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Old 29-01-2015, 18:02   #1
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AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

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.
Next trip is Caribbean to Hawaii the on to NW Canada
I have good, fully stabilized radar with 24" scanner but can have problems with wave reflections in rough weather and uses significant power. I also have radar training so can do course plots for shipping but it takes time. Radar is stand alone not combined with chart plotter.
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Old 29-01-2015, 18:38   #2
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

We regularly spot other ships on radar or AIS before acquiring them visually. Of course, not every vessel will be on AIS, but I consider a very useful tool offshore -- especially in single-handing.

Some AIS receivers put a lot of effort into filtering. This is not a feature I find at all useful offshore. I may only see one other ship a day -- I have not had the problem of too many targets to keep track of.
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Old 29-01-2015, 18:43   #3
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

For single handing it would sure improve my sleep.
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Old 29-01-2015, 19:00   #4
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

I used an AIS transponder as stand alone with display. I liked this because it uses very low amps 3 Watts in the power save mode, as far away from shores my laptop with the charts is on out, the Radar out. So I have only a Minimum of power consumption. My transponder has its own GPS with built in antenna, in my case not external antenna needed, I can switch on receive only mode (in case I'm sailing in Areas like Venezuela,Columbia or the Gulf of Aden with the threat of Piracy). I find AIS more useful and more important than a Radar on a boat. I would not depart on long voyages with over night sailing. If would know the Brand from NZ, send a PM.
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Old 29-01-2015, 19:43   #5
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

We have had countless times where a ships CPA was within a mile in the middle of the Atlantic that I wouldn't be without AIS (4 times it was under 500 ft). In fact, we are getting a transceiver instead of just the receiver we currently have. The radar was only used for checking rain/squalls since power use is too great.
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Old 29-01-2015, 19:51   #6
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

If my boat had electricity, I would choose AIS over radar.
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Old 29-01-2015, 21:05   #7
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

I have not turned my Radar on except to track weather since I installed AIS.
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Old 29-01-2015, 21:11   #8
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

AIS two thumbs up. Check out Watchmate from vesper marine. Worth every penny and then some


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Old 30-01-2015, 08:30   #9
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

I echo funjohnson comments. When I go to/ from Caribbean I stay outside Gulfsteam/ direct. Same crossing Gulf of Mexico. On almost every trip there has been at least one time where I felt I MUST change course because AIS indicated our random encounter was going to be way too close. Hard to understand with such a big ocean and only two boats anywhere around on radar/ AIS that this situation comes up so often, but it does. AIS is a BIG help at night when you see lights and trying to make out other vessel's course/ speed. The AIS alarm will wake you up/ focus crew attention on situation if they have helm attention lapse.

While many big ships don't seem to listen/ respond to VHF calls way off shore, I haven't seen a big ship that hasn't long shown up on the Chartplotter/ AIS plot. It's a good way to practice manually seeing ships and determining course/ speed the old way.


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Old 30-01-2015, 08:33   #10
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

We do not do ocean sailing except between the east coast of FL and the Bahamas, but we believe it is essential in the areas that we do sail. We have the transceiver and can turn transmit on/off. In costal waters and especially busy ports, it lets the big guys know you are there - sometimes they cannot see you well on their radar. AIS makes sure they know you are there.Check out www.Marinetraffic.com. It is also helpful in emergencies - it helps ID your boat.
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Old 30-01-2015, 08:40   #11
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

Being a single handed sailor and crossedvthe Atlantic 3 times, next to the GPS and autohelm I view the ais as essential. I bought receiver only......mistake! pay a little more and get the one which transmits your details/position too.
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Old 30-01-2015, 09:23   #12
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

We use an AIS transponder but note that in some area's the big vessels do not show up - perhaps because of piracy. Interesting about the Gulf of Aden - on a clear day, in some parts you can can see both coasts, Somalia & Yemen. When we traverse that Gulf we keep closer to Yemen and also take down our radar reflector and switch off anything that emits a signal including the AIS. Coming down the Red Sea the AIS was pretty busy.
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Old 30-01-2015, 09:44   #13
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

Certainly not essential - but very useful when you reach busy shipping lanes. English channel or bottom of Sri-Lanka are places where they are invaluable.
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Old 30-01-2015, 10:04   #14
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

My wife wanted to install AIS about five years ago in the Philippines. I was against it. Another piece of unneeded electronics, I thought.

I lost the argument, as I usually do. In this case, I'm glad I did.

It lifts a mountain of stress from your shoulders.

On the new boat, we are not going anywhere without it.
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Old 30-01-2015, 10:25   #15
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Re: AIS for ocean sailing, essential or not

I'm also considering adding AIS to my boat. I am putting on a new radar/chartplotter right now. I intend to cruise offhore in a couple of years and friends that are cruising right now have told me that I should definitely have it. It is popular locally in the Puget Sound area as well. We have a lot of ship traffic and fog.

I was helping friends take their cutter down to San Francisco last August. We had to cross busy Rosario Straits but that was in day light and no fog so that was fine. Leaving Port Angeles at dusk so we could arrive at dawn at Neah Bay was more worrisome. We had radar but did not have AIS. With radar you may or may not see a good target. If you do see a boat on it you then have to watch it carefully to guess at its course, speed, and size.

AIS will give you the info the first time you pick up their signal. That would have made our trip out and south less concerning, especially since we had two inexperienced watch standers and many days and nights of fog on the trip. You still have to know how to use it, and, as with everything else, you only trust it so far. Your eyes and ears are still required.

There are some good discounts with the electronic dealers at the Seattle Boat Show this week. The vendors will usually extend the boat show discount after the show for awhile if you ask.
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