Broadband Radar, A New Way Of Seeing?

Fog bank, Islas Cies 1 036 Two Moons 6 45

Sailing down the Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal is generally pretty easy going– reliable northerlies make for steady downwind progress. The only concerns are the swell (which can close some ports), and the fog, which can be a real pain. Along the northern part of this coast, on most days we could see a bank of fog out to sea, and far too often it drifted in and covered the coast with an almost impenetrable blanket (sometimes for days), making onward progress unpleasant, to say the least.

I don’t know of anyone who actually enjoys sailing in fog – it demands constant vigilance, and is fraught with genuine risks such as collision or entanglement in fishing gear – a real concern along this coast, where there are fishing marks everywhere. But with our combination of AIS (brilliant!) and radar it needn’t be more than a nuisance, and as long as we felt the fog was likely to burn off, as soon as it began to lift we’d be on our way. As a result we’ve used our radar far more this year than is usual.

Pèlerin’s Current Radar

When we kitted Pèlerin out with her electronics package we opted for a Simrad NX45 plotter, with radar input, mounted at the wheel. It has worked well, although I still find it clumsy to operate after using stand-alone radar units, and we don’t think it has the best definition we’ve seen. It hasn’t let us down, but we feel it could be much better.

A New Option

But within the last year or so Simrad introduced their Broadband radar, that works on a completely different principle from conventional radar sets, and is available in a scanner that it is compatible with our plotter. And having finally managed to speak to a few people who have used them, we’re very tempted to make the change to this new technology.

The Advantages

Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) radar (to give it it’s correct name) has been used for military purposes for many years, and has, potentially, many advantages to offer small craft sailors. It has virtually no warm up time, lower power consumption than conventional radar, and has very low wave emissions – attractive to us with our radome mounted on our OVNI arch. And it has what appears to be staggeringly good close range definition. Talking to a powerboat owner in Portugal, he reckoned to be able to spot pot buoys and flags at distances of around 1 M in moderate seas, and claimed remarkable target acquisition and stability at speeds of up to 45 knots. And I’d imagine that given that it doesn’t rely on conventional technology within the scanner, it ought to be the case that performance won’t degrade as the magnetron ages (and eventually fails).

The Trade Offs

Reading through various reports, what it seems to boil down to is that the Broadband radar has vastly improved short range definition, but the range is limited to around 8 -10 M, whereas conventional radar technology is still far better at longer range.

A Change in Radar Usage on Pèlerin

So it struck me that in order to decide whether it is for us, we had to review how we now use our radar. In the past before plotters we often used our radar for landfalls, and to spot shipping at greater distances. I’d very much doubt that we have used our radar at over 6 M range this year, except occasionally for spotting squalls at night. Where it has been used extensively has been in entering or leaving port at night or in thick weather, mostly at short ranges, where we’ve used the overlay facility with the plotter. We now rely largely on our AIS for shipping, and rely on the plotter for distance and landfall, so the way we use radar has fundamentally changed.

Anybody Out There Using Broadband Radar?

This is (in yacht terms) new technology, and I’m reluctant to be a guinea pig, but so far what I’ve learned leads me to think that this new approach has real advantages, especially given that our use and expectations from our radar have changed. But it would still be good to hear from anyone out there who has more experience first-hand before we part with more hard earned cash! Please leave a comment.

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Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

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John Harries

Hi Colin,

Interesting post and very useful for us since we will be looking at replacing our aging Furuno radar (on its third magnatron) some time soon.

One thing I did hear about broadband radar is that, as would stand to reason, they do not trigger Racons or even show the signal from them.


Very interesting as we too are considering a change of radars and integration with our plotter. One thing that has occured to me is that radar is one of the few important pieces of equipment aboard for which we have no redundancy. We’re in Newfoundland now where radar is a must and yet we have only one. Do we bite the bullet and add a second unit? Four anchors, 7 sails, 3 GPS, 2 depth sounders, paper and electronic charts, etc, etc…what is a safe sailor to do?


On our Ovni 445 we have a BR24 radar, with Lowrance HDS displays located at the chart table and cockpit. Taking the minimalist approach, the displays are 5 inch and while small, are functional for radar use.

After two seasons of sailing with broadband radar, we have been satisfied with its performance and found it invaluable during our passage along the Atlantic coast of Spain, Portugal and through Gibraltar in just the type of fog you have described and through many dark departures.

The excellent short range detail is as reported and when overlaid with chart data, is invaluable for navigating at close quarters. We find the range out to 20 miles useful for verifying ranges and landfall and with its good target acquisition, use it as our primary means of collision avoidance with AIS as a backup. While not as suited to long range weather detection, we have detected localized squalls up to 6 mile range.

Our dome is mounted on a fixed support port side of the arch, 4 meters above water level. Low emissions were an important factor in selection. Although not gimballed, performance is adequate at normal angles of heel. There is minimal ghosting from the mast with the default adjustment parameters. Power consumption is low and the essentially “instant on” of the unit allows it to be used as needed.

Other advantages of the BR24:
• Part of the larger Navico family so good cross platform support and compatibility.
• Newer generation of hardware facilitate updates. The HDS initially did not have a guard zone, a feature added in a subsequent firmware update and we have yet to install the latest BR24 update which adjusts rotational speed at closer ranges.
• Radar data is transmitted via Ethernet which allows sharing the data between multiple displays and PC charting applications. Our radar is connected via an industrialized smart Ethernet switch which allows for data sharing.

