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Old 30-01-2015, 11:23   #16
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

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Originally Posted by roland stockham View Post
Looking at some refitting and considering AIS receiver or transceiver but never used one. If you have used one what do you think. Not useful, very useful or essential? How common is it, do you find almost all vessels show up or just large ships?
I do sail solo.
We have an AIS transponder which is integrated with the chart plotter, and has a stand-alone screen. Is it essential? No. Nor are flashlights, binoculars, or radar, but I wouldn't go sailing without these 'aids to vision.'

AIS is also good in areas where you don't always have line-of-sight to traffic lanes (e.g., N America West Coast Inside Passage) as the ships will appear on AIS long before they appear on radar.

We also like the idea of them seeing us on more than radar... [If you haven't had a chance to see a good radar reflector on a ship's MARPA radar screen, you don't realize how insignificant we appear, if at all...]

Two other things not often considered/discussed are:

-AIS shows the ship's name and MMSI number (among many other things) of ships so you can contact them directly using your DSC radio. This will typically get a response (vs. hailing, which rarely if ever does...) because (if within listening distance) the USCG logs all MMSI calls to ships bridges.

-Many AIS transceivers have an excellent anchor watch function that takes very little power, and has the added advantage of broadcasting your position and status (at anchor) and still sounds alarms if another vessel approaches your self-set 'comfort zone.'

Because we have AIS, we also installed AIS MOB transmitters on our combination harness/inflatable PFDs. Because of this, one of our VHF radios has AIS receive capability as a back-up if the AIS transponder became inoperable. (That capability is left off when the primary AIS is active.)

In short, we find the AIS transponder extremely valuable for normal cruising, and AIS receiving essential for MOB alerting.
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Old 30-01-2015, 13:07   #17
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

In the past two years, we have cruised over 5000 NM in the Inside Passage and offshore in the shipping lanes of the Gulf of Alaska. The stress relief comes in two forms. Target alarming and identification of Class A transponders at 30 mile distances and their ability to see our Class B signal at 14 nm. Secondly, the bridge to bridge Vhf calls confirming acknowledgement is nearly 100 percent even with watchstanders of limited English speaking abilities.
On the Inside, year over year increases in the number of vessels with AIS's in transmit mode seemed to nearly double. Even the tenders of super yachts were equipped.

Reliability is on par with a Vhf radio as opposed to radar which seems to need service every six months. The power consumption is less than half of the radome. We would put it on the must have list right after a compass.



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Old 30-01-2015, 14:54   #18
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

Since two of you are in the PNW and are asking, I would just confirm what has been said. I sailed the coastal water off Wa and BC for 8 years now, 4 without Radar/AIS and now 4 with. I would not sail into a fog off Cape Flattery now without them. Radar often picks up the little guys, and the not so little fishermen, who turn off their AIS. AIS picks up the big guys and their speed and hour before I get close to them. You cannot believe how much less stressful the weather is with them. Essential for soloing, and saved my bacon over the Columbia Bank more than once.
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Old 30-01-2015, 15:32   #19
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

Receiver only. Very useful. Best piece of electronics I've ever added.
Wish I had gone for the transceiver!
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Old 30-01-2015, 16:12   #20
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

I would say not essential but a very useful tool. I would certainly take a good RADAR over AIS, but would take both if I had the funds.

Inherent weaknesses of AIS technology:
- range is rarely great and occasionally poor. I remember picking up a target visually, checked my AIS and seeing nothing- experiment time. I tracked it and it closed to within a couple miles before I picked it up on AIS.
-AIS only detects vessels with transponders.
-many commercial and especially government vessels will switch off their transmitters, for various reasons. Reduce competition for fishing, to hide the fact their speeding, because they want to bust some one, because the hung over second mate forgot to turn it on when she left port.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from getting one, I think they're sweet. Not a replacement for RADAR, but you already have one of those. I think they've gotten pretty reasonable cost wise too.

