Radar is, at least to Phyllis and me, the most important piece of marine electronics on our boat. Yes, more important than GPS or a chart plotter—we know how to find our position without GPS and we can navigate on paper charts, but neither of us can see in the dark or have x-ray vision to penetrate fog.
We also find radar's ability to accurately measure the distance to an object and gauge if it's moving, and if so how fast and in what direction, invaluable—humans are really lousy at this.
So, before we move on, I need to make clear that these recommendations are for those of you with similar needs to ours: radar is mission critical.
(Also, if you have not read them already, you need to stop here and read this chapter and this one too.)
Twelve years ago – when I first started fitting electronics to a boat – I was given the exact same advice (AFI/AFF) and for the exact same reason.
Sometimes you hear about other marine electronic brands: ‘Their customer service is great’.
I don’t know how good (or not) the customer service of Icom or Furuno is because no Furuno/Icom gear I have owned has ever broken down.
Kind of says it all, doesn’t it. Thanks for the further confirmation.
Thank you for the article John!
Where would you position the radome? On the mast near first spreaders or on the pole on the aft of the boat?
If the radar currently is on the mast, would you recommend moving it to the pole?
I currently have the old Rayethon SL-70 radar. Came with the boat. Screen working, but no data from radome unit. Will try fixing it, and if not – need to research what to buy.
Here’s an article on that: https://www.morganscloud.com/2008/04/01/radar-scanner-position/
The Furuno DRS digital radar scanners have been available for almost 10 years. I have had one fitted for 8, and apart from an initial firmware issue the system has been completely trouble free. Whilst I whole heartedly agree that standalone is by far the best I do think that on a small boat where both space and power supply can be problematic, combined plotter / radar units definitely have their place. Whilst I don’t know about other companies combined units, coming from a commercial shipping background I will not fit anything other than Furuno to my boat when it comes to radar equipment, if you suffer a breakage of Furuno radar you are indeed very unlucky. My experience of their ‘leisure’ range of equipment also reinforces this purchase policy.
Never look at the sticker price alone when deciding how much something costs.
A piece of stand-alone, commercial-grade hardware that lasts 15 years is a lot less expensive than a piece of yacht-grade hardware that costs half as much up front but only lasts 5 years. (Plus, in the second case, you get the added fun of repeatedly visiting a remote Customs warehouse trying to find the replacement radar drive gear set that the manufacturer swears they mailed to you last month.)
$7,000 on high-end commercial gear that lasts 15+ years is $467/year. A sub-$2,000 yacht-grade radome with a 3-year lifespan, plus an MFD for it to talk to (6 year lifespan), is close to $1000 a year.
(Addendum – After looking up a few price lists, I think you’ll have a pretty hard time putting together a functional radar system from any brand, even low-grade pleasure yacht gear, for significantly less than a Furuno 1835 set costs.)
So true, and in fact the news is better than that. Defender has the 1835 at US$3874 and a full ARP11 package including Furuno’s heading sensor that could also drive an autopilot for 1109. So you get a full on commercial free standing radar set with professional strength target tracking for ~US$5000 and a “free” heading sensor in the bargain, for just US$333 a year.
Having said that, as Tristan says, for many there are other issues such as space available and electrical capacity.
What if the boat goes thru a major refit project with a plan to finish in 3 years? Would you wait 2-3 more years before buying expensive equipment to see if it drops in price or for currently new equipment to be proven to work?
As a general rule I would wait to buy electronics until six month before you will set out on a major voyage. That let’s you take advantage of the latest stuff, but still have a half a year to get it all working properly.
See my 6 tips: https://www.morganscloud.com/2014/10/27/6-tips-to-stop-marine-electronics-from-ruining-your-cruise/
I’m replacing my radar, and will go with Furuno. My question is linking or overlying a Vesper Vision AIS . Reason being, Vision has it’s independent screen. Does the redundancy of both Vesper screen and Furuno screen offer advantages? When not running radar, can I save energy by running Vesper 24/7.
And, of course the primary question, is Furuno AIS the most practical and interconnective choice, given same brand and reliability?
Yes, I really like having an independent screen on the AIS unit as well as displaying the targets on our navigation computer. The two, working together, work really well in crowded waters, like, for example, New York harbour, which we have transited twice when set up like this.
We don’t have AIS targets on our radar, simply because the older model does not support it, but I would think that it would be very useful to have and worth the trouble.
Also, since AIS is a pretty standard sentence in NMEA 183 and 2000 I would think that interfacing the Vesper should work fine. By the way, it’s important to understand that the ARP-11 does not include an AIS receiver, rather it’s the box that does the plotting calculations, but it still needs input from an AIS unit and a heading sensor.
Finally, if you don’t already have an AIS unit, I would go with the Icom, for the reasons I state in the last chapter.
I have had very good service from the Furuno units that I have used. The same can’t be said for all of the radars that I have used. I can now claim to have replaced both motors and azimuth sensors while underway in other units, what a pain.
So far all of the reliability issues I have had with Furuno units have been user induced. This past summer, I was shortening up chain to get underway in a foggy anchorage when my wife announced that the radar wouldn’t turn on. After some work with a multimeter, I discovered that I had mislabeled the electrical panel after moving the radar to a different breaker and I had been turning on the right breaker but she was unaware of the change. Another time, I fog navigated for a few hours without the radar only to discover that the problem was that the comm cable plug had fallen out of the back of the unit.
While not the subject of this post, I found the early large Furuno chartplotters very un-intuitive to use and I haven’t had a chance to use them since but the radars are good and simple.
