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As someone with the same system as yourself including the VHF aerial
splitter which I picked up at last year's Southampton Boat Show and
which I found easy to install and which has worked brilliantly since,
I would subscribe to everything you say.
Awesome system. Yes, I too found there is much more liklihood
of a response from a closing ship when called up by name.
Bootlegger of Mann #321
(currently lying in Guadeloupe)
I used a slightly different approach to AIS which may be of interest. I
purchased a SITEX black box unit and connected it to the VHF antenna with
active splitter. The splitter is a unit called "EasySPLIT. I do not know
if it is sold in the US, but I have seen others in the Defender catalog.
The splitter costs more than the AIS but avoids adding another antenna and
cabling. The AIS shows on a laptop that lives on a shelf (that Amel
designed) over the chart table. This has worked flawlessly for the last
year. Passing through the Straits of Gibraltar last December, I counted
about 40 ships underway. Since the AIS range is well over 40 miles for a
big ship with a high antenna, I could have seen more ships on a larger
chart, but the close ones were of more interest. An added benefit of the
AIS is that it shows the name of the ship as well as the closest passing
distance. Ships seem to respond better when addressed by name than by
ship at position . . . . "
S/Y LADYBUG (now in Martinique)