AIS Picture




Marine electronics continues to improve and provides many new and innovated products for the NW angler.  Automatic Identification System or AIS is one of the hottest selling products in marine electronics.

Keeping up with the recreational market Lowrance has added a Stand Alone AIS that sends and receives the NAIS-400 and the receive only Link 8 AIS/VHF combo radio. Let’s look at the benefits of both for NW market.

AIS Installed on Salt Patrol

AIS Installed on Salt Patrol

AIS is a form of big brother is watching and sharing information similar to what aircraft have that allows air traffic controllers use to chart there position in the sky. All commercial shipping and commercial fishing vessels are required by law to have AIS.  ASI prevents collision between vessels by sharing each vessels ID, position, bearing, course, speed with other vessels and land stations. They can also share size, destination and any dangerous cargo warnings.

Ship on AIS with radar overlay displayed

Ship on AIS with radar overlay displayed

So the first benefit is increased situational awareness by being able to track other AIS equipped vessels operating near you and for them to track your position.  This is a great safety factor when transiting in the pea soup fog the NW is famous for.

Sometimes it’s better to receive then send.  This is quite common in the NW fishing scene.  We want to know what commercial traffic is around us but we don’t want to share our position with the fishing fleet. The NAIS-400 can be set to receive only and the LINK 8 radio is received only.  Both units when tied in to your NEMA 2000 network display the location of AIS equipped vessels on your Lowrance chart plotter as triangles showing their heading in relationship to your boat.  The Link 8 VHF can also display the vessel tracking info on the Lowrance  chart plotter screen.

Here a prime example. I just returned from fishing the Anacortes Salmon derby. The first day of the derby it was very low visibility due to dense morning fog. I could see many AIS equipped sport boats leaving the marina heading out to the islands to fish. Made it very easy for us to navigate around each other. Once they hit the islands their signals dropped off so there positions couldn’t be displayed to all the other anglers fishing the derby.  The next day no fog and almost no AIS signals except for ferries and commercial traffic.

So how do they work? They use the same MMSI number you now program into your VHF radio to ID your boat. These ID numbers can be attained free by signing up on Boat US online.  The Lowrance NAIS-400 is a black box system the sends and receives AIS information.  You mount and power the box, add a GPS receiver supplied and an additional VHF antenna and just network to the NEMA network on your sonar/GPS unit.

AIS information displayed on a vessel

AIS information displayed on a vessel

The Link 8 VHF radio is nothing more than an upgraded VHF radio that has all the standard features of VHF with the added AIS receiver built in. This you mount and hookup as you would your standard VHF radio. No extra antenna is needed.  Again you network to your NEMA 2000. Once you program your MMSI number into the Link 8 it becomes an AIS receiver and will display AIS equipped vessels around you on your chart plotter and on the radio screen. Say you’re on anchor fishing sturgeon on the Columbia and a ship is transiting down river it will set off an audible alarm warning you its near or closing on you.

Both units will warn you when approaching AIS equipped vessels is on an interception course or collision course.   This really helps in the NW fog heavy rain and rough sea conditions. If you run in or across the shipping lanes within Puget Sound AIS is very cheap insurance and peace of mind to avoid commercial shipping.

The other nice feature is locating your buddies with NAIS-400 once you switch it to transmit your position will appear on their GPS screen allowing your partner boats to easily locate you. Nice safety feature for offshore fishing or if you have an emergency and authorities are trying to locate you.

Whether your looking at a full NAIS-400 back box sent and receive system or just want a receive only in a Link 8 VHF radio check out the latest in Marine electronics at

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