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wheel, and this can cause a tendency to
overshoot or undershoot.
I steer best if I quickly look at the
compass and get a bearing when I’m
concerned about a target on the radar
or a bearing on the chartplotter. This
works for me because I’ve been steering
compass courses for
more than 60 years.
Other tactics might
work better for you.
Learn to use and
interpret the displays
on your electronics
intuitively. You won’t
have time to figure
it out when you’re
to know which
Your radar doesn’t necessarily show
you everything out there. It may miss
some targets completely, especially if it
isn’t adjusted correctly for the circumstances (rain, sea clutter, mist). Some
radars automatically adjust to some interference, but never rely on this function
completely. Learn to distinguish targets.
A blob looks like a blob, but a big steel
ship, for example, will generally create a
much larger blob than a buoy.
Disappearing and reappearing blobs
are common. Sometimes it’s because of
a wave, an echo, or some other anomaly.
Sometimes it’s because of a small boat or
obstruction. I’ve even picked up a flock of
geese in V formation — even when the
set was properly tuned. Become familiar
with how your set reacts to different
phenomena. Your boat may create radar
reflections, particularly if there’s a mast or
other structure behind the antenna.
Learn how to determine whether a
target you see on radar is closing with
you. This is relatively easy when you’re
also using your eyes with good visibility.
But in the fog (or at night), it can be quite
difficult unless you understand your radar
and how to use it, including collision prediction. Depending on your boat, you may
want to have a radar reflector up so other
radar-equipped boats can see you.
Fog will probably happen to you sooner or later. Plan now, prepare now. You’ll
be glad you did when your world disappears from view.
Tom Neale is technical editor of