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AIS Display

This is a shot of the AIS display as I crossed the English Channel (Sep 2006). It was quite busy as you can see…all the blue triangles are container vessels that were going considerably faster than my SOG which as you can see from the display at the top was around 6Kts at that time…



Here you can see that I was less than 1nm away from the approaching vessel on the starboard bow and the vector drawn out in front of the vessel represents 12 minutes sailing at the vessels current SOG – in fact the pop up says that I was 8 minutes from being run down…luckily that didnt happen…!



Connecting AIS - Brookhouse

Its a real nuisance that the Raymarine C120 has only one NMEA port and that once you have set this to receive AIS data at 38,400 bd it cannot then talk/listen to NMEA 0183 data at 4,800 bd.

Having struggled with various configurations I DSC00007 eventually discovered the excellent Brookhouse multiplexer from New Zealand and got one shipped over to England. This is a great bit of kit and after a few false starts I have managed to connect it up very successfully to the Raymarine E85001 interface box – that I had already bought – but now realise is redundant.

The Brookhouse can take in Seatalk and NMEA0183 (old) and NMEA2000 (new and used by AIS) as well as output NMEA0183 or NMEA2000 (eg to the Raymarine C120) and also has a dedicated USB bus to connect to a laptop.

This is how to connect the NASA AIS Engine to the Raymarine C120


For diagrams from the supplier in New Zealand click here


Electronic navigation – Old System

I have upgraded the electronics on Enterprise and I now have two almost separate navigation systems (backup before resorting to charts !)

Firstly there is the ‘old’ system – now 11 years old..
– Raymarine GPS
– Autohelm ST50 instruments (log, wind, depth, multi)
– Phillips navigator Mk8
– Autohelm autopilot 3000 (wheel based)
– All connected on a Seatalk bus

DSC00003The Philips navigator is really good. Its visible under the spray hood, and is always pretty much in agreement with the new system (all Raymarine based) that I run in parallel. Since the cockpit is small I had no room for a new Raymarine screen on the helm – never mind the cost! – so I put the new Raymarine C120 at the chart table and use my trusty old Phillips navigator in the cockpit.


USB to Serial Adaptor

If you search the forums you will see some references to difficulties in using serial to USB adaptors on a PC or laptop. Issues are described where Windows treats the adaptor as if it were a mouse, comm port conflicts, baud rate errors and so on.

USB adaptorI searched for a suitably qualified company that would use drivers that the ‘experts’ say are reliable and eventually bought two serial to USB adaptors from Easysync .

I can report that the products have worked flawlessly on my laptop (Win XP) and I have had no comms issues at all.

Of course it is still advisable to keep a shortcut on the desktop that takes you straight to the ‘System’ settings of Control Panel – because software you use will reconfigure your nicely configured virtual comm ports when you least suspect it …but it is obvious when that happens and easy to put right – this is not the fault of the adaptors.

The main points to note are:

1 – these adaptors work
2 – the virtual comm port drivers are from FTDI and they work
3 – there is a generous FIFO buffer of 128 / 384 bytes
4 – They have xmit/rcv lights so you can see whats going on!

The following is taken from the suppliers web site..

* FIFO: 128 byte transmit buffer 384 byte receive buffer
* Enhanced RS232 transciever gives serial port speed of up to 500K bps – this is faster than most and will help to avoid any further speed issues.
* Adds one RS-232 serial port by connecting to USB port
* Installed as standard Windows COM port
* Works with USB 1.1 & 2.0 host port
* One DB9 male connector
* Serial Communication Parameters
-Parity: None, Even, Odd
-Data bits: 7, 8
-Flow control: RTS/CTS , DSR/DTR, X-ON/ X-OFF, None
* RxD, TxD LEDs for monitoring port status & easy diagnostics
* integral 1m USB cable with moulded strain relief
* Quality 4-layer pcb design
* COM Port Number can be changed to COM1 to COM4 to support HyperTerminal, or any other COM port number required
* Industry Standard FTDI chip set & drivers for maximum compatibility
* Supports Windows XP, 2003, 2000, ME, 98, Linux, MAC-OS8,9,X
* Full RS-232 modem control signals
* RS-232 data signals: TxD, RxD, RTS, CTS, DSR, DTR, DCD, RI, GND
* Powered by USB port. No external power adapter required.


Personal Satellite Communications

PSN is a company dedicated to providing consumers with the latest in personal satellite communications. They are based in Virginia, USA, and have affiliates in Canada and other countries around the world – Personal Satellite Network