Monday, May 27, 2019

AIS Upgrade

Upgrading our AIS from Receiver to Transceiver

We installed our Garmin AIS 300 two years ago and it's been a great asset during our local cruising trips. It alerted us to potential collision situations with some fast moving fishing boats, lux yachts, in all kinds of conditions. Well worth the investment and the effort. The installation simply required a new NMEA 2000 Drop cable to connect to the NMEA 2000 Backbone, a power connection from a spare Circuit Breaker and rerouting the VHF Antenna Cable from the Radio to the AIS and adding a new VHF cable from the AIS to the Radio as the Garmin AIS had a built in VHF Splitter. It really was a quick install.

We're planning on extending our cruising venues and decided that it's worth the extra boat buck to add an AIS transceiver, all we needed to do was determine which manufacture to use and spend the bucks.

Garmin was our first choice, their AIS 800 Class B Transceiver was a drop in! It cost $999.99 and was not available, basically it was on back order for the USA according to Garmin support. 

We looked at Vector and a couple of others, all similar price and all required an external VHF splitter, which was basically the deciding factor. 

Our choice was the ET-413-0086 em-trak B350 Class B SOTDMA AIS Transponder and the ET-413-0060 em-trak S300 AIS/VHF Antenna Splitter.

Installation was a breeze, all done in less than 30 minutes - most of that time taken up on deciding where to install it and drilling the holes for the Transceiver and Splitter. 

The final result is aesthetically pleasing

But the system improvement is amazing. The reception is much better, not sure why, but the ASI display on our Garmin 741SX GPSMap is impressive.

Removing the Garmin AIS was easy, 4 screws, and cables. The replacement did require changing the VHF antenna connection as it previously went to the AIS, now it goes to the new Splitter. And the Splitter requires power, but I simply connected it's power cable to the power cable for the Transceiver. So now when the AIS circuit breaker is on, power is available to both the Transceiver and the Splitter.

I'm wondering if the improved reception is due to the routing of the VHF antenna. Previously it was routed from the Antenna - to a VHF / FM/AM take off and then to the Garmin AIS receive and then to the VHF Radio.
The new routing is Antenna - Splitter - AIS and Splitter - VHF / FM/AM take off then to the radio.

The new unit has a USB connection to the AIS transceiver, but we have not checked that out yet. It requires the Software that came with the Transciever to be installed on a Windows PC (laptop) Shame they don't make it available for Android!

Now we'll see you on the water, and, if you receive AIS, you'll see us on your Chart Plotter.

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