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Old 12-17-2014, 05:23 PM   #21
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Wow great read thanks everyone. I will take a lot of this to heart. I do need more practice...
You started one of the most worthwhile threads here. I applaud that you realized you weren't as prepared as you wished you had been and discussed your lessons learned. We all continue to learn how to do things better. The more critical of ourselves ones of us like you learn even when it wouldn't have even been known to others they didn't have it all mastered. Just because we made it through safely doesn't mean we can't learn more to make it easier next time.
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Old 12-17-2014, 05:26 PM   #22
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Amen! Hey I not afraid to share my good, bad and ugly. We all learn that way and maybe become safer boaters in the process.
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Old 12-17-2014, 08:52 PM   #23
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One of the hardest places to run radar is where you are close to large hills..
The lowest range setting on the old Raytheon 2600 radar that came with our boat was one mile. The Furuno we replaced it with goes down to an eighth of a mile. In fog, particularly in the narrow passes, we find ourselves using settings from an eighth to a half mile almost exclusively. The low settings give great return separatoin of targets even when one is only 100 yards off an unseen cliff.

I don't think we have used a range over three miles, ever, other than to test the radar. The distances between the islands here tend to dictate low ranges anyway.

Another thing we do when running in serious fog is to vary the gain on the radar periodically to make sure we aren't overlooking something. We have found that getting the best use out of a radar is not a matter of set-and-forget. It's an instrument that has a lot of adjustments on it for good reason. We have also found that we can do a more effective job of tuning the radar manually than by relying on the various "auto" settings. The auto settings too often mask targets that need to be seen.

There is a great book on using radar called "The Radar Book" by Kevin Monahan. We bought our copy years ago before AIS was on the scene. I don't know if the book has been updated to reflect new develolpments in radar technology, but even if it hasn't, it's a great way to learn both the basics of radar and how to get the most out of one.
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Old 12-18-2014, 09:28 AM   #24
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Question from a boater without radar that does crew periodically for others w/ radar.

I saw no mention of radar reflectors - if your radar is on does that negate the need to have a reflector to make yourself more visible or is both desirable?
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Old 12-18-2014, 09:48 AM   #25
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Question from a boater without radar that does crew periodically for others w/ radar.

I saw no mention of radar reflectors - if your radar is on does that negate the need to have a reflector to make yourself more visible or is both desirable?
At short range a properly operated modern RADAR can see any boat, with or without a RADAR reflector.

The cool thing about fog is that it generally is accompanied by calm seas, at least in my experience. This means you can turn up the gain, enabling you to see smaller targets.

We run in the fog allot and love it. Like others here, we shorten up the range to generally the 1.5NM range, or even shorter if we are operating around islands or channels. This way I can see whats out there in time to make course corrections.

Also AIS is a great tool. It can see around corners and the boats that generally have AIS are less maneuverable, so AIS gives me and the opposing captain information in a timely manner to make collision avoidance easier.
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Old 12-18-2014, 09:56 AM   #26
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The key is practice, and more practice.

Run your RADAR during the day and learn to correlate returns with various types of targets. Dont just do it once or twice, run your RADAR every time your boat is underway.

With time you'll get to the point where when something shows up on the screen you know its real, and when, there's nothing on the screen you'll know there is really nothing there.
I've never run anyplace without the radar on. I always am looking at what the returns look like. This is the time to practice with the gain. I finally got my Raymarine to not give me wave tops, but still give me floats.

AIS send and receive is worth it as it allows the professionals to get out of YOUR way or they will call if unable to do so.
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Old 12-18-2014, 11:01 AM   #27
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I've never run anyplace without the radar on. I always am looking at what the returns look like. This is the time to practice with the gain. I finally got my Raymarine to not give me wave tops, but still give me floats.

AIS send and receive is worth it as it allows the professionals to get out of YOUR way or they will call if unable to do so.
You'll like this Richard. It will bring back memories for you and your recent travels.

The post below was copied from another forum where I was posting live during a night crossing of the Gulf of Alaska. This is why we get to know our equipment...

I have to admit, its been a long time since I operated a boat at night. Imagine this...You're in a sea that is safe but moves the boat around quite a bit. OK you can imagine that. Now take away all of your visual references. You cannot see. You do not know when a wave is going to hit. But you learn. You get a feel for the rhythm. You begin to anticipate the next set.

This is a time when you live by your radar and your chart plotter, because this is is really all you have between you and danger. Unimaginable danger. The primal fear danger of not surviving. Right now this is my world. This is night shift on the MV Lisas Way.

Right now at this particular moment I am very happy that my Furuno Manual looks old and tattered. Why...Because I've read it. Not once, but many times, over a period of years. I know that equipment. I know that when the radar shows something it really exists. I know that when it shows nothing thats because nothing is out there. Because when your equipment is all that separates you from the darkest of times, having confidence in that equipment is all that keeps you sane.

