With regard to putting AIS on the N2K net:
Yes, the Vesper is a great solution, probably the best out there, due to its smart software that can filter unneeded information, provide anchor alarm, etc.
An alternate solution is to buy a cheap AIS receiver and to plug it into the N2K.
A third solution is to buy a VHF radio with AIS receiver and N2K interface and to plug it into the N2K. This is what we've done. Our system works like so:
1. A B&G NAIS-400 transponder is normally on and working 24x7. This AIS is connected to N2K. This AIS is 24V so it does not need a separate power supply. This AIS is individually fused and individually switched.
2. A B&G V50 VHF that is connected to N2K. It takes a couple of clicks to enable/disable the AIS rx function on the radio's settings menu.
Thev B&G Zeus chartplotters simply plot whatever AIS data they find on the N2K net, like so:
A. If there is no AIS data on the net, there is no panic; there is simply no plot of AIS targets.
B. If the transponder is on, the Zeuses plot whatever the transponder puts on the network.
C. If, conversely, the VHF AIS rx is on, that's what gets plotted.
D. And if both are on, the Zeuses plots both.
No drama, no conflict. I think most N2K chartplotters will behave similarly. People interested in AIS or in AIS backup should have no concerns of having one or more connected AIS backup solutions, though I suggest not necessarily enabling them all at the same time.
SM2K N. 350
At anchor, Elafonisos