Regarding the antenna: The boat originally came with an AIS from West Marine that transmitted through a small sailboat antenna. While the AIS was good, reception was poor (assuming transmitting was also) because of the small antenna. The AIS wasn't reprogramable as WM doesn't support it any more (thanks WM I don't support you either). In the process of redoing the VHF antenna and the AIS, I decided to try running the VHF through the AIS unit to a 17' Shakespeare antenna. Very happy with the results and no loss of performance with either unit. The larger antenna gives much better reception and I assume transmission of the AIS information. Where this really makes a difference is traveling in winding rivers and channels. I can now see tugs pushing barges miles in advance of meeting them. If you travel inland waters with tall trees, buildings, or other land masses, gain and height of the antenna makes a big difference.
I'm tired of fast moves, I've got a slow groove, on my mind.....
I want to spend some time, Not come and go in a heated rush.....
"Slow Hand" by The Pointer Sisters