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Old 03-20-2019, 02:07 PM   #1
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Need electronic Nav hardware advice

I have a laptop with OpenCpn and an Ipad with AquaMap and SeaIQ that I would like to add AIS to.

Reading this and that, it seems I need to add the AIS transceiver/transmitter, and a wifi-NMEA0183 gateway.

For my purposes the internal antenna on the AIS might work as I am using this on the Cape Cod to Florida run, with the only outside portion along the NJ coast.

(Also have a legacy RayMarine MFD that I will not be doing anything to as I don't want to mess with Seatalk).

Suggestions/comments welcome as to what hardware additions are needed. Thanks.

John
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Old 03-20-2019, 02:13 PM   #2
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A few questions:

Do you just want to see other vessels who are transmitting AIS on OpenCPN and your iPad applications, or do you want to transmit your location as well (i.e. have a transponder).

What do you mean by "internal antenna" on the AIS?

How is your laptop getting GPS and is it connected in any other way to SeaTalk or otherwise?
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Old 03-20-2019, 03:15 PM   #3
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Hey Steve,

Thanks for the quick reply.
to answer your questions, I want to see and be seen, and I have a GPS usb puck on the laptop. The laptop is not connected in anyway to anythings else.

I read somewhere that you don't need a separate antenna for the AIS. But now that I'm thinking about it, that means I would have to tie into an existing one. So since I have the mounts already, it might be simpler to get a new antenna.

John
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Old 03-20-2019, 04:17 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by PMF1984 View Post
Hey Steve,

Thanks for the quick reply.
to answer your questions, I want to see and be seen, and I have a GPS usb puck on the laptop. The laptop is not connected in anyway to anythings else.

I read somewhere that you don't need a separate antenna for the AIS. But now that I'm thinking about it, that means I would have to tie into an existing one. So since I have the mounts already, it might be simpler to get a new antenna.

John
For a class B AIS transceiver, you should run a separate antenna. In my case, I run both a standalone antenna and GPS antenna (I use the EM-Trak AIS B100).
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Old 03-20-2019, 05:11 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Pau Hana View Post
For a class B AIS transceiver, you should run a separate antenna. In my case, I run both a standalone antenna and GPS antenna (I use the EM-Trak AIS B100).


Thanks Pau,

Iíll look into that AIS antenna. Iím sticking with the gps puck for now. In the GPS world, there is a new geoid (mathematical model of the earth) due in late 2020. Iím holding off any new location hardware till then as there will probably be new GPS chips to take advantage of the new accuracy (reported to be several cm). Time will tell on that. (Itís needed for car navigation)

When I first used GPS equipment, it fit on my interns back and we took it back to the office to correct for 10m plus or minus accuracy.
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Old 03-20-2019, 08:14 PM   #6
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Hi John,

My primary navigation system is now a built-in OpenCPN system.

I have Class-A AIS. Class-A is the commercial standard that transmits and receives "full strength" for big boats. If you want Class-A AIS, I think the one I installed is great and at a great price point. West Marine actually seems to have the best price around ($749):
-- https://www.westmarine.com/buy/em-tr...iver--12333944

A Class-B transponder is the version for recreational boats. It allows you to "see and be seen", but you can be seen from less of a distance because it transmits with less power. (but you can receive from the same distance). I had Class-B built into a back-up chart plotter on my last boat, and it also supplied my two primary chart plotters with the data. My two primary plotters were PC based, in many ways like OpenCPN, but were a product from Maptech. The plotter/AIS device I had was this one:
-- https://www.ebay.com/i/282384162118?chn=ps

Back to my present setup, I actually have 3 AIS devices. Each of my two radios has class-C (receive-only) AIS. Each can display the data on a small screen, but I don't find that super helpful. Regardless, each supplies AIS data to the boat's network. OpenCPN does a really nice job displaying the contacts as well as clicking on them for details, guard zones, etc. You'll like it (I think).

Then, I have the Em-Trek A100 Class-A AIS transciever (as described above), which is independent. It also has a small screen, which I don't find particularly useful. But, again, it supplies AIS data to the network for the chart plotters.

My system is crazy redundant. It doesn't need to be. It is somewhat silly. A single one of the radios could have supplied AIS to both OpenCPN systems. The same is true of the A100 device. In fact, having all three complicated my set-up a little bit because I had to set up the NMEA bridge to ignore all but one of them just to avoid wasting network and buffer capacity, which could have caused things to be dropped if it got too congested.

I don't use VHF splitters. Insted, I just use separate antennas. The antennas are cheaper than the splitters, have no loss, and can be backups for my radios. For the little bit of time it takes to run an extra cable, I think it is well worth the better performance, additional redundancy, and money saved. Just my opinion.

So, regardless of my own setup, my real thinking is this:

-- Class-C AIS built into radios is a nice "pre packaged" solution that can supply your OpenCPN system with AIS and GPS data with very little effort and at a very modest cost, especially if you are upgrading VHF radios, anyway.

-- For most folks doing coastal cruising, Class-B AIS is actually my recommendation. It'll let you see everyone and let everyone near enough to care see you. And, it does this without annoying boats farther away cluttering their screens with AIS contacts they don't care about. There are just a ton of recreational boaters and terminals are really crowded with contacts as is. Class-A AIS probably won't help, but may annoy people. Some units, but not all, allow the output power to be reduced.

-- If you really are going farther out, class-A AIS is really great because you can stay trackable to friends and family and other boats for longer.