I agree totally with John’s comments here; Furuno, stand alone, radome, service dependability. I’ve had them all at one time or another during a career as a deck officer and later as a fishing fleet owner. Furuno has been the gold star since Raytheon let it happen back in the early 70’s. I’m not enamored with the Nav Net trend today for all the reasons John has cited, but haven’t had a failure there either. We have eight Furuno radar units in service at any one time, two to a vessel. Only one vessel uses a Nav Net configuration. One clear advantage of the Nav net being the ability to have AIS targets on the radar screen for target confirmation. The AIS targets are on the screen while the radar is on standby and using little power. A couple of sweeps of the antenna while energized updates your situation awareness. Non AIS targets can be plotted using the ARPA plotter in about a minute. If you keep all the equipment Furuno it all works seamlessly (heading sensor, AIS transponder). The Furuno heading sensors; the fish boats all have Furuno Heading sensors that need to be swung quite often when traveling great distances. They are reliable even when giving a warning light. On my yacht boat we have a Furuno Satellite Compass, this unit displays heading to tenth of a degree, never needs swinging, uses little power and seems to be bullet proof. I have chosen to feed everything including autopilots with its heading data. The autopilots (Simrad) use rate compasses which are ok, but switch to the Satellite compass for heading data and it’s a different world. One comment on the Furuno radar reliability; extreme cold weather and repeated icing conditions seem to shorten the life of the magnetrons. They don’t fail just dumb down. We carry spares. This slight flaw seems to be resolving itself as we haven’t needed to change out a magnetron in the past few years. I agree with John, my first electronics purchase would be a radar!
Thanks very much for the detailed realworld experience. Not a lot of people around that have owned that many radars. What you might call statistically significant.
One thought. I think I’m right in saying that the 1835 will display AIS targets just like the NavNet units, as long as one springs for the ARP-11 and inputs a standard AIS sentence to it.
I recommend to follow John’s “Wall of shame” link above to http://www.mvtanglewood.com. Peter Hayden had installed a Simrad open array and Simrad 4G and now has installed a Furuno FAR2117 and Furuno 1835 and so is in a quite rare position to compare performance. For those that are having trouble passing up the “integrated plotter and radar” proposal or that are leaning toward the spectacular short range performance of Broadband radar, here’s my radar story that might provide some background: I bought a used average white boat, 45ft Jeanneau, in 2006 that came with a 2kw Simrad/Anritsu dome radar and separate display. My early experience with this unit radar showed 3 major problems: – The display was mounted at the nav station and inaccessible from the cockpit. – In the Kiel Canal I found that, as the radome was mounted above the first spreader, it would not show me the banks of the Canal at all but only farmhouses in the fields either side of the Canal. – When in close presence of a very strong target, it would overload and show a big black doughnut covering the entire screen. I concluded that the set was junk, incorrectly mounted and that what mattered is close range performance. While I was aware that nearly all fishing boats have Furuno, for some reason I considered that a different world and not applicable to me. After all, I have a sailboat and clearly I should chose from units I saw on other sailboats. I bought and installed a Simrad NSS plotter and 4G radar, interconnected with Ethernet. I found that about one out of two times when turning on the unit, the radar was “not detected” by the plotter. A few months later that problem went away with a firmware upgrade. I had hoped to put the radar image on my computer screen (I use the PC charting software Coastal Explorer as my only plotter) but when that turned out impossible, I bought another plotter to mount to the cockpit table between the two wheels. I was interested in B&G sailing functions offered as an add-on to the B&G-branded version of the same plotter that I already had, so I chose that instead of the Simrad brand. The B&G plotter had the old “radar not detected” problem even though 2 years had passed since that problem was fixed in the Simrad. I sometimes had to start the unit more than 5 times until it would see the radar. The 4G radar mounted to a pole at the stern does give excellent short range performance but somehow I have wised up enough to no longer go through the Kiel Canal in fog so thick that I can barely make out my own bow. When I got the B&G unit, we were already on our way out of our 13-month sabbatical that would take us from Hamburg to the Canaries, the Azores and back. The next fog we had was off Finisterre and out at… Read more »
Oh dear, what a tail of woe. I know it’s not easy to relive these experiences in writing, but by doing so you do a huge service for your fellow voyagers. Thank you.
On your questions:
1. Yes, we do have a remote display to our 1832 at the chart table to use when heaved to. It does work, but not very elegantly, and I always thought that that particular implementation was not one on Furuno’s finest moments. I’m going to guess they have improved that with the 1835.
Not sure why you did not like the radar under the dodger? I would always position the master set there, as it is on our boat, so that I have ready access in a close in situation when I will be in the cockpit, not below at the chart table.
Not sure if the remote display needs it’s own ARP-11, but I would expect not.
2. No, no compromise of range from scanner position. We regularly see ships on radar at 15 miles and always at 10, regardless of sea state. (Even if the ship is missing for one scan due to a big wave, it will be there clear on the next scan.
The fact that you were having trouble seeing ships and that fishing boat at the ranges you state was, in my opinion, definitely a problem with the radar itself, not the scanner hight.
We typically see a small fibreglass or wood fishing boat at around 4-5 miles.
This is consistent with distance to horizon calculations. For example a 10-foot hight of scanner will give you 4 miles to the horizon. But it get’s better since the target will be say at least 10 feet high, so that goes up a bunch.
Bottom line, in clear weather our Furuno will often paint the target before we see it with the naked eye.
John, you have more experience with the smaller radars than I do, the larger sets all come equipped with those boards. The point I didn’t make clearly was to keep the mixing of brands to a minimum. Furuno equipment talks to Furuno equipment perfectly, other brands in the mix not so. We use plotters and electronic charting by others because of the ability to plot endless points, important when bottom trawling. These stand alone plotters speak and listen NEMA 0183. Feeding many devices with 0183 requires a multiplexer or some signal enhancer. Now the communication and reliability issues begin. I hope Furuno Reads this, they are missing a huge market. Track plotting endless points at any chosen interval is important to commercial fishing and anyone mapping the bottom.
Really good point about the benefits of buying everything from Furuno. “Industry standard” is definitely an oxymoron in the marine field.
There seems to be a relatively new standard (for ships rather than yachts) that enables the “transport of NMEA sentences as defined in 61162-1 over IPv4” *. It’s called IEC 61162-450 (NMEA 0183 is IEC 61162-1) and nicknamed Lightweight Ethernet. Recent commercial Furuno equipment like the SC-70, the GP-170 and the FAR-22×8 support it in addition to NMEA 0183.
Although not yet applicable for smaller yachts, hopefully it will filter down to the smaller commercial equipment.
Good to hear. I’m a big fan of Ethernet and think it would be intrinsically more reliable than NMEA 2000.
All great stuff and my takeaway is still “wait until six months before you cast off”.
