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Old 01-23-2013
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Re: VHF DSC Handheld with AIS?

While it would be nice for tankers to detour around kayaks, on a practical basis isn't that like asking semi rigs to detour around gnats on the highway, instead of splattering them on the grill? There's only do much dancing the big fellows can do.

Since the FCC issues licenses to "Portable" stations, with the expectation that they will move to different vessels, under adult supervision by the licensee, why not portable AIS transmitters, with the same expectation that the operator WILL reprogram them as appropriate?

I understand that the default icon for a vessel identified as "Portable" comes up on AIS displays as a dolphin carrying a suitcase. Can't see how that could confuse anyone.
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Old 01-23-2013
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Re: VHF DSC Handheld with AIS?

I don't think anyone is asking tankers to detour around kayaks.

As a kayaker I try to stay out of the shipping lanes, but just like any other boat I do need to cross them from time to time (for instance getting from Anacortes, WA to the San Juan Islands requires crossing Rosario Strait, a major shipping lane). I pick the shortest possible crossing point, monitor VTS, and wait for the lane to be visibly clear before I cross.

Checking AIS would just be one more thing to check. It's probably not as good as monitoring VTS for an hour before the crossing, but it might help for large boats that aren't updating VTS. VTS monitoring is most helpful in Puget Sound for areas with regular ferry traffic (since they check in with VTS on every crossing, which is about every 30 minutes at most ferry terminals), but isn't as helpful when you are away from the ferries.

I don't think most kayakers intentionally paddle up and down the middle of shipping lanes. It is way less interesting than going along the shore.
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Old 01-23-2013
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Re: VHF DSC Handheld with AIS?

I also have the SH GX2150 fixed mount radio. First thing I did was add the RAM3 mic, since in an emergency situation you want to be able to transmit from the cockpit. Having the radio display in the cockpit is also very beneficial.

Here's what I've gleaned from the manual and other online sources, although I have not fully tested out the capability to be 100% sure that it really works:

One really nice feature of the AIS receiver is that you can select a vessel that shows up on your AIS list and place a DSC call to that vessel without having to manually enter the 9-digit MMSI number. Since most radios do not have numeric keypads, entering a 9-digit number would have to be done with an up/down button or knob, one digit at a time - a major pain, and virtually impossible in an emergency situation. So being able to select a vessel from the AIS screen and just tap "call" is a BIG DEAL.

So here's the real benefit: If both you and the vessel that you are calling have your DSC radios set up properly, he will receive your GPS coordinates when you place the call to him. So you don't actually need an AIS transmitter to let another vessel know your position - just place a DSC call to him. (Likewise, if you receive a DSC call from another vessel, you get his GPS coordinates.) If you press the Distress button, your GPS coordinates go out to all vessels. Placing a DSC call does the same thing, just one vessel at a time. On my radio, there is also an "all ships" call that you can place that will send your GPS coordinates out with lower urgency than the "Distress" button.

If you're in a kayak, I can see that letting another vessel know your location by simply placing a DSC call to him could be a huge safety benefit.

This same feature is available on portable DSC radios, but you have to know a vessel's MMSI number to place a DSC call to one ship, and that's not easy to get without AIS. (I think you could still do the "all ships" and "distress" calls with a normal DSC radio.) But having AIS integrated in your radio not only gives you the MMSI number, but it also allows you to place the call without entering the number by just selecting the vessel.

The benefit of having AIS integrated in your radio to facilitate getting MMSI numbers and placing calls is so great that I have to think that someone will eventually come out with a portable version with DSC/GPS and AIS receive capabilities.

Meanwhile, you should go to Standard Horizon's website and download the manuals for the GX2150 fixed mount radio to get familiar with the AIS features, and also download the manual for their HX851 portable radio with GPS/DSC. You'll learn a lot about these radio's capabilities, including features that many owners don't even realize that they have.

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