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Author Topic:   RADAR for Small Boat
fluke posted 11-03-2009 08:04 PM ET (US)   Profile for fluke   Send Email to fluke  
[I]s there such a thing as an affordable small RADAR for a [small boat like a Boston Whaler 17-foot MONTAUK]? [F]og is hampering my fishing!
contender posted 11-03-2009 08:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for contender  Send Email to contender     
What is affordable to you?
fluke posted 11-03-2009 08:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for fluke  Send Email to fluke     
[G]ood question. [Affordable would be] less than $600. [I am a] total novice in this area. mark
20dauntless posted 11-03-2009 10:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
The cheapest Furuno is the 1623 which looks like it costs a bit under $1300 at most places and includes a display. It looks like you can get a tiny Si-Tex for a little more than $1000, but it requires a separate display. JRC used to make fairly low priced radar units but I don't see anything on their website. Garmin and Raymarine don't offer standalone radar units, but if you have one of their MFD's you may be able to use that.

If you are serious about radar I'd look into the new broadband radar from Navico. The main benefit for small boats is greatly reduced radiation, as well as significantly less power consumption than traditional radar units. They also apparently offer better target definition close in. For more in depth testing read up on them over at

The other option is to look for a used setup on EBay or Craigslist. Depending on what plotter/fishfinder you have you may be able to integrate radar on the same display. Also factor in where you will mount the radome, and how much the mount will cost.

Also make sure you practice with radar a lot before you actually need it. It's not as intuitive as you might think. Personally, I have my radar anytime I'm running the boat and nobody is on deck. This ensures I know what various things look like on the radar screen when I really need it.

By the way, this should probably be moved over to the electronics forum.

Bella con23 posted 11-03-2009 10:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bella con23  Send Email to Bella con23     
I have the same argument with myself on days of running ocean side only to end up in a fog bank. I run a Davis radar reflector up the outrigger, use the GPS to stay out of the shipping lanes, and pray everyone else sees me.

You can spend $1100 for the most inexpensive Garmin radar. but as Towboater has explained in prior discussions you may be better without by time you figure out what you were about to encounter was visible out your windshield all along.

20dauntless posted 11-03-2009 10:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
Joe, I disagree with the "hope everyone sees me" idea. I like to know exactly what's around me when I'm in near zero visibility conditions rather than depend on someone else having their radar on and correctly using it. I often boat in congested areas in the PNW (Thatcher Pass, Rosario Strait, Guemes Channel) and wouldn't be without radar. With ferries, water taxies, commercial fish boats, and pleasure boats, it would be downright foolish to depend on someone else to avoid a collision. With my Raymarine radar and MARPA I can select targets and the computer calculates CPA and displays their vector on screen. It makes navigating in fog MUCH easier and safer.

That being said, other people have different needs. But if I were boating in fog with any regularity I'd highly recommend radar.

Bella con23 posted 11-03-2009 10:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Bella con23  Send Email to Bella con23     
20dauntless - No argument from me! I believe in the technology. But if fluke only has a budget for $600 or $1600 I wouldn't stake my life and the lives of others on low budget radars.

I do well in my area with sight and listening but it isn't for all areas as you suggest. I just don't want fluke to be under the impression that a $1000 radar is going to keep him out of trouble. It might, but then again it could work against him.

20dauntless posted 11-03-2009 11:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
Fair enough Joe. I think the Furuno 1623 would be the ideal choice, unless he already has an MFD from another manufacturer. The biggest issue with radar is to know how to interpret what's onscreen and know the limits of what can be shown, both of which come from practice.

Even with the 1623, you'd probably end up being in it for $2000 once you figure out how to mount it and get it installed...perhaps fog is best avoided.

jimh posted 11-04-2009 12:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
jimh posted 11-04-2009 12:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Better read up on how RADAR works before investing in one for a small boat. You need some antenna height to get much range.
deepwater posted 11-04-2009 05:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for deepwater  Send Email to deepwater     
JVC has nice radars,,Mine was under $800 8 years ago and the SS mast I made has the ship to shore radio antenna and pole holders,,I extended the windshield and installed a shelf to shield the screen and my GPS,,All of this is on my 17'Montauk
deepwater posted 11-04-2009 05:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for deepwater  Send Email to deepwater     
Email me if you want some pics
20dauntless posted 11-04-2009 11:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
My radome is mounted about 6 feet off the water on top of my pilothouse. The radar functions well, and I rarely use ranges beyond 3nm. Range isn't that important on small boats, target definition is.
Moe posted 11-05-2009 07:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe    
$600 won't even pay for an adequate-quality/size arch to get the antenna up high enough to have some range and not cook the brains and eyeballs of occupants standing in the boat.
Buckda posted 11-05-2009 11:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
One way to get quality used gear at discount prices is to make up a personal card and walk the docks at several very nice marinas in your area. Introduce yourself to the fishermen and comment that you are interested in X (locals here do this for downrigger equipment). Give them your card and at the end of the season, or beginning of the next one, when they are upgrading to the latest and greatest, you slide in and buy a slightly used product for a discount.

