Ask Sail: Better to be Seen

“I have a 28-foot boat with a fractional rig. I’m thinking about mounting a radar reflector on the leading edge of the mast between the forestay and the masthead. Is this a good idea?”

Dave Adams, Newington, Connecticut

Gordon West replies: Having a radar reflector is always a good idea; it can increase your boat’s target visibility by up to 6 miles. Otherwise, a radar set might not pick up a fiberglass sailboat until is it just a mile or two away. Mounting your reflector on the front of the mast is also a good idea, because it won’t become fouled in the rigging. Hanging a reflector in the rigging also has some merit in that it always presents a different pattern to radar scans. However, a swinging reflector can get distorted or damaged; if this happens, it won’t function as well as a fixed unit. Choose a reflector that is wider than the mast section to improve your echo return behind the mast to boats that are scanning you from astern. I like the Echomax EM230 and the Tri-Lens units.

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