In our opinion, one of the best tools to help with passage making is AIS. A properly installed AIS receiver helps to take the guess work out of those mystery lights that sometimes show up on the horizon. Before you say that one should be able to discern a vessel’s heading, etc. from the lights that they are showing, recognize that sometimes even large commercial ships do not run the proper lights. We witnessed this first hand last evening as we watched a large tanker enter the harbor.
We loved the AIS receiver that we had integrated into ZTC’s chartplotter but on One Love, we decided to take it a step further and install a transceiver. This unit, in addition to allowing us to see all AIS equipped vessels, also broadcasts our position and details for other vessels to pick up.
In order for the above-described device to work as designed, a vessel needs to register for an MMSI number and because One Love is now flagged in the BVI, this number had to come from them. Acquiring the number did require jumping through a few hoops but it all worked out and we received it the other day. Now all we had to do was program the number into our AIS unit.
Programming the AIS unit was not difficult but did require some care. You only have one crack at putting the correct number in. An improperly programmed unit actually has to be sent back to the factory to be reset and in our case, that factory is in New Zealand! As a matter of fact, if you live in the US, you can’t even purchase an AIS unit without first having an MMSI number because the FCC or whoever controls that stuff requires them to all be programmed at the factory. We got around that rule by having our unit shipped to our friends office in St. Maarten.
As you can see from the image below, I must have input the number correctly. One Love now shows up on all of the AIS receivers in the area and just in time for our passage back north!
This image is from the Marine Traffic iPad app.
This is a screen capture from Watchmate, the iPad app
which is a companion to our Vesper Marine AIS unit.