Right now I'm in the middle of my 4 hour watch. Jamison is asleep in his bunk, and I am at the helm. I can see the tip of Kyak Island that we just passed. I can see a couple of shower cells on the radar. Other than that all is quiet on the MV lisas Way.
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Old 12-18-2014, 11:28 AM   #28
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At short range a properly operated modern RADAR can see any boat, with or without a RADAR reflector.
.
I would still recommend a radar reflector. There are too many folks out there who do not know how to properly operate their radar. No harm in making yourself more visible
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Old 12-18-2014, 11:34 AM   #29
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I always have the radar return overlaid on top of the GPS/plotter screen. That way I only have to look at one screen and can quickly see where I am and where other things are.

I like to slow down to idle speed and pick my way carefully along my course.
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Old 12-18-2014, 11:48 AM   #30
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A bit of a funny story to share about how Captain Murphy can become a part of your crew when he's least expected.

Four of us were on my boss's boat. We'd launched from Whittier, AK on a five day "bear hunting trip" which was actually more of a "let's get away from work for a few days" trip. We'd gone over to Montague Island then up to Hinchinbrook Island and were just having fun. Sleeping on the boat, slow cruising during the day, just the guys having a good time.

On our last morning we set a course from Hinchinbrook Island back toward Whittier Inlet. We had plenty of time to make the trip then load the boat on the trailer and drive the truck/trailer onto the train to get out of Whittier.

This was back when there was no GPS. We had a compass and charts to go by and we'd done fine all week. On the cruise back to Whittier it started to rain. No problem, we turned on the wipers. After a few hours we should have reached Whittier but hadn't , and we kept seeing small ice bergs.

We kept going and started to get worried because we realized two things--#1 we had no clue where we were, and #2 we likely were going to miss the train.

After a bit the rain stopped and we turned off the wipers. When we did that the compass swung wildly. Only then did we realize that the wiper motor had set up an electrical field that froze the compass at the heading it was set to when we turned the wipers on. Now we were REALLY lost! We had no idea where we were or how to get to Whittier.

We finally found a small fishing boat and asked him where we were. He chuckled at our error and told us how to get to Whittier. We ran on plane all the way back there, loaded the boat in a hurry and barely made the train.

Lesson learned, and Murphy was released from duty!
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Old 12-18-2014, 12:09 PM   #31
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We'd launched from Whittier, AK
Very Cool!!!

Thread drift here but I spent six years working a slope schedule in Whittier maintaining the submarine fiber landing station there.
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Old 12-18-2014, 12:12 PM   #32
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You'll like this Richard. It will bring back memories for you and your recent travels.

The post below was copied from another forum where I was posting live during a night crossing of the Gulf of Alaska. This is why we get to know our equipment...

I have to admit, its been a long time since I operated a boat at night. Imagine this...You're in a sea that is safe but moves the boat around quite a bit. OK you can imagine that. Now take away all of your visual references. You cannot see. You do not know when a wave is going to hit. But you learn. You get a feel for the rhythm. You begin to anticipate the next set.

This is a time when you live by your radar and your chart plotter, because this is is really all you have between you and danger. Unimaginable danger. The primal fear danger of not surviving. Right now this is my world. This is night shift on the MV Lisas Way.

Right now at this particular moment I am very happy that my Furuno Manual looks old and tattered. Why...Because I've read it. Not once, but many times, over a period of years. I know that equipment. I know that when the radar shows something it really exists. I know that when it shows nothing thats because nothing is out there. Because when your equipment is all that separates you from the darkest of times, having confidence in that equipment is all that keeps you sane.

Right now I'm in the middle of my 4 hour watch. Jamison is asleep in his bunk, and I am at the helm. I can see the tip of Kyak Island that we just passed. I can see a couple of shower cells on the radar. Other than that all is quiet on the MV lisas Way.

I remember that post and the picture of your GPS in the dark! Little did you know that would all change with huge waves on your STBD beam!
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Old 12-18-2014, 12:15 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by GFC View Post
A bit of a funny story to share about how Captain Murphy can become a part of your crew when he's least expected.

Four of us were on my boss's boat. We'd launched from Whittier, AK on a five day "bear hunting trip" which was actually more of a "let's get away from work for a few days" trip. We'd gone over to Montague Island then up to Hinchinbrook Island and were just having fun. Sleeping on the boat, slow cruising during the day, just the guys having a good time.

On our last morning we set a course from Hinchinbrook Island back toward Whittier Inlet. We had plenty of time to make the trip then load the boat on the trailer and drive the truck/trailer onto the train to get out of Whittier.

This was back when there was no GPS. We had a compass and charts to go by and we'd done fine all week. On the cruise back to Whittier it started to rain. No problem, we turned on the wipers. After a few hours we should have reached Whittier but hadn't , and we kept seeing small ice bergs.