While there are differences between traditional and FMCW radar and each has its respective benefits, what the BR24 is designed to do, it does well.

As early adopters of the technology, we have not been disappointed.

Matt Marsh

Darren, thanks for chiming in with your experience- these “early adopter” reports are invaluable to the rest of us.

I haven’t had my hands on a BR24 yet, although I’ve heard from some friends who have installed them. John is correct, FMCW does not trigger racons (the power output is far too low for the racon’s transceiver to detect). This low power output, of course, means that we don’t have to worry about arches, etc. as the thing’s “human-safe distance” is smaller than the radome. The real-world reports on its performance vary a bit, but what I’m mostly hearing is “incredible resolution below a mile” and “can’t hold a candle to Furuno beyond two or three miles”. Friends and reviewers have shown screenshots of the thing picking up individual pilings and buoys ten or twenty metres away, and even the tips of a fishing boat’s own outriggers.

It is of course a “black box” installation that requires a Navico MFD for control and display. And some electrical engineers who have looked into the inner workings of the thing report that it’s really a $500 radar with a $500 signal processing algorithm and a large R&D/distribution/profit markup; the actual electronics aren’t much different from a cellphone radio. Still, it’s something like 6% of the price of a nice Furuno set, and some people are installing FMCW (with a dedicated Simrad MFD) as a secondary close-range radar to supplement a high-end long range set. On a boat large enough to make use of a 10+ mile radar, this is how I’d use the BR24- as a short range secondary. On coastal or canal cruisers that don’t need long range radar, it should do very well on its own.

Colin Speedie

Darren, thanks very much for such a comprehensive and useful review, which helped to answer many of the queries we have ourselves.

Interesting points, Matt, especially the cost breakdown – maybe this might mean a reduction in the cost of future sets if other manufacturers take up this technology (ever the optimist!)?

The guys I’ve spoken to suggest great resolution up to 2-3 M, but agree there’s a trade-off after that. And the lower output is attractive to us, especially (as with Darren’s 445) our radome is on the arch aft. And I’d have to say I haven’t used Racon since I don’t remember when – not being in any way dismissive of such a useful system, but I wonder how much more useful life Racon has, in these days of economic cuts and rationalisation?

Best wishes


Matt Marsh

I’m sure Navico would dispute my friend’s cost guesses- but I think it’s fair to say that much more money went into signal processing and software development than into hardware. This bodes well for consumer radars 5-10 years down the road; I would expect that at least a couple of competing manufacturers are already working on FMCW or related technologies. Code can evolve much faster and cheaper than hardware, and you can get gigahertz transceivers for under fifty bucks in phones and such. I’m not sure if anyone’s willing to start a price war, though.


Darren I would love to hear some feedback on the Ovni 445 and I suspect that others that read this would too.

David Nutt

We have 2 conventional radars on Danza and have benefited from the redundancy when the new one failed out of the box. I am very interested in the new FMCW radar but I really, really like the long range reports of squalls and rain with the old system. Maybe I will upgrade the antique Raytheon 40X with the new technology in a few years and leave the Raytheon 70 nailed to the mizzen. Redundancy and the best of both systems.


I really love this site as you all seem to have each other’s interests in mind. On the Radar theme I have a Furuno and love it. We use it quite alot as in Brittany we get alot of fog and it comes in quickly. One point I would like to make is that we should all be TRAINED to read radar properly. As I used to teach sailing and nav I used to take people out on a clear day and show them marks they could see with the mk1 eyeball and then show them what it looked like on the radar. Alot of the students were surprised that they didn’t see the same thing on the screen that they saw with the mk1 EB. With the new radar some one said that the top range was about 8 miles and was worried about the time you have to respond. Well if you are traveling at 5 knots and a ship is traveling at 25 knots you have an approach speed of 30 knots. That’s 1 mile in 2 mins therefore giving you 16 mins to respond. This should be enough time to put yourself in a safe position to miss the ship. I have also used the C.A.R.D system and have had alot of success with it. It draws very low power and has a very good alarm that will wake you if you are sleeping. I have always found it to give me plenty of time to take avoiding maneuvers. I am afraid I am of the old school of the less electric you have on board the better as even with wind generators and solar panels you will struggle to keep up with the needs. Another thing we believe in is IF you can’t fix it don’t have it or it will cost you a fortune to get it fixed and probably keep you in port at great expense while you wait for the part you need to arrive, but this is only my personal view. As our friend says sailing on the Atlantic coast of Portugal and Spain is quite dangerous but we have found that if you sail about 80 miles off the coast the fishing boat and gear problems are missed.


Hi Colin
I fitted a Simrad NX45 Plotter, Sounder and Radar to my Beneteau 40cc about 1 year ago. I have just returned from a trip of 780nm from Brisbane to North Qld and back. On the trip we had everything from Gales to Fog to night running. It’s true what they say, the Broadband radar does not have the legs of normal radar and about 10nm is about it unless it is a coast line. With the plotter and sounder right at the wheel it works great. Used as anti collision or close in Nav work it’s great (I can send you a pic if you want).
I have found the plotter a bit slow at regen and wish I didn’t have to use C-Map charts but when I add AIS it will be ideal for a yacht, I come from Charter Boat background. The other small drama I had was when I installed the latest up date it blew up my scanner. Simrad replaced it straight away but I did have to do the install. A mate is about to install the new Raymarine HD radar unit so you might want to check it out as well.
Hope this will help


Colin I almost forgot!
If you use EBLs and VRMs alot like I do for target plotting then you might be a bit ticked off at the NX45, it’s not that easy to use!
And you can’t fit MARPA. Try the NSE for that !