The catch is that I don't know how well that is working in this economy...but it used to work great on the docks in Saugatuck and South Haven in Michigan which are resort/tourist towns for the well-heeled from Chicago's business community.

...just a thought on doing these things on a budget.

I still think your budget is too low. You might be better served by buying a loudhailer with a foghorn function - and simply let it run and keep a sharp lookout.

*Note: the foghorn loudhailer is very annoying on a small boat after several hours of fishing...but it is an important safety device.



SJUAE posted 11-05-2009 08:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE  Send Email to SJUAE     
I think you have several things to consider:

Mounting height for safety (if not Lowrance Broardband)
Mounting Height for Range
Power consumption
Intergration with other systems
Warm up time

IMO by the time you found a cheap unit, found a high mount, added an extra batttery, waited 3 mins for it to warm up and got an average picture you may as well gone for a modern system like Lowrance broadband for $2,000 and also got the latest plotter and sounder thrown in

Starting off cheap will not ensure the whole system cost/installation will be saving in the long run or give you a satisfactory performance or expandability IMO.


deepwater posted 11-05-2009 10:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for deepwater  Send Email to deepwater     
If your a purest and have to have name-brand parts and dealer installed parts than it will cost an arm and a leg,, SS pipe is around $.35 per lb and if you weld or a friend $5 in rod $20 in pipe some hand work and you have an arch,,Pretty ? maybe not ,,Functional yep,,You can dream about it or do something about it
deepwater posted 11-05-2009 10:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for deepwater  Send Email to deepwater     
You can make the arch as high as you want you dont need an extra battery JVC warm up is under a minute its got a great pix and the more you add to a one unit package the more you have to replace if one thing stops working,, keeping the electrics separate lets you replace only the broken ones and up grade the ones you can afford and sell or trade off the one that is still working ,, K.I.S.S.
Jefecinco posted 11-06-2009 09:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     

Go to and get some facts.


jimh posted 11-06-2009 11:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Yes, I am absolutely certain that the forums on PANBO.COM will be the perfect place to get advice on how to install a radar on a 17-foot for less than $600. Their archives are undoubtedly filled with information on this topic.
Jefecinco posted 11-06-2009 07:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     

Mark stated he is a novice in this area and in fact has no idea of what a radar might cost.

Most owners of 17 Montauks are probably not seeking radar of great range. Mark says that fog is interfering with his fishing.

The nice thing about the new Navico radars is that they are safer as far as radiation is concerned and consume less power than others. They are also capable of returning a better that usual close in view of the surroundings. On a Montauk 17 it would be relatively easy to mount the radar on a post about seven of eight feet above the deck. As the Navico radars are NMEA 2000 they can be readily connected to many newer MFDs.

I believe most small craft fishermen are interested in using the GPS to navigate to their destination in fog while using radar to avoid a collision while underway at the least cost possible. I believe the Navico units offer what most small craft fishermen seek in a radar.

Cost is a matter to be determined on a daily basis. Navico/Lowrance products generally sell for well below the cost of competing lines.


jimh posted 11-06-2009 09:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Butch--You have me confused. You gave the fellow some information here, in the place where he started his discussion. I thought you wanted the discussion to end and to move to PANBO.COM. I was going to close out the discussion here now that you pronounced it dead, but then you revived it. Sorry, but I am confused. Should we continue here, or should we defer to PANBO.COM for real information about adding RADAR for $600 to a 17-boat? Let me know your wishes, and I am giving your control of this thread.
SJUAE posted 11-07-2009 06:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE  Send Email to SJUAE     
I noticed in one review on Broadband Radars that they mounted the Lowrance just 5 ft of the waterline on a 14ft catamaran and got excellent close range results up to several 100 yards.

This makes it possible to mount a mast easily on your console and even under your bimini top if your not concerned about typically 3-4 mile range and want to be able to still raise your top when not using the radar.

I should think it would be easy to have a hinged or removable radar mast/arch just a few feet tall that attaches to the grab rails around the windshield.

Obviously higher the better but as the practicalities of mounting radar vs fishability etc on a 17 footer are troublesome, these less hazardous units start to make more sense on small craft

Also the power consumption of just 2w on standby and 20w operating opposed to 20w and 40w for convention radar can be the difference on having to add a second battery.

If we approximate cost

Lowrance Radar 1400
Lowrance HDS-5 chart plotter sounder 600
Small s/s radar arch 200
Sale of existing fishfinder etc -150


Cheaper LCD radar 900
Second battery 250
Larger s/s radar arch 350

For the delta of 550 you have gained a lot more capability IMO

I agree this is not budget stuff but if you intend to rely a lot on radar opposed to just occasional use then it's a worthy investment.

As Deepwater notes you can do it on the cheap with a few bits of pipe etc and even a second hand unit, if you prefer.


Jefecinco posted 11-07-2009 10:59 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     

I regret any offense my reference to Panbo may have caused. I value and enjoy your site and the participants a great deal. I believe it is the best site available for Boston Whaler boat owners and aficionados from both the educational and entertainment perspective. It provides a lot of value to all who participate.

