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Old 18-07-2014, 09:56   #16
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Well I'm also thinking in terms of the OPs statement that his current VHF needs to be replaced, and on that, I can't think of any reason not to add one with an AIS receiver while doing so. Sure it's not the most ideal solution for everything, but no reason not to get one if you have the option.

I would definitely agree radar would be a much preferred option for a lot of areas, and likely the OP's area as well. But if you have to replace the VHF, nothing wrong with upgrading to the 2200 for the full function.
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Old 18-07-2014, 10:05   #17
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Sure. That's why most maritime organizations require / recommend it!

Compass is overrated too!

Respectfully,
b.
For large vessels, high speed ferries, tugs with barges, big ships that may have to plan course changes a mile or more in advance, boats restrained by draft in a port or channel, etc, etc AIS is a very important tool, undeniably.

When you look at AIS for smaller boats and cruisers I think the benefits are less clear. Also I do see from comments and posts on the forum that indicate to me that some cruisers think that AIS is the end all to collision avoidance. In my experience that is not the case.

At least for now I think is clear that the majority of smaller boats do not use AIS so obviously AIS would be no use in avoiding a boat that isn't transmitting. Not a problem for a 400' cargo ship to collide with a 60' trawler but could be a very bad day for a 30' sailboat. If you have to choose one over the other radar would be by far the best option. If you have the budget for both then certainly add AIS.
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Old 18-07-2014, 10:18   #18
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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AIS is over rated IMHO.
Ten years ago I would have agreed with you. Today watch crews on large shipping are smaller and they are used to be called by name. Ten years ago you had a reasonable chance of a response calling "large red tanker Northbound near G83." Today you are unlikely to get a call back. Call with a lat/lon and you'll get nothing.

Direct communication over VHF is still your best bet. AIS is darn near required in order to initiate communication.

For the record - if you have a transponder, please turn off your unit (or at least go silent) at the dock.
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Old 18-07-2014, 11:24   #19
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Thanks again for all the great input.

Yes, I've been keeping an eye out for a cheap used radar system. Haven't come across anyhting that fits the bill yet, but still looking.

In the mean time, I'm moving forward with that VHF/AIS unit. It's like $100 more than a non-AIS unit so it's a no brainer.

Keep in mind that I'm not doing blue water cruising here. I also avoid fog when possible. If it's foggy out, the boat stays at the dock (or at the island, wherever) till it lifts. My cruising grounds are the San Juan islands and the Gulf islands, were there is significant ferry traffic and occasional shipping channel crossings. Nothing scarier than to get caught in a surprise fog bank in one of these areas, hear those fog horns blasting, and having no idea whether I'm in danger or not. While AIS won't cover all the potential traffic out there, it will increase my safety by magnatudes over my current situation.

Thanks again folks, keep those ideas and opinions coming!
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Old 18-07-2014, 11:36   #20
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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Originally Posted by CharlzO View Post
Well I'm also thinking in terms of the OPs statement that his current VHF needs to be replaced, and on that, I can't think of any reason not to add one with an AIS receiver while doing so. Sure it's not the most ideal solution for everything, but no reason not to get one if you have the option.

I would definitely agree radar would be a much preferred option for a lot of areas, and likely the OP's area as well. But if you have to replace the VHF, nothing wrong with upgrading to the 2200 for the full function.
Full function what?

The problem with AIS receivers is the owner actually believes he has the of the benefit of AIS, delaying/eliminating the purchase of a transceiver. In actuality, he has a half-assed solution. If you don't transmit, you don't contribute to the AIS system, you are of no value to the AIS system.

AIS receivers should have never been allowed!
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Old 18-07-2014, 11:51   #21
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

The OPs original question was fog specific. All the AIS believers... please tell us how AIS is going to save his a$$ when the fog rolls in unexpectedly? I assure you, a good radar and the ability to use it will save his a$$.

I can still remember my wife's reaction the first time we left port with our new AIS unit last year and encountered a medium sized container ship WITH NO AIS SIGNAL within 10 miles! "How much did we pay for this piece of crap!"