Colin Speedie

Hi David

Sorry for the delay in replying – somehow these responses passed me by. I, too, want the ability to pick up squalls, and it’s not clear to me how well the new system does this – if anyone out there can enlighten us all it would be a blessing.

Pete, totally support your point about training, something that gets far too often overlooked, as does setting up the radar to perform at its best in the first place. Modern radar sets are far easier in that latter regard, but as we found with our own set it can take time – and I have to admit I’m still a little mystified why ours is now so much better! And I’d agree about too much complexity – I don’t think it helps at all.

Ross, thanks for the first hand experience with the Broadband – seems like the consensus is as suggested, i.e. brilliant at close range, less so at a distance – re the point about spotting squalls, or rain, have you any further comment on that?

Like you, we have the NX45 at the wheel, and it works well as a display. However, as you say, it’s not the most intuitive or easy to use machine (drives me mad sometimes), and the C-Map charts are not my favourites – I believe that the NSE uses different charts. But the AIS works really well, and when used in anger with the radar and plotter makes even really busy nights less nerve-wracking.

It would be good to hear how the Raymarine HD performs, once your friend has used it in anger.

Best wishes



Hi Colin
You should have no drama with Rain Squalls I just had plenty! There is a fair few settings you can muck about with to get what you want, and also if you run your split screens with the radar in 1 half and the plotter in the other you can run North up on the plotter and H/U on the Radar and the NX 45 will figure it out, that is 1 of my favourite set ups. Also if you are in doubt of a target put the overlay on and that will help a bit !
I have about 4 Favourites:
1 Plotter 3/4 screen, sounder the other
2 Plotter 1/2, Radar and the sounder in the DATA field
3 Plotter 1/,2 Radar /Sounder
4 Radar
I have 1 hint extra when you do your DATA fields make them all the same between the screens so when you change Favourites everything is in the same place. I didn’t and it is a pain I will have to fix it. Also I don’t think C-map is very accurate. Also check you are in Chart mode not Plotter mode.
Just a thought for you !


Hi Richard,
You want to sail with me and Sally I get her knickers in a knot most days we are out as I like to use the old fashion nav Like a watch and a compass. You know timed runs tidal vectors and the good old nose. We have been in some pretty nasty fog and my neck has warned me before the radar has and it doesn’t cost as much. Still when we bought the yacht it had all the gizmos on and so we left them there. I think they have a purpose in as much as when we get older and the old brain slows down a bit they will help it but NEVER replace it.
Happy sailing and fair winds to all.

Colin Speedie

Hi Ross

That’s very helpful, thanks – I’ll have a go at the settings as you suggest – or maybe I’ll ask Louise to do it as she’s far smarter with the thing than me!

Best wishes



I am just on the way to buy for my new boat navigation equipment. One part is the radar, Broadband or a HD radar from Raymarine.
Do you see squalls with the broadband and does rain hinder the clear view very much?


Just saw this thread, but as an owner using a Lowrance BR24 Broadband RADAR for a few summers, I just wanted to provide actual user input, as opposed to so much speculation about what might happen. Those situations that have not come up naturally, I purposely go to the boat and experience even when I wouldn’t have been boating. I test and experiment A/B/A in numerous conditions to understand and prove the performance of my Broadband RADAR.

Yes, rain squalls can be seen on Broadband RADAR. I have screenshots I can share of an area without the rain and then with heavy storms coming through. Now, that said, I don’t think it picked them up as well as a previous 4kw Magnetron RADAR, but I supposed if you had no idea about the rain and didn’t have satelite then it would warn you. I think I get the storms 6-12 miles out. I don’t really care or get why people even need this much range for weather or anything else, but clearly that’s because I pay for Satelite weather and thus I know exactly what’s coming for weather.

I use my unit ever single minute of every day out and absolutely love it. I don’t have RACONS in my area, I don’t need RADAR for navigaton, at least as long as all the GPS are working and even if I did, 6-8 miles is enough to handle my 25 mile wide section of Great Lakes water. What I did need was extremely good colision avoidance, and in rain the Broadband see’s object so well, as if the rain weren’t there. I am constantly amazed at all the little objects it finds and alerts me to, even in daylight. Nevermind the dark and foggy times that I’ve had to trust it completely and never been surprised or let down. I never really run with more than a 1 mile range, but to check at a distance every once in a while. It saves my bacon on 1/4 mile to 1 mile range all the time.

Anybody, not worried at all about rain storm finding with RADAR will absolutely love Broadband RADAR. Those who need weather finding, it’s does OK, but maybe you really need a 10kw Open Array or just pay $20/month for satelite weather for perfect accuracy.

Beverly Rae Feiges

We have had radar aboard our cruising boats, sail and power, and anyone who prefers to live without radar is a masochist. They may be sailing around in the fog thinking they are avoiding everyone with their skills at listening, and not giving credit to all the boats our there avoiding them, because these boats have radar. Our closest call in the past years was a target on our screen that kept coming at us, no matter how many degrees off course we turned. We were putting out our loud fog signal, but he kept coming at a fast speed. When he finally emerged, close up and personal, it was a small, fast boat with no radar, obviously pursuing us because he must have thought we were a sound emitting buoy. He did a quick turn and disappeared back into the fog.

