I had the pleasure of installing one of the first of Raymarine's fancy new AIS 500 Automatic Identification Systems just this week.
The 500 is a transceiver compared to the AIS 250 which is just a receiver.
A transceiver allows you to be seen as well as see other AIS equipped vessels.
AIS is the trendy new technology that all yacht owners are pining over and each new unit seems to be better, faster and easier to install.
The 500 comes complete with it's own designated GPS antenna as well as a splitter for the VHF. Which in comparison to just the splitter gives me a sigh of relief.
I never enjoyed compromising a VHF on the install of previous AIS systems. I always preferred to just install a stand alone whip antenna for the job. It just helped me sleep better at night.
So, in turn Raymarine has taken this into consideration and given you the two antenna capability which uses one for receive and one for transmit.
The drawback on the installation was that you need a laptop to configure the unit.
Previous AIS systems I have dealt with have had the vessel information preprogrammed into the unit before it leaves the manufacturer. On the Ray 500, you do it yourself.
The vessel's length and beam, GPS antenna location, make and MMSI are programmed in through a Windows based software called Pro AIS.
Now, be prepared because the AIS 500 comes with a pigtail serial port plug. This plug is a nine pin female plug.
Most laptops these days don't have serial ports in them so I have no clue why Ray did this, so if your laptop does not have a serial port you need to get a serial port to USB adapter. In addition it has to be a nine pin male serial port to USB.
Make sure you don't get caught up in the software either. When you open the disc contents, open the PRO AIS folder, not the Pro AIS (USA) folder. I know, if we are in the U.S it makes no sense. If you do this the install should go smoothly.
The AIS info displays a nice overlay on your Raymarine multi-function display.
The connection is made through NMEA 0183, unless the electronics are super updated and you are running a seatalk ng system, in which case the AIS has a spur that will tie right into the seatalk ng system.
Well, I guess that is about it. Now you can see every AIS equipted vessel on the seven seas, and some RV's on the road too. Which I got a chuckle out of.
So, sail on! And watch out for reefs, AIS won't help you with that.