Marine Electronics Recommendations—Radar

Radar was useful on the day this picture was taken, but vital two days later when we transited the same area in thick fog.
Radar was useful on the day this picture was taken, but vital two days later when we transited the same area in thick fog.

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.)

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Wim Vandenbossche

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.

Taras

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.

Tristan Mortimer

Hi John,

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.

Matt

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.)

Taras

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?

Kevin McShane

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?

Eric Klem

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.

Eric

Bob T

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!

Henning

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 sea, in a little swell, the 4G performance was not as breathtaking any more. We did make out a stopped large wooden fishing boat that we may have hit without a radar but we only clearly saw it at 1nm. I had hoped for better.
In the Canaries B&G offered a software upgrade that was advertised to fix the “radar not detected” problem (a TCP/IP “address claim” problem). After installing it, the B&G would never detect the radar, however many times I restarted it. I had not bothered to download the old firmware (installed in my unit before the upgrade) from their site when it was still available and now it was replaced with the new version. I asked Navico for a copy of the old software but got no response. The B&G plotter, that I had bought for the sole reason of displaying the radar image in the cockpit, remained broken until we had returned to Hamburg, including one night in the busy English Channel when I needed radar in the cockpit badly.
But the biggest problem with my radar surfaced when en route from Terceira, Azores to England. In the cold and wet, we stayed below all the time and only stuck our heads up through the companionway quickly every 15 mins. The radar was in constant use via the Simrad plotter at the nav station. However, it would only reliably show container ships at 2 to 4nm – way to little for comfort when we were on opposing courses, us doing hull speed and the ships between 12 and 18 knots. The installation on a pole with a Scanstrut self-leveling mount, 12ft above the water may have contributed to this in ocean seas normal in 20 to 25 knots true.
I have also since found that the MARPA function of my (and apparently all) Navico radar and plotter is a bad joke (see the Panbo page linked above for a set of screenshots).
The bottom line is that I have made an expensive detour, both in money and time spent debugging software problems, to finally arrive at the insights spelled out most clearly by John above. My 4G and Navico plotters will go on ebay as soon as I have assured funds of a Furuno 1835.
It does not do chart overlay but it will display AIS targets and I was told by Peter Hayden that it can be integrated with Coastal Explorer to show ARPA targets on the PC plotter via a TTM (tracked target message) sentence.

I have these questions for John:
1. I take it you don’t have a radar display at the nav station below but under the dodger. Do you see value in a radar display at the nav station and/or at the wheel? From my wheels, I couldn’t properly read a radar display under the dodger and couldn’t operate it at all. And when at sea for long passages, we “lived” at the nav station below.
The 1835 display unit can be doubled with one unit in slave mode but both operable. I do not yet know if it needs its own ARP-11. I could set up so that the main unit is below at the nav station and the other alternatively mounted to the cockpit table or under the dodger using RAM mounts or similar (I also have a 100% submersible 1024*768 monitor to display the PC plotter screen at the wheels and that monitor could also be made to be mountable either by the wheels or under the dodger.
2. Your existing scanner is also mounted on a pole aft. Do you feel range and target detection suffers when in large ocean swell with the scanner completely or nearly hidden in the troughs?

Bob T

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.

Carl E.

Hi John,

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.

Marc Dacey

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.”

Marc Dacey

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.

Robert B

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.

Robert

Paul McEvoy

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):
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Furuno-RSB-1700-1832-CRT-FCV-582L-GPA-019-GP-1650D-C-2000-Radar-Antenna-System-/291639878063?hash=item43e71761af:g:LTAAAOSwNphWYela#viTabs_0

THanks
Paul

Paul McEvoy

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.

Thanks
Paul

Paul McEvoy

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.

Paul McEvoy

Would you have an alternate suggestion then for a specifically low powered option?

Paul McEvoy

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.

Eric Klem

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 are will allow you to make an educated decision on when to run it.