I have been disappointed with our present radar because of its lack of ability to pick up signals, or losing signals when objects are close, which is when it is most important to me. I want one of these new wonders that do just that; it’s just a question of which brand. So more input from those who have worked with the different choices, or professionals who have had to install and maintain them would be helpful. I also am interested in why the EBL’s and VRM’s are difficult to use, a feature I rely on, even to anchor.


Hi Bev (I looked at your site and hope you don’t mind the familiarity.)

We agree that cruising without Radar is for masochists. The closest I have ever come on a boat to a date with the grim reaper was on an ocean racer in Block Island Sound in thick fog when we nearly got creamed by a barge on a long tow. This was in the years before cost effective yacht radars. If we had been equipped with radar it would have been a complete non-event. In fact, if I had to make a choice between radar and GPS, I would choose radar every time.

On your conventional radar losing targets up close: One thing you can do is to be very sure to bring the range in as the target gets closer and also regularly step down the ranges all the way to half a mile to make sure nothing has sneaked in close. The reason is that most radars change their pulse width on closer ranges. So a target at say half a mile that will be lost in the clutter on the three mile range will show fine on the one mile.


Does anyone out there with a broadband radar have answers to Bev and Rainer’s questions?


Hi John /Bev
I don’t have a drama using EBL/VRM in fact I love them (old School) but I have found that if you get a NX45 Simrad unit you will be not so happy with their access in fact if I had have known then more about the NX45 I would not have bought one instead I would have the got the NSE or the Lowrance units. I believe that the NX45 was not designed for what I want out of my Nav unit (my guess maybe a bass fisherman) and it falls short in a few areas. I think the NSE uses a different chart than C-map as well, why in this day and age we can’t get that designed to be interchangeable. I find the broad band is good as anti collision up to 10nm. BUT it is great up close down to 50metres. The new upgrade has the Scanner speed increasing the closer the range so that like as John said if you drop your range and leave the settings on auto there would be less chance to miss a target.

Jeff A.

Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt – FUD! We too are very interested in adopting broadband radar, but have been told by the non-broadband reps at the boat show that broadband simply doesn’t work effectively in pea soup or any other form of fog – WHEN YOU NEED IT MOST. I’m not sure that is true and would like to hear from someone who has used broadband radar in such conditions…did it work? And how far out was it reliable when the vessel was enveloped in fog?

Thanks in advance for the replies!!


Broadband not working in thick fog is a LIE and in fact doesn’t even make much sense in theory.

I’ve used my BR24 in 50ft visibility fog and “can’t see the bow lights” heavy rain. Perfectly clear presentation, no different from when it was dry, without even much STC compensation.

No problem at all. What a joke !!!! They’re trying to scare you folks with old wives tales about how high power is a requirement. As someone intimated, it’s average power than matters, not the peak of 4kw for a billionth of a second. Broadband continuously transmits, so it actually paints targets with microwave energy all the time, not just a fraction of each second. Both can work just fine in rain and do, I have the testing and pics to prove it.

John Harries

Hi Rayel,

Thanks very much for the real world information on Broadband radar.

I would ask one favour though: Please refrain from combative language like “LIE” and “What a joke!!!” I know that is the way it is done on many forums, but this is not a forum. This is our site. Think of it as if you have been invited into our living room. You are free to disagree with anything we say, but please keep the tone friendly.



I haven’t read all the posts just the last one about FOG.

I am a powerboater, but unlike most people conjecturing about Navico Broadband RADAR, I own and used my Lowrance BR24 nearly every day this summer and surely on every single trip out.

Yes, the range is limited out past 12 or even 6 mile but, who cares? Granted I have Satellite weather, so I don’t need RADAR for that, but for collision avoidance and even navigation its well defined range is more than I found need for.

Yes, in close range, where I use it for collision avoidance, 6 miles and under, it is absolutely awesome for the cost and size. Truthfully, I run it on under 1 mile range to avoid boats actually close enough to actually pose a collision concern. I can ‘t imagine what else one could want or need. At 200ft range, I can clearly back in my slip in blanketing fog, and not miss a bird or piling. Your (<6ft) Magnetron unit probably can’t do that and those cost more than my whole boat.

Yes, it works the same in FOG or RAIN, once adjusted for STC/FTC, like any other RADAR. What makes people think it’s so different from normal Pulse/Magnetron RADARs? The average output power is the same if you understand that the peak power you brag about is only transmitted in short pulses with a low duty cycle and thus averages out to about the same fraction of a watt as Broadband.

Personally, as I studied towards the purchase of the RADAR, I could not and still don’t understand the average boater’s concern with range past 6 miles or so? Those of you in a super busy port like San Fransisco may need to track a lot of targets, but most people just don’t have the actual needs that they are told they have to shop for in RADAR.

The well documented advantages are numerous and the only downside is the weaker long range pickup of targets I don’t even care about and weather that’s already too close for comfort anyway. Why people hold out in fear of the “new” I just don’t get, but you’re missing out.

For the average boater, having GPS for navigation on a small to 40+ft boat, having other ways to get weather, Broadband is absolutely awesome. I love it and see no reason that I’ve missed anything by not having a Magnetron.

Colin Speedie

Hi Ray

Thanks for giving us your views as an owner with considerable experience of broadband radar. Your experience certainly chimes with most reports, but it’s good to hear about the performance in rain.

As I mentioned in the original piece, much of what you say I’d agree with, as in general I now feel that close range radar performance is more valuable for small craft.

However, I wouldn’t discount the value of being able to pick up approaching squalls with radar. Many readers here will be used to ocean passage making in sailing vessels, where regular scanning at night or in squally conditions can provide a valuable early warning mechanism for a short handed crew to start reefing.

