Category: AIS

AF Race 2013, learning AIS Swedish style

Jul 2, 2013

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The AF Offshore Race 2013 -- in which all boats are required to carry AIS -- began in Stockholm Harbor on Sunday and the screen above shows how it looked on the Swedish-made ipad app SeaPilot. Note how the group at the right, already racing, is hard on the (light) wind while the next class stalks the starting line. SeaPilot was even set up to show the race marks as well as the country's many AIS weather-reporting bouys. But actually my iPad went largely ignored at this point because lucky me was perched high on a historic citadel with an incredible eyeball view of the whole scene...

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Vesper Marine WatchMate, still the leader in AIS collision avoidance?

Jun 11, 2013
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New York Harbor demands your attention even when you have lots of great electronics including what's arguably the best recreational-level AIS target tracking system. That's my excuse for not photographing the ideal example of the Vesper Marine AIS WatchMate 850 at work in heavy traffic. A more compelling shot might be more zoomed in and would have at least one solid target icon indicating a vessel(s) that had reached the Vesper's highly configurable alarm level. But do note how the WatchMate is tracking 114 targets at this point in time though it's also filtering 102 of those off the screen so that yours truly can better see the ones that matter. That in itself is worthy of discussion... 

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A closer look at Lowrance's HDS Gen2 Touch

May 13, 2013
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Today is an excellent time to look in more depth at the Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch, a slightly awkward name for six products that form the "top end" of the Lowrance multifunction display range. The reason is the recent release of the 2.0 software version that brings GoFree functionality -- as seen above -- and much more to both the Lowrance Gen2 and Gen2 Touch range. Last year I upgraded my HDS Gen1 to a HDS2T and in this entry I will compare the HDS2T to other Navico options, give you the reasons why I like it and of course discuss the new features in the 2.0 software.

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AIS MoB & SART display, Garmin nails it?

Sep 3, 2012
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I think that personal AIS beacons are a deservedly hot new safety technology but, as discussed in June, the display manufacturers are just learning how to handle them well. In fact, right around that same time I had to add bug alert comments to an earlier Kannad R10 AIS MoB beacon entry about how a certain Garmin software update could cause its MFDs to shut down after receiving the beacon's test signal!  It was an embarrassing moment in product improvement, as documented in these email warnings to the Newport-Bermuda race fleet, but Garmin eventually solved the issue and may indeed have set a new bar for the proper integration of AIS beacons. The screen above, for instance, shows how clearly the Garmin 7212 on Gizmo alarmed shortly after I activated the test mode on a Kannad R10...

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Class E AIS, will it be huge?

Aug 27, 2012
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Back in March I wrote about the Small Vessel Cooperative Tracking project that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) entered into the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Essentially, a DHS department called the Port and Coastal Surveillance Improvement Project (PCSI) sought out an innovative way to persuade boaters to voluntarily submit their ID's and locations so that various law enforcement agencies would have better situational awareness. Well, today I get to tell you about the idea that was awarded the SBIR phase two grant of about $500,000. We won't see the results for many months yet, and there are more acronyms involved in thoroughly understanding the concept, but I think Class E AIS will eventually be a huge advance in boating safety and enjoyment...

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AMEC NK-80 0183/N2K adaptor, and Milltech's 7th year of AIS

Aug 13, 2012
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It looks like Actisense has some serious competition when it comes to translating data back forth from NMEA 0183 to NMEA 2000. And while that's not a sexy marine electronics topic, it's an important one as many boats use a changing mix of the two protocols. The AMEC NK-80 adaptor above was recently NMEA 2000 certified and it seems quite able. If you go to the NK-80 page of Milltech Marine -- which helped develop the product and distributes it in the U.S. -- you can download the manual and thus check out the nitty-gritty of specific data fields translated. What I notice is that the NK-80 seems to cover every AIS PGN and lots more, which seems to be a problem for the otherwise able Actisense NGW-1 series of adaptors...

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MarineTraffic.com, appreciating the nuances

Aug 3, 2012
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"Panbo is great, but Ben is so nuts about AIS!"  That's some feedback from an electronics installer that a friend passed along and I can only plead guilty. In fact, it's getting worse. Sure, I'd like to think that I recognized the safety value of AIS early and that all my reporting on the birth and proliferation of Class B transponder has been worthwhile. And you'll hear about more testing of the new AIS SARTs and MoB devices soon. But recently I've also been getting deep into the fun side of the technology -- dare we call it social media? -- and I want to share some things I've learned about MarineTraffic.com...

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Em-Trak I100 Identifier, will AIS "be a victim of its own popularity"?

Jul 9, 2012
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Though it looks like a commercial-grade AIS SART meant only for emergencies, the Em-Trak I100 Identifier is actually a special purpose Class B AIS transponder "suitable for even the smallest vessel." It's completely self-contained, with GPS and VHF antennas and a Lithium-Ion battery all packed inside that orange 14-inch tall waterproof casing. Once charged ashore in that AC cradle, you just twist lock the Identifier into the special pole bracket at right and it will automatically turn itself on and transmit standard Class B boat id and position messages for about five days. I haven't actually tested the Em-Trak I100 in a kayak, but it certainly seems up to the challenge...

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AIS MOB devices, we're in the learning phase!

Jun 13, 2012
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One of the great things about the new AIS MoB beacons, like the recently FCC-approved Kannad SafeLink R10, is that they can send a short test signal over the air so that you can see how well your AIS plotter has been programmed to deal with one. But the fact that I've been encouraging folks to do just that makes it even more imperative that I report on a bug in very recent Garmin MFD software versions 7.30 7.20, 4.30 4.20, and 3.80 3.70. (See comments on the R10 entry above for more detail, but you probably don't have the bug unless you updated your Garmin in last few weeks). While Garmin purportedly did a great job of programming its displays to respond usefully to an AIS MoB, apparently the test signal from an R10 can cause its MFDs to shut down, which was just discovered in Newport where the Bermuda Race fleet is gathering...

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AIS over NMEA 2000, the shame sheet!

Jun 11, 2012
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It was a beautiful weekend in Maine, and we deserved one, but sorry to report that there were sighs and curses of surprise and disappointment emanating from the good vessel Gizmo. I may be late with this year's (way over the top ;-) electronics installations, but that's what Gizmo is about, and I was looking forward to seeing how a new-to-me Em-Trak B100 Class B AIS transponder would work with a wide variety of displays that could use its NMEA 2000 output. As discussed here last June, the B100 is a compact, feature-rich, affordable transponder, especially compared to some others with N2K output. And while there was a glitch in early implementations of AIS over NMEA 2000, I had presumed that the major manufacturers involved had worked that out. Damn it, I was wrong...

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