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Old 24-11-2017, 09:12   #1
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AIS

I am considering adding AIS to my boat. My original plan was to install a new VHF radio with built in AIS receive and connect it to my networked Garmin 5208 plotters. The more I think about it, I am tempted to go with transmit and receive. There's nothing wrong with my VHF so I could just install a complete AIS unit and connect it to the plotters and probably an additional antenna.

My question then is, what are the best choices out there for a transmit and receive AIS unit that can be connected to my plotters for display?
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Old 24-11-2017, 09:33   #2
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Re: AIS

If you go with a TX unit you will need to get an antenna splitter or install a 2nd antenna in a location that doesn’t interfere with the 1st.
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Old 24-11-2017, 09:47   #3
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Re: AIS

I have a Vesper Xb-6000 together with a Vesper splitter, feeding to a Garmin GpsMap 750 and I am well pleased with them. Originally The Vesper fed AIS information to the plotter using NMEA 0183 but I recently moved it to NMEA 2000 without any problems.
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Old 24-11-2017, 11:14   #4
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Re: AIS

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Originally Posted by AedanC View Post
I have a Vesper Xb-6000 together with a Vesper splitter, feeding to a Garmin GpsMap 750 and I am well pleased with them. Originally The Vesper fed AIS information to the plotter using NMEA 0183 but I recently moved it to NMEA 2000 without any problems.
Was the NMEA 0183 hookup straightforward? That's what I'm using on the Garmins.

I will probably go with a separate antenna because it seems a splitter has a loss and I don't want to compromise the VHF.
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Old 24-11-2017, 11:23   #5
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Re: AIS

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Originally Posted by boatman12 View Post
Was the NMEA 0183 hookup straightforward? That's what I'm using on the Garmins.

I will probably go with a separate antenna because it seems a splitter has a loss and I don't want to compromise the VHF.
I have the exact same setup as that poster.

I can assure you that there is no loss from a splitter (especially Vespers). There are other arguments for a separate antenna, but "loss" is not one of them. If you are only basing your descision on that fact, I suggest you re-evaluate.

As to your original question. NMEA 0183 is easy to hookup if you have manuals for BOTH items. In to out, out to in... HOWEVER... NMEA 0183 is great with AIS as its just not fast enough. In very crowded harbors with lots of boats transmitting AIS you MAY see some wierdness.
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Old 24-11-2017, 11:33   #6
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Re: AIS

I have read that antenna splitters have a loss. Apparently the Vesper splitter has an amplifier to compensate for this loss.

Still, I would be more comfortable with a separate antenna.
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Old 24-11-2017, 12:29   #7
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Re: AIS

Check out Matsutec. A friend got one off Amazon and it works well for him. There are two versions, one with a screen. The screen-less one is the cheapest unit around.

I think AMECs Camino models are fine too and not too expensive. If your boat is very wet, get an IPX7 unit (more bucks too, but worth it).

Vesper makes units that can wirelessly display on tablets and phones. Sweet bananas on a dark and rough night.

We have a receive unit from SH and upgrading I will opt for a transmit unit from SH. This is so as a one in all can dial DSC an AIS target without hiccups while having the same done from the plotter is problematic, esp. if your plotter, vhf and ais are different brands.

Cheers,
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Old 24-11-2017, 12:40   #8
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AIS

We have a vesper XB-8000 with the splitter and are extremely happy with it. Something to consider in your install is the class b ais units only broadcast with 2 watts so getting the transmit antenna as high as possible will make a real difference with your range.

For this reason I chose to use a splitter as I could then use my existing masthead antenna as I don't have room for two.

You are absolutely correct about loss in the splitter. Even Vespers has loss, just the incoming signal is amplified to help with the receive loss. In the real world, we haven't noticed much range decrease on our fixed VHF though.

If you have the space and a high place to mount the AIS antenna I agree it is optimal to have separate antennas.

