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Old 02-08-2017, 18:55   #1
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AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

Looking for input in the usability of AIS as displayed on the small displays of the VHF radios such as B&G v50 or Standard Horizon units. Would the radio mounted at the nav station and small display really be usable and add value?

My current use case is I'm gearing up to sail across Lake Superior for the first really big trip which includes night sailing. Would love something to let me know at least where the big tankers were (no radar currently). Traffic is all together light as compared to busy ports in the world. AIS on the VHF and their small displays seems a quick and easy way to get that done.

Additional questions:

Current electronics are Raymarine plotter and GPS C80 packages with no radar. Next year I'm toying with the idea of a electronics upgrade to B&G primarily for the radar (and to replace my evil autopilot). I'd do the radio, plotter, flux compass, auto pilot computer at a min and possibly instruments to get everything to NEMA 2000. Not thrilled on the instruments but will figure that out then.

So based on this, which radio? B&G makes sense long term but I'd need to figure out how to plumb GPS to it from a non existent NEMA 0183 (?) network. Standard Horizan VHF is a hoot with self contained GPS but it's NEMA 0183 so that's a step backwards.
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Old 02-08-2017, 19:25   #2
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

Marty, I have a SH AIS (receiver) radio with the RAM3 cockpit mic. And I also used to sail Lake Superior. You do not really need AIS on Lake Superior (nor anywhere really). The shipping lanes are well charted, the ships do stick to these lanes pretty well, and the volume is fairly light.

I find the RAM display to be quite effective. Itís small, but even with my aging eyes I can use it just fine.
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Old 02-08-2017, 20:23   #3
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

I find the Standard Horizon RAM display to be adequate for showing you what's in the vicinity and the general vectors of the targets. But the overall user interface is frustrating (to me) if I want to try to extract any additional info, and the proximity alarm is difficult for me to operate when there are multiple nearby vessels. I use my chartplotter (or OpenCPN, or my own NavMonPc program) if I want to get a more detailed picture of what's going on.

Still, the RAM display is way better than nothing, and actually pretty useful.
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Old 02-08-2017, 20:35   #4
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

I have a Standard Horizon VHF with AIS receive. I went through the Panama Canal 2 years ago and found it very helpful in sorting out the traffic outside the breakwater as I was approaching to go to Shelter Bay Marina. Now I live near Tacoma WA and every N/S trip involves dodging ferries on 4 different routes. It is a pleasure to just use the AIS to figure out if I need to change course.

The small screen is not a problem in my experience because you only use the screen to note who is close enough to be an issue. Then you use an Info screen to select one target at a time at find out that target's CPA and TCPA. It works just fine. If you change course to avoid a vessel, you can very quickly see if you made the correct choice.

I read one post some time ago about a sailor in the Channel between UK and France noting that he routinely has hundreds of targets on his AIS screen and he needs something much more powerful than the Std Hor VHF - well no doubt that is true, but in 9K ocean miles with the AIS receiver I never had more than 20 targets to worry about - that was at the Panama Canal entrance, and most of them were anchored. There were only 4 or 5 underway and those were the ones I needed to avoid. No problem with the teeny screen. So ultimately it depends on where you will be operating and how many vessels you need to simultaneously keep track of.
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Old 02-08-2017, 20:57   #5
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

I have a SH radio with the RAM3. I'll leave it on 5 nm range after getting out of the harbor. Then just list targets, look at CPA, and make decisions based on the info - not the graphics. It works very well.

My SH radio feeds back the AIS into OpenCPN, so I do have graphical AIS display if I go below. But with the RAM3, it's a glance to see if anybodies close. Then I can pop down, see exactly what's happening, and figure out what to do. (They both will show the name of the vessel, CPA, speed, bearing, etc...)
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Old 02-08-2017, 22:34   #6
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

Your c80 can take ais. Hook the vhf up to your plotter via nmea 183. So get the SH radio.

The new bng will also take nmea 183 ais from the radio so the wiring will be there when you upgrade.

The upside is your vhf keeps gps when the nav is off (anchor etc). So the dsc always works. And doesn't beep at you. If you have a radio getting gps from a plotter, the plotter needs to stay on.
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Old 03-08-2017, 06:07   #7
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AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

I was exactly where you are.

Then I connected the AIS to the plotter--- much better display and aided in situational awareness. Then I sprung for the Vesper transponder with WiFi. Now ships could SEE ME and I used the wifi to feed all my data to an iPad running iNavX. This gave me a second nav station at the chart table.

My radio still receives AIS, but does not share it. The extra money I spent on the AIS/VHF radio was a waste. Should have gone straight to the transponder.
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Old 03-08-2017, 09:28   #8
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

I have a B&G fixed mount VHF with the remote. I love the fact that it feeds AIS data to the network, but I don't think the AIS display on the radio is useful in the least. I would opt to look at the chartplotter (nice B&G Zeus) 99 times out of 100.