I have always liked Furuno and am attempting to repair a salvaged 1720 set to play with (yes, not at hip level). The 1835 intrigues me and I accept that the so-called “limitations” of a stand-alone set is in fact an essential safety measure in TSS locales and other busy places. The price does not trouble me on that basis.
Interestingly, when I asked a radar installer what type of radar was best for world travel, he said “both. A Furuno pulse-type up the mast for distance and weather, and even a cheap broadband on a pole for seeing the pilings at 0300h.”
I know a lot of people will tell you that you need both, but to me that’s overkill. Our old 1832 will pick out a piling fine and I hear that the 1835 is even better in that regard.
Having said that, when in places where radar is vital, having two radars like the many fishing boats do is no bad thing.
I should be clear that the radar tech’s suggestion was an “in an ideal world” one for the non-professional mariner, in that he found enough of a discrepancy in performance (and the important-for-some issue of amp draw) between pulse and digital radars to see how having both would make for an expensive advantage. The 1835 alone would be fine.
Interestingly, to me, anyway, my wife and I have discussed new technologies in light of what radar can’t do well. In the tropics, the presence of a gap in the lagoon’s reef, and the possibility of coral heads was addressed by mast steps, polarizing sunglasses and a crew willing to climb and point between 1000-1400h. It has struck us that apart from a couple of steps at the top for servicing the mast head, we might as well get a drone and a GoPro as a way to see ahead and below. About the same price as mast steps, and cheaper than forward sonar.
It appears that Navico’s commercial division has plans for a stand alone radar system (R2009 and R3016) capable of using all of their radars (HALO pulse compression, Broadband 3G/4G, HD digital). I think they are due out 2016-Q1. I’ve always used Furuno, but the HALO technology is very intriguing. I’ll assume that since they are targeting the commercial offshore working boats that they are prepared for the fishing knives possibility.
I hate to by a cynic, but given all the stories I’m hearing about the reliability of Navico products and the problems with getting good support, I will only believe that their radars are ready for prime time after they have proved themselves for at least two years.
For the paupers amongst us, can anyone recommend how to buy a used system? I’m heading to Newfoundland this summer and would love to add radar but there’s no chance of buying new. Any Furuno models that you would recommend? Any other suggestions?
This seems like a nice system but more than I need (fish finder, etc):
Looking for a second hand Furuno might be a very good option, particularly these days when so many people are pulling out perfectly good gear just because there is something newer.
However, there are two pitfalls:
One tip, ask the seller what the hour counter in the unit is reading. This will tell you a lot.
Got it. That’s super helpful. Is that a user job or does it need to go back to the factory?
If anyone reading this has a decent setup they are looking to get rid of, please get in touch.
Any competent electronics technician can change a magnetron. You could even do it yourself, but make sure you go through the calibration routines (in the manual) after doing it.
Another question: for those with power issues (no inboard, run off solar panels + outboard alternator as backup) would your recommendations change significantly?
I’m sort of assuming that I’d be using radar mostly during motoring where I would have some additional kick from the alternator, but generally using less power would be good.
Hum, bad news I fear. I think it would be very difficult to keep up with the power demands of with that kind of set up. The big drawback of magnetron radars is they are hungry for the amps.
Would you have an alternate suggestion then for a specifically low powered option?
I’m sorry, I don’t, or at least not a suggestion that’s based on and first hand experience. Having said that, tell me a bit more about your boat and where you plan to sail her and I will give it some thought.
Thanks John. It’s a Pearson Triton. Power is currently a 100w solar panel and two 79 ah gel cells. I have minimal electricity on the boat currently, just chart plotter depth sounder LEDs for lights. I’m usually at a full charge by 9 in the morning if not sooner. Power is from a Tohatsu outboard in a well with a 5a alternator.
My goal is to touch Newfoundland this summer (I’m in Baltimore now). If I don’t have radar I’m not sure how far I’ll be able to go and I imagine a lot of days sitting in port waiting for fog to clear.
I don’t really want to lay a lot of money into the boat because I’d like to get something bigger in the next year or so but I guess I could pull off whatever I buy and put it on the next boat.
I’m mostly concerned about fog and wondering if I could meet the power needs of the radar from the outboard alternator. I assume most of the time I’d be motoring in fog anyway.
I would agree with much of what Eric writes. Bottom line, it’s going to be a challenge and a 4kw magnetron radar, like the 1832 we were discussing earlier, is out since it would consume pretty much all of your available energy, both stored and generated.
A few other points:
So, adding all of that up, I think your best bet is one of the smaller Furuno radars like the 1632, plus the smallest of the honda generators, just as Eric recommends. Further I would not consider going without radar. Sure, it’s doable, but it won’t be much fun.
On the bright side, I’m going to guess that there are plenty of these smaller units on the second hand market going for a song because so many have been seduced by the “latest thing”. Just make sure you have a good magnetron, as detailed in my earlier comments. One more point, make sure your battery charger will operate on the square wave produced by the Honda, many won’t. (Yes, I know that the Honda has a DC output, but it’s only 6.5 amps, so not very useful.)
Hi Paul, It will certainly be tricky to get radar to work as you want given your restrictions but it is definitely important as some of the areas in your planned cruising grounds have more than 50% of days that are foggy even in mid summer. Part of your decision will come down to your risk tolerance and how simple you want to keep things. Here are a few thoughts which hopefully are helpful. It is important to keep in mind what the point of radar is. In the fog and at night, I use it for collision avoidance and in-close navigation supplemented by a lot of visual navigation. I have spent a lot of time sea kayaking in fog and at night which has forced me to think some about this as it is totally impractical to put radar on a kayak. Stationary objects are generally not a huge deal as you will be moving slowly enough to see them before you hit them with the obvious exception being rocks where chart datums are way off but this generally only occurs over short periods of time and not on longer legs of a route where the chartplotter and compass are sufficient. Avoiding moving objects is tricky as the approach speeds can be fairly high but once you get beyond midcoast Maine, you won’t see all that many other boats and you can sometimes pick routes specifically to avoid busy areas. To help deal with other boats, announcing your presence with at least one good radar reflector and a good fog horn is key as most other boats will be moving more quickly than you. When you don’t have an engine running, I find that sound is an incredibly useful tool but you need to train yourself to know how to interpret it and not psyche yourself out. The same goes for keeping a visual lookout which you can train yourself on. Given your generating and storage capabilities, you will be forced to look at consumption or accept some serious weight and size penalties to increase generation and/or storage. Part of this is behavioral and part of it is technology. From a behavior standpoint, you have the choice of when to get underway, what route to take and the choice of when to have the radar transmitting, in standby and off. In a place like midcoast Maine, you can usually use the islands to break up the fog for you for a lot of your mileage but this is not true on a bold coast like you will encounter in many of the foggier areas. While not something that any of us could ever recommend, you don’t necessarily need to have your radar transmitting full time the minute the visibility is at all reduced. Outward Bound has sent their boats all over Maine which is fairly foggy without radar at all for years. A good understanding of what you need to get out of it and what the current dangers… Read more »
Thanks to both of you for the thoughts. Extremely helpful. Particularly the energy calculations which I am not good at. The 1623 looks like a reasonable option and there seem to be ample lightly used ones available. I’ll have to ponder the generator issue. Currently I don’t have a battery charger although I almost installed one this year.
