) as complimentary with little overlap in achieving my goals of collision avoidance. For example the AIS transceiver on my boat does little to help me avoid collisions with recreational vessels under 40 feet that don’t have one.
    2) I had a great conversation with John Simpson after the article was published and received some interesting insights and issues around the world. (Thanks John). He is not entirely comfortable with my recommendation, one of the reasons they don’t promote this product for everyday use (only emergencies) is that it isn’t puncture resistant. Mine doesn’t have a scratch after five years, and is less fragile I think than my old metal Davis. Would you all agree with me that puncture resistance is not a necessary trait of a radar reflector? Would that be a concern for anyone?
    3) John believes RTE’s are a much better solution for sailboats, especially those without the ability to power a radar. I scoffed at that initially (due to cost, just use a passive + AIS was my answer), but John justified his position well. As valuable as it is to have your own radar for use in collision avoidance, many sailboats don’t have the power available to do so, and in those cases an RTE offers additional valuable benefits over a passive reflector. John pointed out that RTE gives you an alert that other boats are nearby painting you with X or S band radar, RTE requires much less power than a radar, and the far greater intensity will reliably be detected by another ships radar on every sweep, insuring your boat appears on radar sets that use ARPA. After speaking with John, I suppose if I didn’t have a radar I would seriously consider RTE.
    4) A commenter above suggested doing a boat swap? Really? I can’t see how you would get an objective measure of your boats viability on radar thru such efforts, and wouldn’t your day just be better spent enjoying your boat? If professional testing organizations are challenged to test on the water (which has lead to many confusing results being published over the years) you and I don’t stand a chance. The primary issue is that our radar sets don’t report back a number value we can read of the radar energy returned and compare that to the recommended amount to be seen in bad weather. What we do know is that virtually all recreational boats are below half the recommended radar cross section performance for a passive reflectors. Within reason, none of us have any reason to believe our boat is an exception. Even forty foot metal hulled recreational boats don’t reflect 10 square meters in all directions, for example in the arc from 0-80 degrees either side of the bow, I would suspect the curved surfaces of a metal boat are rather stealthy as they reflect radar energy out to the side, into the water, or sky.

  21. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I agree with John Simpson. An RTE is the most effective way to announce our presence. AIS B will alert Solas Vessels over 300T and give our position, heading and course on even the oldest AIS A units, but smaller vessels are a threat. We are still assuming they have radar. I believe that a passive reflector does more harm than good by giving crews a false assurance of safety. It only has to be inadequate one time to make a tragedy.
    Side note; I had a customer who was adamant that his radar would be seen by big ships. Some how safety information manages to get garbled even among those with enough earning power to buy a boat.
    Sandy Daugherty
    Retired NTSB Accident Investigator

  22. paul shard says:

    Hi Dan,
    Yes we do have a fair bit of experience with radar but are by no means experts. And we do actually have an 18″ Raymarine HD Digital radar so perhaps it is that much more more effective than regular radars. But I still recommend a See-Me or equivalent RTE if you really want to be seen on other people’s radar. Almost no power to run and not that much money.
    More and more people are getting an AIS receiver so why wouldn’t you add a Class B transponder. Then they will see you.
    As Sandy Daugherty says, if you hoist an inflatable radar reflector you are still hoping someone has a radar and is actually looking at it. Get an AIS transponder and you know all ships will see you – plus an increasing number of yachts as well.

  23. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Paul, a Raymarine HD Digital Radar! That is much better than a regular radar, and explains your experience to “usually see sailboats within 3 miles”. In your eyes there may not seem to be a benefit to a passive reflector. Regular radars are not that good.
    I also have the HD digital also, and for collision avoidance, I rank this or any other radar as my number one tool, mostly because my greater fear is to be hit by a yacht (rather than a ship) without radar or an attentive helmsman.
    I do already use an AIS transceiver as well, yet you will find this reflector up in my rigging whenever visibility is reduced and even on most clear day’s because it is no hassle at all to use, and even with great radar, I can’t just run away from every approaching yacht to avoid collisions. We all have responsibilities to hold our course in many passing situations, and need yachts with regular radar to see us also.
    I also have to admit (to Sandy), I do get a cheap thrill when other ships avoid me and I can instead hold my course and get where I am going in a straight line.
    Sandy, you wrote that a passive reflector “does more harm than good” as it “provides a false sense of security” I guess you can go there, but can’t that same line of reasoning, a false sense of security, be carried over to an RTE or any safety gear as well? Is that a reason not to purchase one? Or, is your comment really based on a disbelief in my review? If Ben can pass you my cell phone number, give me a call as I would really like to give your point of view a fair listen, as I have John Simpson’s.
    Speaking about John, he has urged me to write that his RTE product is the only RTE approved by the FCC in the USA. I had purchased (and later returned) his competitor’s product not realizing it wasn’t legal, I guess that could happen to anyone, but relax John, that is probably very rare.
    Back to the passive product I use above, there is an element of cost in all this. While not an inexpensive cheap thrill as my last safety recommendation, at $180 what’s not to like about this passive radar reflector that you will actually use (rather than leaving in a storage locker), and will do better than double radar visibility of a 40 foot cruising sailboat in clear weather, and in seas taller than your boats deck, make the difference between being seen or not being seen at all?

