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Old 27-06-2015, 22:21   #1
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AIS- A Love Story

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.

TJ
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Old 27-06-2015, 22:54   #2
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

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Originally Posted by TJ D View Post
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.
HeHe - I love the Colregs enthusiasts. I sometimes hope they may actually go out in a boat someday!

We too have come to view AIS as a game-changer. We would never even consider consulting Colregs to determine right of way - we simply get out of the way. However, with AIS, we actually watch ships often now change course 10 miles out to give exactly 1.5nm CPA (that must be in their SOP's somewhere, because it is pretty precise and reproducible). In other cases, we are called directly on VHF from that distance to ask our intentions (which are always to move out of the way).

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Old 27-06-2015, 23:04   #3
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

Totally agree. Crossing the shipping lanes north of Singapore after the mandatory traffic seperation would have been a nightmare without AIS. We crossed in the middle of the night and had ships coming all directions, 1000ft tankers doing 15 kts against the traffic, dont know how they avoided collision with each other but calling them they would nudge.their course enough to miss us by 1/2 mile. We could not slow down and maneuvering was limited if we wanted to get across. 4 hours of dodgem but enough advance warning to make our intentions known thanks to AIS
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Old 27-06-2015, 23:05   #4
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

Yes, the difference really is amazing. Last year we were sailing up the Florida straits from Panama, with probably a dozen ships on the AIS. I had to round up briefly to shorten sail and a guy 6-8 miles away promptly altered course to maintain his desired CPA. This whole maneuver took all of 3 minutes and we were back on our original course and the ship back to his. I actually called him and apologized for the inconvenience that our sail change caused him.

I know that the big guys very much appreciate when the yachties are transmitting AIS. ARPA on small targets (regardless of what kind of radar reflector they have) isn't very good, even with the most powerful radars.

TJ
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Old 28-06-2015, 01:22   #5
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

Great story! I especially loved the beginning: "My love story begins like so many others, on a stormy winter night in the Bering sea." LOL.

Great illustration of the value of AIS. I've only had it for a bit more than two years, and now can't imagine how it was possible to live without it. A total game changer, for all the reasons you mention.
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Old 28-06-2015, 05:32   #6
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

Quote:
Originally Posted by TJ D View Post
This is the single most important contribution to maritime safety since the advent of electronic positioning.

TJ
I wonder why so many abject fools on this forum think AIS so bloody useless?

Thank you for your story! I too love AIS and think it should be manditory for all boats heading more than 2nms off shore the same as an EPIRB is in many countries.

I would never go to sea without it.

Screenshot below, taken a few weeks ago, shows multiple ships at 50 nms with background electronic clutter of New Jersey and New York. Not bad for Ckass B!!!

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Old 28-06-2015, 07:01   #7
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

Yep gotta love it. By the way Mark it's interesting to note on your screen shot just how many ships have their AIS bearing misaligned. You can see a big difference on the heading to cog on the ship closest to you. We have noticed that regularly as well. Fortunately the AIS calculate the cog correctly when showing vectors, but it can be confusing when the triangle ship icon is pointing up to 30 degrees from the actual cog. We have seen this occasionally and it's definitely not a variation caused by leeway or running one engine. I guess it's only a class A issue as they probably transmit heading as well as cog, whereas class B doesn't transmit heading (I don't think so anyway)
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Old 28-06-2015, 08:03   #8
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

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just how many ships have their AIS bearing misaligned.
Yes, and its not just fishing boats but big ships that one would think can align it. Problem may be similar to ours where we never see Own Ship detail plotted!!

Glad uts not taken into account when working out CPA or the system would be inaccurate.
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Old 28-06-2015, 08:04   #9
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

Watchmate 850 class B on our boat. It is my favorite. It also does anchor watch with very low power draw. We find that the MIB even leave us alone on the US Canada Great Lakes border. Added to the radar, indispensable & huge safety upgrade. We too find the big boys willing to communicate. We normally make contact per Collregs & make arrangements to stay out of their way. On the St Mary's River (50 miles of narrow shipping channel down from Lake Superior Locks) we could plan to be in safe & out of the way places for crossings. Crossing & overtaking is close by necessity. Fortunately, big guys are limited to 10 knots.

check out traffic in some famous choke points here. Also, find yourself. Live Ships Map - AIS - Vessel Traffic and Positions - AIS Marine Traffic Even if you don't have AIS, you can see those who do.

