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Old 08-29-2016, 10:48 PM   #1
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Simrad ForwardScan sonar

I recently purchase a 44' Marine Trader Trawler. I want to install forward looking sonar. It appears to me the Simrad ForwardScan is the best choice for the money. Does anyone have experience with this product? Are there any suggestions for better choices?

Thank you in advance for any information you're willing to offer.

Steve
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Old 08-29-2016, 11:28 PM   #2
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I'd be interested to hear too. I have asked around and can't find anyone who is using it. I'm not even sure it actually exists.
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Old 08-30-2016, 12:25 AM   #3
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Simrad ForwardScan sonar

Here you go...

http://www.simrad-yachting.com/en-GB...cer-en-gb.aspx

The range drops off quickly in shallow water. In 20' of water, your effective forward range is 5 X your depth or 100'. For Peter's boat, that's one and one half boat lengths.

Edit: I think the main issue is beam width. The narrower the beam, the longer the effective distance. The effective distance is limited as soon as the edge of the beam strikes a boundary, either hard substrate or the water surface. So the shallower the water, the shorter the distance before the beam edge strikes it. The beam is blind beyond that effective range.

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Old 08-30-2016, 12:45 AM   #4
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One consideration would be knowing what brand your other electronics are. With the larger electronics manufacturers, I think you'll see a lot of leap frog played with whoever has the latest having the best. I've not used Simrad, but have used Garmin and have been very impressed. It also integrates well with the rest of their electronics. Garmin's product came from their acquisition of Interphase.

There are also some of the stand alone products. Echopilot and Far Sounder have done this a while. I don't know anything about B&G and Blueview and the others. Echopilot was the first with forward scanning patented and the first with 3D forward scanning. They introduced forward scanning in 1992.

The limitation on most scanners, from Garmin to Simrad to Echopilot is range. They range from 30 meters to 200 meters depending on conditions. Garmin really started with a focus on fishing as did most sonar.

Far Sounder has a range up to 1/4 or 1/2 mile depending on the unit. It also operates at speeds up to 20 knots. Of course all that comes at a price. Transas which is largely commercial navigation software, but some recreational, integrates Far Sounder. Would Far Sounder detect a container floating just below the surface and 1/2 mile away while traveling at 20 knots? I sure wouldn't bet on it. And if it did, you might have 30 seconds to do something from the time you noticed. At 7 or 8 knots greater chance but I still have no experience that says it would. I don't know how many are being detected by huge cargo boats using it.

Now, the real question is use. We use ours primarily when we're concerned about depth or hazards and want to go slow and see what we can. That obstruction you know is there or somewhere close but is just under the surface. The area that is shoaled or has a narrow channel and you want to see exactly what is under there. You're moving slowly and have something you want to identify or check. We ran across a marina that had a concrete pillar in the middle. It was clearly marked on charts. Just one problem. A month earlier the marina had rearranged all docks. We use it when entering a marina with a reputation for people running aground. We've also used it when a marina swore the end dock had 8' and we saw it clearly did not. So where was it now? I would think the Simrad, as the Garmin would be a good product.

Now Echosounder has a good reputation, but I haven't used it. Far Sounder I have used and it's great. Still, for most trawlers, the functionality of Simrad or Garmin will fulfill all their needs at a far lower cost.

Far Sounder is also in another part of the industry and that is systems for Ship Protection. This is big in parts of the commercial industry, to track threats including divers. Not needed by most of us here.
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Old 08-30-2016, 05:48 AM   #5
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I have an Interphase Ultrascan PC90. It was an upgrade of an old Interphase product on the boat when I bought it. My upgrade was completed just prior to the Garmin purchase of Interphase. I am pleased to note that my unit is one of the models that Garmin offers accessories and repair services for as well as technical support.

I have used the unit very little to date, and last time I wanted to use it it did not work. When I get back to the boat in a few days I will try and troubleshoot - it could be an IP address issue on my PC.