We went back and had it checked out... yep, everything working fine. The AIS system isn't fool proof.
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Old 18-07-2014, 12:01   #22
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Wristwister,

I have that unit on my Morgan ketch. It works well, even when using a single VHF antenna for both the AIS and VHF functions. It's a good radio, we can often hear the Baltimore Coast Guard station broadcasts while down on the southern Chesapeake Bay.

As an AIS receiver, the only complaint I have is that I have never been able to figure out how to tell it not to alarm the same target repeatedly. For example, I am sailing up wind and the bow is kicking back and forth about ten degrees (playing the puffs). A contact appears that is right on the edge of the CPA alarm. If I go five dgrees to port, we will pass at just less than 1/2 mile. If I go five degrees to starboard, we will pass at just over 1/2 mile. Every time I to port, the alarm comes in - and it is loud. Every time I go to starboard, the alarm clears. I could change the settings on the system temporarily, but I am busy sailing the boat. Annoying - not life threatening.

I have used the NMEA output from the radio to send AIS info to my RayMarine C model chartplotter. It displays all of the details of the contact that are available. This is the other issue - there is no way to tell the system that, if a target is not moving, I don't care about it. Again, this is one of those things that is annoying, but not life threatening.

Finally, I have the remote microphone - which puts a lot of the data up at the helm, while the radio itself stays below. It's a little extra money, but I recommend it.

And, if I were being completely truthful - I don't actually have the unit you are looking at - I have the black one
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Old 18-07-2014, 12:57   #23
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Kenomac, I certainly understand that AIS will not assure my safety in the fog. But would you agree that it will greatly enhance my safety over having nothing at all? Again, Radar is the right answer, but maybe not do-able on this boat right now.

CaptFrank, thanks much for the specific info on this unit. I understand the annoyances you mention, but I suppose too much warning is better than no warning at all!
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Old 18-07-2014, 13:38   #24
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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Originally Posted by wristwister View Post
Kenomac, I certainly understand that AIS will not assure my safety in the fog. But would you agree that it will greatly enhance my safety over having nothing at all? Again, Radar is the right answer, but maybe not do-able on this boat right now.

CaptFrank, thanks much for the specific info on this unit. I understand the annoyances you mention, but I suppose too much warning is better than no warning at all!
Greatly enhance? No.

It's a tool that will show you vessels that are transmitting AIS. In order for this tool to greatly enhance your safety, all vessels would need to be transmitting AIS, along with aids to navigation.

What percentage of vessels are transmitting AIS??? 10%? 20%? BTW, you would be one in the majority class here.
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Old 18-07-2014, 14:02   #25
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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Originally Posted by wristwister View Post
Kenomac, I certainly understand that AIS will not assure my safety in the fog. But would you agree that it will greatly enhance my safety over having nothing at all? Again, Radar is the right answertl!
Greatly...... no. In the fog you would be about as well off believing the Easter Bunny will help you.... you are alone and blind.
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Old 18-07-2014, 14:55   #26
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

If you're running in fog and expecting AIS to help you avoid collisions I hope you're on the east coast. The scariest fog moment I've ever had was coming out of a fog bank headed between a tug and his tow. At least I knew he was there because I'd been watching him on radar. If I'd been depending on AIS I'd have probably crossed his cable. The really big guys will be broadcasting on AIS so you'll see them but you'll hear them too and they'll see you long before you see them. It's the smaller commercial guys - fishermen and small tugs that you should be worrying about. Lots of them won't even have AIS and the ones that do may not have it turned on or working.

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Old 18-07-2014, 19:01   #27
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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Originally Posted by Kenomac View Post
The OPs original question was fog specific. All the AIS believers... please tell us how AIS is going to save his a$$ when the fog rolls in unexpectedly? I assure you, a good radar and the ability to use it will save his a$$.

I can still remember my wife's reaction the first time we left port with our new AIS unit last year and encountered a medium sized container ship WITH NO AIS SIGNAL within 10 miles! "How much did we pay for this piece of crap!"