-- Please don't forget that antenna height is everything. A ton of power won't help with an antenna mounted low, because the horizon will eat it. So, like VHF radio, the upshot is that a really powerful transmitter isn't likely to reach as far as one might expect if the boat isn't very tall or the antenna isn't very high up. This line of site calculator (https://www.everythingrf.com/rf-calc...ght-calculator) is fun to illustrate the idea -- but remember the height of the other radio matters, too.

I hope this helps. Have fun!
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Old 03-20-2019, 08:31 PM   #7
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The Vesper 8000 has a built in wifi router. It'd talk to everything you have
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Old 03-20-2019, 11:57 PM   #8
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A few additional notes on what others have said above, along with some details based on your second response:

Class B works fine with a splitter or a separate antenna. If you get one of the new SOTDMA AIS units, they have higher transmit power at 5W, and having the separate antenna is less of an issue. I'm sure many will debate the difference of a splitter vs. non-splitter setup, but it really comes down to cost and space.

A second (or third) VHF antenna can cost more, and more importantly, you cannot put two VHF antennas close to each other. Depending on the setup and size of your boat, you may be limited in where you can stick a second antenna - place it too close to your existing VHF antenna, and you can cause damage to either your new AIS unit, or your existing VHF setup. There are plenty of tests and forum posts on this, but anything greater than 6' of separation is a great starting point.

If you can't do that, then you need a splitter and to use your existing antenna. Splitters aren't the end of the world, except to antenna purists, but at least you have an option.

Any AIS transmitting device, whether it be Class A or Class B REQUIRES a separate GPS antenna for the AIS unit. This is to ensure the AIS transponder has accurate and available GPS data, or what it sends out over the VHF airwaves is completely useless. Part of what it includes is your exact location, which is how your little boat icon appears on everyone else's screen accurately.

So you have to install a GPS antenna, or you can look at some of the newer AIS units that have integrated GPS antennas, although there are restrictions where those can be mounted.

I would look at a good Class B unit from Vesper, emTrak, or Digital Yacht that includes a GPS antenna. They will also sell you a tuned-to-AIS VHF antenna if you have the space, or a good splitter if you don't. I personally prefer the Vesper splitter as it has an amplifier and has been tested by many to actually improve reception of AIS data.

If at all possible, to future proof your purchase, look for a SOTDMA or Class B+ unit instead of a standard Class B. The B+/SOTDMA units have higher transmit power, which means they will reach other boaters further away. I did a review of one from AMEC a bit over a year ago, and am testing two more right now, and the extra transmit power and algorithm makes a huge difference in the congested waters I cruise in.

The other feature you want is the WiFi add-on, which as sean9c mentioned with the Vesper, gets you the NMEA 0183 and WiFi connection so your iPad and other devices can consume the AIS and GPS data from it. Heck, even your PC could use that for GPS which would likely be more accurate than your puck given a good mounting location.
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Old 03-21-2019, 08:30 AM   #9
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Thanks guys! (So yesterday I told my first mate that I had no idea what I needed but that in 24 hours the crew would let me know. - so true)

I will review all this and study some and get back to you all with what I come up with (before I act on it) for more good ideas from you all.

John
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Old 03-21-2019, 10:11 AM   #10
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Class B works fine with a splitter or a separate antenna.......... and more importantly, you cannot put two VHF antennas close to each other...............If you can't do that, then you need a splitter and to use your existing antenna....... Splitters aren't the end of the world, except to antenna purists, but at least you have an option..........I would look at a good Class B unit.............The other feature you want is the WiFi add-on,
Good info! (I left the brand recommendations out.)
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Old 03-30-2019, 11:26 AM   #11
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I really like the em-trak B360 and the Wi-Fi capability should work for getting AIS and GPS to the iPad and the computer. I use that one in my RIB and my Dad has the same one in his sailboat. The other thing I like about it is its 5watts, much more powerful than traditional Class B. It picks up targets pretty well and seems to keep up with the rate of send and all the data my FA170 outputs from the big boat.
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Old 04-18-2019, 01:24 PM   #12
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Folks,

Update and question.

I ended up installing a Vesper XB-6000. I had an extra antenna, so that was the limit of new hardware. The unit comes with a GPS antenna. I already had mounts for this.

My initial installation failed because I used one of those crimp connectors for the end of the antenna cable. I got rid of that crimp terminal and used the old fashioned solder type. Problem solved.

My initial thought was to use OpenCpn on my laptop connected by wifi to the Vesper for AIS. But I had just gotten OpenCpn 5.0 and the AIS plugin has not been developed yet for this version. So I will be using Aqua Map Master on my IPad Air for my AIS readouts. It seems to work.

So my question is the ability to connect the Vesper unit with my Horizon GX1260S VHF radio. The radio has a DSC emergency button that will send out a distress signal with location data if the unit is hooked up to a GPS antenna.

The Horizon has an auxiliary cable that has NMEA IN+ and a NMEA IN- wires.

The Vesper unit has NMEA OUT + and NMEA OUT - wires

Can these be connected to give GPS info to my Horizon?

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Old 04-18-2019, 01:52 PM   #13
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Yes, you should be able to connect Nmea output to input and it will pickup, you may need to turn on gps output sentences in the vesper and choose N0183 as the gps source on the 1260. Just remember with 0183 polarity matters and you can only connect 1 talker (output) to upto 3 listeners (input).

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Old 04-18-2019, 01:58 PM   #14
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I use OpenCPN 5.0 with AIS. It seems to work fine, displaying the contacts on the overlap and allowing them to be clicked for more information. I didn't do anything special, just connected the AIS to a NMEA multiplexer, setting the port to the right speed, and then connecting that to a computer using USB and a Seatalk-NG for the other devices that can use the data.

Is there a particular feature you found missing in 5.0?
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