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Get Radar??? by Karl Sydor 

Skipper of the trawler "Tropical Pleasure". 

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 My two buddies, Joe Fezio and  Dick Rauber, and I do a 'man-cruise' once or twice a year. Joe and Dick are boaters and make a great crew.  We have known each other for over 20 years. We decided to take Tropical Pleasure ( my 34 Californian Trawler ) to Lucaya on Grand Bahamas island in May of last year; we were concerned about the tricky weather that can be experience at that time of year. Due to business reasons, the trip had to be planned for the middle of May. Humorously, now that I look back, our back-up plan was to go to Bimini.

As it turned out, when the guys came into Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday  afternoon (Joe from New Orleans and Dick from Tampa) the weather was rainy and the Gulf Stream was kicking up at 10 to 12 feet. After some deliberation, we decided against going to Lucaya; our back-up plan to Bimini was in jeopardy since we would also have to cross the Stream to get there. What to do? We called Marina Del Mar in Key Largo, FL where I had spent the prior July 4th weekend; after several phone calls, we found a slip. With a light rain and windy conditions, Thursday morning we loaded our provisions and ventured out of the Hillsboro Inlet (Pompano Beach, FL.) headed south to Key Largo. The weather was rocky and wet until we were off Cape Florida.  Once we reached Hawks Channel, the weather began to clear and cruising became a smooth and pleasant ride all the way down to Marina Del Mar.

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Entering Largo Canal was a snap compared to my fiasco the prior year when I went aground. But having learned my lessons and owning a new chart plotter GPS, we knew exactly where we were at all the way.  No mistakes this time.


Largo Canal-Hawks Channel.JPG (80929 bytes)

Joe and Dick are near-gourmet cooks, so I let them take over the galley. This voyage was not going to be any ordinary cuisine. Breakfasts included such things as pancakes with strawberries and dinners with prime rib cooked on the grill. The guys did take a break one night and we ate out.  

Being a six-hour cruise, the rest of Thursday was spent in port eating, drinking and telling wild tales. Fishing was a bust for us. We went out on the ocean Friday, but in four-to-five foot seas it was too rough and very uncomfortable. I have the trawler rigged for trolling two flat lines, but it rocked too much. We went out about five or six miles and then tried fishing off the shelf close to the reefs, but no dice. We did witness the attempted sinking off Key Largo of the 510 foot Navy ship USS Spiegel Grove as a dive site and saw it with its keel up out of the water; what a sight. Saturday we explored some of the shallow waters around the reefs, but couldn঩nd any fish worth keeping. Regardless, the evenings were filled with good fun, food, drink and relaxation. The weather was great in the Keys while up north in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area we heard it had been unpleasant.  Saturday night all we could think about was staying another day, but the guys had to get back to business (I'm retired).  On Sunday morning, sadly , we untied our dock lines  and set course back to Hillsboro Inlet. The cruise up Hawks Channel was even more pleasant then the cruise down. However, after we left the Channel and continued ocean-side off Miami , the sky started to darken and it looked like rain was on the way.  

We didn't have to wait long; we could see bad weather coming off the land and a squall closing in around us from all sides. It started to rain and the wind picked up. The weather channel had predicted up to 30-knot winds. Essentially we went from ideal weather directly  into a storm. The three of us were up on the bridge with the three-sided enclosures closed. Joe was piloting the boat following the route on the GPS chart and Dick and I were acting as lookouts on each side. We reduced our speed. Visibility was less than a quarter of a mile and the wind was blowing so hard that my two radio antennas were bent at 90-degree angles.   I thought they were going to break off!  The boat held its course very well though, and the only reason I could think of was the ballast the twin 3208 Cat diesel engines provided. Those babies are heavy.    

We kept the depth sounder running and fish were showing up everywhere. We did have a few boats pass us closely and one big sailboat went across our bow. In Joe's own words, "We were on constant watch, running 8 knots, with 150 feet visibility, when we spotted a very large sailboat bearing down on us from the NE.  We determined that we had room to avoid a problem but it scared us because we couldn't spot it until the last minute.  Moral to the story: GET RADAR."  

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Thank goodness the bridge enclosures kept us, and the instruments, dry.  Joe and Dick continued to harass me about not having radar on my boat like Joe has on his boat in New Orleans . As we approached Hillsboro Inlet the weather started to clear and entering it was not a problem. Of course, as the captain, I had to take over the helm and pilot the boat safely through the Inlet. I couldn't help thinking of how great a crew Joe and Dick had been during this trip.  

I must admit that after the trip, my conscience bothered me about the accusations Joe and Dick made about not having radar. I visited a couple of boat stores to find out what I would need and what the cost would be. I found out that the one I thought was priced just right at about $1,000 was just a 1 KW system and would not be adequate.  Lower power is OK in clear weather, but not for rain. I was told that you need good power to see into a rainstorm. A 2 KW system would be better, but a 4 KW would be the best for me. The price would be in the $3,000 to $4,000 range and that did not include a radar arch or something to hold the radar antennae. Well, now I started thinking about the overall cost of radar.  

I finally reasoned that in New Orleans radar  may be necessary because residents get more of that rainy fog than we get here in Florida and the Bahamas .  But it's not needed in daylight, and I'm a daylight cruiser. I have a friend, Fred Abel, who had a 43-foot Post and spent much of five years cruising the Bahamas and claims that he never once turned on the radar. Well, then I was convinced; I was going to live without radar. Joe, Dick and I are scheduled to talk about an upcoming cruise this spring. We'll see how important radar is to them then.  

So, 衴 do you think唠RADAR? 

Ed. Note:  To share your thoughts with Karl click here


Click here to see Captain Sydor's Biography




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