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I recently posted on an internet discussion relating to a proposed alternative method of finding buoys in areas of reduced visibility (fog perhaps). A couple of the commenters wrote that the original poster should forget this other stuff and simply use radar. I took a bit of an issue with this, knowing that not every boat out there sailing at night has radar installed. We don’t, and although we had in the past contemplated installing radar, our goals of both keeping things relatively simple, and not going into the poor house before we have actually left the dock, made us put it on the far back burner.

So, being the smarty that I (think I) am, I figured I would go find some figures on how many cruisers do actually have radar on board. The Seven Seas Cruising Association has available for members a huge equipment survey. What does it say? Well, color me surprised. It says that 73% of those who completed the survey DO have radar! To put that in perspective, it also says that only 66.18% have a chartplotter, and only 76% have a hand-bearing compass.

Yesterday we bit the bullet and ordered… NOT Radar. No, we ordered a new Garmin 546 chartplotter.

Note: if you have something bad to say about this particular unit, you are not to post it. If you have something good to say, feel free to share and tell me how shopping savvy I am. 🙂

Anyway, one thing this unit will not do (I think) is overlay radar on it. So this morning I am having a tiny bit of buyers remorse, but I’m sure it will go away.

From what I have read, radar is undergoing a bit of an evolution these days anyway. Broadband Radar is apparently now available from a couple of companies (the term broadband radar may actually be a trademark) and it provides much better resolution with a hugely-reduced power requirement. Both great things. I think that we should be able to get by for now without radar until this technology matures a bit. In the meantime, if it gets foggy out there, we’ll just stay put or practice our sound signals!


  1. A good chartplotter isn’t a neccessity,but it sure lowers the stress factor when your sailing! Like most electronics,the prices keep dropping,so it’s a no-brainer to purchase one.
    Even when I’m using a chartplotter,I always have a printed chart with me in the cockpit so I can see the “big picture”. All our coastaal kayaking was done with printed charts,no GPS,so it’s what I’m used to.
    I don’t think there’s much fog in most of the Carribbean,so just stay down there until you can buy a radar unit!

  2. Garman makes great products and you will be glad you have it…A chartplotter is in my opinion for what you guys are doing is more important. Once you install the Garman you will wonder how you lived without it. Did you get a transducer for bottom imagery….A lot of nice features that you will use. Just make sure you get your chart cards for the caribbean. It usually just gives you enough maps for a certain area…. When you cruise in the Northeast, I recommend radar, but the caribbean is pretty clear sailing. I cruise in this pea soup all the time……..

    • Hi John. Thanks. I did not order the “sounder” version. It would have been another 160 bucks, plus the transducer. We already have a Raymarine ST60 depth transducer so I didn’t think it would be needed (although I do understand the potential benefit of being able to see an image of the bottom as opposed to just having a number).

      And yes, I do think we should stay in the south away from that fog!!! 🙂

  3. You will also find it nice to stay away from snowstorms! Even though the south is getting another big one and snow is predicted for the Florida panhandle, I think the Caribbean islands usually escape such visitations, as well as escaping fog!

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