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mukilteomaniac 01-22-2012 02:22 PM

AIS Unit for Raymarine Chartplotter System
It is Boat Show time here in snowy Seattle. So I think it is time for me to purchase an AIS receiver to install in my C320. The type of sailing we do on busy Puget Sound and not so busy San Juan Island and Canadian Gulf Islands suggests that an AIS receiver would be a worthy upgrade.

I have the Raymarine integrated C80 Chart plotter, Radar, GPS, and Autopilot installed in our 2007 C320 Mk II. We have an ICOM VHF ICM412 Base Station Radio with the Command Mic at the helm. It is a great set up. I like the radio as well. We also have an unused VHF antenna splitter that was incorrectly utilized by the factory (or commissioning dealer) to connect our factory installed LCD TV antenna to the VHF antenna. Since both the TV and VHF work off of different frequencies, the splitter was of no use for TV reception. So I still have the splitter for use with a new AIS receiver if I need it.

So, I am looking at the following AIS receivers:

A. An ICOM MXA 500 Dual Channel AIS receiver. It has a built in antenna splitter and NEMA 0183 and PC data outputs. I found it at Defender for about $335 and ICOM currently has a $100 rebate on the unit resulting in a net cost of about $235.
B. An ACR Nauticast Dual Channel AIS receiver. It is has a small unit with similar dual channel features without a built in VHF splitter for about $140 at Defender.
C. A used Raymarine AIS 250 that is selling at a local marine exchange for about $280. It is an older unit with only a single channel receiver.

So, my questions are:

1. Anyone have any experience with any of these AIS receivers?
2. Connecting them to the Raymarine C80 should be pretty straightforward. Has anyone done this and are their any bits of advice out there from fellow sailboat owners?
3. Since the AIS data will be streamed to the C80 Chart plotter, I would imagine that the data that is displayed would look the same on the chart plotter whether it was from a ICOM, Raymarine or the ACR unit. Right?
4. Any other AIS receiver recommendations?

I am leaning toward getting the ICOM unit due to the price with rebate, built in VHF splitter, and same brand as my VHF radio. I did look at the integrate d Standard Horizon VHF with built in AIS, but with my relatively new ICOM VHF and Command Mic set up, changing out the good working existing VHF radio with a new VHF with AIS does make sense to me. So, my plan is to upgrade my existing system with an AIS receiver.

So, any and all advice or experience with these AIS units or others would be welcome.



David Swanson
S/V Emily Ann
2007 C320 MK II, No. 1107
Mukilteo, WA

killarney_sailor 01-22-2012 09:07 PM

We bought an AIS transceiver for our Raymarine C80 plotter and we are very pleased. We got the same unit that is West Marine branded ($500) but was being sold directly by a company called Cactus Marine who imported them from England where they are made. We got it at the Annapolis show and don't remember the price but it was a lot less than $500 and is a transceiver.

Install went fine. It requires a particular baud rate setting on the chartplotter and that might be a problem if you are sending data at other rates to other devices because it seemed to me that you could only have one baud rate sent - but I willingly admit to not being an expert about electronics.

BarryL 01-23-2012 03:07 PM


If I were you I would buy the Standard Horizon unit and sell my Icom unit. This will be cheaper and you will have one less piece of gear to install, power, maintain, and learn to operate.

The Sh radio is under $350.


night0wl 01-23-2012 03:38 PM


Originally Posted by BarryL (Post 820192)

If I were you I would buy the Standard Horizon unit and sell my Icom unit. This will be cheaper and you will have one less piece of gear to install, power, maintain, and learn to operate.

The Sh radio is under $350.


Thats receive only, btw. Not a transceiver. Also, the $350 is deceptive. You also have to buy the following if you're replacing out a VHF...and like most people, I'm assuming he has a ram mic @ the helm.

Ram Mic to work with SH $100
Cable to extend Ram Mic $25
NMEA cable to work with plotter $40

hereandnow 01-25-2012 07:36 PM

I am in the market for an AIS unit as well and curious why you are only considering a receiver ? I always thought it best to see and be seen (with option to turn off transmitting).