From a gear standpoint, you are trying to balance power generation, energy storage and power consumption. Radars come in different outputs which translate directly into power consumption if they are turned up. Also, different technologies have different requirements. Broadband radar is really interesting from a consumption standpoint but I am unsure as to whether a truly reliable system exists at this point. If we assume that you will be sailing at night and want radar, looking at a Furuno 1623 which is their base model, you need 36 watts or 3A. Assuming you want to be able to run it for 12 hours, then you have 36Ah or about a quarter of your storage and half of your usable energy. Provided you don’t have a fridge and don’t use a laptop a lot, this is not an unreasonable length of time that you can run the system. The trick comes when you need to recharge as this 12 hours of radar runtime will likely take a full day of sunny weather to recharge with your solar panel. Solving this could be tricky as you can’t rely on shorepower hookups once you get into the less populated cruising grounds. If you are motoring in the fog or at night, your outboard should be able to just keep up which is good. For reference, the power consumption of the example radar drops to 8W when you put it into standby mode. For dayhopping down the coast, this seems workable if you don’t mind occasionally being holed up when there are multiple days of lower solar production in a row. If you want to be able to run night and day regardless of fog, I think you may have issues. If you will be anchored regularly (say at least every 12 hours of radar runtime) which is very possible in the trip you are proposing, as much as I hate to admit it, a 1kw gas generator may be a great addition as you will be cruising in areas where your solar won’t always work well. If you were planning to keep the boat for a long time, I would recommend a more expensive and permanent solution but given the restrictions your boat will have on carrying a load, you will need to emphasize weight over cost.

Eric

Paul McEvoy

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.

Paul McEvoy

Will the unit display the hours during a self test? I’m trying to figure out if it would be displayed here:

http://www.manualslib.com/manual/256102/Furuno-Marine-Radar.html?page=36#manual

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.

Henrik Johnsen

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 or the radar picture, the opposite cursor shows as a red cross on the opposite screen. This makes it easy to confirm if a radar echo comes from real obstructions like a rock, navigation buoy, a non AIS boat or a drifting container. We find this feature very useful, helping us understanding the radar picture.

Haven’t we had any trouble with the integrated navigation system?
Of course, our nightmare happened north of 80 degree, in thick fog. We had just passed Verlegenhugen on our way to Nordaustlandet, north east of Spitsbergen. Zero wind, calm sea, visibility hardly a boat length, suddenly…the plotter went black.
We had a handheld gps with map as backup, but the map didn´t go beyond north 80. The same situation on our backup number three, the iPad. No map, no radar, no visibility….
Of course we had our compass and updated paper charts, so we managed… but after all it was an eye opener.
It all found it solution after 30-40 minutes, when it came clear that one of us by accident had switched off the master navigation switch on the switchboard…
Lesson learned, it made us install a backup navigation system, with a Furuno GP30 with a GP33 remote display connected to a backup laptop, running completely outside the NavNet system. Unfortunately no radar.

Henrik Johnsen

John

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.

Tom Clements

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

Mag

Hi John,

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!

Cheers

Mag

Marc Dacey

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.

Marc Dacey

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.

Carl E.

Hi Marc,

Furuno USA has a support forum with a dedicated radar section:
http://www.furunousaforum.com/viewforum.php?f=5

From a quick browse, answers seem knowledgeable.

The product page for your model does list heading (and GPS) information as a requirement for the True Trails-function:
http://www.furuno.com/en/products/radar/MODEL1815

Marc Dacey

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.

Carl E.

Hi Marc,

No personal experience (especially not since it’s just been introduced, which might be a red flag), but this seems promising:

https://www.furunousa.com/en/products/sc33

Marc Dacey

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.

Magella Dumais

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!)?

Thanks

Mag

Magella Dumais

John, I apologise! Found the answer through the Q & A after posting mine above.

Cheers

Mag

George L

Hello, John,

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.

Many thanks
G

Eric Klem

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 to showing targets but it could also be when the entire sweep area is in rain, it then tunes it out. I plan to investigate this further as I worry that it could start missing important targets too.

Since we have the satellite compass, we are set up for ARPA which for anyone who hasn’t used it, totally changes coastal collision avoidance and eliminates the need for plotting sheets in offshore collision avoidance. There is still some improvement to be made on what it starts plotting. There is a decent amount of plotting phantom targets (sometimes we have found it to be birds and as a squall line comes in it will go nuts with the edge of that but other times I can’t explain it). Also, sometimes it doesn’t start to automatically plot an obvious target but will lock right on once you manually select the target so you shouldn’t just rely on an ARPA line on the screen to tell you if there is something to watch out for. One type of target it rarely starts plotting automatically is a fast moving one like a center console doing 30 knots but I have thankfully only experienced this on nice clear days when getting used to the unit not in reduced visibility. All this said, once it is displaying the ARPA line, I have never seen a small boat setup that is nearly as stable and actionable, it is amazing especially when your targets are constantly changing direction like with a dinghy race start or a lobster boat. A lot of this is probably due to how good the satellite compass is but also the steady radar returns must help.

