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Old 07-28-2019, 05:46 PM   #1
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Radar reflector

This morning, while westbound in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, i n patchy fog, I was warily working my way through swarms of little, 16 to maybe 22 foot sportfishers. I was pleasantly surprised that most of the little buggers made a decent primary radar target at about 3 miles.

I couldn't perceive characteristics that made some weak to invisible, but the most remarkable was a 19-footer who didn't show up til a quarter mile. As he passed, I noted he had one of those cylindrical reflectors, i.e. a 24-inch plastic tube with little metal vanes inside. It was mounted on his bow pulpit like a jackstaff.
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Old 07-28-2019, 06:49 PM   #2
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I thought those had to be mounted horizontal and well above deck.
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Old 07-28-2019, 07:22 PM   #3
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I thought those had to be mounted horizontal and well above deck.
Every one I've seen was mounted vertically, but I did some reading, and vertical is the manufacturer's ' intent. Height improves range, of course, but isn't really part of the functionality.

They seem to be a bad bargain, even at $25/
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Old 07-28-2019, 08:08 PM   #4
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They were showing up so well because most were metal boats. IKt's the low profile wooden and fiberglass that are hard to spot.
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Old 07-28-2019, 08:12 PM   #5
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Practical Sailor published a test of various radar reflectors, years ago. That unit finished last.
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Old 07-28-2019, 08:22 PM   #6
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Practical Sailor published a test of various radar reflectors, years ago. That unit finished last.

Yup. Not a good reflector and located at the worst possible location.
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Old 07-28-2019, 08:36 PM   #7
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Every one I've seen was mounted vertically, but I did some reading, and vertical is the manufacturer's ' intent. Height improves range, of course, but isn't really part of the functionality.

They seem to be a bad bargain, even at $25/

Thanks for clearing that up. I agree it's not worth the effort for such little return even at $25.




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They were showing up so well because most were metal boats. IKt's the low profile wooden and fiberglass that are hard to spot.



I'm going to line my boat with aluminum foil and put a foil hat on it. LOL




I'm planning to use some foil-faced insulation in several places on my boat. I wonder if that would be picked up on radar. Some will be horizontal like in the cabin roof. Some will be vertical like around the engine box. Being that my boat is small, I wonder if that would be enough to bounce the signal around and give the transmitting boat a good image. Nothing better than being around 30 feet long and giving off the radar signature of a small destroyer.
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Old 07-28-2019, 08:46 PM   #8
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They were showing up so well because most were metal boats. IKt's the low profile wooden and fiberglass that are hard to spot.
Interesting possibility. I didn't "filter" my observations for that variable, but there was an awful lot of plastic out there.

Fortunately, the vis was about half a mile, they were all trolling and I was poking along at seven knots. No surprises
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Old 07-28-2019, 09:06 PM   #9
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T-Tops, towing arches and outboards all give pretty good returns....the newer (post 2005) RADARs on small boats are pretty impressive themselves.
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Old 07-28-2019, 09:32 PM   #10
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I conducted a radar reflector test a few years ago at the Brownsville marina during a yacht club cruise when the dock discussion turned to radar reflectors. And of course who had the best.

To settle the argument, I had a kid take a variety of radar reflectors out in a 10 foot fiberglass dinghy, one at a time. We had him motor out one mile, slowly and stop at 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 mile. We had him hold the reflector up in the proper orientation when stopped.

We were on Sandpiper and used both the 4 kw and 11 kw Furuno radars, one at a time.

The best was the Rozendal Associates Tri Lens followed by the Echomax and Davis Echomaster. The Tri Lens was noticeably more visible consistantly as the dinghy bobbed and turned in the waves. The Echomax and Echomasters image on the radar would get smaller and bigger but never disappeared.

The Mobri and Firdell disappeared completely once in a while and their outlines on the radar were noticeably smaller as the image grew and shrank.

Those were the only reflectors available. There were several participants in the test looking at the radars, voting on the results.

The Davis Echomaster was the one that most club members carried on their power boats. Mobri and Firdell was second most popular and there were two Echomax and one Tri Lens.

We had the kid repeat the test with no reflector aboard the dinghy. The radar picked him up fine but the dinghys radar image was small and disappeared for multiple sweeps of the radar as he got further out.

Practical Sailor conducted a more thorough radar reflector test a while back and the results were similar.
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Old 07-28-2019, 09:46 PM   #11
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There have been at least 5 radar reflector tests, some of them quite scholarly and done with very expensive DOD equipment comparing the returns on the water and in an anechoic chamber. At least one in response to the run-down and loss of a vessel including all on board. The result of all of them is that most of the radar reflectors sold are pretty much useless. Only a very large microwave lens type meets the SOLAS regs (barely), do not depend on the smaller ones and particularly the little cylindrical ones to do anything at all. If you want to be visible, you need a transponder such as the SeaMe or EchoMax. These are active transponders, receiving then retransmitting a response. Or consider yourself to be invisible, the safest policy.
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Old 07-28-2019, 10:08 PM   #12
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We have a Lundberg Lens type of reflector on our boat. It was top rated by Powerboat Reports when it was in business. I have not seen our boat on radar so I am not sure how well it works, but I guess it canít hurt.
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Old 07-28-2019, 11:49 PM   #13
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We have a Lundberg Lens type of reflector on our boat. It was top rated by Powerboat Reports when it was in business. I have not seen our boat on radar so I am not sure how well it works, but I guess it canít hurt.
Friend and I drove each others boats so we could see what our boats looked like on radar. I upgraded my radar reflector shortly after the experiment.
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