Night Eyes

It turned out that the radar wasn’t broken.  It wouldn’t turn on because the moron who rewired the DC panel forgot to connect the negative side of that circuit.  Guilty.  My stupidity was compounded by the time and trials it took to figure that out.

Then when it did turn on, the display reported a “bearing pulse error” and the scanner wouldn’t turn.  I thought that was the nail in the coffin, and began researching new radar systems in earnest.

Without going into a lengthy technical explanation of the differences between traditional pulse radar and the newer frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW) “broadband” radar, my research led me to decide I wanted the latter.  I’m far more interested in what’s inside 1 mile than outside 10 miles.  Usually when I want radar, I want it NOW and don’t want to wait 1-2 minutes for a magnetron to warm up.  And then I want the radar image on my existing Navico-based chartplotter instead of a separate display.  All these pointed to Navico’s 4G radar.

But part of the research process involved poring over the manual for the old system.  It was then that I noticed our scanner has a safety switch on the back of it.  This switch is to prevent someone working on the scanner from getting zapped.  Normally, a switch on the back of a radar scanner 15 feet above the deck of a sailboat would have a hard time getting flipped accidentally.  But this sailboat has a monkey problem, and a flipped switch was a very real possibility.  Sure enough, I sent a monkey aloft to flip it back, and presto! we had radar again.

The night off Key Biscayne when our radar wouldn’t turn on, we narrowly missed running down a marker that wasn’t on our charts.  We may never have seen it at all except for the luminous eyes of the bird sitting on it — staring at us with silent reproach as we passed within a dozen yards.  Radar does seem a good bit more important now than it has in the past, but not quite to the point where we’re ready to replace a working system… yet.