My goal with the MFD was to get a single unit that was as small as possible but that got us the functionality we desired so that the helm could still be relatively clean with just this and a RAM mic. Overall, it has been pretty easy to use. I found the early Navnet MFD’s to be pretty complicated to use but this is not to me, there might be an extra click or 2 but most things are intuitive where to find them. Both of us are strict north up types for navigation so we typically run a split screen with north up navigation on the left and heading up radar on the right. On the navigation screen, we toggle on and off the radar overlay although usually leave it on with the transparancy high as we find it easy to read. We have found the 9″ screen to be just big enough to do this but we usually don’t display things like speed when the radar is on to save screen space. If we lived in a super foggy place like Newfoundland or planned to do real planning on the plotter, we would need a bigger screen. Adjusting basic radar functions is relatively easy anything more like a bearing line is really buried. I have found it a little hard to give up the more manual control over the unit and I suspect many people used to separate or older radars would but for a radar newbie, this would be a much easier unit to use provided more advanced functions are not required. This unit has also confirmed to me that I would not own a touch screen only unit, I use that a lot in calm weather but when it gets bumpy, the buttons are my go to although I haven’t figured out how to do everything with them. We have found that if green water gets on the display, the zoom goes crazy and you have to get back to where you want to be afterwards but it isn’t sensitive to general rain including really heavy rain. Another small quibble is that sometimes you get multiple layers of info like an ARPA target on top of an AIS target and it gets hard to select what you want for more info. My biggest complaint is that all the MFD’s available now are starting to become power hogs, our daily energy budget in coastal cruising mode has jumped by 10Ah although some of this is attributable to the new radio being a bigger power hog too. At least the spec sheet led us to the correct values so it wasn’t a surprise but it does make me wish this area got more emphasis on the development side. We made sure that our backup standalone plotter which lives at the nav station but has a plug and mount on deck is low power.

Installation was really easy and it was basically plug and play with just a few parameters like where the radar and gps compass are physically mounted that need to be entered. The MFD unit is physically deep but it did fit in the recommended nav pod along with the connectors but barely. I have not done any updates yet, I understand that Chuck found them to be tricky.

One more note is that the motor in this unit is noisier than many small radars I am used to. I am not sure exactly why but if we are ghosting along with the engine off, we can faintly hear it and it is mounted probably 20′ from the helmspersons’ head.

Overall, I like this setup a lot for our use case but it would not be good for some other use cases. What I like is how good it is at collision avoidance, I have never used a small boat radar that does as good a job at this and that includes some with much larger antennas. However, I would not install this radar without the satellite compass, trying to do collision avoidance on bearing and range lines would not work well with this unit. I would not consider this unit a great navigation radar for people doing things like going to places with lots of chart datum error or trying to do distance off routing. The reason for this is that the functions you need are too buried. So given our usage, I am quite happy but with some of the types of sailing I have previously done, I would have preferred a dedicated radar control unit, I actually think the radar itself would be great for all of that. If I already had a good magnetron unit installed, I would not pull it out to change to this provided that it had ARPA. My experience with this unit has been qualitatively higher radar performance than the comparable units I have used from Garmin, Raymarine and B&G (not their latest, whatever the early 4G were called). If I had to select again today, I would get the exact same setup we have.  In the end, whether this was the right buy for us will come down to whether this unit has the reliability and life that I have experienced with previous Furuno units.

Eric

Eric Klem

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 with a single brand both for standard data like NMEA 2000 and proprietary stuff like radar, we try to do that although are not perfect. We also have a relatively simple electronics system compared to most and have thankfully had no interoperability glitches. Michael’s comment highlights 2 interoperability areas I have never even tried or researched, the most advanced thing we have done beyond the NMEA 2000 data is to import waypoints which was easy. I find it very tricky to get real info on different brand products, especially as product life cycles can be much shorter than the service life I would like to get. In the end, I made my decision based on asking a friend who services this gear what I should get if reliability was the only factor and he said Furuno or Si Tex, my previous experiences with Furuno as a brand and my previous experience with the larger open array Furuno doppler sets. As mentioned, I have used some of the B&G 4G stuff but not their latest so I can’t properly judge it. My impression at the time was not amazing and I preferred our standalone magnetron set, I could see potential in some areas but I felt the implementation was immature, hopefully all that is sorted out now, they have certainly had the time to do it.

You have no idea how bad my north up tendency is, you should see the puzzled looks on peoples faces if they ride in the car with me when google maps is being used.

Eric

Frode Rognstad

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.

Eric Klem

Forgot to include this in my last post but this is how we are set up just for reference.

20220516 Mistral Electronics Diagram.jpg
Arne Mogstad

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.

Arne

Eric Klem

Hi Arne,

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.

Eric

Michael Hiscock

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.

Terence Thatcher

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.

Arne Mogstad

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.

Mark Wilson

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…