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Old 19-12-2015, 17:46   #1
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AIS on Great Lake

Other then commercial traffic. Does anyone else use AIS. Thinking about getting a Vesper WatchMate Vision for some after hours sailing.
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Old 19-12-2015, 19:33   #2
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

80 To 100' fish tugs on Canadian side don't use them.


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Old 19-12-2015, 19:53   #3
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

Great use of technology!!
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Old 19-12-2015, 20:30   #4
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

I'm on Ontario, and while I haven't sailed too far West of Sodus Bay myself, I have gone up towards Sacket's Harbor a couple times. Only once have I had an AIS target, a cargo ship, come up at all, up by the Canadian side on the 4th of July weekend. That's the only real target I've hit all season. Maybe towards the west end? Dunno, we'll see this year..
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Old 20-12-2015, 06:23   #5
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

I guess my answer would depend on where you intend to sail. There are a few pinch points in the Great Lakes where the big boys have a narrow line to follow to get through, whether by Port Huron, or the Straights of Mackinaw..etc, but other than that, you will see Very little traffic, and even then they will usually follow the rhumb line to their destination port, and are predictable on that line. Rare was/is the time even during daylight hours that I have ever seen commercial traffic over 40 years on Lake Michigan.

If you are really concerned about it, it's not all that expensive to get the Vesper, but honestly it is free to go and visit Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping Online AIS Passage Maps and it will display commercial traffic AIS across the Great Lakes to give you a heads up of what to look for before hitting the water.
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Old 20-12-2015, 08:13   #6
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

We sail 2000 mm a summer and use the AIS a lot when in the rivers or near shipping channels. It's useful to know there is a 600' freighter around the next bend on the st Claire river. Grays reef is another area it's useful. So I would say it depends on where you will be sailing. But for the money we find it very useful.


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Old 20-12-2015, 09:46   #7
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

We have a Simrad AIS transponder that is helpful when crossing Lake Michigan at night. Not only to see commercial ships but to be seen as well.
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Old 20-12-2015, 10:49   #8
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

Check out marinetraffic.com to get a sense of who is using AIS.
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Old 20-12-2015, 10:51   #9
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

I helped with a delivery across lake michigan on a boat with ais. The ais info showed up right on the gps and at 1 time there were 4 ships showing up. During the night we made a couple temporary course changes to keep ourselves 5 miles out of their way. It was great to be able to get info on name, size, course and speed of the shipping out there before they were visable on deck. If it had been foggy, it might have been a life saver.
Watching the screen was quite fun.
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Old 20-12-2015, 10:59   #10
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

I have AIS receiver as part of my VHF. I use it around Toronto to determine if the CPAs of approaching vessels are going to be an issue as I enter or leave the various restricted waters. For me on Lake Ontario, it's a perq, not a necessity; however, we will be going offshore via the St. Lawrence, where I think AIS is far more useful, and secondly, there are moves afoot to make various navigational aids AIS targets, and that's a really interesting development on dark and misty nights anywhere. In other words, you may find its utility increases as time goes on and AIS prevails even in nav aid backwaters such as the Great Lakes. As an aside, several tugs around Toronto are AIS transceiver-equipped, at least in the summer, as are most of the large and noisy "booze cruisers" that frequently take up large parts of the two channels into the inner harbour here.

The Vesper unit is reportedly very good; if you find you really don't need it, you'll have no problem selling it to guys like me.
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Old 20-12-2015, 12:22   #11
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

I sail out of Kingston. Lots of boat traffic here, especially on a nice summer day.

Almost no one has AIS.

A few of the larger yachts (the ones that have every possible electronic device) might have AIS. The ferries all do. The larger tall ships. And of course the freighters. And all the Coast Guard vessels.

So just about nobody.

Having said that, I've used AIS and love it.

I spoke with one gentleman on the dock last summer, who had a beautiful boat (with a lovely lady aboard). We discussed AIS, and he said he would never get it...his wife might find out where he is...(and hence, who he's with).
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Old 20-12-2015, 13:58   #12
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

Maybe somebody can correct me on this. AIS is VHF based. if you are looking at AIS information from the internet, it would have to be relayed via VHF from a base station on shore or a ship/boat with internet connectivity. That said, the Internet AIS is not reliable and not a true indicator of how many boats are using AIS. Using an on-board system is as good as the range of the VHF... Maybe 20 miles or so depending on antenna and conditions.
Again I may be mistaken so please correct me if I am wrong.
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Old 20-12-2015, 14:06   #13
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

You are correct. And there can be a delay of up to one hour.

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Old 20-12-2015, 14:12   #14
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

On our journey from the west end of Lake Superior to near the east end of Lake Ontario we made great use of our AIS (receiver-only) to keep track of the commercial traffic. Very useful in restricted waters of the St. Mary's, St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. Also much valued as we entered and exited the Welland Canal, as well as when our night passages.

During the three months we took to do the journey I probably noticed perhaps a dozen recreational vessels broadcasting AIS signals.
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Old 20-12-2015, 16:01   #15
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Re: AIS on Great Lake

++ Mike O - I have done three trips through the lakes and had AIS on 2 but didn't really miss it on the 3rd - I was also fine without it. Going from any one lake to the next (St. Mary's River, St. Claire River, Detroit River, Welland Canal, Buffalo into Erie Canal) it was always informative to see where the ships where and where they were headed. Smaller traffic, not so much.
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