Standard Horizon Matrix VHF with GPS and AIS!

May 7, 2014

GX2200_thumbI installed this radio and had a chance to try it out last week, both in the busy Strait of Juan de Fuca and out to 130 miles offshore.  When I fired it up for the first time it picked up every signal for ten miles.  Wow.  The screen was cluttered with vessel dots.  I turned on the CPA alarm and it went nuts.  A few minutes with the manual and I’d adjusted the filters.  You really need to work out how often you want the alarm to go off.  It’s pretty simple once you’ve done it once or twice.  During the day I set the CPA alarm radius at one mile.  At night in open waters I used the TCPA alarm set to give me plenty of time to get on deck and take a look around.  I imagine this is how most people will use these features; you don’t just set the alarms and them forget them.  Thankully, the screen menus make adjustments pretty simple to do.

The AIS made it easy to see commercial traffic in the Strait, and the heavy fishing traffic in the first forty miles or so off the Washington coast.  In the Strait, two Canadian Navy ships were doing an exercise of some kind near Race Rocks, and they didn’t send a signal.  A U.S. nuclear sub group from Bangor passed me near Dungeness Spit, and none of that contingent sent a signal either.  All the USCG vessels I encountered sent a signal.  The bottom line is that, in busy areas anyway, having an AIS receiver doesn’t mean you can relax your watch.  Not everyone transmits a signal.  They’re not going to let you run into a nuclear sub, but it’s still your job to see them first, transponder signal or not.  The video is of a CPA alarm pointing to a USCG vessel.  It was broad daylight, and I was keeping an active watch, but still I missed it on my visual scans.

I have to admit that the alarm going off all the time drove me nut after a while.  When traffic was the heaviest I sometimes turned  it off and just monitored the screen.  Once I passed Cape Flattery I turned the alarm back on and set it for five miles.  It went off a few times, but otherwise–at least in my little five-mile safe zone–the ocean was a pretty quiet place.

I’m glad I got this set.  It’s pretty easy to use and appears to pick up every AIS signal around.  It cost less than $400.  I left my other VHF in the panel, and each has its own antenna, so I use the new one to monitor channel 16 and AIS signals and the old one to monitor VTS and weather.  That worked out pretty well for me in the high-traffic areas in Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

I think the best thing I can say about a piece of gear is that it was easy to install, that it does its job well, and that I didn’t have to think about it again once I’d gotten it configured.  Nice job, Standard Horizon.

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