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Old 20-06-2013, 19:22   #1
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Considering an AIS Transponder, any Recommendations?

I have one of the terrific little SH VHF/AIS receiver units, the GX2150.

I'm thinking of getting a class b transponder into the mix as well. Any recommendations? I'm hoping to use a splitter, and that the GX2150 will be smart enough to know (via the same MMSI) that "my boat" is not another contact.

Any recommendations that people found useful? I have the one masthead VHF antenna and would like to keep it that way.
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Old 20-06-2013, 19:33   #2
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

I have a separate AIS antenna on a radar arch. Don't like the idea of mixing things together. Especially with safety systems like AIS. Don't like a mast location either. Lose the mast lose the VHF and AIS at the same time.
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Old 20-06-2013, 19:45   #3
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

You can get the emtrak b100 online for about a $475. Pretty good deal. The Vesper units with seperate displays are nice too. I'd go for a seperate antenna, it doesn't need to be at the mast head.
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Old 20-06-2013, 20:00   #4
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

I bought and installed a ComNav x2 with USB, about $600 I think--from Defender. I placed a separate antenna on the mizzen, fed with RG8x. The USB gives me the raw data on my PC, but will not integrate into Fugawi 5. For that I will have to get the NMEA 183 output converted to RS-232 I have gotten good reports from other boats that can see me from as far away as 30 miles. I am disappointed that the nav software cannot utilize the USB data. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would suspect conspiracy amongst the manufacturers to make marine electronics as complicated as possible.
Hey! Maybe there IS a conspiracy!
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Old 20-06-2013, 20:18   #5
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

What's the big deal with the separate antenna vs a splitter?

I have a handheld, sat phone, epirb, and other gear so I'm not really seeing the "if the mast goes, everything goes" argument. If the mast is ripped off the last thing I'm going to be worried about is not picking up ais contacts.
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Old 20-06-2013, 20:35   #6
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
What's the big deal with the separate antenna vs a splitter?

.
A second antenna is about a third of the cost of a splitter.
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Old 20-06-2013, 20:38   #7
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

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Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
What's the big deal with the separate antenna vs a splitter?
Either choice works.

Pros for antenna:
- You can buy an AIS antenna for cheaper than a splitter (Shakespeare 5250 is $45 at Defender).
- You can use the AIS antenna as a spare VHF if ever needed
- No extra 'stuff that can break' to mess up the VHF comms
- If you are running coax for the AIS GPS antenna (typically rail mounted), running an additional one for the AIS VHF antenna isn't a big deal

Pros for a splitter:
- Ease of installation
- Better AIS range (assuming this is important to you) as the shared antenna is typically at the masthead.
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Old 20-06-2013, 20:46   #8
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

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A second antenna is about a third of the cost of a splitter.
Seems like an odd place for people to save a couple of hundred bucks when they're dropping $15k for integrated systems. If it was just the cable I could understand, but the thing has to be routed, punched through the deck, sealed, and mounted to some structure.
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Old 20-06-2013, 20:52   #9
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

A more probable condition than the mast coming down would be failure of the antenna mount including the cable terminal. What is the expected service life of the mounting hardware? How often is it inspected? It's a harsh life at the mast head, even the most robust antenna is whipped to and fro which induces fatigue.

Also, there is the redundancy of a separate antenna on a separate mount.
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Old 20-06-2013, 20:54   #10
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

One must be careful useing VHF and other equipment on the same ant. mess ups can and do happen LOL don't ask! ants are way less expensive then radios. just a thought
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Old 20-06-2013, 22:06   #11
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

I purchased a Vesper Marine XB8000 and am fiddling with it at home before installing it. The signal feeds into OpenCPN on my PC via WiFi, and I have the Vesper 670 display which needs to be physically connected to the XB8000. I will probably just use the PC for display most of the time.

From my testing so far I have had excellent results with an ancient 2.4 meter (8 feet) VHF antenna I had stored in the garage. With that I can pick up distant ships over a headland higher than my location, where I can't even see the water. The furthest signal I have found is 45 miles away. I also tried a 30cm emergency VHF antenna, and was still able to detect ships more than 20 miles away over that headland.

I like the idea of keeping the antennas separate and will be buying an AIS tuned one, but from my results, a standard VHF will do just fine.

Note that all my testing has been in silent mode.

The Vesper solution gets a thumbs up from me, and you can phone and talk directly with the business owner for technical advice.
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Old 21-06-2013, 00:54   #12
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

I have a raymarine AIS 650 ranciever. splitter into the masthead VHF. It works well and the mini usb connection plugs into the laptop and works with Opncpn well.I see targets on the display at the help or navdesk on opencpn. For me, targets overlaid on the plotter at the help is most helpful as tyou can see everything going on at once (AIS, chart, radar) It generally shows targets up to about 20 miles. Possibly a backup antenna and coax stowed in case of mast loss would be a good idea. AIS is a great tool, I would definitely fork out for it again.
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Old 21-06-2013, 06:27   #13
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

I have the Emtrak B100 also. It works well and their support is fantastic. Get answers via email within a hour or two, always with the solution.
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Old 21-06-2013, 07:39   #14
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

When I originally commissioned this boat I had a Nobletech AIS receiver installed, which required its own AIS antenna on the stern rail and displayed on my Raymarine Chartplotter.

Just before we started cruising, I purchased a Raymarine AIS 500 Class B unit, which had a built in VHF Antenna Splitter. The unit has a built in sensor that allows the VHF to override the AIS unit.

Since I now had two antennas on my boat, I switched back and forth to see how much the difference in height mattered to the VHF signal.

The masthead is about 65 feet off the water and my transmitted signal traveled about 10-12 miles. And reception was over 60 miles.

On the stern antenna, which is about 15 feet off the water, transmitted about 6 miles and received about 20-25 miles.

IMHO, if you are installing a Class B AIS Unit, you want the VHF antenna as high as possible. Not so much for reception, but for transmitting as far as you can allowing other vessel to see you sooner.

The mast falling theory always comes up, but again IMHO, you have much more of a chance of being run over by another boat/ship than you do of having your mast fall down.

Of course in my case I ended up installing a second VHF radio on the boat and connected it to the stern rail antenna, just in case....
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Old 21-06-2013, 07:53   #15
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Re: considering an ais transponder, any recommendations?

One of the good things about asking an open-ended question like yours is that you get great feedback from skippers with experience.

One of the downsides is that you ONLY get replies from a limited number of skippers and there may be some great equipment out there but the skipper is simply not on this forum.

If it was my boat, I'd make a list of all the AIS equipment I was interested in, list it, and maybe then ask. sometimes doing your own homework is better than having someone else do it for you, but I'm not your mom.
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