Anyway. Couldn’t reply within the thread for some reason but thanks a million.
Will the unit display the hours during a self test? I’m trying to figure out if it would be displayed here:
Also are the broadband options so poor that you could not recommend them even given the power supply issue? My guess is that they would be prohibitively expensive for me at this point but from a power issue possibly superior.
In truth I think I would focus on using the radar sparingly, supplementing AIS which is always on for fog, mainly. Accepting some amount of risk in the process.
You need to put Furuno radars into a special set-up screen to see the hours, it’s documented in the manual, but if memory serves you power up while holding another button down.
On broadband, as I say in the post, while many of advantages are compelling, I just can’t recommend them because of the reliability problems I’m hearing about, together with poor support. See the next post from Colin for just one example.
Also, don’t rely too heavily on AIS. In our waters the biggest risk of collision will be with a fishing boat and many of them still don’t transmit on AIS. (They may have the transmitter aboard, but they turn it off because fishermen don’t like others to know where they are.) I would estimate that in Nova Scotia less than 25% of fishing boats I see are transmitting on AIS.
Hi John We have an integrated Furuno 3D NavNet system on board our Gyda, and would like to share some of our experiences. To begin with, we couldn´t agree more on the AFF/ AFI standard. When it comes to the standalone thinking, we agree on that also, but unfortunately, as many sailboats, Gyda didn’t have the sufficient space needed to fit at least two standalone units in the cockpit. Since we were convinced that both radar and a chart plotter was a “must have”, we had to choose a multi display and mount it at the pedestal on the helm position. Regarding screen size, we feel that the 12” screen on the Furnuno NavNet 3D system is sufficient, even in split screen mode. Our experience with the Navnet system is mostly good. The computer at the navigation station down below is running a Maxsea Explorer navigation program and communicates very well with all our sensors like the Furuno gps-compass (SC30), Ultra High Definition radar(DRS4D), ais(FA50), but also the NMEA 0183 B&G sensors (wind, speed, depth) and finally the 12” NN3D multi display at the helm. Unfortunately, on our system (from 2009) the radar is powered through the MFD. This makes it impossible to run the radar directly from the pc, without the MFD up and running. This has been changed on newer solutions of Navnet TZtouch. We haven’t experienced many problems with the connections of any of the sensors, but due to the startup sequence on the gps compass, it takes about 3 min to start up the system from cold. After that, you get an instant map and/ or radar picture at any moment, even if it has been in “sleep” mode for hours. AIS (A or B) shows up both in radar and/or map mode. Especially on Maxsea, it´s very useful due to its highly integration where you can assign different alarm levels and/ or colors to different type of vessels, and easily get info about any vessels in vicinity. It´s easy to get frustrated when you concentrate on both navigating and handling the boat in tight corners, and someone (usually me) starts playing with the plotter to check out this and that. With the NavNet system there is no need for that. By the pc at the nav station we can control the entire navigation system. Playing with both the map and radar without interfering with what´s displayed on plotter at the helm. Create a new waypoint or route, and it can instantly be transferred to the plotter where it immediately shows up. Indeed very handy. We´re no fans of radar picture overlaying the map. It´s too easy to miss details due to overly cluttered picture. On the contrary, we´re big fans of the split screen mode. Half and half with map and radar, both with the same zoom range. This way it´s much easier to read, and no information is lost. NavNet has a superb function here. By moving the cursor around on either the map… Read more »
Really wonderful information, thank you. I have always wondered about the Furuno/Maxsea integrated system and now I know.
In reading your post it seems to me that the key take away is that the screen size at the helm is adequate when shared between radar and plotter because it is used tactically only, while the computer below is used strategically to layout courses and maintain overall situation and navigation awareness. Do I have that right? And if so, would you agree that the plotter screen alone at the helm would not be adequate without Maxsea on the computer below?
One other question? How does the Furuno digital radar do at longer ranges? And are there any drawbacks, that you know of, when compared to a magnetron radar like the 1835? (I’m assuming that the close in performance is better than the 1835, which would make it very good indeed.)
All in all, you make a convincing case for the hybrid system.
Your understanding of our use of the computer below as a strategically tool is correct. The computer is attached to a 24” screen, which makes it easy to both work with details and getting the big picture. Maxsea can be operated in split screen mode, so it´s a awesome tool for the strategically work. By the computer we can play with the radar the same way as by the plotter, changing range, gain, adjust rain and sea clutter and so on. Both the plotter and Maxsea gives the opportunity to operate the radar in split screen mode with two different ranges. We find that handy on longer passages where you really don’t need to see the map all the time. AIS shows on the radar as well as on the map. All in all we´re very pleased with Maxsea Explorer as a navigation tool.
When it comes to the size of the plotter screen, it´s true that bigger is better.
Yes there will be some knob pushing if we have to rearrange routs or pre plan a land fall on the plotter, but it´s not hopelessly small to work on. Doing this kind of work on the plotter makes us leave the split screen mode. Anyway, most of the time this takes place on the computer. The new Furuno TZTL 15F has a 15” screen, so that will help a lot I would think.
