Longtime readers know that I love AIS. I’ve had AIS up and running on my little boat since 2008. I’ve had stand-alone receive-only units, multiple Class B transceivers, and AIS-receive units built into VHF radios.
My recommendation for most recreational boaters is for the last. Purchasing a new VHF radio with AIS reception built-in offers what I feel is the best combination of features, simplicity, and value. Here’s why:
- Features: You receive AIS transmissions, a rich datastream you can send to your chartplotter. All of a sudden, those big radar blips on the screen have names, headings, and velocities attached to them!
- Simplicity: No new antenna to install; the built-in AIS receiver uses the same antenna you already have for the VHF. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise: for AIS reception, a plain old VHF antenna (properly installed in an appropriate location, of course) works just fine. Also, you don’t need to find space to install yet another component in your boat, and data connectivity wiring is usually simpler than it would be with a stand-alone unit.
- Price: Even though an AIS-VHF combo is more expensive than a VHF alone, it’s about the same as a VHF and a stand-alone AIS receiver, but when you consider the money you save not buying a new antenna to go with a stand-alone AIS receiver, you’re way ahead.
So it’s great news for consumers that Simrad is about to throw their hat in the ring. The new RS35 VHF/AIS radio competes with the Standard Horizon Matrix GX2150 unit I have installed on my boat, while also offering NMEA 2000 networking.
Pair it with Simrad’s new HS35 wireless handset and you’ve got full AIS/VHF functionality in the palm of your hand, anywhere on the boat.
I’ll let the press release tell the story:
Tulsa, Okla. – Simrad Yachting — a world leader in the design and manufacture of professional-performance marine navigation, autopilots, communications and fish-finding systems — announced today its new RS35 fixed-mount, Digital Selective Calling (DSC) VHF radio and HS35 Wireless Handset. Combining a built-in dual-channel Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver with the latest in VHF functionality, the 25-watt RS35 supports up to two optional wireless handsets. The new HS35 handset is suitable for long-range use — up to 100 meters from the RS35 radio — and features convenient, inductive charging. Designed for navigating in congested areas such as busy shipping lanes or marinas, the RS35 and HS35 provide the ability to see, hear and be heard for increased on-the-water safety.
“The Simrad RS35 and wireless HS35 handset are the ultimate radio solution for efficient and intuitive communication while at sea," said Louis Chemi, chief operating officer, Navico Americas. “The RS35 delivers unrivalled functionality and flexibility. From AIS integration to the convenience of wireless mobility, our new Simrad radio system is perfect for boaters who put safety first.”
The Simrad RS35 combines reliable performance and a best-in-class LCD display with an unparalleled feature set. Class D compliant for global use, the new Simrad Yachting VHF has an NMEA 2000® interface and includes a built-in, dual-channel AIS receiver that allows AIS reception and VHF use via a single antenna. Capable of displaying critical collision avoidance data from AIS-equipped vessels in range, accessible information includes vessel name, type, call sign, MMSI number, IMO number, and draft and size, as well as vessel position, speed over ground (SOG), course over ground (COG), rate of turn, heading, status, destination and ETA.
The RS35 provides plug-and-play integration that allows viewing of another boat’s DSC distress call from a Simrad NSS chartplotter screen while receiving vital GPS data for accurate DSC call information. When connected to a compatible multifunction display, the device enables an exclusive “Track Your Buddy” feature that connects DSC position polling via the NMEA 2000 network for GPS location display of up to three boating friends. Additional advanced capabilities include GPS navigation and Man Over Board (MOB) functionality.
The RS35 VHF radio has a large, easy-to-view, 128 x 256-pixel LCD measuring 1.3 x 2.6 inches (3.3 x 6.6 cm) with adjustable backlighting, plus a large 57 mm built-in speaker with 4 Watt output that allows for the connection of additional speakers. Its ergonomic, best-in-class fist microphone offers six quick keys, an easy-grip rubber molding cover for secure holding, and an additional speaker for noisy environments. Equipped with an extra large rotary knob, dedicated menu, weather and channel keys, separate volume and squelch knobs and a Distress button, the RS35 delivers all USA, Canadian and International marine channels, and features selectable Dual and TriWatch modes, 20 user-programmable names with MMSI, and a PA and hailer horn output for an automatic fog signal and a listen back function.
Designed as the perfect companion to the RS35, the compact Class D DSC Simrad HS35 Wireless Handset features a high-resolution, 180 x 128 pixel LCD display, a built-in speaker and microphone, and dedicated AIS function. Both energy efficient and easy to use, the device operates for up to eight hours on a single battery charge and has an innovative induction plate for easy and convenient charging. Equipped for long-range use, the handset has a ‘push to talk’ key and can act as an intercom between another HS35 or the RS35 base station. In addition, the hands-free unit has a non-slip rubber mold for secure gripping, can be programmed via USB connection and, for hands-free convenience, includes a headphone jack and a belt clip.
NMEA 2000 and 0183 compatible, the RS35 fixed-mount VHF/AIS offers selectable 25/1-watt transmit power and comes complete with a flush-mount kit and a sun cover. The Simrad RS35 and HS35 feature ultra-rugged chassis, are waterproof to the IPx7 standard (submersible), are protected by a two-year limited warranty, and are supported for an additional three years by the Simrad 5-Year Advantage Program.
Available February 2013, the Simrad RS35 fixed-mount VHF/AIS and HS35 Wireless Handset can be purchased from authorized dealers and distributors throughout the United States and Canada for US $399 and $169, respectively. For more information on the Simrad RS35 or HS35, Simrad Yachting — or the entire line of Simrad branded professional-grade marine electronics — please visit www.simrad-yachting.com.