And if anyone can definitively convince me that broadband radar will identify approaching squalls at say 12M range, then I think I might just buy one.

Best wishes


B.R. Feiges

We now have experience with two broadband radars, both by Simrad, which we bought to replace our old one (eleven years which is really old by our fast developing technology), which so often did not show small boats close up. The first version was a big disappointment, and Simrad very quickly offered to replace it with their newer version, an example of how fast technology moves. It is definitely an improvement over the first version, but if power is not an issue with you, and you have the room for an open antenna array, then no broadband is likely to be as satisfactory as the larger versions. If you are a sailboat with limited power, and limited space for the antenna, then by all means look into this new technology. Because it is displayed on a compatible chart plotter, you don’t need the extra space for both displays. If your nav station has plenty of room, then I prefer separate pieces of equipment, and would probably check out the hi-def version. Anyone wanting more details, may contact me.


It looks like the range problem has been addressed with the new 4G Radar (+ other goodies):


Hi Dennis

Thanks very much for the heads-up on this – looks very interesting, and if it really is as good as they say, then it answers many of the weaknesses of small radome conventional radar. To me this seems like a very attractive and positive development.

But – once again – maybe it also demonstrates the old adage that you should never buy the first version of anything!

Best wishes


Beverly Feiges

I am still not happy with our broadband radar. Scared me again the other day when we were coming down Chesapeake Bay and a nice sized Grand Banks came by very close to us, probably within a quarter mile, throwing a nice enough wake that it alone should have made a target and our broad band showed no target. It finally showed a tiny off again on again target when we took it down to one mile and a better one at half a mile, but I need to look more than one mile ahead when I have boats with speeds of 17 to 40 miles an hour coming at me. Since it is overlaid on our chartplotter, I want to know what shallows lie ahead, and not just a half mile ahead.

The only real use I put it to use when anchoring to verify no boat is close than say 25o feet, so I know there is no danger of our knocking together, no matter which way each boat swings. Otherwise, unless we are in very tight quarters, I use our open array 12 year old radar. Even in those close quarters, I often turn it off since the smears it makes, instead of giving me a precise image, can blot out things I need to see.

Dave and Bev Feiges
Aboard Cloverleaf

Dave Cooper

I just bought a new boat and the salesman set me up with his favorite electronics guy. I have done a lot of research on broadband technology and it sounds like a slam-dunk to me. But the electronics guy is pushing the Raymarine Digital Raydome over broadband. I asked him why and he said that they were about the same with the digital having a farther range. He sells both brands so why is he pushing the Raymarine over the Simrad? He knows that I’m going to be using it in the San Francisco Bay so I’m going to need close range capability. Do these guys get factory incentives by pushing one brand over another? I would be very surprised if he believes the Raymarine Raydome is better. By the way – this is a great site!

Carver C34

John Harries

Hi Dave,

Thanks for the kind words. I’m afraid I’m not conversant enough with the choice you are faced with to add anything useful. Anyone else?

I would say that, in my experience, very few people who sell marine electronics are really qualified to advise us sailors and generally we are better off to do our own research and make our own decisions—sad but true.

One other thought, I am repeatedly hearing that since Simrad was bought by a group that their service and support has really slipped badly, so that might be part of his reasoning.


Several dozen posts from Sept 2010 to Oct 2012 and many replies and then only 2 post in Jan 2014 (no replies) and nothing after that. I’m new to this site but I’m not new to the concept. The topic is Broadband Radar and from my research these are selling pretty well. Colin, in the past you’ve been a frequent responder, are you on to something else.

I’ve been an electronics engineer for 40 years. I’m very experience with the standard pulsed magnetron radar design. From my military years I’ve worked on megawatt radars that can cook a seagull in flight and pop a flashbulb at 1000 meters. I’ve read much about the Broadband design and most of the technical information that has been shared on this topic is good enough and proper for this audience.

The testimonial information here seems relevant. I’ve done my due-diligence and have pretty much stopped talking with salespeople, (sorry guys), I’m more focused on installation technicians and especially those who have been out on the boat. From those select technicians I can confidently report that the Broadband is here to stay. It is a good choice for up to 50 foot sailboats. Over 50 foot you obviously can afford both the 4KW and the 4G.

I’m a 45 foot Schooner guy who does 9500 Nm cruises on the Pacific Ocean. Safety is more important than your wife (or husband for that matter ladies). Property loss, injury and death are NOT what this adventure is about.

My sage recommendations are; 1) Radar, the newer 4G is a good choice. 2) learn MARPA and use it. 3) get a 6-axis fluxgate compass 4) get an AIS transceiver, use it 100% of the time. 5) GPS, one fixed and one handheld 6) Subscribe to Satellite Weather and read Weather for Dummies if you need too). 7) Multifunctional display (MFD) get a 9″ or better and make sure it’s near the wheel. 8) SAT-phone and EPRIB are a must. 9) VHF, one fixed, one handheld. 10) Connection all of these electronics need to be on a bus (network) if you still have a choice use NEMA 2000, aka CAN bus, developed by mobile vehicle engineers some 20 years ago, it is extremely robust and 99.9% of the United States Industrial world prefers it. 11) Life jackets, Type I PFDs are the best. under 15 y/o and over 55 y/o always use, everyone else always use.

