Small Boat Radar Systems Becomes More Advanced and Cheaper.

It is exactly one year as I started my GPS navigation site and since that I almost never touch a small boat radar systems.

It is time to correct this deficiency.

A marine radar on the ship is essential navigation equipment when to know how to use it properly.

raymarine quantum radarsThe next generation Raymarine Quantum Radar with CHIRP (chirp pulse compression process transforms a long duration frequency-coded pulse into a narrow pulse of greatly increased amplitude) technology open a new page for using radars on recreational crafts.

I would like to explain why I didn’t want to write about radars for boats or yachts before.

The main reason is entirely subjective and in short I was sure that a boat radar is an entirely useless waste of money and time comparing it with professional merchant ships radars and ARPAs. Today I have changed my point of view.

 Marine radars are one of the primary navigation tools on merchant and other commercial ships. Powerful navigation bridge radar is like headlights for cars in the dark.

For me as navigation officer on five hundred feet long high-speed reefer ship a good and convenient in use, radar system was essential for the everyday job.

I hope that folks who are reading my post more or less understanding what the heck this radar is.

By skipping complicated technical explanation then in short.

Marine radar is navigation tool which allows detecting another target on the sight of horizon regardless of daytime, darkness, fog or rain. Radio signals from rotating antenna reflecting from the target back to the antenna and after signal converting the target appear on the radar screen.

After you are free to measure distance and bearing to the target and calculate either speed and course of other ship or obtain your boat’s geographical position measuring distance and taking the bearing to the charted (with a known geographical location on nautical chart) object like a lighthouse, peninsula edge, separate standing rock and other objects.

You can predict another vessel’s movement regarding your ship to assume if any action is required for safe navigation. Even more, ARPA (automatic radar plotting aid) can calculate multiple targets and alert about most dangerous allowing execute early steps to avoid close quarter situations or even collision.

The above mentioned is just most often used functions of marine radars. In fact, there are many additional features to help for the safe navigation in any weather condition and the busy shipping areas.

So, returning to small boat radar systems.

Years ago when I stepped from big ship to small boat and first met a sailboat radar in real high seas sailing I was very disappointed. Because of the healing, rolling and pitching of the boat, a picture on the radar screen shows almost nothing just green-white patches and imaginable shoreline with virtually no way to detect a real target.

It was the late nineties and in the first years of the twenty-first century. Many pricey boats and sailing yachts have radars installed on boat wharf as wealthy owners knowing almost nothing about marine navigation equipment just wanna make a tick in equipment list to keep up or to be superior to an equally stupid neighbor boat owner (let forgive me those skippers who knew radars well).

Honestly, the only benefit of these radars was navigation in dense fog.

You have to keep a sharp lookout to deviate from big ships avoiding a collision. I know how guys feel on the merchant vessels bridge in such a weather condition and trust me with confidence there is such a big possibility to skip your small wooden or fiberglass boat on radars screen. Even worse when accidentally hitting the boat the big ship’s even could not notice it due to the wind, waves, visibility and ship’s size and particulars. So, better to keep clear of busy shipping lanes in bad visibility.

Let’s step into today. The situation is much better.

Firstly, such a perfect tool or system or human technical and intellectual achievement as AIS (automatic identification system) significantly improve the safety of navigation.

As your ship, boat, yacht or even flying object is equipped with this system then you can see other AIS users, and you are visible to them. For SOLAS vessels AIS is compulsory. Many wise port and state authorities have enforced mandatory AIS use by implementing local rules and regulations to use this great system for a wider range of vessels which are not covering by SOLAS regulations.

sailing without AIS which in modern shipping mode is a major drawback.

I tried to prove our officials in Riga Freeport Authority to make changes in some rules regarding compulsory AIS for some types of in port operating ships but with almost no success.  Many bunker barges (read tanker ships with dangerous cargo) and even commercial passenger ships continue sailing without AIS which in modern shipping mode is a major drawback.