We went back and had it checked out... yep, everything working fine. The AIS system isn't fool proof.

Did your VHF tell you the container ship was there, perhaps she could have directed the same comment at that,

The purpose of AIS is that YOU transmit your ID, The receive only is an abomination.


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Old 18-07-2014, 19:11   #28
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Getting back to the OP's point about needing a new VHF radio anyhow, getting one that also contains a receive AIS has the advantage of being able to simply and easily highlight a ship on the screen and push the "call" button to talk with them. The cost differential is rather minimal compared to getting one without. If it has an integrated GPS, this also serves as a backup to the mainship GPS, and the radio itself can be used for navigation as a stand-alone system.

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Old 18-07-2014, 19:17   #29
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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Getting back to the OP's point about needing a new VHF radio anyhow, getting one that also contains a receive AIS has the advantage of being able to simply and easily highlight a ship on the screen and push the "call" button to talk with them. The cost differential is rather minimal compared to getting one without. If it has an integrated GPS, this also serves as a backup to the mainship GPS, and the radio itself can be used for navigation as a stand-alone system.

Mark
personally I would suggest a separate AIS class B unit rather then an integrated receive only unit,
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Old 18-07-2014, 20:51   #30
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Re: Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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Here's the deal, I cruise my bare-bones Tartan 30 through the PNW, and I need to do something about navigational/communications safety, especially when I get surprised by a fog bank while I'm transiting shipping/ferry lanes (happened several times so far, scares the bejeezus out of me). Of course, radar is probably the right answer, but not practical on this boat right now. So I'm thinking at a minimum, an AIS receiver/plotter might be a good idea. Add to that the fact that my VHF radio is a POS and needs replacing, and that it would be nice to have a back-up GPS on board, and THIS looks like an excellent solution to all my woes:

STANDARD HORIZON GX2200 Matrix AIS Fixed-Mount VHF, White | West Marine

For only $400, I get VHF, AIS, GPS, various fog alerting and proximity alarm features. So ... some questions for the CF brain trust:

Is this really the miracle solution I'm looking for? Yes, I understand that not all traffic transmits AIS, but anything big and commercial does right? So it would be better than nothing?

Is there a reason I should consider a different or more expensive unit? This one seems to do it all, name brand, and only $400.

Are there other solutions to low visibility collision avoidance I should consider? yes, I've got a radar reflector, anything else?

Thanks all!
In order: Miracle solution, no. You still need to keep a watch and maybe consider the most basic of radar units if you are regularly in fog. That said, I have this unit, and it's the cat's ass, da bomb or whatever the kids say to indicate approval. I am very happy with it and the only regularly available unit that compares is the ICOM M604, which is pricier and has (if I recall) a lesser internal GPS to the SH.

No, you should not consider a different unit More expensive is unnecessary. You *do* need to get an MMSI and program it in for DSC calls, because this is a Class D rig and DSC allows you to "dial" (metaphor alert) the ships that you can see via their MMSI number to say "I am a little sailboat on bearing X to you and I'm a poor radar contact. Are you aware of me?" Be aware that the SH GX2200 is NOT an AIS transceiver: you will not be shown as an AIS target; you need a Vesper or Digital Yacht rig for that...but you can see others and, if necessary, you have a means to call them that is better than yelling "BIG GREY SHIP DEAD AHEAD!" on 16.

Lastly, other things you can do...well, I bought the $50 optional PA/FOG horn for the SH GX2200 because it looks rather shippy on my pilothouse roof...no, really, because I wanted an automated fog horn. There's a menu on the SH VHF that gives you the standard fog signals, so if you hoist a reflector, call them and give 100 dB timed blasts (holy crap, this thing is loud!), you have a significantly better chance of being noticed than with nothing but a can of compressed air and a nervous shout.

Here's my installation blog post on the topic. I am quite pleased with my purchase and find the performance excellent.

http://alchemy2009.blogspot.ca/2014/04/the-new-vhf-is-mmsi-affair.html
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