Regarding our DRS4D radar vs. a magnetron radar I really could tell, since we haven´t had an other radar on Gyda. We feel that the radar delivers good pictures for our use, as long as the mast don´t heel to much. We´re not happy with the location of the radar antenna at the mast without a gimbal. But that´s another discussion.
Thanks, Henrik, more useful information. You sure do make the Maxsea/plotter combo sound attractive!
You finish the article saying “Next I will really stick my head into the meat grinder by making electronic navigation recommendations.” I’m still awaiting these. Many thanks, Tom
Thanks for the reminder. And to think I once worried about running out of things to write about!
After seeing your comment last night I gave your request some though and came to the conclusion that I screwed up by promising to make plotter recommendations. I realized that, given the complexity of the offerings, the only way to write a really useful recommendation would be if I had the budget and time to buy at least six different units and then test each extensively on a real cruise, clearly not practical.
I also realized that I had already written a piece on the decision between dedicated plotters and computers, that, while a little dated, is still relevant and contains most of my thinking on the criteria for a good electronic navigation system: https://www.morganscloud.com/2010/03/25/marine-navigation-system-plotter-or-computer/
My apologies for welching on a commitment, not cool.
As I have still little experience in cruising, but like you I support and tend to thrust 100% apparatus with controlling knobs (as my old JRC model). However, the Furuno 1835 as your today`s choice makes me a bit wonder. I was stroked last month when I saw a picture of Morgan Cloud to discover your radome sits on (about) a 15-foot pole located near the boat`s stern.
What I foresee is that older technology wrt line of sight radiation, will create a blind spot a your 355-005 degree azimuth beyong the mast. And if so, therefore does an open array (even the smallest one, the 3.5 foot) would mitigate or alleviate the problem?
As well, I had the feeling that any older technology radome is good only for the big picture while the open array/sensor is to better distinguish and separate object within 6-8 NM and therefore can be installed at the only place on a sailboat i.e. on that 15` pole near the boat stern!
I can see you you would think that, but in fact there does not seem to be any blind spot in front of the mast, at least on a practical basis.
I guess the reason is that the scanner is a lot wider than the mast. Keep in mind that the only difference between an open array and a closed one is the cover itself. In other words scanner size is what is, regardless of being open or covered. That said, or course Furuno makes larger arrays, and it is true that the larger the array the better the target resolution. But I have never felt the need to go larger and we have never had any problems with target resolution. So I think the difference in array size comes down to the difference between a very good radar, and a very, very, good radar.
Bottom line, the 1832 (predecessor to the 1835) is a great radar that has served me well for nearly 20 years and at least 10,000 hours navigating in the foggiest parts of the world that also have a lot of ice. This radar (1835/1832) also is the default radar for small fishing boats in this part of the world, which must tell us something. (See the second photo from the top above.)
More on our radar recommendations in the post above. (I moved your comment.)
John, assuming I plan on getting the 1835 and the usual radome (not the open array), where would you say up the mainmast is a good compromise between desirable range and weight aloft/heeling issues? I’m thinking in terms of the clew of my Yankee jib…
The mast is about 44 feet off the deck to the top. It’s a motorsailer in steel, so I am less sensitive to some to the issue of weight aloft.
I don’t like radars on masts: https://www.morganscloud.com/2008/04/01/radar-scanner-position/
That was easy 🙂
OK, I know this is quite late, but I could use some advice here, please.
I’ve just installed a Furuno 1815 radar (a similar, if slightly less feature-rich, unit to the 1835) that is working…as a radar…just fine, but for which I wanted to see GPS/AIS sentences from my Vesper XB-8000 AIS transceiverover the Furuno’s “receive” port 2 (38400 baud).
I can’t seem to get the AIS/GPS of the Furuno to “ungray”…could this be because I need a heading sensor string on port 3? The need for this is NOT in the manual nor was it mentioned in the sales process. And as I have a steel boat, there’s issues with placement of any fluxgate compass, which I wasn’t going to get until I decided on an autopilot package…which would definitely need a fluxgate compass. I just took off the old one, a KVH…perhaps I acted too soon, but I wanted something smaller and more current.
Any comments or advice on getting my radar to see my AIS targets and GPS info would be helpful, as naturally these greatly enhance the functionality of the radar in motion. I just didn’t realize a heading sensor was, as I suspect, absolutely necessary.
The product page for your model does list heading (and GPS) information as a requirement for the True Trails-function:
Thanks for the quick replies and the suggestion to try out their forum…I wasn’t NOT going to have a heading sensor, but I didn’t realize it was mandatory before any NMEA would be recognized. I’m open to suggestions as to what make would be suitable for a steel boat, as I don’t feel obliged to buy Furuno’s.
The KVH is going into “spares”, along with its AC 103 display, etc. The only previous owner tech I’m keeping is the hot water heater and the very nice (and “compensated”) Ritchie Globemaster at the pilothouse helm, which is quite functional.
No personal experience (especially not since it’s just been introduced, which might be a red flag), but this seems promising:
Thanks, that looks similar to the Comnav satellite compass. That might be overkill, however, as we are talking about a steel sailboat I intend to hand-steer close to land and which will be wind-vane steered whenever possible. Also, the NMEA 2000 output would have to be “converted” to talk to the Furuno radar (ironically!) which accepts NMEA 0183 only, as far as I can tell. The puzzling thing for me in trying to spec out a robust choice of heading sensor is the fact that there are $350 fluxgate jobs I could glue to the roof, and $2500 “satellite compasses” that seem to do the same thing. I was recommended a Navico heading sensor I was told to put on a mast-front mount the other day, too. I find the topic baffling in terms of price vs. features vs. finer grades of responsiveness and accuracy, which may neither be applicable nor desirable on an ocean-going sailboat much of the time. Thanks for the heads-up, however. Furuno make a cheaper sensor with the number “50” in it, but it’s hard to determine if it’s appropriate for the alu roof of a steel pilothouse.
As I said before, stay away from cheap heading sensors, particularly on a steel boat. At the very minimum you need a rate compass. Good ones are in the 500 to 1000 range. Generally said rate compassed will be fine, although if I had a steel boat I would probably opt for the sat compass since so doing gets rid of all the steel boat compass problems.
