Vesper WatchMate, hand's on #1

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jun 19, 2010

It's good to get some solid hand's on time with the Vesper WatchMate AIS plotter, which I admired when it first appeared, then as it got a built-in receiver option, and finally as seen live in Miami.  And, yes, that is the 750 foot deep water drill ship Stena Forth now anchored in Penobscot Bay for an amazing warranty repair, mentioned in comments this week and to be explored further.  But for a really vivid example of why Vesper's sophisticated AIS alarming is valuable, consider the Bermuda Race fleet crossing the shipping lanes last night...

Bermuda_Race_Class_B_AIS_cPanbo.JPGYou may recall that the Siitech Pro AIS Web viewer shows Class A's as classic triangles and B's as boat shaped targets, and that a year ago we pondered about how they're seeing 2 watt B's over 40 miles from any possible shore station.  At any rate, I watched a Buzzard's Bay bound ship run right through the fleet last night and I'm guessing a lot of navigators learned how many controls you need to make AIS alarms effective rather than annoying.
  Which is what the WatchMate is so talented at. Its many alarm parameters, and also the profiles you can customize for different situations are discussed in those earlier entries, and of course at the Vesper Marine web site.  I can tell you that they are all pretty easy to manage on the little screen, which is also notably power efficient.  I also cabled (NMEA 0183) the WatchMate to a PC running the latest version of Kagstrom's AIS Simulator, and while it didn't seem to understand SAR aircraft, it did pop up a special alarm for an AIS SART, which will become much more common once SRT's new little module rolls out.

Vesper_WatchMate_SART_alarm_cPanbo.JPGAt any rate, good luck to the Bermuda racers and also to the crews working 24/7 to replace three of the Stena Forth's six 80-ton thrusters, a feat I hope to witness.



Geez, Siitech and VesselTracker are still showing a few of the Bermuda Class B equipped boats. How?

Posted by: Ben at June 19, 2010 11:24 AM | Reply

I have used the watchmate for a while now and love it. I have used a black box system in the past but grew frustrated and annoyed very quickly regarding the constant alarming on my chartplotter for vessels that weren't affecting me.

That is why I love this little inexpensive unit. I still have it hooked to my chartplotter but with the alarm off and then use the alarm on my watchmate with the filters on. Much more relaxing and power efficient

Posted by: James at June 20, 2010 6:53 PM | Reply

From Jeff Robbins at Vesper Marine:

Something I wanted to pass along... we've recently added SAR handling and improved SART too. In addition to popping up the SART ACTIVE notice, they will appear with a different icon (a circle with cross) and will also have the highest priority so they will always show up first in the target list and will be the first target when you press the NEXT button. If more than one SART then they are ordered by range with nearest first.

BTW: I've found the priority scheme works quite nicely with the NEXT button. In most circumstances, even with lots of traffic, pressing the NEXT button to get to the first vessel brings up the one you want.

Posted by: Ben at June 22, 2010 9:49 AM | Reply

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