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Ask Sail: Forward-looking Sonar to Spot Floating Deadheads?

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R. Miller, Anacortes, WA

Q: Can a forward-looking sonar effectively spot floating deadheads ahead in the water when cruising in the Pacific Northwest? 

Gordon West Replies

A: Forward-looking sonars for recreational boats are purposefully tilted down to minimize false returns from the surface of the water ahead. This makes them ideal for spotting submerged rocks ahead when you are entering a cozy little harbor up north. If a forward-sounding sonar was angled high enough to look ahead at the sea surface, you would constantly see “targets” dead ahead that are nothing more than wave action or reflective dead-calm sea surface. Therefore, your best bet against hitting a deadhead floating on the surface remains a maintain a sharp lookout.

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