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Old 17-07-2014, 12:23   #1
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Please School me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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!
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Old 17-07-2014, 12:28   #2
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re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

If you are sailing blind without radar I would highly recommend not just an AIS receiver but transceiver. That way other boats with AIS will be able to see you as well as you seeing them.

They may exist but the VHF/AIS combo units I know about are receive only.
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Old 17-07-2014, 12:39   #3
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re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

We have the earlier model and it is a good tool. Helps heaps when guessing what the other ship is doing, where it is and how much life you have left. Mind not all ships are equipped. We met big ships over open water NOT (having?using?) AIS.

You can get an active radar reflector, you can get a radar. (mind the reflector should cover the newer broadband radar spectrum, no all do).

You can get an AIS B transceiver.

If you get a class A transceiver and a broadband radar, you have most angles covered. But this may be an overkill, depending on what you do.

Remember toys are toy and YOUR ATTITUDE AND SKILLS are of paramount importance. Tools are only tools.

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Old 17-07-2014, 22:03   #4
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Thanks guys. You're right, an AIS transmitter would be an extra measure of safety, but like Radar it's pretty expensive, and I'm having trouble with the idea of sinking more $$$ into electronics than I did on the boat! But that active radar reflector looks like an interesting thought, I'll look into that.
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Old 17-07-2014, 22:09   #5
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

I picked up the Simrad RS35 a month or so ago and so far I have no complaints. It does VHF/AIS and also has NMEA 2000 compatability if that's important or usefull for you.

It can be picked up online for $300 plus shipping from various places.

RS35 VHF/AIS Radio - Simrad Marine Electronics
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Old 17-07-2014, 22:09   #6
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Is there an active radar reflector that works well and is a good fit for lower-budget sailors?
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Old 17-07-2014, 23:22   #7
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

For what it's worth, I have the 2200 and am quite happy with it. Even with the internal GPS and not an external antenna, it picks up lock very quickly from in the cabin, easy enough to operate, brightness is fine and I've had no issues in varying degrees of sunlight and darkness. I have mine paired to a CPN700i chartplotter so the AIS targets show up right on the plotter screen in addition to the radio (Not that there are many transmitting on the lake, but there is a test marker, and there was one other vessel moored that was on, go figure - both showed up perfectly). I imagine the outputs will let it do the same for other units as well, even not Standard Horizon gear but I'm mostly guessing as I'm not too well versed in that stuff. Kinda why I bought all the same mfr
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Old 18-07-2014, 06:19   #8
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Those of you who do go the (active radar reflector and/or radar alarm) way DO check whatever you pick up works with broadband radars too.

I know some do not.

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Old 18-07-2014, 06:56   #9
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

If fog is the problem and worry, then radar is the only solution. AIS wont help you if the vessel about to hit you... doesn't have it. Plus... very few rocks and shores are AIS equipped.

AIS is over rated IMHO.
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Old 18-07-2014, 06:59   #10
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Quote:
Originally Posted by wristwister View Post
Thanks guys. You're right, an AIS transmitter would be an extra measure of safety, but like Radar it's pretty expensive, and I'm having trouble with the idea of sinking more $$$ into electronics than I did on the boat! But that active radar reflector looks like an interesting thought, I'll look into that.
Vesper Marine AIS transponder $850 at Defender. This model is standalone with its own screen, built in antennas, etc.

If you got your boat for less than $850 you got a great deal.

If you really want radar have you thought about the local craigslist or eBay for a used one?
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Old 18-07-2014, 08:30   #11
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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If fog is the problem and worry, then radar is the only solution. AIS wont help you if the vessel about to hit you... doesn't have it. Plus... very few rocks and shores are AIS equipped.

AIS is over rated IMHO.
Completely agree. I've been cruising offshore for 40 years and transited some pretty high traffic areas and I have never had a problem not running into a big, commercial vessel IE the kind that will have AIS. Had some close calls with sailboats but they probably would not have had AIS anyway. Also had some night passages where I had to keep a close watch for some of the rocks and shores where radar would have given me a great peace of mind.

Not opposed to AIS but I think it would be the last bit I would add to a boat. For the price of an AIS transceiver you can find a pretty good used radar. If I had to choose one over the other I would pick the radar.
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Old 18-07-2014, 08:43   #12
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Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

Picking AIS over radar is like saying you'd pick VHF over a radar. AIS these days is a decision that ranks with getting a good wind or depth instrument. Its a no brainer

Good radar is on the other hand a serious piece of equipment with a suitable price tag and inevitably involves decisions as to chose a particular manufacturers line of equipment. This may also involve typically buying a chart plotter or mfd as well. Far bigger decision and spend.


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Old 18-07-2014, 09:19   #13
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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Originally Posted by Kenomac View Post
(...)

AIS is over rated IMHO.
Sure. That's why most maritime organizations require / recommend it!

Compass is overrated too!

Respectfully,
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Old 18-07-2014, 09:23   #14
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

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Originally Posted by goboatingnow View Post
Picking AIS over radar is like saying you'd pick VHF over a radar. AIS these days is a decision that ranks with getting a good wind or depth instrument. Its a no brainer

Good radar is on the other hand a serious piece of equipment with a suitable price tag and inevitably involves decisions as to chose a particular manufacturers line of equipment. This may also involve typically buying a chart plotter or mfd as well. Far bigger decision and spend.


Dave
Of course AIS and radar are very different creatures but I think more closely related than VHF and radar.

Regardless, the issue under discussion is what someone with a limited budget should choose to increase their safety in limited visibility situations. In that context spending close to $1000 after you add all little bits for an AIS transceiver is not exactly a no brainer. There are some boaters out there for whom that is a fairly significant expenditure.

AIS and radar can both contribute to identifying hazards or other boats in low viz but of course they are not the same, do not give you the same information so have very different advantages and disadvantages. Bottom line for me and perhaps a consideration for the OP, for the price of a new AIS transceiver you can get a very good used, stand alone Furuno, Raytheon or similar radar.
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Old 18-07-2014, 09:55   #15
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Re: Please school me on VHF/GPS/AIS Combo Units

There are inexpensive and compact radars from Furuno. I used one 1623 model I believe. It was very good stuff. Well worth having if sailing in poor visibility.

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