Sorry about the extra picture Beaver Island boat shop - can't figure out how to delete !!
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Old 28-06-2015, 08:14   #10
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

An AIS is a very useful tool, they are great for collision avoidance and determining who the next customer is that is going to be a potential problem.
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Old 28-06-2015, 08:41   #11
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

I am another AIS lover, but for other reasons.

When I crossed the atlantic, the wife watched marinetraffic.com every day...until one day there I was on the web site, approaching antigua. This gave her a tremendous peace of mind. On arrival, there were many things to do...customs, fuel, food, laundry, sleep, etc. Calling home, although important, could wait though, because she could see for herself my exact location, safe in port.

Also, my daughter sails on a tall ship. She goes away for weeks at a time. I worry. Although they have not installed AIS yet...when they do it will give me a comfort to know where she is...especially if she is nearby and I can visit (although she may not like that, lol).

Oh yea, it helps avoid collisions too, sure, thats also nice.
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Old 28-06-2015, 08:48   #12
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

I met a man at my marina who hates AIS. I was shocked...but here is his story:
He lied to his wife so he could take his mistress out on his boat. The wife used AIS history (somehow recorded off marinetraffic.com) to prove in court that he lied about where he was and what he was doing. As you can imagine, that did not go well for him.

I suppose if you skip work to go sailing, your boss might also be able to check up on you...LOL!

I've also heard that some military vessels and other "targets" (like oil tankers) do not broadcast AIS data...it would be giving their exact location to potential terrorists/enemies.
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Old 28-06-2015, 08:50   #13
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

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Originally Posted by TJ D View Post
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.
When voice hails go unanswered, a DSC call is easily made (since AIS provides MMSI #), but not easily ignored.

I have told the story before, but the short version is the US Navy spent 10 minutes hailing a cruise ship and requested a course change that put the cruise ship on a collision course with me. My first attempt at hailing the cruise ship on 16 was ignored, but a DSC call to that ship was immediately answered. I have been surprised that neither the USCG nor the US Navy seems to use AIS/DSC for hailing.
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Old 28-06-2015, 09:09   #14
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

AIS is indeed great. Three anecdotes illustrate this.

When I bought my catamaran and renamed her GALAWA , she was fitted with a LOWRANCE HDS TOUCH and AIS. Great equipment.

In November 2014, off Barcelona, an ingress of water (port keel was parting but this is another story) led me to head for shore and send a PAN message for good measure announcing my condition and direction. The coast guards were confused and looked for 2 different boats because, while I had announced my new name GALAWA on VHF, my AIS was still broadcasting the previous name ''Good Spirit" of my ship. ( I have yet to find the software tools needed to change this parameter).

In December, sailing westward through the straight of Gibraltar, we hooked a big tuna (or a Russian submarine ?) We slowed down to 1/2 knot and struggled for a full hour to reel it in, to no avail. We never brought the beast close to the surface. Meanwhile, the tide pushed east against the westward traffic in the westward navigation channel ! Tankers courteously enquired over VHF about our erratic course, altered course and wished us good luck. ( Luck we had for we lost the tuna but recovered the lure. but that is no credit for the AIS).

On one evening in January 2015, half way between Capo Verde and Caribbean's, we spotted the AIS signal of a vessel 20 miles away, heading north east at 6 knots against the trade winds. I called him on VHF for a tentative conversation. Instead of answering he switched his AIS transponder off. A sailing boat muggling drug to Europe ?
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Old 28-06-2015, 09:13   #15
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Re: AIS- A Love Story

Yep. AIS is a blessing.

It comes with a set of headaches typical to any piece of technology (we may be tempted to assume that since a ship does not pop up on our screens, there is no ship ;-), etc. etc. etc.) BUT such obvious cognitive traps aside, it is a keeper and I could only hope more harbour admins would use the system to its full potential (why oh why do we never see virtual AIS buoyage in Spain?)

And next time we go for a real trip (that is - across) I want an active unit here.

b.
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