Gulf Harbour Radio
For those needing to cap the outflow from the cruising kitty this information may be of interest.
,A few months ago our 20 year old Vesper AIS died. Not mortally but we no longer had the transmit function as the GPS no longer worked. We are no longer cruising offshore but wanted a functioning AIS so that our whereabouts could be seen by friends! For this social function we could not justify the four figure sum needed for an upgrade of our existing unit. A friend suggested the Socatran ST-109M. This is a portable, waterproof unit designed primarily to mark fishing buoys. Yes, it is Chinese. And yes, it is a fraction of what you would pay for a two way unit but for what we wanted it was perfect. About USD110 or NZD 150 delivered. I got ours through AliExpress. It was delivered within 3 weeks and has been working perfectly. You can set the time between transmit signal between seconds and 10mins. I use the latter as the batteries last longer between charging. It certainly lasts long enough for a passage to Fiji. You need to purchase the charging/programming cable and the above price includes this. Strangely it does not come with the program to input your data but fortunately friend Nic sent me this. Contact me if you need the .rar program.
Now if you want something more sophisticated Barney on Ocean Fever recommends the following.
Matsutec 4.3”Color LCD Chart Plotter Class B AIS GPS Navigator HP-528A. His son Ben (a commercial pilot) went to the factory and bought 2 of the previous model, the HP 33A, and interfaced them to Opencpn charts. Both are still working well. I believe Bernie got his HP-528A via EBay, USD389.
Having outlined all this I should repeat the warning from Serge that some Chinese made AIS units do not meet all the required AIS communication protocols for certification so check before buying. Some have been found to interfere with AIS broadcasts from other ships making it possible that they can cause accidents in high traffic areas – and make you liable for the result! Certainly if you can afford the more established brands – such as Vesper – you should stick to them and benefit from after sale service.
And talking about cost savings, if you have a ham license, the VARA system is highly recommended by many, including those with Pactor. Not only is the initial outlay a lot less, but there are many more RMS gateways/stations offering connections with VARA. Serge on Spirare found that VARA is as efficient and maybe more resilient than a PTC3 and shines in noisy band conditions. Coupled with Winlink Express it is also good for peer to peer messaging.
VARA HF (https://rosmodem.wordpress.com) is a software modem – as opposed to Pactor being a hardware modem. The “free” VARA version is low speed. You need to buy the one off/life time license, US$65, to unlock the high speed version required to match P3 data transfer speed.
Lastly , SIGNALINK USB computer/radio interface module
www.tigertronics.com/slusbmain.htm is recommended with VARA.
(Thanks Serge, SV Spirare).