I hope I can get it to work as I will be continuing my cruise on the Great Barrier Reef over the next 2 months. Where the PC90 will be invaluable will be for picking out coral pinnacles as I slowly enter lagoons and anchorages. This is the reason I bought the upgraded unit back in early 2013. So I am keen to be able to have the benefits it offers available to me.

I have mixed feelings on the unit so far. It could be that my transducer, an old unit, is not as good as newer ones. But when it is working it does seem to perform as required. I would just like the unit to work first time every time I turn it on..... Maybe the standalone units are more reliable and its just the computer-connected units that can be flakey. At present I don't think I could recommend the PC90. It isn't clear to me whether Garmin have continued to R&D the Interphase product or not. I hope they have, it is potentially a great thing to have for entering gnarly anchorages slowly at the very least.
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Old 08-30-2016, 10:45 AM   #6
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I own a side scan not forward looking and can tell you that waves and boat speed (air bubbles) will degrade performance. The odds of you looking at the screen the moment that an obstruction appears seem poor at best. If someone gave me one, I would turn around and sell it.
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Old 08-30-2016, 10:58 AM   #7
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I own a side scan not forward looking and can tell you that waves and boat speed (air bubbles) will degrade performance. The odds of you looking at the screen the moment that an obstruction appears seem poor at best. If someone gave me one, I would turn around and sell it.
I don't think their real use is in just having them on and hoping you catch something. I think it's finding something you know is there and surveying an area of known issues or unfamiliarity, all at slow speed and all concentrating on it. That and finding fish.
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Old 08-30-2016, 11:15 AM   #8
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I have used the Interphase units and found that if you have a distinct target such as a large rock on the coast of Maine, or a dredged channel the unit may be useful when you learn to interpret it. On a gradually sloping bottom such as the Bahamas or Florida it would not indicate the difference between 6 feet deep that was Ok and 4 feet deep that was not OK.
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Old 08-30-2016, 12:03 PM   #9
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WesMar or Furuno Searchlight sonars are what the big boys use ... Not cheap or easy to install but you can see what lies ahead or out to side. We had a WesMar on the previous boat only time we used was going in to unknown places. Anything over 4 knots produced lots of artifact... We could spot bait balls 2 to 3 hundred feet away but we never fished the boat so it was mostly just bridge art...
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Old 08-30-2016, 12:33 PM   #10
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WesMar or Furuno Searchlight sonars are what the big boys use ... Not cheap or easy to install but you can see what lies ahead or out to side. We had a WesMar on the previous boat only time we used was going in to unknown places. Anything over 4 knots produced lots of artifact... We could spot bait balls 2 to 3 hundred feet away but we never fished the boat so it was mostly just bridge art...
Those are both very limited and really designed for fishing, although used for other things. As to big boys, I don't know who you're referring too, but large yachts and commercial vessels use brands like Echopilot and Far Sounder. The current Simrad and Garmin forward sonars are a step beyond WesMar and Furuno Searchlight at this time. Six months from not they may have been passed. I have looked at the Furuno and it's not bad, just they appear to have stagnated a little. Still useful in a small area which is where you'd normally use sonar.
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Old 08-30-2016, 12:49 PM   #11
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A friend and I saw a demo of Garmin's latest at a boat show and he was so impressed that he switched all of his electronics to Garmin. We both thought it compared favorably to my Furuno Ch250. In practice, it seems to be good, but not even close to a real searchlight sonar.

My friend didn't want the CH250 because he often runs at 25 knots and was concerned about forgetting to retract the transducer (which is deployed on a hydraulic shaft that holds the transducer inside a seachest when not in use, but lowers it more about 15" when deployed -- but it cannot be used above 14 knots or raised/lowered above 10).
Even though the CH250 costs about $25K with installation, that was a wash for him, since he replaced all of his RayMarine electronics with Garmin.

