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Discussion Starter #1
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.

Thanks!

Dave

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

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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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.
 

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Hey,

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.

Barry
 

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Hey,

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.

Barry
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
 

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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.
 

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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.

Len
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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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.
 

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

...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.

...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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How permanent are those PROMs? Are they actually intended to be tamperproof, or is the permanence just a side effect of using a cheaper part not designed to be erased?
 

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How permanent are those PROMs? Are they actually intended to be tamperproof, or is the permanence just a side effect of using a cheaper part not designed to be erased?
I doubt that anyone here can answer this question. You would have to call the manufacturer. Be prepared to tell them why you want to know this.
 

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Reprogramming DSC Radios

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.
I don't know where you got this information but I do not believe it to be true. I know that an owner can reprogram the MMSI number on a Standard Horizon radio. I checked an ICOM (the M304) and a user can enter the MMSI number and then change it once. I checked a Raymarine, the Ray 49, and the user manual states that the owner can enter the MMSI number once. The dealer or distributor can change it if required. I tried to find out about Garmin, but the owners manual wasn't on line.

I suppose it may be true, but it is not always true.

Barry
 

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I don't know where you got this information but I do not believe it to be true. I know that an owner can reprogram the MMSI number on a Standard Horizon radio...
It is in my Standard Horizon manual - the part where it says
WARNING
A user MMSI can be inputted only once. Therefore please be careful not to input the incorrect MMSI number. If you need to change the MMSI number after it has been entered, the radio will have to be returned to Factory Service...
It's nice that some other brands will let you change it one additional time. However, my suggestion is still not to buy a used DSC radio. Even if it's one of the brands that lets you change it once, how do you know that the previous owner (or multiple previous owners) have not already changed it the maximum number of times? If you're buying from a good friend who would refund your money or cover shipping and out of warranty costs to reset it, go ahead and buy that used radio. But if you're looking on ebay or CL, buyer beware.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks for your help

Thanks everyone for your help and advice. I ended up purchasing a ACR Nauticast Class A and B Receiver. I bought it for $110 at Hodges Marine. I also installed a Milltech Antenna splitter and connected it all to my Icom VHF and Raymarine C80. They work great. The only issue was that the Raymarine NEMA cable color coding of the small wires was wrong relative to what my Raymarine installation manual stated. Don't believe everything you read. For about $220, both units work well together.

Thanks for the help as I didn't even get one response from my C320IA owners association.

Dave
S/V Emily Ann
2007 Catalina 320 MK II
Mukilteo, WA
 

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ACR Nauticast looks like a real nice choice for someone (like you) who already has an up to date radio. The built in multiplexer looks like a really nice feature, especially for people who only have one input on their chart plotter.
 

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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.
You can have the MMSI reset by the manufacturer. Not sure it's worth it since VHF radios are pretty cheap, but you can do it.
 

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This might be a late post, but there is some needs for clarification.

Most DSC VHF radios will allow 3 or 5 changes in the MMSI number. It is only if they are providing AIS functions that they will accept only one entry, thanks to the paranoid US regulations. Most suppliers, like Raymarine and Standard Horizon, will reset the MMSI number for free (ok, some shipping cost here) if you can provide all the required information (previous owner, some way to contact them, and a proof of purchase).

Go ahead, buy these used if you can get this information. It is a shame to try to convince people that used equipment should not be bought. Some of use can't afford the new toys, so give us a break.
 

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Interfacing the ICOM MA-500TR Class B AIS transponder to other navigation equipment.
By Pedro M.J. WYNS, BSc&T.

The Icom MA-500TR is a very promising AIS device when reading the promotional leaflets. Installing and integrating it with other brands of equipment can be a serious challenge, regarding the amounts of forum posts and calls for help on this issue.
Not finding any help while installing mine, I decided to write a small manual for all those unhappy people out there.
Problem 1: GPS
If you were thinking about integrating the MA-500TR with your existing GPS using NMEA0183 on any of the 3 ports, forget it, it won’t work. The MA-500TR looks for a very specific GPS sentence, the GBS line, which is a line containing data about the reliability of the received satellite signal. There are almost no commercial GPS units that deliver this sentence apart from the optional Icom GPS. If the MA-500TR does not see this particular line, he will display a “GPS not found” alert. So the bad news, you MUST buy the Icom MXG-5000 GPS antenna/receiver. I never understood why they were not sold as a package.
Problem 2: AIS data
The manual is very unclear how to attach your existing plotter. Any plotter will do, Raymarine, Garmin,… BUT… It will only work when connected to NMEA port 2. The manual is telling this port is “only for Icom Marinecommander system”, so everybody takes by default Port 1 and sets the data rate to 38400 bps, and then desperately waits for icons to appear on the map. It won’t work. You MUST use port 2.
Additional equipment:
Having bought an extra GPS it might as well serve as a backup for your existing GPS. Using the port 2 NMEA0183 output this is possible, if you set the output option to “AIS+GPS” and further adjust your plotter to look for more GPS data sources in its own menu.
If you have a DSC VHF radio it has a GPS input for automatic emergency position reports. It can be connected to port 1 and if compatible it can even do DSC calls piloted from the MA-500TR.

I hope this info was useful to you. If it helped, please drop me a little email, this keeps me motivated posting modification sheets like this one.
Pedro M.J.WYNS – ON7WP AA9HX C5WP - 20151028
 

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This is late but we have been using a Nauticast for the past 6-7 years. One of the first out at a reasonable price. It both receives and transmits. We have a lot of miles under our keel and it works like a champ and never had an issue.

NOW I do not agree on a splitter. In our opinion our vhf antenna is for our radio and our ais antenna is for our ais period. We like redundancy. We mounted the ais antenna above the bimini between our solar panels and can see boats a long way off and never had an issue with it. As with our Nauticast we also put on a separate gps for it and it is also above the bimini between the solar panels.

We did keep a separate gps for the chartplotter in the salon that also feeds our vhf and ssb.
 
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