I wrote this up to a friend the other day and thought someone might benefit from reading it here. My boat did not have a chartplotter screen
aboard when I bought it, so here's how I solved
the problem; this is the text from the e-mail I sent, and I'm not representing anyone or any Company:
$320 if I remember...and I feed that thru a NMEA 38,400 connection I wired up (very easy!) into my chartplotting software, which resides on my laptop. Basically I have a NMEA 4800 normal feed from my GPS (which happens to be COM1 on a 9-pin Serial connection), and then the 38,400 connection set up as a Port on a USB port on the laptop. This all feeds my chartplotter software (http://www.tiki-navigator.com) and voila, I have all the needs plus AIS displayed on my screen. Works great and rock solid! Has all the alarms, CPA (Closest Point of Approach) etc etc.
Keeping in mind I never had a chartplotter on board, and I'm sure you have one, so this may not be the answer re laptops and Tiki. But the radio? Beautiful, a fantastic unit. All the normal DSC functions plus PA system, fog alert blah blah blah. So if your chartplotter can take in the AIS data from any NMEA source, why buy one with another screen to look at when you can overlay the AIS right on to your chartplotter? And it's a hell of a nice VHF radio.
What I want now is to Transmit AIS...I want to find a cheap, Class-B transponder, and I haven't been able to find anything that doesn't break the bank other than this:
Comar Systems CSB 200
Depending where you look, they are running anywhere from $600 to $950 US. I saw one go on EBay for $480 (I just missed it, damn it!). I can't justify $900 for my little weekend party boat where the farthest I go is the Perlas. But for $500, why the hell not, you only live once!