Last I posted, we were readying for a Saturday morning departure. The weather then pushed that to a Sunday morning departure. But this most recent delay has been brought to us by the letters A, I, and S.
For those that may not be familiar, AIS stands for Automatic Information System, and is an invaluable system for cruising sailors. It provides information regarding ships in the area directly to your chartplotter. If you would like to see what kind of information is available, go to the Marine Traffic website and check out any area on the East Coast.
So why did our AIS keep us here? After 6 months of constant use, (culminating in tracking down S/V Minx via their AIS signal when we arrived in the Bohemia,) it wasn’t working on Saturday when I tested the electronics. After 2 days of troubleshooting, which involved me ripping apart the boat and testing every connection, soldering joint, cable, the internal workings of the AIS unit, the VHF cables, the C-80 multi-function display, etc., we broke down and purchased a new unit from Defender that arrived yesterday.
It should have been an easy installation, but of course the VHF cable terminated in a PL-259 connection, and the AIS unit needs a BNC connection. No problem, they have it at Radio Shack for $5. But of course we don’t have a car because we’ve already dropped ours off for service. Argh. Luckily, a quick phone call to our former neighbor Harvey on B-dock and he was able to pick the connector up for us on his way down to Chesapeake City! Thanks again, Harvey!
With the new VHF connector in place our new AIS unit was working like a champ. All I can assume is that the old unit was built so cheaply that it couldn’t hold up to constant use on a cruising sailboat, or some minor electrical current from these recent strong thunderstorms had fried it through the VHF cable.
Now, we know that AIS is not a necessity, just like GPS or radar is not a necessity, but we’ll be traveling bysome very busy shipping ports, sometimes at night. Take a look at Marine Traffic again and type “NY” into the upper right corner where it says “Go to area…” Now consider running through that at night, when your top speed is 7 knots, and the other boat’s top speed is 20 knots.
We’ll take all the information we can get!