We kept going and started to get worried because we realized two things--#1 we had no clue where we were, and #2 we likely were going to miss the train.

After a bit the rain stopped and we turned off the wipers. When we did that the compass swung wildly. Only then did we realize that the wiper motor had set up an electrical field that froze the compass at the heading it was set to when we turned the wipers on. Now we were REALLY lost! We had no idea where we were or how to get to Whittier.

We finally found a small fishing boat and asked him where we were. He chuckled at our error and told us how to get to Whittier. We ran on plane all the way back there, loaded the boat in a hurry and barely made the train.

Lesson learned, and Murphy was released from duty!
Loading on the train. How things have changed!

Whittier Tunnel: Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel

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Old 12-18-2014, 12:56 PM   #34
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I started my commercial career running crew boats in the Mississippi River and Gulf of Mexico back in the early 1970's pre GPS and even Loran. In the winter when the cold water from the north came down river to hit the warm air of the Gulf there was lots of fog. I learned to stick my head in the Decca Super 101 radar and often would not look out the windows. No autopilot either on those work boats. Years later I ran a whale watch boat out of Boston and all the fog experience came in handy. We had two radars and I would set them at two different ranges to see where I was positioned and the other to see what was moving around me. Running at 20 knots with 250 paying passengers on board was nerve racking.
I suggest that boat owners run their radars all the time to learn how to read the signal and how to interpret what they see on the screen. Going out at dusk is a great way to practice as the visibility slowly diminishes. Another way to practice is to block the pilothouse windows and run on instruments with an observer who can see to be a lookout.
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Old 12-18-2014, 01:48 PM   #35
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Another way to practice is to block the pilothouse windows and run on instruments with an observer who can see to be a lookout.
Wifey B: We were trained like that. It was somewhat like a video game but real and your life depended on it type thing. It's easy to use radar when you're also looking out the windows. But when that is taken away from you, it's a little scary at first. Then you realize it will be real sometimes so important to learn. Our trainer was tough. He said anyone could operate a boat in perfect conditions. We were using walkie talkies and I remember calling out a boat at 10 o'clock and my hubby who was observing responded "No, a Buoy". I said, "ok so it's a little boat. Can I just say a boat like thing?" and the Captain said no.

A lot of training is like that. We've learned some medical things we hope to never have to use. Things like suturing and IV's. And fire fighting. That was not a fun course at all.

It's all knowledge and none of us can have it all. But we all keep learning.
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Old 12-18-2014, 02:51 PM   #36
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I remember that post and the picture of your GPS in the dark! Little did you know that would all change with huge waves on your STBD beam!
Yes, I learned about how my boat handles really rough water that day.

How do you describe having your wipers under water.

Those kind of trips, yours included, are confidence builders. If my boat can handle that, she can handle anything else I'll run into.
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Old 12-18-2014, 03:22 PM   #37
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Loading on the train. How things have changed!

Whittier Tunnel: Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
I really liked those two stories.

And even I've taken the Whittier train.
So sad to see it go. I wonder who paid for it :-)
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Old 12-18-2014, 03:24 PM   #38
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Great thread, and great advice. The only thing I'd like to add is the value of also learning how your ARPA/MARPA function works on your radar, and what it's telling you. It's the basis for using radar for collision avoidance. It's an easy thing to practice in good weather when things are calm.

As others have said, practice, practice, practice until it's second nature. Then when you need it, it will be second nature.
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Old 12-18-2014, 08:27 PM   #39
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Great point, Peter. I've always resisted using MARPA after trying it and getting what I consider incessant nuisance warnings. Our narrow channels and nearby shoreline in the SF Bay/CA Delta are not MARPA-friendly on my Raytheon/Raymarine unit.
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Old 12-18-2014, 08:52 PM   #40
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Maybe turn off the warnings and alarms? I find them annoying too and usually turn them off regardless.

But here are some examples of how it can help, even in narrow channels:

A couple of years ago were were in the St Lawrence heading outbound, and had a tanker slowly catching up to us. We were in a long, relatively narrow stretch and it would have been a problem if he caught up to us in that narrow area. Just acquire the other boat with ARPA and after a few sweeps you will have his COG, SOG, CPA, and TCPA. Now CPA and TCPA need to be taken with a grain of salt in a river where you are changing course frequently, but with SOG you can pretty quickly figure out when and where he will overtake you. In our case we were able to confirm it was going to happen in an upcoming wide open area.

I've done the same in the ICW to figure out where I'll overtake a slower boat that I'm gaining on, and confirm it will be in a clear area, or change speed to make it so.

It's really useful to have a reliable course and direction on other suspect boats. And with good ARPA, it will even show you the other boat's relative motion line which will show you whether the other boat will pass ahead of you, behind you, to the side, and of course when it's going to smack right into you.

Once you get used to it, you'll use it all the time.
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