Radar Love

I feel a real sense of accomplishment today. The latest round of our ongoing rolling refit is drawing to a close.  After spending the winter putting a project list together, and then placing a huge order with Defender in late March during their annual warehouse sale, Rhonda and I have been slowly working our way through the pile of boxes, installing, testing and learning to use stuff we feel Eagle Too needed to be a real cruising boat. Much of that work has been fodder for earlier posts. This week, we concluded this phase of the process by completing the radar installation. It was without a doubt the most difficult of all the jobs we tackled this summer. More than once I thought to myself, “Let’s just hire someone and get this whole thing done in a couple of hours.” But we’re just the type of people who believe if we can do it ourselves, we should, because that way we’ll know it’s done right, and we’ll better understand how everything is put together if we ever need to repair something. And you may remember that I once said doing things ourselves also leaves more cash for beer! 🙂

Radar4Here are some tips and lessons learned in case you ever consider doing this job yourself.

1. A hand held rivet gun is not up to the job of attaching a radar mount to a mast, even though it says it can pop a 3/16ths rivet. It’s a serious job, and you need a serious tool. Thank God for Harbor Freight. After a trip up the mast came to a premature end when I learned that I could squeeze till my fingers were purple and still couldn’t pop those rivets, I picked up one of these. Probably one of the best $20 I’ve spent this summer.

2. Radar cables are big. LIke as big around as your thumb big. Last year when we had the mast down, I’d run a messenger line through one of the mast’s internal conduits up to the steaming light thinking I could use that to pull the radar cable down through the mast when the time came. It just didn’t work. There was no way that cable was going down through that 1″ internal conduit. I had to take a hole saw and make a new, larger hole in the mast above the steaming light, drop a weighted line down the inside of the mast, and have Rhonda fish it out through the hole I cut at the mast base, and then use that to pull the cable down from above.


This meant that rather then being confined in a conduit, the nice fat heavy cable was free to swing around inside the mast, potentially clanging and clattering every time the boat heels. But some online research turned up a technique that I think will do the trick. Every 18″, I attached three zip ties spaced evenly around the cable.


The thinking is that they’ll act as stand-offs and help keep the cable centered inside the mast, preventing it from clanging when the boat rocks. Here’s a closer look.


So far it seems to be working. While sitting at the pier with the wind gusting and the boat rocking, there’s not a sound coming from inside the mast. That’s a good thing!

3. I always left all the tools and equipment on deck when I climbed the mast, and then would lower a 30 foot line with a big carabiner attached so that Rhonda could clip on a tool bag, the radar mount. or the radome (or something I dropped and needed to have sent back up). Remember to cover your deck with a tarp when working aloft or else your risk chips in the gel coat when you inevitably fumble finger something!

4. Our rigger told me that when it came time to haul up the radome, it worked best to put it in a mesh bag and use that to lift it up the mast. It was quite frankly scary as hell trying to use both hands to lift a 30 pound radome over my head and place it on the mount while hanging in a bosun’s seat, realizing that if something slipped and the radome fell, we’d be kissing almost two grand goodbye. But by having it in the mesh bag, I was able to set it on the mount and hand thread the mounting bolts through the bag and into the radome while keeping the bag tied off to my harness. If you look closely at the picture at the top of this post, you’ll see that the mesh bag with the radome inside is tied to my chair. Once I had all four mounting bolts started, I cut a slit in the bag, tore it open and pulled it off the radome. Worked like a charm!

So now, we can see in rain and fog, take the measure of approaching storms, and look around to make sure there are no big bad freighters barreling toward us in the dark of night. Yes, we have a big case of Radar Love!

Radar5There’s a lot going on in the picture above. On the left, you can see a chart displaying our boat in its slip at the bottom center. The three red triangles surrounding us are AIS contacts (other vessels transmitting AIS information). They’re red because they’re inside our half-mile guard zone, and thus indicated as “dangerous” contacts. On the right, you can see the same picture on radar. We’ll be spending a lot of time this fall running these two screens side by side so that we can learn what ships and bouys and things shown on the left of the display look like when seen on radar.

So are we done now? Of course not. Next up will be our big solar panel bimini project, meanwhile I have a somewhat unconventional idea on how to modify our lifelines in order to secure extra fuel cans topside. Stay tuned…

2 thoughts on “Radar Love

  1. Carey

    Robert, how did you seal the holes at the radar mount and base of the mast? And how did you route the cable from base of mast to helm?

    1. Robert Post author

      Since there are so many holes in the mast for halyards and other lines, you can’t really seal it, if what you mean is make it waterproof. Where the radar cable exits the mast at the radome, I used a one inch rubber grommet to protect the cable and prevent chafe. I ordered a bag of one inch grommets from McMaster Carr. The access hole I cut at the mast base is similar in size to the existing mast access holes for the mainsail furling mechanism. My rigger was able to provide me with an access hole cover plate from Z-spar (the maker of our mast) that will cover it nicely. It’s just an oval piece of aluminum with a slight curve to fit the mast. It’s held in place with a screw at top and bottom. On our boat, there’s a one inch diameter standpipe inside the mast base that’s a pass thru for cables and wires down into the cabin below. The radar cable fit through this hole (barely). I then ran it though the overhead wiring channel to the chart table. I have a Raymarine network switch mounted inside the chart table behind the breaker panel, and the radar cable plugs into the network switch. That makes the data from the radar available across the entire network. We currently have two Raymarine multi-function displays onboard, one at the helm and one at the chart table, and you can operate the radar from either display. I hope that helps.


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