June 28, 2015

AIS: where we stand...

We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

Some of those topics may be relevant here, so once in a while we will repost here for reference.

The following may be one of those... 

———— Last updated 26-July-2016 by Bill ————

Link to original forum post [28-Jun-2015]

Re: AIS- A Love Story

Originally Posted by TJ D View Post
My love story begins like so many others, on a stormy winter night in the Bering sea.

Back about 2006 or so, we were mandated to install class A systems on our trawler. It really just seemed like another case of government overreach, creating yet another requirement on top of an already endless list. However, we had no choice so we complied.

Now, for as long as there's been a fishing fleet working out of Dutch Harbor, we've had to cross one of the main shipping lanes between the west coast and Asian ports. These guys operating these ships more often than not would disregard the rules and simply continue on their course regardless of the crossing situation. All very annoying, but we learned to live with it. For you colregs enthusiasts, there are no TSS areas where we're talking, no special exemptions. Calls by position, course, speed, whatever would almost always go unanswered. It's just the way it was.

Until the night I was crossing the lanes with our shiny new AIS. Suddenly, I had identifying info for everyone! We could call these guys by name, and they knew we knew who they were. And just like that, the vast majority of them would take appropriate action in a crossing/meeting/overtaking situation without so much as a radio call. Amazing! I immediately bought a receiver for the sailboat, followed by a class b transponder when they were available.

For those still reading, here's the point. This is the single most important contribution to maritime safety since the advent of electronic positioning. We also embrace the KISS principal on board (the sailboat, not the trawler), but this system has a place on any boat venturing out in any area where shipping traffic is present, coastal or offshore. I read about and remember well the difficulties posed by commercial traffic in various ports, and these units just take so much of that away.

I don't know what compelled me to write this today. It probably has something to do with Shell's new arctic oil rig pulling into Dutch last night with 5 attending tugs and so many damn lights that I appreciated the technology anew.

Good sailing to all.

We agree. AIS is the best aid to navigation released in many years. We love our Vesper Watchmate 850 integrated with our chart plotter and VHF radios [both of which also have AIS Rx only functions for back-up...]

The anchor watch functions are unbeatable. {Having said that, a feature request would be the ability to adjust the anchor coordinates instead of having to punch the mark button at precisely the right moment... This is an issue for us because the Vesper is in our pilothouse, and we typically conduct anchoring from the cockpit helm. Running down the companionway during anchoring to press the button isn't always doable, or timely...}

We went so far as to rely on AIS for POB alert and retrieval function integrating an AIS transmitter with GPS into our inflatable PFD/harnesses. [Side note: When we replace these, we will go with the fairly new AIS/VHF DSC versions to get even more alarm options...]

I also note with interest Ben Ellison's [Panbo] recent article about 5 Watt SOTDMA Class B AIS transceiver [up from the current 2 watt Class B limit we currently enjoy...]

AIS: don't leave home [port] without it!



And here is a follow-up agreeing with someone commenting about RADAR:

Re: AIS- A Love Story

Re: AIS- A Love Story

Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
I'm constantly surprised by the people who consider radar critical for collision avoidance but an AIS transponder a "nice to have".

I hardly ever turn on my radar anymore -- even in Maine -- but the AIS is always on.
Originally Posted by jtsailjt View Post
WOW! Since the vast majority of the boats on the coast of Maine don't have AIS, I can't imagine why you wouldn't turn on your radar as well as your AIS if you ever go out in the fog. AIS is a wonderful tool, and nearly a necessity offshore these days, but when coastal cruising in an area with lots of lobster boats and smallish recreational vessels, neither of which is likely to have/monitor AIS or proceed in a straight line for more than a minute or so at a time, I think radar being on and crosschecked every few seconds is a necessity. For coastal cruising, especially in an area known for its fog like Maine is, radar is critical for collision avoidance because it allows you to see ALL other traffic, where AIS only allows you to see traffic equipped with AIS transponders.
Agreed. Radar is typically a must for us in our current cruising waters. 

We constantly remind ourselves that all of these electronics are simply AIDs to navigation... and the more the better for us [depth, charts, chart plotters, GPS, AIS, RADAR, binoculars, spot lights, etc...]  And lets not forget the days of  recreational SAT NAV, RDF and LORAN-C...

I have never found any single AID that accommodates every situation- including my own eyes and assessment. 

Situational awareness conspires to keep me humble...


Here is another post: this one regarding AIS brand and model [and feature] choices: [2-Jan-2016]

Re: Vesper Watchmate Vision Reviews?

Originally Posted by Kenomac View Post
We're thinking about upgrading our present AIS receive only system to the Vesper Watchmate Vision. Anyone currently using this system? Pros, any cons? Anything better out there?

This inquiring mind wants to know prior to purchase.



We inherited a Vesper Watchmate 850 with our boat. [The model before the Vision: No WiFi or touchscreen, and monotone as well...]

It is a very reliable, feature rich unit with excellent filtering and very low power requirements. It is connected to the primary VHF masthead antenna using a Vesper splitter. [An excellent device from our experience...]

The anchor alarm has earned its place as our primary one. [3 others are set also- along with a RADAR perimeter...] As I have mentioned in prior posts re: AIS, our AIS is broadcasting all the time- even at anchor- but that is due to the areas we currently cruise. [Our SOP may change in other locations in the future...]

Since our person overboard [POB] alert devices are PFD mounted AIS transmitters [with GPS] we also installed a VHF with AIS Rx only [for AIS Rx redundancy.] Both AIS sources are fed to our N2K network so our MFD is our primary AIS Target screen [We can select which AIS source to use...] We added a GoFree WiFi1 device to our N2K network, so AIS data is available to all N2K and WiFi devices. [Like you will be able to do with a Vision.]

Since we rely on AIS to alert onboard crew of a POB, we want to make sure the alarm is loud enough to be heard. The Watchmate 850 has a provision [and likely other AIS models as well...] to easily wire in an external alarm, which we did [with it's own on/off switch for muting...] We even wired in another switch to additionally activate our airhorns. [All can be muted in an instant... This is very important as you cannot talk over either alarm...]

Therefore, [for us...] being able to activate external alarm(s) of choice is an important feature of AIS. That is a requirement I am keeping on my list for future AIS replacements.

In case this is useful.



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