Anyway, if you really want to see what is in front of you, get a CH250. Somehow, Furuno has overcome the theoretical 5x depth limitation on forward range. The picture below is a screenshot of the display with range set at 400'. The water is probably 15' deep and you can easily see the seawall 400' to port. Most of the rest is docks and boats in their slips. Off my port bow is a boat traveling down my basin -- even its turbulence ( in a no wake zone) is returning an echo.
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Old 08-30-2016, 01:12 PM   #12
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A colleague has told me that he likes his unit for anchoring as he has a better idea of the bottom that he is dealing with. However, the rapidly decreasing range as the bottom shallows, due to beam width is a real limitation with any of these systems. And if you are shopping around, make sure to ask for specs on the beam width of the transducer (expressed in degrees) and that the beam is elliptical. Better yet ask for a mapping of the beam (that'll put the salesman's head in a spin).

Commercial fishermen use side scanning sonar for fish-finding. Its a very difference purpose than for navigation in shallow waters.
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Old 08-30-2016, 01:53 PM   #13
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I'm anxious to see the next generation. Regardless, I think all the current models have value as long as you recognize where they are effective and what their limitations are. I figure if it saves me prop damage (or worse) one time during it's lifetime, then it's far more than paid for itself. That's all I seek, not miracles from it.
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Old 08-30-2016, 02:04 PM   #14
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Come a long way since the days of a hand leadline armed with tallow
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Old 08-30-2016, 02:04 PM   #15
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Those are both very limited and really designed for fishing, although used for other things. As to big boys, I don't know who you're referring too, but large yachts and commercial vessels use brands like Echopilot and Far Sounder. The current Simrad and Garmin forward sonars are a step beyond WesMar and Furuno Searchlight at this time. Six months from not they may have been passed. I have looked at the Furuno and it's not bad, just they appear to have stagnated a little. Still useful in a small area which is where you'd normally use sonar.

That's very different from my understanding. I can't speak to the far sounder, but everyone I know who has a furuno searchlight likes it provided they know how to use it. People with echo pilot generally say it's ok but. Same with Interphase, and the "but" usually relates to the distance/depth limit. And I still haven't heard of an actual Simrad forward scan owner, so a complete unknown.

The big difference with the searchlight is that it's a rotating and tilting beam, so can be narrower yet still scan any arc that you want. And it can look as horizontally or vertically as you want.

So I don't see the searchlight in any class anywhere near the Garmin, echo pilot, or (in theory) Simrad.
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Old 08-30-2016, 02:52 PM   #16
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That's very different from my understanding. I can't speak to the far sounder, but everyone I know who has a furuno searchlight likes it provided they know how to use it. People with echo pilot generally say it's ok but. Same with Interphase, and the "but" usually relates to the distance/depth limit. And I still haven't heard of an actual Simrad forward scan owner, so a complete unknown.

The big difference with the searchlight is that it's a rotating and tilting beam, so can be narrower yet still scan any arc that you want. And it can look as horizontally or vertically as you want.

So I don't see the searchlight in any class anywhere near the Garmin, echo pilot, or (in theory) Simrad.
I stand corrected on the Furuno Searchlight. I haven't used it as we only considered it. It seems far more capable than I realized. However, Garmin makes several different types and the Panoptix I believe you'd find pretty comparable with some advantages and some disadvantages. I've also not heard of a Simrad user. It's advertised range is very short and would be less than any of the others.

We all have to be careful which unit from a manufacturer and how recent we're referring. An Echopilot3D had more forward range than most others.

Far Sounder has some excellent capabilities, is costly, and is only integrated with a few, mostly commercially used, other systems.

We'll keep your information on the Furuno as we have Furuno electronics that may well be approaching the time for an upgrade. We have no sonar on that boat.
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Old 08-30-2016, 02:55 PM   #17
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Come a long way since the days of a hand leadline armed with tallow
I've still been known to drop the RIB into the water and go ahead to check things out, then pilot myself in. Not quite back to the leadline but a simple depth sounder.
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Old 08-30-2016, 03:03 PM   #18
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I I haven't used it as we only considered it. It seems far more capable than I realized. However, Garmin makes several different types and the Panoptix I believe you'd find pretty comparable with some advantages and some disadvantages.
My buddy's Garmin installation was Panoptix. I would agree that the "demo" display makes the unit appear to have capabilities comparable to, or better than, the CH250. Maybe that demo was photo shopped, or at least carefully selected because from what I have been able to see the real world performance doesn't come close in terms of sensitivity, target separation, persistence or range (the CH250 has an effective range of over 5,000 feet, though I rarely go above 1,200 feet).

