A couple of recently introduced electronics products could be good additions to the wheelhouse of a small commercial workboat or serve as backups on larger workboats.
The first is Standard Horizon’s new Matrix GX2200 VHF radio with AIS. The major improvement that’s packaged into the GX2200 is its built-in GPS. Previously Standard Horizon was the first to market a VHF radio with the AIS receiver built into it. “That was revolutionary,” said Standard Horizon’s Jason Kennedy.
AIS is a great tool for communicating with nearby boats. It provides their position and destination. However, with the earlier radios you had to wire them into GPS to get latitude and longitude information for those targets and for the radio’s digital selective calling (DSC) output.
The problem has been that even if a boat has GPS onboard it wasn’t always getting wired into the radio. Thus, some safety benefits of the radio couldn’t be utilized.
The GX2200 eliminates that potential problem because it not only comes with an AIS receiver but also a GPS chip as well. Thus the radio can acquire AIS targets while showing your boat’s position in relation to those targets. In addition there’s DSC calling, position sharing and waypoint navigation.
The GX2200 receives all class-A and class-B AIS data from nearby boats, including their position, course and speed. You can set a proximity alarm to go off when another boat gets within a certain distance.
“Then you can call the ship directly on the radio using DSC,” said Kennedy. He noted that an advantage of AIS over radar in a place like Puget Sound is “it can see a ferry coming around the corner before radar sees it.”
The GX2200 only needs a single antenna since both the AIS and GPS utilize the VHF antenna.
To avoid collisions you can’t depend on just the targets displayed on your AIS screen for an accurate picture of vessel traffic around you, as a lot of boats don’t have AIS. That’s why it’s good to match up AIS data with a radar picture of the surrounding area.
For that, you might look at Si-Tex’s new T-760 radar series. It’s a stand-alone vertically oriented 7" display that won’t take up much space in the crowded wheelhouse of a small workboat.
It also has a multispeed antenna, which is unusual for radar in its price range of $2,095 to $2,895. “It’s the first one I know of with four different speeds available,” said Si-Tex’s Allen Schneider.
The speeds depend on the range the radar is set for. The fastest is 48 rpm. That’s for shorter ranges when a faster update is required. At that speed the radar provides “real-time updates as you are moving,” Schneider said. “The targets don’t smear. It’s an almost instantaneous readout. When the boat is moving fairly fast, the targets are stretched out on the display, appearing to smear.”
In long-range situations, a slower spinning antenna is best. That allows you to stay on a target for a longer time and hit it with more power.
The T-760 radar series with 4-kW output power has 50-target AIS tracking capability and a 10-target MARPA feature. The color LCD display has touch-screen controls and a single rotary dial.
There are two models: the T-760 and the T-761. The T-760 has an 18" radome and a range of 0.0625 to 24 nautical miles. The T-761 goes from 0.0625 to 48 nautical miles using a 24" radome.
The larger antenna has a narrower beam angle and better target definition. — M. Crowley