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When (used) boats are sold, it seems pretty common that they come complete with a plethora of miscellaneous equipment. ZTC was no exception to this with one such item we received being a radar reflector. Instead of it being rigged up on the mast somewhere where it might do some good though, it sat in one of the bow lockers taking up space.

On several occasions I thought about putting the reflector up but I found no great solution for doing so. I also did a bit of reading on the subject of radar reflectors and concluded that most of the models currently available, including the one that we had on hand, weren’t all that stellar in terms of performance. I also read some arguments that said that the radar signal given off by even a “plastic” boat such as ours is still greater than the signal that any of the reflectors could produce. And so our radar reflector sat unrigged. Until now that is.

I was always under the impression that having a radar reflector rigged was optional. I think now that I may have been mistaken on this. During the RYA theory course that I recently did, there was a practice question that specifically asked if boats needed to be fitted with a reflector and the answer I was given was yes. My web search this morning netted the same answer:

SOLAS V requires vessels if less than 150 gross tonnage and if practicable, [shall have] a radar reflector or other means, to enable detection by ships navigating by radar at both 9 and 3 GHz . ??Essentially this means that if it is possible to use a radar reflector on your boat you should do so…

Even though we don’t typically sail in bad visibility, and I do believe that most competent radar operators will be able to see our boat’s signal even without the reflector up, I think we should still try to comply with the regs. Better safe than sorry.

We need to find a way secure this beast up in the rigging somewhere.