Also, close to land is often when a short handed crew needs a good autopilot (and good heading information) most. The point being when close to hard stuff (the land) a short handed crew benefits a lot from not having to steer since so doing squanders energy and and focus that would be better used operating the boat and navigating. Steering over a long day close to hazards is surprisingly tiring and being tired when it comes time to make landfall in a tricky new harbour can lead to disaster.
I have not looked at any of this, but after thinking about it I realized that heading is definitely going to be required to display AIS targets on radar. If the radar only has GPS, then all it knows is the position of the centre of the scanner (own ship) but it has no way to orient the scanner and therefore no way to plot the GPS position it’s receiving from the the other vessel. In theory the radar could use course over ground from the GPS for the scanner orientation, but they would never do that because once you slowed down or stopped that would be lost.
Bottom, line, heading is required.
By the way, you really want heading into your radar anyway, AIS or not, because that lets you use course up (rather than heading up) in a collision avoidance situation, which is pretty near vital, particularly for those new to radar. It also allows you to put the curser on a target and read out the position, important for calling vessels without AIS, or checking if you are looking at a rock or a vessel.
Bottom line #2, you need heading anyway.
Also, you will need good clean heading for your autopilot, so probably worth springing for a good rate compass—don’t cheap out on this, as you will regret it and end up buying again.
And finally. Don’t worry about taking out the KVH, I had one of those old ones and they were, at least by modern standards, crap.
Good morning John,
Following closely your recommendations on how to set up electronics. A subject that I never heard discuss (may have missed it though!) is the location of the radome on a sailing boat. So far two schools of thoughts: One up on the mast , the other on a post somewhere on the stern. Of course if installed on the mast, the range is better but I believe loosing a 30-40 degree cone of radar returns directly behind the boat while on a post on the stern, you get the 360 degree picture but we get lesser range. As your 1835 radome sit on a post at the MC stern, must I assume this position is way much preferable (I have a 40′ sailboat if the boat size may be an issue!)?
John, I apologise! Found the answer through the Q & A after posting mine above.
though this is 6 years old, it still rings true. However, while Furuno still offer the 1835, wouldn’t it make sense to consider newer units?
Seems to me it would now be the DRS4DL+ antenna or perhaps one of the solid state doppler units.
I have not used any of the new Furuno units, so I really don’t know. I also think that call might depend on planned use. For example, if I were still making voyages to the high latitudes where a working radar is vital and the chances of getting a defective radar fixed are very slim, I would probably stick with the 1835 because of its proven reliability and because it’s free standing and so not vulnerable to network glitches.
That said, I agree that the doppler radars look very interesting although it does worry me that Furuno has them marked as recreational use, not commercial.
Hi All, Since there has been interest in the newer doppler radars here and I feel I have finally accumulated enough time on the one we installed this spring, I figured I would give my impressions. The unit we are using is a Furuno DRS2D-NXT (19″ radome) connected to a Furuno TZT9F (9″ touchscreen and button display) with a Furuno SCX20 (satellite compass). I have previously used the 4′ and 6′ open doppler arrays from Furuno but had no experience with the smaller Furuno units appropriate for a sailboat until this year. The radar quality in close is very good, I would say it is a little better than any of the 24″ 4kw magnetron units I have used and this is the 19″ unit. I have tried doing things like looking at the start line of a race course of Lasers or Optis and you can pick out individual boats really well. It is a small unit on a moving platform so the beam width is significant but the clarity of picture is really good. The other thing is that it does a great job of picking up targets. It has no problem with the small skiffs in decent sized waves. The gain auto tuning on it is actually quite good, it definitely allows for a little scatter which I like and is not something that I have found with most auto tuning so I have always manually tuned in the past. With auto tuning it pretty reliably shows mooring balls even at reasonably large distances but it never shows lobster pot buoys which is really nice. One of my first impressions of 3G radar was with a friend who thought it was so cool to see all the pots and I thought it was a mess and totally distracting. Over longer distances, I have had no real issues with the radar but also haven’t given it a really great test and ours is mounted low enough that use at the 24 and 48 NM ranges for anything other than weather would be silly. I have found that the auto tuning tends to filter out far away land if you have in close land in another direction which I have experienced on a lot of other radars too and is kind of annoying to me. One of my questions in buying this was how well it would work with weather, I have had great experience with the bigger versions but I was skeptical of this. So far, it has been good but I haven’t gotten a ton of chances to test it. You can very clearly see rain coming and see the intensity. Also, it sees through a significant depth of rain, you are seeing more than the leading edge. When you turn on the correct mode, it sees through the rain really well but I have not tested it over more than a few miles. There is some strange change that happens as we change ranges, it seems like when we go from 3 miles range to 2 miles range, it automatically tunes out the rain and only goes… Read more »
Wow, that’s not a comment, it’s a very good in-depth review. Thank you! Particularly useful for me since I need to buy a radar for the J/109. Looks like it will be B&G because I already have a full suit of their gear, but I have to say that I’m such a Fununo fan boy that I might go that way, particularly in light of your review.
One question: you did not specifically mention the doppler based features that allow for things like showing a target moving toward you in red (I think). Have you found that useful?
I’m going to draw attention to your review in my T,T&T area.
One caution for others: Eric is a deeply experienced commercial and recreational mariner and so can use north up display safely, but for most of the rest of us heading up is much safer, even for those of us like me who used paper charts in north up orientation for years.