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Old 03-08-2017, 09:34   #9
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

I have a similar situation where I will only want AIS for limited periods. I am going with a VHF powered signal splitter (needs to be powered to avoid signals conflicting), a dAISy 2 channel receiver and a USB connected laptop with a GPS dongle running OpenCPN. The advantages are no need to mess with NMEA0183, very large screen, easy to set up on deck or store below and low cost ($250 buys receiver, splitter and 10' USB cable). Am still waiting for a delivery but feeling good about the choices.
For me the dual purpose VHF/AIS is best for the collision alarm. These old eyes cannot read much on my 7" display unit much less the stamp sized VHF screen and the $400 price is not terrific either.
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Old 03-08-2017, 11:29   #10
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Wink Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

Quote:
Originally Posted by smac999 View Post
Your c80 can take ais. Hook the vhf up to your plotter via nmea 183. So get the SH radio.

The new bng will also take nmea 183 ais from the radio so the wiring will be there when you upgrade.

The upside is your vhf keeps gps when the nav is off (anchor etc). So the dsc always works. And doesn't beep at you. If you have a radio getting gps from a plotter, the plotter needs to stay on.
I hooked up a small handheld Magellan Sportrak gps to give signal to a Ray54 DSC VHF, it worked great cost next to nothing and needed little power, it could run off batteries if required - may do same with the larger screened Explorist XL for my self steering gear, the XL is a useful handheld plotter or backup with a good sized colour display.

Hope that helps ... it certainly stopped the beeps on the DSC when it didn't have a position! However, I mostly use a batt powered scanner (1000 memories & multichannel) to keep in touch with what is going on and just use the VHF Tx when I need to transmit (not often. The continuous loop airfield met reports are also useful if you are near a a/f and have the right frequencies - they update throughout their opening hours sometimes as frequently as 20mins or less if the weather is changing rapidly.

Since I sold my Ray54 DSC/VHF radio with my last boat, I replaced it with the newer iCom 605 VHF/DSC/AIS which has a massive white screen. So far have only checked it out at home - picked up about half a dozen ships in as many minutes with a small mobile phone car aerial on about 18 ins of damaged cable. Even gave me warnings of close approaches and (un)likely collisions (we live about Ĺ mile from coast amongst many houses and the odd hill)! A better aerial should pick up more ships further out to sea.
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Old 03-08-2017, 12:53   #11
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeepbluetj View Post
I have a SH radio with the RAM3. I'll leave it on 5 nm range after getting out of the harbor. Then just list targets, look at CPA, and make decisions based on the info - not the graphics. It works very well.

My SH radio feeds back the AIS into OpenCPN, so I do have graphical AIS display if I go below. But with the RAM3, it's a glance to see if anybodies close. Then I can pop down, see exactly what's happening, and figure out what to do. (They both will show the name of the vessel, CPA, speed, bearing, etc...)
Hi, how did you plugged to your PC? Did you had to splice those tinny cables behind the unit to a PC port?
BTW, I like very much of my SH and RAM3 unit, CPA and TCPA is the trick.

Cheers all
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Old 03-08-2017, 13:01   #12
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

AIS on a ram mic prevented a collision 20 miles off the coast of South Carolina at about 0300 hrs for me. Could only see his port running light intermittently, never saw is stern light until within spitting distance, no radar signal from about 40' sloop. Saw him on the ram mic miles away knew where to be looking and adjusted course. Really glad I had it.
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Old 03-08-2017, 14:58   #13
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

We have an older chartplotter that doesn't support AIS display. Installed the SH GX2200 with RAM 3 and love it.

Side benefits we never even considered is the SOG and lat / lon display at the nav station without a repeater. AIS display on the RAM 3 is moe than adequate, so the larger display on the radio is huge. AIS overload on a 19" MFD screen is very nice, and if that is what you want, that is what you should have but the VHF AIS receiver is a very economical means to get AIS receive and doesn't require a second VHF antenna, splitter, and cable.
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Old 03-08-2017, 16:46   #14
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ramblinrod View Post
We have an older chartplotter that doesn't support AIS display. Installed the SH GX2200 with RAM 3 and love it.

Side benefits we never even considered is the SOG and lat / lon display at the nav station without a repeater. AIS display on the RAM 3 is moe than adequate, so the larger display on the radio is huge. AIS overload on a 19" MFD screen is very nice, and if that is what you want, that is what you should have but the VHF AIS receiver is a very economical means to get AIS receive and doesn't require a second VHF antenna, splitter, and cable.
Yeap that's why I chose SH GX2200.
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Old 03-08-2017, 20:40   #15
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Re: AIS on VHF displays- Usability?

Thank you all for the great options and insights into different approaches. Now to spend the next few days googling away.... Part of me thinks I should do a big trip without just to see if I feel the value is really there for me.

For all the different approaches it would help if I really made the commitment to a fixed MFD plotter solution vs. the iPad/OpenCPN approach. That's not a struggle anyone here has! .
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