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Wireless remote VHF-AIS radios

Jul 14, 2016
THe Garmin GHS 20 with AIS.

THe Garmin GHS 20 with AIS.

Maintaining access to an AIS receiver while moving about on a large yacht has become a lot easier with the latest wave of wireless remote AIS receivers. While the main unit at the nav station is still transmitting your position on the high seas, it is comforting to know you do not have to be planted in a chair and staring constantly at the chartplotter in order to keep tabs on whatever is lurking out there at 0200 in the middle of a storm.

The Garmin Wireless AIS VHF is a wireless remote handset that enables full control of your Garmin VHF 200, 300 or 300 AIS series radio from anywhere on your vessel. While the base station permits use of only one GWH 20 wireless hub, this distribution point allows use of up to three GHS 20 hand-held remote handsets.

Large offshore racing craft in particular will enjoy enhanced safety and staying abreast of the competition with remote radios at three locations on the boat, with each crewmember having the full capability to communicate via the VHF base station and stay informed of all AIS-equipped vessels in the immediate area.

The Garmin GHS 20 permits DSC distress calling and comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which allows 18 hours of operation. Each GHS 20 may communicate with the GWH 20 up to 100 meters, and the handsets are rated waterproof to IPX7.

The B&G H50 wireless handset communicates directly with the B&G V50 VHF radio/AIS receiver without the need of a hub, but this arrangement permits only one hand-held. On the typical cruising vessel measuring 30 to 50 feet LOA, a single remote is more than likely sufficient.

The B&G remote with AIS.

With the H50’s 200-meter range, you could install the B&G V50 at the stern of the 247-foot Mirabella V, the world’s longest sailing sloop, and stand at the bow — or heck, sit at the top of her 292-foot-tall mast — and you could yak to your heart’s content with a perfect signal on your H50 handset.

DSC distress calling, a MOB button, intercom capability and a loudspeaker are all part of the H50 package; however, the unit’s battery is limited to an eight-hour charge. The unit is rated waterproof to IPX7.

Those of us who cross oceans on small vessels can get by reliably on a VHF-AIS transceiver with no remote capability at all. But as yacht sizes increase and more crew are added to manage the ship, having two or three crewmembers armed with an AIS-capable remote is a big jump in safety, both offshore and along the coast.

As we discuss AIS remote capability, of course, the question in the backs of our minds is, when will stand-alone hand-held radios with AIS receiver capability and a readable tracking screen become available? After all, we have GMDSS-capable hand-held VHFs with GPS, so expecting the next step in technology is fair game, right?

Technology has not quite reached the point of completely integrated, self-contained VHF-GPS hand-helds with AIS monitoring capability, but it is only a matter of time. Some engineer at B&G, Garmin, Standard, ICOM, Furuno or Raymarine has just finished reading this article and is running to the drawing board right now to answer our plea. 

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Jul 18, 2016 05:42 pm
 Posted by  Jerry01

The remote capability is great! However, the addition of Bluetooth capability would be even better. I wear Bluetooth enabled hearing aids. Would be really nice to pair with AIS receiver, or even a standard VHF, when wind blowing or engine running.

Jerry Wadley
Nassau 34, Marsh Hawk
Beaufort, SC

Jul 19, 2016 11:41 am
 Posted by  B1948J

We just delivered a boat from San Francisco to Los Angeles that had an old charter/plotter without AIS. However, the Android app "Marine Traffic" gave us constant AIS info on our cell phones - and we had cell signals all the way down the coast. It was especially invaluable around the Channel Islands where commercial traffic is normally high.

As an alternative to adding AIS to a VHF radio, it would be interesting to see if someone can figure out how to add VHF capability to a cell phone. That would be an infinitely more valuable tool given the ubiquity of cell phones.

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