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The evolution of navigational tools:

  • Celestial Navigation with a Sextant
  • Compass
  • Loran
  • Radar
  • GPS
  • and now… AIS

The chronology of the above list may or may not be correct, but my point in listing them was to show that there are always new things being developed to assist us in finding our way safely. We may choose to use some, none or all of them, but it does pay to at least know the pros and cons of each of them.

The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a short range coastal tracking system used on ships and by Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships and VTS stations. (source: Wiki)

I am not going to try to do a detailed description of AIS. The basic idea of the system is that AIS can either show you where the big fast-moving ships are, or both do that AND show them where you are too. Hopefully this could help to avoid you getting run over. Sounds pretty valuable in certain cruising areas as getting hit by a tanker going 20 knots would make for a crappy day! If you are interested in more of the details, I found this link was quite good.

Will we be getting one of these? It’s doubtful, at least at the moment. We have countless other more pressing things to invest our limited supply of money into. Did someone mention a Watermaker?

Note: I can’t belive I am still talking about this stupid watermaker thing! We have even updated our wish list (look to the right) to a different, less-expensive model. We really need to get on with it and make a decision!!!


  1. Good morning Mike. Have you guys considered just how far travelling time you’ll be away from a water supply? I worked with a guy who spent 6 months of the year cruising the Carribean in a Grampion 26 that had no refrigeration. I asked him how he manged to keep his food from spoiling and what did he do for ice in his drinks. He said he was only 3 days from any port so he only bought 3 days supplies at a time and he got used to warm rum and cokes…lol

    What I’m getting at is that a watermaker might not be so essential in the long run….and you can buy an ice maker instead:)

    • Hi Allan

      I hear you, for sure. I have been speaking at length with someone who is there right now though. He has been telling me that with the drought in the southern Caribbean finding water is not all that easy. It has not rained so there is no rain water to catch and getting good water from the islands is tough. I guess it depends on where we end up!


  2. Before you count out the AIS,check this out.
    I just might have to go crazy on this one,as I’m looking at a new VHF so I can go remote handheld,and this is just an excellent deal.

    If you want water in the Carribean,head North to Bahamas-very rainy this season.
    Several years ago,we were tent camping on Boyse Cay,off Exuma,and it rained-4 inches in one hour! That was a looong hour in that tent!

    • I was telling someone else in an email that I actually started writing about that radio in my AIS post. I got a bit lazy and deleted the paragraph. It does look like a sweet unit and appears to work as promised. It’s not a lot more than a just a basic AIS receiver!

  3. Yeah, AIS is far from essential. But I’ll tell ya, it’s great. We had it on my submarine, and it sure made things a lot easier (when we were at periscope depth or on the surface). A lot of the time, you’ll pick up contacts on AIS while they’re well over the horizon, before you can gain them visually or by radar. In just a minute or two, you’ll get the vessel’s name, destination, course, speed, closest point of approach…it makes passing arrangements and collision avoidance a snap. It can lull you into a false sense of security, though, because not everyone uses it. All merchants are required to, I believe, but pleasure craft are another matter. You’ve still got to maintain a good lookout. Sounds like you made the right call not placing it at the top of the list, but it is cool. 🙂

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