My apologies for somewhat taking the discussion on a different track, but for a more expensive model (if cost is not the object) the ICON MA-500TR class B transponder comes with a dedicate GPS, VHF Antenna connection provides 3 NMEA in/outputs and a great interface to my ICOM M604 for calling AIS targets.

Your thoughts are much appreciated.

Hello Below 01-26-2012 02:01 PM

Hello from the Pacific West Coast, Canadian side.

Dave, I have just completed installing an ACR Nauticast (Receive Only) in my Tanzer 28. I chose the ACR over the others because of price ($126.90) and more specifically because it will multiplex "all" NMEA sentences vice GPS only like many other AIS units including ICOM 5000. I have a number of instruments that employ NMEA, including Garmin GPS, Raymarine X5 Smart Pilot (fast heading sensor) and a laptop for sending the chartplotter waypoints, routes, etc. Given that the C80 only has 1 NMEA 0183 input, I feed the 3 NMEA inputs through a Raymarine Multiplexer and now through the ACR AIS to the C80. I, at first, thought I wanted a VHF splitter but after giving it some thought I decided against it. I now have a separate AIS (Shakespeare 5250 - $39) antenna for the AIS and will utilize it as an emergency VHF if the need arises. This combined with my Seatalk instruments (ST60 wind, ST60 speed, ST60 depth) plus Raymarine RD218 gives me a lot of info at the helm.


Greguk 01-28-2012 12:12 AM

AIS install
I'm also considering an AIS install on my B40. Can't decide is a VHF splitter or a separate VHF antenna is the best way to go. Obviously the splitter is the easy route but the fact that the VHF antenna is "tuned" to the radio and not best optimized for the AIS and the fact that hey share makes me wonder if this the best solution. But, I'd be happy to not have the hassle of pulling cable from a new antenna.
Any advice? Plan to use a Raymarine transceiver, existing kit is Ray E80 and all the other nomad Ray items.

killarney_sailor 01-28-2012 11:56 AM

I use a splitter and do not seem to have a problem with range. We 'see' ships at more than 20 miles. Certainly not a scientific experiment since there is no control for comparison with two antennas. The idea of having a redundant antenna is attractive though.

hereandnow 01-28-2012 06:45 PM

I thought I'd share that on my Celestial 48 it seems like I've decided the most expensive route. I've ordered the ICOM MA500TR AIS Transponder with the Digital Yacht SPL2000 VHF/AIS powered antenna splitter and the Shakespeare 396-1-AIS broadband VHF antenna. SPL2000 will also support the onboard stereo. The new antenna will replace my exisiting VHF antenna. I plan to run an alternate/secondary antenna for VHF sitting on my radar arch. NMEA from the AIS will also show targets on my C80.

Phew ! hopefully this will have us covered on the wild blue. Thank you all for your suggestions.

TakeFive 02-06-2012 02:42 PM

I want to correct a couple statements on this thread that may mislead others:


Originally Posted by Greguk (Post 822569)
...Obviously the splitter is the easy route but the fact that the VHF antenna is "tuned" to the radio and not best optimized for the AIS and the fact that hey share makes me wonder if this the best solution...

AIS transmits over VHF channels 87B and 88B. It uses the same design VHF antenna as any VHF radio. There is no special tuning of the antenna.


Originally Posted by BarryL (Post 820192)
...If I were you I would buy the Standard Horizon unit and sell my Icom unit...

In general, DSC radios can only be sold with your boat. To activate a DSC radio (with our without AIS), you must register a MMSI for your vessel, and then enter the MMSI into the radio's permanent flash ROM. Once you have done that, the is radio permanently paired with the vessel. You can pass the MMSI to another owner (when you sell the vessel), but you cannot move the MMSI to another boat, and you cannot erase or change the MMSI once it's entered into the radio.

It is important that owners of DSC radios do not assume that they can resell the radios to offset the cost of purchasing a new radio. It is doubly important that potential purchasers of used DSC radios not get duped into buying a used radio that is permanently registered to someone else's vessel.

My advice is to NEVER buy a second-hand DSC radio (fixed mount or handheld), otherwise you won't be able to register it. Non-DSC handhelds are OK to buy second-hand (since there's no MMSI registration). Since DSC has been a requirement for all fixed-mount radios made for the last 10+ years, non-DSC fixed mount radios are all too obsolete to be worth buying on the used market.

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