One other nice feature of the vesper splitter is it has an amplified FM output for your stereo if you get the extra cord. We now get great broadcast radio reception!
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Old 24-11-2017, 13:08   #9
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Re: AIS

I'm very happy with a Matsutec with it's own screen and antenna. Best $400 I've spent on upgrading my boat. The free-standing unit can be used as a navigation backup since it has it's own GPS. I'm a fan of not integrating everything onto one plotter - I don't mind integrating radar/AIS/openCPN in my own mind, which may be peculiar to me, but do you really want everything on one screen that can emit a small puff of smoke and leave you sucking your thumb?
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Old 24-11-2017, 13:09   #10
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Re: AIS

I have a trawler so the AIS antenna will be basically the same height as the VHF antenna although I'll probably go with a 3' model for AIS.
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Old 24-11-2017, 13:13   #11
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Re: AIS

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Originally Posted by boatman12 View Post
I have a trawler so the AIS antenna will be basically the same height as the VHF antenna although I'll probably go with a 3' model for AIS.


Sounds perfect for your install to use separate antennas then.

One other thing we discovered is the GPS antenna works perfectly installed below deck, so one less hole in the deck. Just make sure there is no metal above the antenna to block the signal. It works perfectly through our fiberglass deck.
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Old 24-11-2017, 13:19   #12
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Re: AIS

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Sounds perfect for your install to use separate antennas then.

One other thing we discovered is the GPS antenna works perfectly installed below deck, so one less hole in the deck. Just make sure there is no metal above the antenna to block the signal. It works perfectly through our fiberglass deck.
Yes, fiberglass does not block radio transmission, Both my GPS antenna and my TV antenna are mounted underneath my flybridge dash.
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Old 24-11-2017, 13:20   #13
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Re: AIS

Quote:
Originally Posted by boatman12 View Post
Was the NMEA 0183 hookup straightforward? That's what I'm using on the Garmins.



I will probably go with a separate antenna because it seems a splitter has a loss and I don't want to compromise the VHF.


The NMEA hookup was a doddle once I ran the cable! The wiring is very straightforward. You need to remember to set the NMEA speed to 38,400 bps (High Speed in Garmin-Speak) in the plotter. Standard NMEA speed is 4,800 and that’s not enough for a decent amount of AIS traffic. You would need to have an awful lot of AIS traffic to overload NMEA at 38,400 bps.

Regarding the splitter, this is an area where people have very strongly held views and even mentioning it risks starting a war on the topic! All I’ll say is that there is indeed a theoretical signal loss through a splitter but I’ve tried both with and without it and I cannot detect a practical difference. I did not conduct formal scientific tests.
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Old 24-11-2017, 13:25   #14
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Re: AIS

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Originally Posted by Excalibur5 View Post
One other thing we discovered is the GPS antenna works perfectly installed below deck, so one less hole in the deck. Just make sure there is no metal above the antenna to block the signal. It works perfectly through our fiberglass deck.

The Vesper XB-6000 has an internal GPS antenna and is supplied with an optional external one. Ours is installed downstairs on a fibreglass boat and it works fine with the internal one.

On the XB-8000 model there is no internal GPS antenna so you have to use the external one, but it can be mounted below and out of sight on fibreglass boats.
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Old 24-11-2017, 13:45   #15
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Re: AIS

+1 with Vesper and Garmin.

Because I didn't want to screw with the NMEA 2000 fittings (which always seem twitchy) I just used 0183. I had planned to switch over to 2000 but have never gone back and done it. NMEA 0183 may be old but two little wires sure is simple. The only trick is to set the right speed and Garmin makes this particularly easy in their settings menu. AIS immediately came up on both my Garmin chart plotters. I've had over 100 boats tracked and never seen any performance problem.

When inshore, I always turn off the Garmin AIS collision alarm and set the "Range" and "Time to" at very small numbers (this is when the target turns red on the screen). That's because the the green AIS icon Garmin uses is hard to miss on the chartplotter screen.

Another advantage of Vesper is that it is my favorite anchor alarm. It uses almost no power (be sure to put it on a separate breaker). You can connect a mobile phone or tablet to the Vesper wifi and take it to bed with you so you can check the boat's swing in a wind shift without getting out of bed. And of course, the alarm is sure to wake you.
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