In the future when my input to a discussion is inappropriate or otherwise unwelcome please delete it. When I check back in if my comment is missing I will get the message.

Thank you,

jimh posted 11-07-2009 11:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
A good source of price information about RADAR units for small boats is probably the manufacturers' websites, and in conjunction with that, various shopping websites like GOOGLE.COM. Here is a link that shops for the Lowrance Broadband RADAR: q=lowrance%20broadband%20radar&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wf

This link will reveal the prices of the Lowrance BR24 unit and some related components.

A good source of information about a product is its user manual or installation manual. Here is a link to the installation manual for a Navico BR24 broadband RADAR (which is the same or similar to the Lowrance branded product), and the manual includes some basic information about how RADAR works, which will be suitable for a "total novice" to learn the general principles of the art:

I suggest that you can get similar information about any RADAR product, that is, its MSRP, its general selling price, and explanation about how to install it and how it works, by these same type of sources, that is, a search website like GOOGLE with an option specific to products and prices and from manufacturer literature about how a product works and is to be installed.

The need for the RADAR scanner or antenna to be mounted at some height above the normal range of the occupants on a boat is due to concerns about the radio waves from the device. The transmission and reception of radio waves to a RADAR should not have to pass through other components on the boat, and certainly not through humans.

Whether or not one can perform an installation of a RADAR on a 17-foot boat for a total cost of $600 depends a great deal on the components used in the installation.

I agree with Moe's comment that in most cases the radar arch structure needed to support the RADAR scanner or antenna will likely cost more than $600. Mounting a RADAR to a pole will require a substantial reinforcement of the point of attachement of the pole to the deck of a small boat like a Boston Whaler 17-footer.

I also offer the observation that I have seen many boats that are equipped with RADAR that appear to be operating their RADAR during daylight periods of unlimited visibility. I believe that there is an impression in the minds of many boaters that once they install a RADAR there is an obligation implied in the Collision Rules which requires the RADAR to be in use anytime the boat is underway. I make this assumption on the inference drawn from Rule 5, which mentions:

"Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision."


The phrase "all available means" perhaps is construed to mean that if one has RADAR it must be employed to maintain a look-out. This interpretation seems just about universal among commercial ships, that is, every commercial ship I have seen underway with a RADAR appears to have the RADAR in operation. Many recreational boats follow this same practice.

My reason for mentioning this is to suggest that installation of a RADAR may result in the vessel incurring an obligation to use the RADAR almost all the time the vessel is underway.

jimh posted 11-07-2009 12:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The NAVICO BR24 broadband RADAR seems well suited to application in a small boat for several reasons, namely:

--low radio power emission reduces concern about exposure to humans;

--excellent short range target discrimination (which is important as the limited height will imply range limitation to shorter ranges);

--low power consumption;

--no warm up periods needed;

--no operator adjustment or tuning needed in operation.

These advantages are clearly outlined in the manufacturer's literature that was mentioned above.

20dauntless posted 11-07-2009 12:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless  Send Email to 20dauntless     
Jim, I run my radar almost all the time, but not because of my interpretation of the rules. Rather, I find it is good practice for when I need to rely on my radar. If I get used to matching what I see on screen and out the windows when it's clear, I'm better able to interpret what's on screen when I can't see out the windows.
Jefecinco posted 11-07-2009 07:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
In Mobile Bay and the offshore waters of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Dauphin Island, AL a lot of boats use radar in perfectly clear weather attempting to find flocks of birds at the surface feeding on bait fish.

The theory is that if bait fish are at the surface they have been driven there by predator fish. If fishermen are able to arrive at the flocks while the birds are feeding it often facilitates catching predatory fish.

In my experience, especially during Fall fishing, "fishing the birds" often provides some exceptionally good results. Speckled Trout are almost a sure catch under the birds.

Alas, my small boat is not equipped with radar so we search for birds the old fashioned way with binoculars and spectacles.


SJUAE posted 11-07-2009 09:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE  Send Email to SJUAE     
Some interesting points raised, apart from the obvious mounting difficulties in a small boat set up for radar

Firstly mounting height will give you increased range within the capabilities of the unit but more important is the fact the boat will be pitching and rolling which may also hinder range, hence higher the better.

The possibility of spotting birds seems very subjective even with very high powered units, not being an owner/user I would only suggest that the latest Broardband radars may give you a chance to spot a flock but not at any considerable range that you may observe otherwise by normal sight IMO.

Although I agree with that a full professional radar arch for a small boat may well get to 600 dollars (half the price of typical light weight retro fit T-Top) I would guess this to be the upper end and 250-350 would be a reasonable estimate for a windshield grab rail mount to support 16-20lbs radar dome

It's true that unlike our gps plotters where little interpretation is required of the displayed information where running radar even in good visibility increases your interpretation skills and radar experience, however with typically new units as radar over lay is now a common feature this should greatly assist even the most novice of user

As it seems that even the budget price for fishfinder/plotter combo's are 400-650 range (without maps)I can't see how a usable radar setup for 600 is achievable assuming self install.


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