The pleasure crafts are free to choose, sale safer buying a couple of hundred bucks worth AIS even on or sail like Flying Dutchman in foggy narrows and be constantly in the stressful condition of almost imminent collision possibility.

Secondly, relating the theme of our article about small boat radar systems it should be said that the technology has progressed and also small radars have become helpful.

For example. Let’s take a look on one of the leading marine radar manufacturer recent product, Raymarine Quantum Q24C CHIRP pulse compression technology marine radar for small boats.

To get an idea of this apparatus, please read product description from

small boat radar systems

Click on the radar pic to see details and STARS✫✫✫✫✫

„Quantum Q24C Radome w/Wi-Fi & Ethernet – 10M Power Cable IncludedRaymarine Quantum Radar, by FLIR, is the next generation of marine radar featuring CHIRP pulse compression technology.Setting a standard for compact solid state radar, Quantum delivers superior radar imaging on both long and extremely short ranges. Integrated Wi-Fi and thin cabling simplifies installation plus Quantum’s energy efficient and lightweight design provides safe radiated emissions and substantially reduced power consumption. Superior Radar ImagingFLIR’s exclusive ATXT advanced target separation technology displays targets like boats, landmarks, rocks, buoys, and weather cells with unsurpassed resolution and separation quality.CHIRP Pulse CompressionExcellent short-range detection and enhanced target detail with 18′ (6m) minimum range. CHIRP Pulse compression ensures more energy reaches each target, resulting in superior imaging on long ranges.Small Target DetectionQuantum’s CHIRP Pulse Compression technology identifies small, weak targets, even when positioned close to strong returns.Simplified InstallationSimple Wi-Fi connection between Quantum and any Raymarine LightHouse II powered MFD. Quantum’s small diameter power cable is easy to route through tight spaces. Easy to upgrade – Quantum uses the same bolt pattern as previous generation radars. Optional Quantum adapter cable eliminate the need to run new radar cables.Energy Efficient & Lightweight DesignWeighs 50% less than traditional magnetron radars. Safe Emissions thanks to Quantum’s low power solid state radar transmitter. Very low power consumption (17 Watts transmit and 7 watts standby). Extended vessel battery life when under sail.“

significantly less electric consumption

For me, except higher resolution and other more or less advertising spangles, the main benefit is significantly less electric consumption and light weight which allow to mount it higher on a mast. It is less important for constant power driven boats but for use on sailboats, it is a significant gain comparing to traditional magnetron radars.

And prices, about $1,5K for such a state of art device is the tiny amount of money, remembering that there just five years ago, massive, not economic magnetron radars cost two to three times more expensive.

In conclusion

Again and again about my, your, crew and passenger SAFETY. Wisely (not silly and costly) with navigation tools equipped boat will make you feel safer on the water. If you can afford small boat radar systems, then let yacht, and you be proud of it to sailing with a sense of security and pleasure.

Wisely (not silly and costly) with navigation tools equipped boat will make you feel safer on the water. If you can afford small boat radar systems, then let yacht, and you be proud of it to sailing with a sense of security and pleasure.


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  1. robert Lawrence


    I remember the days of the 90’s where marine radar was so lacking like you mentioned. Wow am I ever glad that times have changed since then.

    These modern pieces of gear that you’re talking about are exactly the reason I am alive today because it has saved me from a few very serious accidents.

    What a lot of people don’t understand is how dangerous it can be when you don’t have this proper gear. It can be very high risk especially in a high traffic area because you just never know when some heavy fog is going to roll in.

    Thanks for the info.

    1. Andrejs (Post author)

      Hi, Robert and thanks for stopping by!

      Thank god that this navigation gear saved your life.

      Not yet any other than radar invented to be visible in the dense fog. AIS is the great invention but, particularly for recreational craft, it still is just and voluntary decision and even having AIS on board it could be easily switched off.

      The radar, modern boat radar, see everything around except the Stealth or submarine.


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