To my friends and fellow sailors, keep the pointy end forward
Best, James

Marc Dacey

Thanks for the “real world” comments. I am getting flak for wanting a Furuno pulse radar for weather and such (I have enough power to run it), but the price argument of a 4G and an MFD is compelling (I still hate touch screens for boats). Still learning!

Colin Speedie

Hi James
No, I haven’t disappeared!
My view remains that Broadband is the way forward, especially for smaller boats, on the grounds of:
1. Low power consumption
2. Less emissions
3. Superior close range performance
From the people I’ve spoken to the majority have been very pleased with it.
And from what I’ve heard recently (and you seem to confirm) the newest iterations are much improved.
If and when our Simrad dies the death I think we’ll go for the latest BroadBand version.
Best wishes



I know what you mean, touch screens can be difficult if you have gloves on or your fingers are wet and cold but especially when your legs and body are working to keep balance. I like the Zeus-2 (new) and it uses a very clever rotary knob + pushbutton. It works like a mouse, turn left-right to move to highlight the desired variable (that’s your pointer) then push a button to select (click). The knob pushes in + there is another PB above and below the knob. Once you’ve performed a specific screen maneuver it’s just a matter of repeating and thus learning. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was. I seldom touch the screen. The Knob-PB is easy to access with my right hand. Which can also rest on the corner of the MFD to steady my body. My only draw back is that I smoke my cigar in my right hand. Go to a marine store showroom and play with it. Just the salesman to bug off.

Good luck,

Marc Dacey

I’m in water too fresh and inland for B&G to have much of a presence in the chandleries around here, and the price (like Furuno’s gear) seems high for the feature set, but then I’ve never regretted paying more for the right tool, so I’ll keep my eyes open for it. My current issue is that advances in plotters, radar and integration are coming so thick and fast that I am persuaded that the later I wait, the more value and features I will get at a lower price point, but if I install a load of electronics before pushing off for extended cruising, I am tempting the gods of unnecessary complexity and learning curves!

Beverly and David Feiges

We are replacing our Simrad chart Plotter with the new touch screen, which has the features we loved on our Garmin, but a decent map, so we know where the iog entrances, harbors and cities are located, and we can zoom in and out so quickly, and we, especially David, are seriously contemplating adding another try at a broadband. Dave is hoping in the three years since we gave up on it, it is now as good as the literature indicates. Power is no problem for us, and as the type of cruising we do has been so modified by our ages, -read Downshifting in the September 2014 issue of Passagemaker magazine, the advice from Octogenarians- the radar is not so important, we need two, but Dave loves and can afford to keep up with technology. Just so they keep simplifying it, to keep up with slowing brain waves.

Thirty eight years ago, when we started cruising, getting there was most of the fun, now it is the being there. We want to keep the getting part as simple and safe as possible.


Broadband (aka Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave )radar sounds good to me.
We see short range image quality and small target detection as more important than the longer range of the traditional pulse radars
Has anyone found a broadband scanner that feeds a PC, instead of the normal dedicated radar display?
We like PC displays because they are cheaper than the dedicated marine ones, better resolution and we always have spare laptops on board.

Terry Mason

We are in the market for a new radar, looking at the B&G 4g dome interfacing with a B&G MFD. the new ones are touch screen/NMEA2000; we are trying to decide between the all-touch Vulcan and the knob/touch Zeus2. it seems to be a complete data system work over to get it well honed, but probably worth it. Any thoughts?

John Harries
John Harries

Hi Terry,

Further to my above, note the trouble that Colin had with the B&G system:

John Harries

Hi again, Terry,

One more. Note the owner’s comment on ongoing B&G problems:

You can also read my general thoughts on marine electronics starting with this chapter:

Terry Mason

Hi John,

Thanks for the reality check; it is all to easy to get carried away with the hype. Let me explain how this all came about:

This summer my wife and I traveled from Lake Ontario to Nova Scotia via the St. Lawrence Seaway. It was a wonderful experience albeit a steep learning curve for us as we had not previously had to deal much with tides and currents, but we did OK. The difficulty came when we were coming down the New Brunswick coast where there are few, if any anchorages and not many marinas or even fishing harbors. Our intended port for the night was an abandoned fishing harbor that looked OK on the chart and Google Earth, but we didn’t like the look of it when approaching; the backup, another (active) fishing harbor, was three hours away so we pushed on. It was dusk when we arrived and the markers were hard to see. We were very tired and just wanted to get settled for the night. Approaching cautiously in 15 feet of apparently calm water, I saw a small breaking wave ahead and turned away – too late! We were hard aground in a slit second with breakers making our escape impossible. It is astonishing how fast the conditions changed! To cut a longer story a bit shorter, we were eventually towed clear by a fishing boat after a few frantic radio calls and then had to overnight to Escuminac anyway.

This event shook us up a bit and put a dent in our confidence, so are now considering a forward scanning sonar. Our investigations turned up not too many choices but we settled upon the Navico ForwardScan, which led to finding a compatible display, which required a different radar unit, etc. etc. ad infinitum. This seemed reasonable as our old radar is second-hand and the display quit early on during our trip; we were fortunate enough to acquire a used replacement whilst at Cap A’laigle from a retired mechanic. We later had a serious need for the radar crossing from NB to PEI: ¼ mile in fog and lobster buoys everywhere. Our plotter is also a bit on the small side although we have limited real estate at the helm; the traveler and main sheet are immediately forward of the binnacle, so no room for a “pod”. We have the SL70 radar display on one side of the binnacle hoop, and the Standard Horizon CPF 180i on the other. We could accommodate a slightly larger plotter, but 10” overall is getting large already. The Furuno display, being about a foot square would be a monster on our 35 footer, hence our seeking alternatives. I like the idea of the broadband radar’s lower power draw. I also like your setup having the navigation displays under the dodger, but we have winches and clutches under there and it’s not that big anyway. By the way, you must have really good eyesight to see all that stuff from the wheel, eh?

