|Del Viento with her new mast-mounted|
radome in King Salmon.
Radar was installed on our boat before we bought it. Mounted ten feet up on a 3-inch-diameter dedicated stern pole, the covered radome was the first thing I noticed in the listing photos because it was about the size of the ones you see on, oh…warships. Down below, mounted on its own shelf was a monitor so large it was like a wall that blocked off the nav station. I think Raymarine produced this model in 1948.“Well, if we buy this boat, that’s the first thing I’ll remove,” I said to Windy.
“What? Why would you do that? It says in the listing the radar works fine.”“I’ve read about these old units, they’re worthless. You have to plan ahead to use them because they take about 20 minutes to warm up—and then when they do warm up, they suck about a million amps out of the batteries. There’s just no point having it aboard.”
Radar was something we would never really need or use aboard Del Viento. Radar was a nice-to-have item that hundreds—no, thousands of voyagers (all with a lot more miles under their keel than me) have done without. Radar was exhibit one in a long list of “safety” gear that manufacturers have scared boaters into thinking they need. Not me. Instead of purchasing a false sense of security in the form of tens of thousands of dollars of “must-have” safety equipment, I would exercise the sound judgment and practice the good seamanship that served the Roths and the Hiscocks so well. Otherwise, where does the spending insanity end?Not with Windy.
“I don’t want to get rid of something that works until we’ve lived with it.”So live with it we did.
For nearly a year I tried to forget about it, but the manual was a thick, typewritten tome that took up space. The monitor seemed to grow every time I bent around it to sit at the nav station. I convinced myself we were losing half a knot from the windage of that AWACS radome. But I said nothing…until one evening in La Paz, Mexico watching the sunset aboard Nyon.I brought it up casually with Rick and Kyra, “So you guys lived and sailed up in Victoria, B.C. and are now cruising, but I notice Nyon doesn’t have radar…” (Do you know why most trial lawyers are smarter than I am? They learned long ago not to ask a question in front of a jury unless they know the response.)
Kyra answered. I remember she said that they did just fine without radar, and largely considered it an unnecessary expense…except for the couple times they were stuck in fog and could hear the rumbling of large ship propellers all around them, fog horns blasting, surf on the rocks, and thought they were going to die.Windy’s eyes were wide.
|The girls love climbing up and hanging out|
on top of the boom. Frances's shirt says it all.
And then I realized that we would replace all that I removed—with new radar.“Absolutely. We’re likely to find ourselves in fog, in the shipping lanes.”
I just did it. I didn’t resist and nor did I resent; she was probably right.We bought the new solid state, svelte Furuno unit in San Diego. Three months later we were in King Salmon, on Humboldt Bay, when I finally finished the installation and powered it up for the first time. The radar seemed to work fine, but the display resembled a monochrome Jackson Pollack painting. It likely looked that way because we were not on the open ocean, all around us were homes and boats and a maze of King Salmon canals--and maybe it still required adjustment for the cable length, I didn’t know. And secretly, I didn’t care. I didn’t care a great deal how or whether it worked. I was glad only that my obligation to install the thing—this expensive thing we didn’t really need and would likely never use—was complete.
Two days later we left King Salmon and motored out the channel, past the break water and back into the Pacific Ocean, leaving Humboldt Bay on our way to Astoria, Oregon. Within 12 hours, the fog descended. It wasn’t thick at first, but with the night it turned to pea soup, one of the blackest nights I’ve spent at sea. I turned on the radar and I played with the gain and range settings. Within minutes I easily correlated buoys on our chart with objects on the radar screen, passing by. Outside I could see little beyond the glow of our running lights at the bow, but on the radar screen I could see a dozen fishing boats around us and mark our progress as we navigated a clear path safely through the fleet.How had we come so many miles without this marvel?
I’m smitten. Our new Furuno friend was powered up all night for each of the three nights of our passage from Eureka, CA to Astoria, OR—even when the visibility was good. During one of my night watches when we had good visibility, I glanced at the radar screen as I came below after spending ten minutes in the cockpit surveying an empty horizon. There was a pretty strong target showing 6 miles off the starboard bow. Huh? I went back topsides, focused on that part of the horizon, and soon discerned the faint light of the vessel I missed.Radar love indeed.
|We have entered the land of fog.|
|Anchored in Shelter Cove, between San Francisco and Eureka.|