AIS with Crystal Blues

The following is a description of the fitting of an Automatic Identification System (AIS) Transponder to SV Crystal Blues by Neil and Ley Langford. It originally appeared on their web site.

AIS Part 1 – A Primer

My father taught me to sail when I was about 8 years old – he’s the worried one in the old photo at right (probably because my brother Peter is on mainsheet). With great and delightful understatement, he always said that “a collision at sea can ruin your whole day”. He’s absolutely right of course, though nowadays we can use AIS technology to help avoid those “ruined days”. This is the first of three posts regarding the system, and basically describes the technology. Future posts will cover our installation experiences and the system in operation.

Some years ago the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) ratified a standard requiring all ships over 300 tons to carry an Automatic Identification System (AIS) transponder. This was a major step forward in collision avoidance for ships at sea. The system really works – AIS equipped ships constantly transmit information including name, MMSI number, position, speed, course, rate of turn, cargo carried etc etc. Commercial vessels within range receive that data, which is then displayed on dedicated screens or (in most cases) overlaid onto radar or chart plotting screens. The result is that AIS equipped vessels are readily identified, tracked and avoided.

This is a significant primary safety system, and many in the yachting community have taken advantage by purchasing low cost AIS receivers – these display ship locations on navigation chart plotters, or on suitably equiped navigation computers. Whilst an AIS receiver system is a good thing to have, I always believed that the best safety system required the big ships to see me as well – I wanted a transponder that would transmit and receive.

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South Pacific Cruising Communications

by David McKay

[Feb 2009 -This is an updated version of of the item originally published in November 2008]

Andrea and I have just completed a six month cruise through the south west Pacific Ocean in “Diomedea”, our 48 foot steel Van de Stadt. We sailed from Sydney to New Zealand and then onto Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia as part of the Island Cruising Association Pacific Circuit rally. We returned to Australia. During that time we were able to use a variety of communication mediums to keep in touch with those nearby and those far away.

Radio and Satphone

We maintained a blog, which was created using either email or internet. About 99% of the time it was done by email as internet access was very infrequent.

Email entries can be done anywhere and anytime so long as you have either HF/SSB radio with Pactor modem and computer, or, as we did, Iridium satellite phone and computer. One can upload text easily via email but pictures are much slower and more expensive on the satphone. We found the Iridium to be excellent.

We used two ISP’s for email: Sailmail and UUPlus. The former was good to start with but it became increasingly difficult to maintain connections as time went on. The latter was very reliable. The Iridium phone was used extensively to obtain weather information, mostly in the form of GRIB files but also in text forecasts in various countries. Of course, regular emails were sent and received. Occasional voice calls were done as well.(One can also take the phone into the liferaft as the occasion demands.)

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