Hi John, I do like the doppler features but in extremely specific circumstances and I don’t know how applicable they are to the average user. Furuno’s “target analyzer” where it turns targets closing at faster than 3 knots red and everything else green is great when you have a ton of targets. I can remember flipping it on 3 times for actual use and not good weather training and 2 of those were leaving large mooring fields at dawn in the fog just as all the lobster boats were getting underway. Even running the radar at 1/8 mile (it does 1/16 too which is actually great but for very specific circumstances), you have so many targets that mentally tracking movement would be extremely hard. In this case, it is unbelievably helpful, especially if you are solo navigating and can’t have someone bury their head in the radar. However, I much prefer the true color display for all other times so I turn off target analyzer quite quickly as it feels like going back to a black and white unit in terms of other information to me. Some other people who don’t pay much attention to the true color display may find they like target analyzer a lot more. You have me wondering now whether they use any of the doppler information in the ARPA calculation, it is certainly theoretically possible but the actual algorithm might be tricky. To be honest, I don’t utilize most of the features touted in the marketing materials most of the time. Part of it is that clearly they have highlighted recreational fisherman as their target market for recreational users. Part of it is also me and it is taking me time to adapt to using this new radar. It really feels like 8 years ago when I finally gave up driving my vehicle with a manual transmission and no synchros so you had to float gears or double clutch and purchased my first automatic. At first I hated the loss of control and the fact that I could better anticipate but now I understand why everyone likes automatics even though there were limited times I could do a better job and I still think driving stick is way more fun. I have never really seen radar as fun or not, just a tool, but it was really tricky at first having all the controls I was used to using constantly buried deep where I was unlikely to use them but I learned to trust it and realize that it would not forget to do something and it was taking a lot of the cognitive load so I could focus on other stuff. Thanks mainly to the ARPA capabilities but also somewhat to target analyzer, it provides actionable information with a minimum of effort, this isn’t the classic thing where people just use radar to give them a more advanced notice that a boat or buoy is about to appear out of the fog and then they will figure out what to do. I certainly hear you on sticking… Read more »
Thanks very much for a great fill on that. I have to say, your review, and over 40 years of trouble free service from their radars, is definitely making me think a lot about Furuno for the J/109. As you know, it’s a reasonably demanding boat to sail and I plan to do quite a bit of single-handing so anything that reduces work load would be good. I will definitely need to dig deep into the manual for the latest B&G and ask around about ease of use, before making the call on this.
And clearly I will go through the same learning curve you did, converting from the free standing Furuno magnetron radars to the digitals with the things I’m used to adjusting with a single knob buried deep in a menu, so having you tips on that process, is doubly useful, thanks again.
I installed my Navico 4G radar in April of 2019, and I’ve been very happy with its performance. I don’t have a dedicated display, instead using one of the 21.5″ nav computer monitors. OpenCPN has a fully working interface to the radar, and allows either stand-alone or chart overlay display.
Just having a “real” screen, as opposed to those 9″ devices out there, is highly appreciated, especially as my need for reading glasses are quite pronounced these days.
I’ve read all of Peter’s issues on Tanglewood, and have not experienced any of them. I also use a Simrad autopilot, with a mixture of B&G and Simrad mini-MFDs, Despite the credit he gives to his installer, those problems sounded like NMEA2000 bus problems to me.
I don’t yet use ARPA, but the ability to integrate with other systems was a requirement. At USD 1,900, this unit represents a good option for what I desired.
Sounds good, although as a general rule these days I would want ARPA and that was where the Navico seemed to really fall down in comparison to the Furunos, if memory serves.
Forgot to include this in my last post but this is how we are set up just for reference.
Thanks for this useful review! I am in the middle of doing a complete electronics replacement/upgrade, so it is very much appreciated!
I just thought I could add a few comments that I have found during my research. Note that I have not yet used anything, just read manuals and spoken to their technicians, so no first hand usage yet!
As I understand, the DRS2D-NXT is the same radar as the DRS4D-NXT, just in a lighter and smaller form factor. The -4D radar have been on the market for a few years, and Furuno rated it at least on par with the 1835 magnetron radar in regards to robustness and reliability.
As I am going for NKE sail electronics, NKE require the use of their own GPS and heading sensors for the autopilot. The specs are on par with the SCX-20/21 from Furuno, and both NKE and Furuno assured me it will perform on the same level using NMEA0183 for data transfer. Should make it possible to not have to install double heading and positioning sensors if one already have a high-speed high-precision data source.
Furuno have just announced that they are coming out with a display designed for the DRS antennas in January: FR-10/12. These will give them the same display and knobs as the older 1835 radar, also with the possibility to forward the radar to other displays.
Also, Furuno have a small panel called “MCP-50” that gives you the knobs and buttons to operate the radar directly. This panel is not really advertised, but they showed it to me when I met Furuno at a stand a few months ago.
I will use the radar with TimeZero on a computer downstairs, and an external outdoor display (ala Morgans Cloud) to get rid of the traditional plotter. This networked radar allow that, with the use of “traditional” buttons via the MCP-50 panel. I don’t have a very good way to have two displays under the dodger, so this setup will allow me to show both map and radar if necessary (split screen), while keeping the physical buttons to operate it.
If so desired, the FR-10 display could be added (later?) to give a standalone radar with traditional display, while still allowing the benefits of a networked radar image to be displayed and operated on the computer.
Again, I have not yet used it, just relaying information relevant in my decision making process, in case relevant to others.
Very interesting on the separate controllers. I had thought it was strange they didn’t have those as I don’t see any reason why the radar would not work as a standalone. I have to say that for our use, I am okay with the single screen but there is no way I would go to a 7″ screen trying to do all this, I have a friend with that (Raymarine) and it is definitely too small for me.
I would second many of Eric’s comments. We installed the same setup (minus the satellite compass) to replace an obsolete Simrad unit.
Combined with the positive comments on Panbo, the radar’s ARPA ability was its main selling point. While I have spent my career using radars on military and commercial aircraft, I wanted something intuitive for my wife since we sail double handed. The Furuno unit is very intuitive, and the ARPA collision-avoidance presentation is mirrored in its treatment of AIS conflicts–very helpful in busy waterways.
Performance at close range is indeed excellent. Yesterday we spotted kayakers at about 3/4 nm. I cannot give a fair comment on long-range detection as our dome in on the arch of our Ovni-about 9′ off the water.
Two disappointments, however, are the difficulty in importing route data from other sources to the Furuno, and the inability of showing the radar information on other devices. It seems as though other manufacturers are further ahead in that area.
Very late comment provoked by a summer cruise with several days of pea soup fog. I run a Raytheon radar that is probably 30 years old. It came with the boat when I acquired it in1997. It still works, at least for land masses and reasonably sized boats, but I definitely can’t see birds on it. Coming down the Washington coast this fall in dense fog, it failed to pick up a fiberglass boat of about 22 feet which, damn him, was not sending out an AIS signal. My son, on watch, saw the boat at about 75 yards and we avoided it. Is such an old radar just tired or are modern radars that far superior? I may have to upgrade to something new, but Defender prices for the 1835 system are up to $4600.
