Live Firing Activities – Shoal Bay Area

Military exercises in the Shoal Bay (Qld) area are a bit of a challenge for those heading South after their Whitsundays cruise this year. The area is closed from 2 October to 26 November 2015 with no anchoring anywhere in the area.
UPDATE 14/10: It look like the authorities have relented and access to popular anchorages is now allowed – refer to this Notice to Mariners (304) for further information.

Staying awake on watch

Asleep at the wheel - click for gCaptain article

On Australia’s East Coast, many cruising yachts now are on their way South after “wintering” in North Queensland. Many will decide to bypass NSW ports and make a 3 or 4 day passage direct to their home port.

When night sailing, sleep deprivation can be a safety issue unless managed thoughtfully . I liked this article from gCaptain, which  provides some useful information on the way we sleep and some interesting hints to manage micro-sleeps.

How do _you_ stay awake?

AIS part 3.5

RT650-MOB.jpgI’ve been busy with some other projects, so part 4 of the AIS series (about full AIS transponders) is on hold – hopefully we’ll get back into it next week.

In the meantime, here is another very geeky VHF receiver with AIS built-in, the French built NaviCom RT650 MOB. Not only that, but it also features a wireless mic, integrated MOB tags and DSC automatic calling.
Amazing! [via the always interesting Panbo]

AIS part 1 – many ways of getting onboard

ANT200Installing an Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) is becoming a mainstream option for yachts. Prices are dropping and AIS equipment is evolving, resulting in a greater variety of instruments on the market. That variety will no doubt increase further, but we can see distinct categories of AIS equipment emerge.

For those looking to invest in a system, we’re going examine those categories in a series of six posts. We will look at the full gamut of equipment, ranging from economical class B receive-only units through AIS integrated with Radio Receivers and Chart Plotters, right up to standalone class A systems.

There is already so much choice that we won’t be able to cover every available unit, but we will highlight representative equipment and discuss which features to look for.

Continue reading “AIS part 1 – many ways of getting onboard”

At last, one Marine Rescue Organisation

MarineRescue.pngAt last there are now some tangible signs that Coastal Patrol and Coast Guard organisations along the NSW coast are integrating their operations. 

From 1st January, Coastal Patrol started calling itself Marine Rescue and from yesterday, 17th January, Coast Guard stations also changed their call signs to Marine Rescue.

Below is a list of the Coast Guard stations with their new call signs:

Continue reading “At last, one Marine Rescue Organisation”

Introduction to AIS

AISboatinfo.pngAIS stands for Automatic Identification System, a marine system which identifies a ship to others in its immediate vicinity. It does that by continually  transmitting a ship’s position, course and call sign on dedicated VHF radio channels. 

The information of adjacent ships is picked up by the receiver section of an AIS transponder (or dedicated AIS receiver) and can conveniently be displayed on a chart plotter or other display device. The system has been mandatory on commercial shipping (over 300 ton) since 2004. In recent years,a version (AIS class B) has become available for leisure craft and other non-SOLAS vessels.
When venturing into major shipping lanes or passing busy ports, it ranks as essential safety equipment for cruising boats. With lower cost class B equipment, it is now practical to equip cruising yachts and fishing boats with AIS transponders. That will be invaluable when visibility is poor and at night. And, as adoption increases, there is a real opportunity for wider applications such as keeping track of a cruising boat by family and friends through the use of repeater stations and tracking websites like Marine Traffic
Rather than explain AIS in all its intricacies here are some links which describe most aspects of AIS.
  • This PDF by Digital Yacht  has an excellent overview of AIS
  • The Wikipedia entry for AIS describes much of the detail, although it is a bit “light on” regarding Class B systems for recreational vessels.
  • The US Coast Guard has an excellent set of AIS pages explaining most aspects of the system.
  • Bosun’s Mate provides a concise technical description.

Definitive listing of VMR stations

Now that there is to be improved coordination between the Coastal Patrol and Coast Guard flavours of Volunteer Marine Rescue organisations, we now have a definitive list of VMR stations in NSW on the Coastal Patrol Website. Unfortunately, it appears only linked from inside “New Standard Operating Procedures for more effective NSW Offshore Vessel Tracking“, rather than clearly linked from the site’s menu.

Because of  the way the Coastal patrol site was designed, you can’t simply save the URL of a page. As of today (10 Feb 09), here is the link to the latest VMR list (including their email addresses – Whoopee!).
I hope Coastal Patrol doesn’t change this URL every time the list gets updated. I’ll try and keep the link up to date, please leave a comment if the link appears broken…

[Update December 2012  The Coastal Patrol website is no longer active – the Marine Rescue website now covers the operation of Volunteer Marine Rescue stations in New South Wales. Unfortunately there no longer seems to be a downloadable list of stations, although you can find details for individual stations from this page. For anyone who prefers to have a printed list of coastal stations with contact details handy – Rob’s Passage Planner is an excellent source of such information]