So it’s back to the drawing board and more searching for the “ideal” solution.


P.S. The boat, a Southern Cross 35, took the grounding better than we did, suffering no more than having the paint and gelcoat sanded off the bottom of the keel – fortunately it was a sand bar, not rock.

Marc Dacey

Terry, have you considered bolting a screen armature either under the turtle hatch or to one side of companionway? When you need that big screen, swing it into the companionway space and secure it with a bungee. Assuming on watch that everyone’s either on deck anyway or all but the watchstander are down below, it is a reasonable compromise. Harsh weather or cold weather aside, it’s a way to get that screen in front of your eyes without crowding your helm. Another fudge would be dependent on your cockpit set-up, but you could mount (as needed) a screen on your forward cockpit bulkhead or even under a lashed-up locker lid to employ as needed. We have a pilothouse and have these armatures secured from the roof. When under “visual rules”, the screen folds up neatly. A repeating tablet (via Bluetooth or wireless) is going to go on the outside helm.


Hi terry.
On Earrame we have a fairly complete set of B&G instruments and while we had a couple of glitches initially (seemingly caused by incorrect sequencing of connections) these are now sorted and all good.
I have little experience of other radar but I can tell you the 4G is amazing, especially when looking for pot bouys, moorings, channel markers and so on, with very low current draw and emissions. We use a Zeus12 mfd at the chart table and which I find easy to see from the helm, but also have it linked to the iPad which we use in the cockpit when required. The button controls on the Zeus are useful if rough when it’s not easy to be accurate on the touchscreen or when wearing gloves.

John Harries

Hi Terry,

Wow, what an unpleasant experience. However, I’m glad it ended well. A couple of thoughts for you:

  • A forward scan sonar might not have avoided the problem since they don’t work very well once you are in less than about 20′ of water, at least unless you are going very slowly (less than 1.5 knots).
  • I hear you on the space problem, so if it were me I would try the new Furuno plotter system with their Doppler radar. It’s not commercial level, but it is at least Furuno, so I’m guessing more likely to be reliable.
  • On seeing the instruments from the helm: Actually we don’t do that. Either we are using the autopilot or if one of us is steering the other is navigating. Our thinking is that, unless one is single handed, the person on the helm should not be looking at a plotter or radar, but rather should be paying 100% attention to the real world around them and handling the boat. Therefore we don’t like plotters at the helm

Hope that helps.

Terry Mason

Thanks for everyone’s input. I think I will steer clear of Navico products based on Colin’s observations during the trip on the Boreal 55. Navico’s tech advisers are knowledgeable and helpful but opinions differed between the two individuals I spoke with. I will now be looking at the Furuno Doppler system vs. Raymarine broadband, and for forward scanning considering the Echopilot 2D system. Due to space constraints I will probably combine radar and plotter although time will tell; I’m in no hurry to spend $ks. I do still want all information that I can at the helm as we are short handed, just makes sense to me; translation of data can be mis-communicated under stress, 1st mate can sit at the helm with me, vise versa if needs be. It would be nice to have the displays easily pivot-able so they can be monitored from the cockpit whilst under autopilot or wind vane. I’ll see what I can knock up in the shop over the winter. Cheers.


Terry: I congratulate you on your decision to stay away from the 4G radar. I had major reliability issues that rendered my 4G only partially operable for much of the time that I have owned it, including, for example, a night crossing of the English Channel, so I certainly agree with negative comments on that area.
Another problem just as large, though, is poor mid range performance and pretty much non-existing long range performance.
It’s easy to fall for this radar when testing it in port and it will show lobster buoys at extremely short range but as soon as you get out of port, you will be much less impressed. My 4G showed a volcanic island at 30nm but then I was already aware of its presence. It did not reliably show me a container ship on the starboard bow (closing at about 20 knots) at 4nm distance. It will most likely not show squalls (not verified myself).
Note also that, in spite of the impressive sales of the Navico Broadband range, no other radar manufacturer chose a similar continuous wave (constantly transmitting and simultaneous receiving) technology and even Navico abandoned this technology with the HALO radar. All modern radars except for 3G/4G use the traditional pulse technology but improve it by compressing and otherwise manipulating the pulse.
My third main issue is the 4G’s useless MARPA feature. The more I learn about radar, the more I come to appreciate MARPA or better ARPA and the target speed and course vectors of all Navico radars except for the HALO are completely off. Combined with the 4G’s flaky performance, this will likely make you stop using MARPA completely (it did in my case).

I am tempted by Furuno’s Doppler radar, too, but remember that this radar is based on Ethernet transmission, too, and is only supported by the latest “recreational” model of plotter NavNet TZ Touch 2 that has a number of important radar functions missing, including true target vectors and radar echo trails (even the cheapest standalone Furuno radar has these; read more on You will also have to eat whatever quality charts Mapmedia will let you have.

Maybe you want to have another look at the Furuno 1835?

Marc Dacey

A good discussion. I am attracted to certain features of the newer radars, but realistically, there are options with seeing inshore targets that do not exist in mid-ocean when seeing squall lines or tight encounters with shipping at a distance in space (and therefor time) become the priority. I find it equally interesting that it’s been about five years since I asked a radar technician whether pulse or broadband radars were more appropriate for offshore cruisers, and he said “both. One for crabpots and guys in canoes or pangas and the other for squalls and ships 15 minutes away and closing.” Apparently, this may still be the case.