  24. Anonymous says:

    I use both an echo-master on the halyard, and a tri-radial on the mast. What is the consensus for using two radar reflectors? I have heard some comment that there could be destructive interference, but I do not believe this to be the case if they ar separated by more than several feet.
    Regard,
    Bob

  25. norse says:

    There could be interference, both destructive and constructive, even if they are well separated. But does it matter? There is no simple answer to this.
    Even the direct return from a radar reflector and the return which bounces off the water surface can interfere. Here are some links for you:
    http://www.theradarreflectorsite.org/WebManuscript/PREFACE.pdf
    http://www.theradarreflectorsite.org/WebManuscript/CHAPTER%202.pdf

  26. Sheldon Haynie says:

    Radar is only as good as the product of the power of emitted signal, RCS, sensitivity of receiver, noise filtering and algorithm/operator to determine a contact from blips.
    Any of those being low, the ability to detect a vessel/ATON is reduced.
    Commercial vessels are required to have trained watch standers and will have sufficient power and likely good sensitivity, so all that is variable is the RCS. Their antenna will be quite high up, mounted above highest superstructure to give 360 sweep. You may be indistinguishable from sea clutter in a typical recreational vessel
    Getting your reflector high up above waves is a good first start. The tests on various shapes and styles are somewhat colored by static positioning. The case of a flat sea is somewhat rare, though we did traverse Fundy in “forestay fog” with a commercial vessel on right angle heading back in 2004. With an old Davis pie plate he was seeing us at 5 miles when we hailed based on MARPA to confirm his holding course.
    The Maine and Nova Scotia lobstermen tend to have fixed reflectors on poles, but will rarely have a watch if they are working. How many recreational vessels do you expect both mount radar and have trained operators watching screen? AIS is probably your best bet to provide a warning to/from commercial traffic, and a frequent & loud horn for recreational.

  27. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Crossing Long Island Sound in the fog and rain Memorial Day morning, was another opportunity to use this reflector.
    It takes about 2 minutes to rig it, even though I had not done so yet this season.
    Even thought the water was flat, several of the boats I was crossing with in the club were nearly invisible in auto gain on my Raymarine radar until the fog lifted. The boat with the standard davis reflectors were clear, and it was hit and miss with the boats that did not have reflectors, sizing having nothing to do with it. Interestingly the largest boat was hard to find even with the gain turned up to near 100%.
    AIS is still rare here. You cannot count on it being useful to advertise your position to other recreational boats. In a club of almost 100 sailboats, we have two boats equipped. Granted most people did not want to be out yesterday, only 2 moving boats were broadcasting AIS other than the ferries and I.

  28. hanami says:

    I think I agree with the last comment about the value of passive radar reflector, first because they enhance the signal and second, more important, because they do it even if you’ve lost all your electronics and there is no electricity left.
    In France there are also useful to identify UK boats as they are the only ones to carry one high on the mast. May be they are more use to fog than we are … or more cautious.

  29. Sheldon Haynie says:

    Dan, I am in agreement that a good reflector up high makes a recreational vessel a bigger “target” for the larger vessels, it’s a very appropriate strategy, and yet while necessary is insufficient. A Class B transponder gives them not only a target, it provides a DSC direct call capability to hail with my vessel name, knowing my SOG&COG; a bit more compelling than hearing ” vessel at Lat/Lon heading 275 at 5 kts” that they would get from (M)ARPA.
    My point is that in my experience, few recreational/small commercial boaters have or likely use radar competently. In the Alameda Estuary their are few vessels with class B transponders that show as on when moored, not sure how many are to be found while moving, or if the same blithe spirits who don’t use radar have the AIS alarms silenced on their VHF/chartplotter. We are in a very active commercial port, where VTS is handling container ships, bulk haulers and tankers. My choice is to give the best chance of being “seen” to all who pay attention, with the best chance to hear them if they need to call. Hopefully, by being on their radar, tagged I become of less concern.
    My monitoring of the radar/AIS overlay is my defense against those who don’t have AIS transponders, to sort out the moving returns and categorize as of concern or not to me. The idiots will be with us, I just hope to keep from meeting them in the fog.

  30. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    You have a very good point that few recreational craft have or use radar, and larger boats are equipped with AIS receivers. Having my own radar is far more valuable than the reflector when around other smaller craft, and AIS had advantages when around larger craft. As I dwell on what your wrote, the radar reflector hardly seems to add any more protection in those instances. Who knows, maybe I should get off my soap box about the reflector being valuable.
    But, radar isn’t entirely the answer either. I am embarrassed to share that I was caught unaware yesterday as two power boats came head-on through the middle of our closely spaced flotilla seen here in the fog.
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10156989752550608&set=gm.876988162445151&type=3
    Was I inattentive? Was there something about the heavy mist interfered with my seeing the powerboats, just like I could not see 3 of the 8 sailboats in the flotilla around me, despite flat water, calm air, and less than 1/16 mile of distance?
    Just like AIS is more effective when we all have it, radar is more effective when we all have radar reflectors. Hmm, since that isn’t happening, forget the radar reflector, hey everyone, get radar and AIS!!!

  31. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Once the fog partially lifted, the other 3 sailboats showed up clear on radar. Wonder what that was all about! I thought it took heavy rain and/or waves to diminish radar that much.

  32. In that club with 100 sailboats of which two have AIS transponders, how many more have AIS receivers?
    The Echomax website now has three sizes: the EM230i, the EM230i Midi (same diameter, somewhat shorter), and EMAO3i (spherical, larger diameter)

  33. Sheldon Haynie says:

    I know the commercial guys are required to have both.
    Recreational neither, but just looking at boats in our YC, it seems that above 30 ft power & 35 ft for sailboats seems to be when you see radars and at 40 ft they are pretty close to a given.
    With modern VHF DSC/AIS integration coming below $500 and a Radar still well north of $1000 I would expect AIS first on the smaller boats. You can get a receiver for http://www.westmarine.com/buy/em-trak-marine-electronics–ais-r100-receiver–12333969

  34. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    None have AIS receivers. On the bright side, several now have their VHF radio configured with registered MMSI numbers and NMEA0183 integration with their GPS.

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