The major benefits of Garmin/Panoptix, in my experience are:
1) the graphical representation is much easier for those with limited spatial intelligence. Some people just can't seem to understand what my CH250 is showing them while the Garmin gives a 2D picture (complete with boat) that can be easily manipulated to show different perspectives with the result that the 3D aspect becomes intuitively obvious; and
2) the CH250 has lots of interdependent parameters to set. It takes a while to learn to "tune" the display. Conversely, the Garmin automatically sets most of those parameters; and
3) the transducer does not need to be deployed or retracted, which is hugely convenient for anyone who routinely exceeds 14 knots.
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Old 08-30-2016, 03:25 PM   #19
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My buddy's Garmin installation was Panoptix. I would agree that the "demo" display makes the unit appear to have capabilities comparable to, or better than, the CH250. Maybe that demo was photo shopped, or at least carefully selected because from what I have been able to see the real world performance doesn't come close in terms of sensitivity, target separation, persistence or range (the CH250 has an effective range of over 5,000 feet, though I rarely go above 1,200 feet).

The major benefits of Garmin/Panoptix, in my experience are:
1) the graphical representation is much easier for those with limited spatial intelligence. Some people just can't seem to understand what my CH250 is showing them while the Garmin gives a 2D picture (complete with boat) that can be easily manipulated to show different perspectives with the result that the 3D aspect becomes intuitively obvious; and
2) the CH250 has lots of interdependent parameters to set. It takes a while to learn to "tune" the display. Conversely, the Garmin automatically sets most of those parameters; and
3) the transducer does not need to be deployed or retracted, which is hugely convenient for anyone who routinely exceeds 14 knots.
Number 3 would be huge for us. Don't guess the CH250 would really be the right one for a Riva. I get the picture that if you're willing to do a bit more manipulation then you can perhaps get more from the Furuno.

We do have the Panoptix and do find it very much like the "demo." This comes from someone who wasn't a Garmin fan before and would have preferred Furuno at the outset, but it wasn't one of our three choices from the factory. Perhaps some of the variation seen is attributable to screen size and definition too. Definitely however does not have a useful range of 5000 feet.

One thing too is that we use such a small part of it's functionality, just searching for the occasional obstruction or shoal or channel width. I would say with 120+ days of cruising, we've probably only used (I don't count having it on passively as used) it 12 times for an average of 20 minutes and this has been cruising waters totally new to us. If we hadn't had it, there are probably only 4 or 5 times we would have missed it. All our use has been at no wake speed. At cruising speed (26-28 knots) it is of no use to us though.

What uses do you put your Furuno to? Based on your boat, I would guess fishing comes into play along the way.
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Old 08-30-2016, 04:12 PM   #20
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Those are both very limited and really designed for fishing, although used for other things. As to big boys, I don't know who you're referring too, but large yachts and commercial vessels use brands like Echopilot and Far Sounder. The current Simrad and Garmin forward sonars are a step beyond WesMar and Furuno Searchlight at this time. Six months from not they may have been passed. I have looked at the Furuno and it's not bad, just they appear to have stagnated a little. Still useful in a small area which is where you'd normally use sonar.

The big boys I was referring to are the draggers or actual trawlers ( fishing type)and seiners they use the search light function to find schools of fish or check out the bottom topography before dragging the net over it... Its the guys that have very few days to make their money and use evry tool available. I think that the forward looking sounders like Garmin and Simrad and search light sounders are apple and oranges...
Search light sounders are a really versatile tool.... they don't depend on a fixed array of crystals but rather a rotating transducer that also moves moves in a vertical arc.
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