John Harries

Hi Marc,

You don’t need both. Our venerable (18 years old three magnetrons) tracks birds at .5 miles and will measure the distance to a lobster pot at 100′. The superiority of broadband is much over-hyped.

John Harries

Hi Henning,

Great comment that cut’s through the hype. I only suggested the Furuno Doppler because Terry has a space problem. With the current state of play I stick with my recommendation of Furuno free standing magnetron radars. They just work…no BS.

John Harries

Hi All,

Given all of the above, and the many reports we have received about problems with broadband radar, and particularly radars integrated with networks, I stick with my recommendation here:

Marc Dacey

I was price-matching yesterday, John. You’ve made your case, and as we navigate from the pilothouse (dry, short run to the mast) and will run a repeater screen at the outside helm, the package of the 1835, the AP-11 module and the satellite GPS seems like a good choice for people going off-soundings. For reasons I’ve stated before, I like discrete instrumentation with limited opportunities to bugger up functionality with “integration”. RADAR in particular is critical to safety.


Unfortunately I can completely confirm the very poor performance of the 4G! I would even go this far to warn anybody wanting to use this setup for offshore cruising!!!
Here is roughly what I already wrote in another forum recently:

1) I have nearly the same setup as Henning, 4m high gimbaled, the MFD is a Lowrance HDS touch 12.
2) “offshore” it is the worst radar I have ever used.
3) It is working fine for inland/ in harbour!
4) Even if you hardly find any complains on the internet you will find the many advanced users or pros tell about their issues with 4G once you speak to the in person (my experience)

update: after feedback from an experienced user who has a spreader fitted 4G with good results I think the problem in my case (& Henning’s) are the obstacles (rigging) in front of the scanner.
It is a heavy duty but standard sloop rigg that was never a problem for conventional radars.

I have used radome radars on sailboats for more than 20 year now, so I am trained to manual settings and also to do offshore cruising with it. My main experience comes from a 46ft steel sailing vessel using a mast fixed radome at 7m. It was a Furuno firstly, that later changed to a Raytheon Pathfinder. Both 4kW 24in.
Both worked fine on Atlantic crossings and coastal cruising!
The boat was “upgraded” with a 2nd Raymarine radar (2kW)
on a pole due to display (AIS) incompatibility and the fact that the mast mounted scanner was still good with its CRT Display.
It was observed, that the 4,5m high gimbaled radar did perform as well in high North Sea swells as the mast mounted, mostly even superior when heeling, still having limit in very high sea states.
And yes that is where a cruisers also wants to use the radar!
Sailing in the dark avoiding to hit unlit obstacles at short and medium distances.
It saved me at least twice from major repairs 🙂
With that background I thought it would be absolutely a good idea to fixed a 4G pole mounted on my current boat (40ft) how wrong I was…
My current scanner is roughly a year old, it had to be changed as the one I originally bought turned out to be a watermaker instead of a radar, collecting water inside the radome due to a design error!
A complete no no !!!
By the way that appears to have effected a whole series, I never read about this unless I made some advance research on the net. And that’s the main reason why I don’t trust a company that fails to run a recall campaign for such a severe issue.
Back to the 4G, I found it really nice when I did test runs on a canal during a refit it was also looking promising on Dutch inshore waters incl. Ijsselmeer. I had some issues with firmware 4 to 5 on the HDS but firmware 6 solved it.
My first crossing of the English Channel was an eye opener. It was really hard to get really big buoys on the radar further than 1nm in moderated (4bft) conditions. Closer it worked better but not as reliable paints were producede as I would be used to have on a small 2kW scanner at same height.
From that point I adjusted the Radar manually all the time, a really pest on a MFD.
Later it turned out that the “beam sharpening” setting (medium) was the issue.
Turned off, and gain set pretty high you would see more but also get more interference from sea state.
Resulting in quite frequent adjusting of the settings 🙁
Later I found that the “beam sharpening” set to high would offer new passages trough the Cherbourg (France) breakwater 😉 have a look on a chart how big it is…
I am currently based in this region so radar is vital what can I do?
I made my decision that the 4G is not a suitable radar in this region in my setup, it could improve mast mounted but I doubt that would change the situation significantly.
So I keep the 4G as a backup as it is running with openCPN on a PC even better as with the MFD.
Beside that I will put a radar at about 6m fixed mast mounted.
It will be a Furuno 1815 as I don’t have space for the 1835 which would have been my favorite.

Buy the 4G straight away if you own either a motorboat or using a sailing vessel for nice weather cruising.
It is also hard to beat for inland use!
If you are seriously cruising in offshore conditions or areas where a radar is a must, don’t even think about that one. Buy a standard magnetron radar or wait until there is real life evidence of the performance of pulse compression radars.
Never ever trust the promises from the manufacturer or test in sailing magazines (done in harbour setups) I was stupid enough to do so…
I received a fantastic support from Navico Germany with all previous issues (rain problem and yes, my MFD had to be changed 2 times as well) but at the moment I have no feedback concerning the 4G issues other than that would be new to them. Fair enough they offered to have the system checked which is not an option as I am over the warranty period.

Marc Dacey

Thank you for these comments. They are very informative and reflect (no pun intended!) what some radar technicians have said to me over recent years.