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Old 30-01-2015, 16:25   #21
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

A transceiver.

Not essential.

Very useful.

b.
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Old 30-01-2015, 18:11   #22
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

I installed VesperMarine's WatchMate plus VHF splitter. Initially it didn't like my existing antenna so I had to shell out a bit more and got their antenna, too. All is good now.

As said, a very useful tool, wakes me up when soloing along the Autralian East coast which can be quite busy. Many times the big ship's computer (or helmsman) slightly changed course so they pass at least 1nm away.

Prices have come down, so don't consider a receiver only. My whole package was AUD 1300.

Added bonus (which I found out after installing it) is the anchor watch! Works very reliably and power consumption is very very low. I also turn down the backlight at night or off when at anchor.

The only improvement they could add to the anchor watch would be being able to tell the WatchMate where the anchor is. All you can do is set it to your present location. That works fine if you remember to press that button right when the hook hits the bottom.

My CQR has dragged a few times, even in sand (go figure), which means I had to increase the alarm circle several times during the night, way past the amount or chain I had actually paid out.
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Old 30-01-2015, 18:55   #23
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
A transceiver.

Not essential.

Very useful.

b.
Transceiver, thank you, more of an operator than a radio guy. I've been corrected on that before.

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Old 30-01-2015, 19:03   #24
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

After >20,000nm (including crossing both the Atlantic & the Pacific) on our current vessel, we join the chorus of others endorsing AIS as essential for ANY extended 'blue water' passage-making. We only have the receiver, but if we were starting again (or when we re-equip electronics?) we will/would go for the transceiver. The transceiver would be doubly valuable for solo-sailing.

We also have (and use) radar, but mostly only for weather (and occasional distance checking with land masses) and that's certainly useful, but it is too much of a power-sucker to leave on...whereas the AIS is never off when we're underway.
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Old 31-01-2015, 02:45   #25
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

If you can afford it fit a transceiver . On a recent Trans-Atlantic crossing we discovered that a 40' sailboat in big breaking seas is invisible to shipping in general . We are busy upgrading from a receive only unit to a transceiver .
While closing the Brazilian coast just south of their extensive oil fields we experienced huge rain squalls which using our digital radar resulted in a yellow screen on our chartplotter . With AIS superimposed on the screen I could clearly see all the rigs and shipping displayed as AIS targets over the yellow patches . In those sorts of conditions with no visibility it is a wonderful tool and keeps the little wife happy .
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Old 31-01-2015, 06:01   #26
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

I'm about to upgrade to an AIS transponder and would like to hear recommendations for specific units. The Vesper XB-8000 gets talked up a lot around here but I'm not sure the added wi-fi functionality is of much use to me since I already have a Garmin "Helm" compatible chartplotter which allows the screen to be repeated via wi-fi. If I'm going to go with a "black box" type unit, there are cheaper, but admittedly more basic, products out there. The units with dedicated display such as the WatchMate 850 also appeal in that all the other boat electronics could be shut off at anchor with only the AIS display left on for anchor watch to conserve power. NMEA 2000 is a must. That said, I'm not really a marine electronics geek so will be happy with something that "just works". Thoughts?
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Old 31-01-2015, 07:22   #27
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

Wonderful device AIS, but essential? Of course not. The important thing is to keep your eyes open no mater what electronics you have.

On your planned route, Panama, Hawaii, Alaska, you will encounter very light shipping, once you clear the canal, until you are 300 miles of Alaska when you will be crossing some of the heaviest traffic lanes in the world, full of shipping following a great- circle to and from Asia. I would be very nervous on that last leg single handing without an AIS with a loud proximity alarm. As a backup I would want a good ( loud) marine radar detector, but I don't see these around anymore.
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Old 31-01-2015, 07:26   #28
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

We have sailed 20,000+nm with our AIS transponder and have found it very useful but on Christmas day it became invaluable.

