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ShipPlotter Fanatics are all over the UK :-)

If you have read up on AIS including posts here on this blog you may recall that AIS uses very short bursts of high speed data on two VHF channels in the marine band. The two frequencies used are 161.975 (Marine ch 87) and 162.025 (ch 88) MHz. Ships broadcast their identity, position, course, speed and destination so that other ships can take account of their movements.

Liverpool AISUsing a low cost radio scanner tuned to one or other of these channels and ShipPlotter software running on your PC, you will be able to see a radar-like real-time map of all the large ships manoeuvering in your area together with information about their destination, estimated time of arrival and even the dimensions of each vessel.

ShipPlotter decodes the AIS digital signals from each ship using the sound card in your PC. You need a suitable VHF band radio receiver tuned to one of the two AIS channels. The program decodes the received digital data and displays it in a variety of formats.

Well it seems I had forgotten about the AIS site that is run by a group of “ShipPlotter” enthusiasts. The ShipAIS site has a strong focus on the Liverpool and Irish sea area..but there are enthusiasts all over the place! and so an entire map of the UK can be derived showing ship movements all around the UK coast.

Ellandess AISUsing this site you can even search for specific boats. Take the newly launched super yacht Elandess for example …here you can see it leaving the UK waters heading for Gibraltar on 13 Sept – at full speed of 16Kts.

 

 

There is an interesting forum attached to this site too…have a look at. http://forum.shipais.com/ which has plenty of AIS related debate, links and photos too.

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Live AIS data for the English Channel..

Earlier this year I commended Martin Waller in East Anglia for his live AIS site – well now we have a similar site based right on the English Channel. This site is a fantastic aid for all English Channel sailors and power boaters Saltdean AIS.

Here you can see data being updated every 5 mins for the shipping transmitting AIS data in the English Channel. You can even get detailed charts for many of the major ports along the Channel.

Saltdean AIS

You can see how clearly the Traffic Separation Scheme is marked by the traffic and in the following chart you can also see the very congested display of ships name – a clearer table display can be seen on the Saltdean AIS site itself.

Saltdean AIS - 2

 

The author also provide a KMZ file that you van download and display using Google Earth.

Saltdean AIS - 3

 

What a great job! This shows off so many new technologies both hardware and software, in one fell swoop …and its useful for mariners too!

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“No Ais” – on Raymarine C and E Series

DSC01879It is annoying that the Raymarine C and E series which have an AIS interface have no displays to show whether AIS is actually working but has no data to display.

Both these displays simply say “No AIS” in the top right hand status corners of the screen. From the software developers point of view they probably would say indignantly that this language is consistent with the message displayed before the GPS Fix is obtained – in other words “No Fix”.

But the difference is this:

1. “No Fix” means the GPS is still obtaining satellite and the chartplotter is calculating the position of the boat. After few minutes if no fix is still displayed you know the GPS is not working and you need to fault trace. So the passage of time adds another piece of vital data that helps you decide that something is wrong (assuming the USA has not declared war and switched off the whole GPS system!)…whereas…

2. “No AIS” means two different things –
a. the AIS is fully functional, is receiving transmissions, but there are none to display, or
b. the AIS is NOT fully functional, is NOT receiving transmissions, and you need to due some fault tracing…straight away

This means you can set sail unaware that the AIS is faulty – but you would be totally aware if the GPS was faulty.

Please Raymarine, do something about AIS error detection – a suitable button could live nicely on the MARPA/AIS settings toolbar.

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AIS Update – does yours have an “anti-pirate” Button?

I thought I would give a quick update on some of the more popular brands of AIS receiver and transponder, including some of the salient comparative features. Prices are approximate of course, when you look at your favourite online store I am sure you could better them – but it was interesting to note the price variations and also the way that features are not always a guide to price.

 

Maker Watts Dual Ch Notes Price
RECEIVERS £
NASA AIS2 0.5 104.95
NASA AIS Radar 0.5 209.95
Easy AIS2 0.9 211.44
Raymarine AIS250 2.4 647.43
Comar AIS2 0.4 Yes 211.57
SR162 AIS 1.5 Yes 292.67
Comar SLR200G 0.4 Yes 3 459.83
AIS RX 1.5 Yes 3 511.97
TRANSPONDERS
Digital Yacht AIT250 4.0 Yes 1,2,3 449.00
AIS-CTRX 4.0 Yes 2,3 605.98
Comar CSB200 4.0 Yes 648.72
Simrad A150 12 Yes 2,3 789.00

 

Note 1 : The unit has an Safety Related Message (SRM) button that allows the user to transmit a distress alert quickly and easily to all vessels and base stations within range. Often this button is programmed to engage “Silent Mode” when this “S” button is pressed. This means that it will only receive and not transmit – useful if you are worried about piracy!. The SRM feature is in addition to the international AIS specification and may not be monitored by all reception equipment. This feature does not replace use of normal VHF emergency procedures.

Note 2 : Comes with antenae

Note 3 : Comes with built in GPS – may be useful as a back up GPS to your normal one.

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Pathaway Chartplotter for Windows Mobile 6

We are used to seeing a number of dedicated handheld chartplotter units like the Garmin 76CS and Raymarine RC400 both of which I have been using for the past 4 years. You may also know that Raymarine have now ducked out of the market for some reason. But getting reliable marine chartplotter software for the Windows mobile platform is rather more difficult.

MuskokaTech is a company that creates software applications for mobile devices – in particular GPS and plotting software.

Fugawi The Pathaway software from Muskoka is quite an exception . The “Standard” version is very capable and has the ability to “import your charts” …I haven’t tested this but will try to find out a bit more…but sounds very interesting and saves money if you have already got your Bluechart or Navionics charts.

It definitely imports the maps from Fugawi Global Navigator or Fugawi Marine ENC.

PathAway supports a wide variety of digital maps including the Fugawi World Digital Map Collection, many third party maps or even user scanned paper maps. Maps are highly compressed and can be any size and resolution that fits within your device memory.

Waypoints, routes and tracks can also be transferred between Fugawi Global Navigator or Fugawi Marine ENC and PathAway.

The Pathaway “Pro” version has some interesting “beta features” such as 2-way wireless remote location tracking. See where others are right from your handheld, share your location with others, or send to a central tracking service – now that would be cool for boats traveling in a flotilla on on the club regatta ! …And all without installing and AIS transmitter !

How about this software combined with the tiny HTC7510..mentioned here – now that could be a great combination!

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