38 Marine Electronics Journal
inclined to spend up to $500 on the VHF
radio and $30 on an antenna.
Dome or open array?
For radars, there is often a difference in
antennas between commercial fishing’s
inshore and offshore fleets.
In Maine, Howe says most inshore fishermen want nothing smaller than a 4 k W radar
and “very few commercial guys are looking
for open arrays. Most are looking for closed
domes.” He attributes the closed dome to a
fisherman’s desire to protect his antenna.
There is a similar preference for dome
antennas in Bristol Bay on the 32 foot salmon
gillnetters. Harris Electric puts a lot of
Furuno 1715 radars on gillnetters. Sundholm
says about 50% of the boats use a combo-unit of radar and sounder, such as a high-end
Open arrays are a favorite of most recreational boat owners, and it’s usually a modular unit with a sounder, notes Sundholm.
Offshore commercial fishermen might
have a domed antenna on their boat, but it’s
a backup unit, says Sundholm. “The dome
just doesn’t have the range.” A good example
of a radar that Harris Electric sells as a primary unit is Furuno’s 2100 series with a
range up to 96 miles.
Along the south Atlantic coast and the
Gulf of Mexico, Broderick sees two classes of
recreational boat owners. There is the guy
with less than $100,000 in his boat and then
there is the high-end operator who doesn’t
have any problem putting $80,000 to
$100,000 into wheelhouse electronics.
The owner of the $100,000 boat might
put 10% of that into electronics, “and that
would be high,” Broderick says. For the 10
grand, he might get a Simrad, Furuno or JRC
with radar, chartplotter, depth sounder, GPS
and transducer combination.
At the other end of the recreational scale
is the $5 million yacht Sound Marine Electronics outfitted. The electronics package
included a $38,000 radar. “The owner was in
his 80s and doesn’t even drive the boat,”
While a commercial fisherman might
have a radar unit with plenty of range, it
doesn’t always mean he is using it. “Having it
on the six-mile range is common,” says
Marston, referring to boats operating out of
Gloucester. And that can lead to a dangerous
situation when two boats are heading at each
other, both going 7 to 9 knots and the radar
set for 6 miles. “They think they are in good
shape, but it’s amazing how fast you close,”
The Patriot incident is a major reason
some offshore boat owners out of Gloucester
are starting to put AIS on their boats. “No
one knows what happened but the speculation is that a collision occurred. If an AIS
receiver had been aboard, they would have
been attuned to what was taking place,”
Some boats have Class-B AIS, but after
using them fishermen voiced complaints.
They found Class-B doesn’t transmit as often
and generally isn’t as effective as Class-A, says
Another drawback is that older Class-A
units on commercial ships and tugs, unless
the AIS has gone through a software update,
won’t detect signals from a Class-B AIS.
“Commercial vessels have Class-A because
they are required to, but they don’t have
requirements to update the software,”
A few fishermen working in areas with a
lot of vessel traffic have come into Seatronics
looking to buy Class-A transponders.
Marston says, “They can get a decent black-
box receiver for $500 and plug it into Wind-
Plot or Globe and show the targets at a fairly
Howe says while inshore fishing boats are
not buying AIS systems, there is a “growing
interest in AIS” among recreational boat own-
ers. A new combination that is proving popu-
lar is VHFs with AIS built in. “You can con-
nect it to a plotter and targets show up on the
radio screen as well as the plotter,” he says.