At midnight we were 90 nm south of the Pacific side of the Panama Canal in between the north and south shipping lanes when the steering broke! Rigging an emergency tiller on a 55ft center cockpit boat at night in 25 knots and 6-8 ft seas is work so we laid ahull until dawn.

We called, by name. any ship that came within 5 nm and informed them that we were "Not Under Command" and needed a wide margin.

At dawn we made coffee and rigged the emergency tiller. Since sitting on the tansom of a 55 CC 16 ft behind the dodger and the instruments and using an emergency tiller is hard work we rigged steering lines forward via blocks to the cockpit winches and started the 90 nm back to Panama City.

Steering was erratic at best and we then found it was better to run lines to the center spoke on the wheel. which gave us direct and correct wheel steering. For 36 hours we motored directly into wind, current and the seas with steering that was 30 deg +- of our intended course.

At least once/hour we had to contact a big ship and inform them of our problem and requesting a wide margin. Over 30 ships responded and agreed to give us a 1-2 mile margin.

While getting back to Panama City was hard work without the AIS it would have been very dangerous.

As usual my wife was as solid as a rock and stood her own erratic night-watch while communicating with at least one ship/hour.
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Old 31-01-2015, 07:44   #29
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

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Originally Posted by 4arch View Post
I'm about to upgrade to an AIS transponder and would like to hear recommendations for specific units. The Vesper XB-8000 gets talked up a lot around here but I'm not sure the added wi-fi functionality is of much use to me since I already have a Garmin "Helm" compatible chartplotter which allows the screen to be repeated via wi-fi. If I'm going to go with a "black box" type unit, there are cheaper, but admittedly more basic, products out there. The units with dedicated display such as the WatchMate 850 also appeal in that all the other boat electronics could be shut off at anchor with only the AIS display left on for anchor watch to conserve power. NMEA 2000 is a must. That said, I'm not really a marine electronics geek so will be happy with something that "just works". Thoughts?
The Vesper units are great, and we have the XB8000. However, if all you want is a feed to your chart plotter, the least expensive basic box will work as well as the most expensive one (assuming all class-B).

Additional integration and functionality is what sets the various units apart. IMO, Vesper is really leading here. But I don't think their basic RX/TX function is really any different than anyone else's - they all must work to the same basic specifications.

Consider that you may want additional functionality in the future. For example, the NMEA over Wifi of the XB8000 allows us to use our iPad as a full-funtion nav tool, as well as carry around a remote AIS display. Also, Vesper does an excellent job of CPA/TCPA vector graphics.

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Old 31-01-2015, 08:54   #30
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

Quote:
Originally Posted by s/v Moondancer View Post
We have sailed 20,000+nm with our AIS transponder and have found it very useful but on Christmas day it became invaluable.

At midnight we were 90 nm south of the Pacific side of the Panama Canal in between the north and south shipping lanes when the steering broke! Rigging an emergency tiller on a 55ft center cockpit boat at night in 25 knots and 6-8 ft seas is work so we laid ahull until dawn.

We called, by name. any ship that came within 5 nm and informed them that we were "Not Under Command" and needed a wide margin.

At dawn we made coffee and rigged the emergency tiller. Since sitting on the tansom of a 55 CC 16 ft behind the dodger and the instruments and using an emergency tiller is hard work we rigged steering lines forward via blocks to the cockpit winches and started the 90 nm back to Panama City.

Steering was erratic at best and we then found it was better to run lines to the center spoke on the wheel. which gave us direct and correct wheel steering. For 36 hours we motored directly into wind, current and the seas with steering that was 30 deg +- of our intended course.

At least once/hour we had to contact a big ship and inform them of our problem and requesting a wide margin. Over 30 ships responded and agreed to give us a 1-2 mile margin.

While getting back to Panama City was hard work without the AIS it would have been very dangerous.

As usual my wife was as solid as a rock and stood her own erratic night-watch while communicating with at least one ship/hour.

Congratulations on your knowledgeable resolve and excellent seamanship! Good luck and good sailing.
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