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Another Project for the Season Upgrading Your Boat’s Radar

August 1, 2016

Original radar                                         Mounting holes filled.


Success! The radar is installed and working via WiFi. It looks great sitting on the cabin top and the display is beautiful. The difference between the new system and the old system is remarkable. Things can change quite a bit in almost twenty years. Technology marches on, for better or worse. One reason I waited so long to upgrade was the worry that if the new display failed I would have no electronics at all. With the old system, everything was separate. Chart plotter, radar and depth all operating independently of the other. If one went down I still had the other two operating to get us home. Hopefully I have waited.


Getting the old radome off of the hard top was very easy. After removing the four mounting bolts from underneath the top, I went up top and used a putty knife to pry the radome off, breaking the bond from the silicone used to bed it down and make the bolt holes water proof. Then after using that same putty knife to remove the old sealant, I had to fill the old bolt holes. For that I used Marine Tex epoxy and had to let it set up for a few hours. Once it had cured I carefully sanded it down with my rotary sander and then wet sanded it. I did not go crazy trying to make it look perfect - this would be completely covered by the new radar unit.


Now that the old unit was off and the holes were filled and watertight, it was time to remove the old cable. This may have been the most physically demanding part of this project. Getting the old cable out was no picnic. It fought us the entire way! One thing that made it so hard was trying to keep the fitting on the end of the cable intact so the old radar could still function for someone else. About halfway through pulling the cable out I realized that there was no way I would get it out through the next hole in the aluminum tube of the cabin top support. With hesitation, I cut the end off the cable. After that it was fairly easy to pull the old cable out while using it to pull the new
cable through. Luckily my friend Brian was an electronics technician when we were in the service together and he can repair this for me. One thing that helped was having my wife help me. While I pulled the old cable she would feed it into the tubing so it would not bind. I could not have done this part without her help!


The new cable is much thinner than the old cable. I was able to purchase a cable outlet, also called a bulkhead fitting, to run the cable through before connecting it to the radome. This gives a good looking watertight seal for the cable where it enters the hardtop. Using a template I drilled the four new mounting holes and then attached the power cable to the radome. With my wife holding two screwdrivers into the mounting holes from underneath as a guide, I set the radome into position using 3M 4200 to seal the holes. After running the cable into the hardtop and through the hardtop supports, into the engine room and to the helm, it was time to connect it to the 12 volt power
supply. I had to remove a panel inside the cabin to get there and in time it was connected. It would help to be a contortionist while doing some of this!

                                             New radar                         Power cable and bulkhead fitting


The time had come to power up the unit. I sat at the helm and switched it on. A soft beep and then the welcome screen alerted me that it was working. The home page appeared and I was guided
through the start up procedure. The chart display looked great. I switched to the depth finder and it also worked. I turned on the radar, and had to enter a lengthy ID and password to connect the radar and display by WiFi. The screen displayed a message, it was connecting! After all this
work I could not wait to see it. And then an error message came up. “Failed to Connect”! No problem, I hit retry. After waiting a couple of minutes without breathing, it failed again! And again. I was very disappointed to say the least. And hungry. I did not realize it but my wife and I had been working over seven hours without a break. We had no food with us and only some bottled water to cool us down. Before making a mistake because I was tired, I called it quits for the day.


We headed out to the boat and started working on the problem the next evening. I had my trusty old electrical tester with me to check for power to the radome. The first thing I did was to try the radar again. Guess what? It still did not connect! A fellow boater was there and asked what was going on. I told him about the problem, and he suggested I wait to call tech support the next day. But before I did that I wanted to make sure all the simple possibilities had been addressed. So I went to the electric panel to check for voltage. I had voltage there. Ok, how about to the inline fuse holder? Yep, I had it to one end of it. The fuse had continuity, meaning it had not blown. Was it possible that we had damaged the power cable somewhere in the middle? I had to check the cable at the radome itself. This meant I had to remove it! I had brought putty knives with me expecting this dilemma, and took them up on the top with me. One problem. They were not long enough to even reach under the radome to pry it up. Now what? Well, for some reason I kept an old spatula in the boat toolbox, and this did the job nicely. Like flipping a giant hamburger. I removed the power cable and attached the voltmeter. I asked my wife to turn on the power. Nothing there. Try again please. Still nothing, not even a flicker on the voltmeter. Did we damage the cable? I had to step back and think about this. Start with the simplest possibility. Let me go back to the panel. Switch on and we have power to the fuse holder. How about the output side of the fuse holder? I had to borrow a paperclip from my wife and insert it into the wire connection. Switch on, no power! The brand new fuse holder was bad. In all my years working on boats I had never had that happen. I have had them go bad in time, but not right out of the box.


I replaced the fuse holder and powered up the unit. This time I tried the radar first. I again entered
the ID and password and hit enter. Something was different this time. I think I could hear the radar spinning. The display said “Connecting” once again. After what seemed like a very long time it said “Connected”! I selected the radar function from the menu and right away it displayed a beautiful picture. I turned down the range to 1/16 of a mile and could make out boats in the marina. I was so relieved that it was working.





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