Sounds like the magnetron is shot. Generally a magnetron starts to degrade and the signal quality with it after about 2000 hours of use. They are replaceable, but given the age of the radar, I would replace the whole unit. See this tip for a new alternative: https://www.morganscloud.com/jhhtips/long-live-free-standing-radars/
I have a slightly newer, but basically the same radar as you have. Modern radars are a lot better, even if you were to replace the magnetron. As a side note, I don’t think you will be able to find a new magnetron, I could not. If you want to replace it, your best chance is probably something used. And as John says, the new DRS antennas are quite good. Furuno HIGHLY recommended those for me instead of the 1835, and preferably the solid state option. However both are available as DRS if you prefer magnetron. They are not cheap though if you want the new freestanding display. Maybe even a bit more than the 1835.
Golly. On Tuesday I put in an order for a Furuno 1815 with an extra readout. One for the cockpit and one for the chart table. Now you tell me that the Holy Grail has been discovered…
That’s still a good and proven radar, so not to worry. Also I’m pretty sure these new displays and scanners will be way more expensive.
Another question, sorry. I have decided to move to a Furuno radar. I have used a monochrome Raytheon successfully for years. And, given other vessel expenses, I am looking for the least cost, reasonable option. Furuno makes a monochrome radar that has screen size similar to what I have used for 20 years (6″). Model 1623. Cost is about $1500. The next step up is $1K more for color, model 1815, and then $3K more for the 1835. I do not typically use even all the features on my old Raytheon, and I don’t think I need all the colored lights. My main use is running at night or fog and, if I get back to the tropics, locating squalls. But it is important to me to be able to pick up small vessels when I am running coastal or inland waters and I no longer trust the Raytheon for that. Of course, for commercial traffic avoidance, I also rely on AIS. Is the 1623 a bad option, if you know? Thanks, as usual.
I would not buy the 1623. We used one very like it as a below deck repeater for our old 1830 and did not like it at all. It’s also very old tech and so it’s likely Furuno will stop selling it soon.
The 1815 is the minimum radar I would go with.
I have used a 1622 a bit which is the predecessor to the 1623. It seems to be the usual Furuno quality, the issue I have with it is similar to John in that it is pretty old school and sets the bar too low for performance. My biggest performance complaint is no support for ARPA which I don’t think the 1623 has either but you could check. I would not consider getting a radar for fog and night use without ARPA personally although this does mean you need a good satellite compass which can be another $1k if you don’t already have one. The 1623 is a 2kW unit whereas most(all?) of Furuno’s other magnetron radars for cruising boats are 4kW, this plays directly into how well you can pick up targets. Also, the dome is quite small at 16″ which means its beam width is 6.2° which is a lot and makes distinguishing between targets harder and hides coastal indentations. To me there are 3 reasons why these types of radar still exist: low cost, small antennas for small boats, and low power consumption although the new broadband radars are similar or better on this last point.
Furuno has historically required all resellers to sell for the same price and I haven’t heard of it changing. One nice thing about this is that you don’t have the trade-off between your local shop and an online retailer in terms of cost versus after sales support. If you find a shop that services commercial users, they usually provide good support as the commercial users put enough hours on to need frequent service of their units.
I think the main reason Furuno is popular with fishermen and women is that their radars have a reputation for being good at seeing birds. Aside from being better at seeing birds I’m not convinced they’re any better than the other two big names. As far as I can tell their technology and construction are pretty much identical.
I sold the newly installed furuno radar that the boat came with and bought one from B&G, it’s the same unit used on most of the open 60s, volvo 70s etc. If it’s good enough for them…
Anyway the main logic for the swap was: The furuno only worked with an expensive standalone display or one of their chart plotters, neither of which I could justify the expense of. The previous owner was using time zero on a PC which displayed the radar, but having the radar displayed only at the chart table wasn’t much good to me. Where I needed it was in the cockpit, that’s where I usually am. The radar now displays on the plotter at the chard table and also on the one in the cockpit, if either dies I have a backup. The setup was cheaper and, I would argue, has more redundancy and more flexibility than a single dedicated display. So far I’m really happy with the setup and as far as I can tell it does everything the furuno did just as well.
We’ll see if it’s still going strong in 15 years time 🙂
Well argued, but we will need to agree to disagree on most of it, particularly the advantages of free standing displays, and reliability.
I think a lot of this comes down to how much time we spend in really bad fog. In our case that has often been days at a time and had added up to thousands of hours over the years.
Now that our needs are less rigorous I too am going with a B&G radar driving a plotter, although that was more about what was already on the boat than any love for the brand.
Hi John, your February update refers to the Furuno DRS2D-NXT solid state doppler radar? I am pondering the choice between this unit and the DRS4DL+
Hi. For what it’s worth, I was in your shoes recently, but was thoroughly put to rest after talking with Furuno themselves where they could say the solid state radar is used so much now over several years that they have no indication of increased failure rate, rather the opposite. They also explained that a lot of professional vessels choose to have the solid state unit installed in addition to “steering wheel marked” radars (SOLAS?). This has been confirmed by several of my friends that work on Norwegian rescue and ambulance boats that choose to install the solid state radar on the boats even though they’re not supposed to need them, and they actually need to install them in addition to the approved radars. (A link to an article from one of the boats, though it’s in Norwegian https://www.furuno.no/no/aktuelt/godt-fornoyd-med-utvidet-furuno-radaranlegg/ .) I think this technology start to be pretty mature, and for me, the benefits makes it worth the added “risk” of young technology. Disclosure, I have very limited experience with marine radar for comparison purposes (however I have some from aviation), and I also choose the 24″ 4D radar, not the 19″ 2D. Hope it is in any way helpful.
I have not used either, and all my general thoughts about radar selection are in the above article. That said, I think that digital solid state radar has now come of age.
I have just installed a Furuno 1815 in the cockpit with a repeater at the chart table. Old tech but I couldn’t be happier. The last time I was this pleased with a new radar was 1986 or 87 and that was a Furuno too. Not connected to anything else apart from the AIS.