Skip to main content

AIS-Equipped Personal Locator Beacons

The uses for AIS—Automatic Identification System—continue to evolve far beyond the original intention of collision avoidance for large ships. The first AIS-equipped Personal Locator Beacons have just gone on sale.

The uses for AIS—Automatic Identification System—continue to evolve far beyond the original intention of collision avoidance for large ships. The first AIS-equipped Personal Locator Beacons have just gone on sale, and it’s only a matter of time before the technology replaces the radar transponder (racon) beacons used on many vital navigation marks. 

In fact, in some instances AIS could do away altogether with navigation aids as we know them. Meet the Virtual AIS Beacon, developed to “place” marks where no traditional buoys can exist. 

On the rugged coast of New Zealand’s South Island, a barely submerged rock at the mouth of the aptly named Doubtful Sound is an ever-present danger to the many cruise ships that call in there. Within weeks of any buoy being placed there, however, Southern Ocean swells would pluck it away.

The answer was to place an AIS beacon in a solar-powered lighthouse 3½ miles away, transmitting the coordinates of the invisible rock. It shows up on a plotter screen as a marked hazard, just like a fixed nav aid. AIS display manufacturer Vesper Marine, which built the beacon, foresees many other uses for the technology, including marking shifting sandbars or channels, underwater pipelines, even temporary boundaries around race courses, wrecks and so on. Its low-powered 2W transmissions have a range of up to 18 miles. The beacon itself is a small plastic “black box,” needing only an antenna/GPS connection and a power supply.

Don’t expect your familiar channel markers to disappear anytime soon, though. The technology provides a cost-effective and non-intrusive way of marking dangers or areas where it’s not feasible to place or maintain fixed nav aids, and to supplement nav aids in hazardous areas—not supplant them.

Illustration by Colin Hayes

Related

Rescue

Cruising: Safety Lessons Learned

It’s not often that sailors get a chance to put their rescue and MOB training to the test, rarer still that they do as quickly as newbie California sailor Khosrow “Koz” Khosravani did recently. If and when an emergency situation ever arises, though, it pays to be prepared. This ...read more

01-LEAD-'22.01.10_FALKEN-Maiden_Emma-Bow

At the Helm: Sailplans

The first thing you notice when you look at the sailplan for the Farr 65, Falken, which Mia and I recently added to the fleet here at 59-North, is the sheer number of headsails. Falken was built in 1999 as a racing boat to go around the world, and the crew would have carried the ...read more

01-PR-2-Throwing-it-Back-_©LaurensMorel

Racing Class Reunion

Where does an old VO70 go to retire? Right back to the racing circuit, apparently. This spring saw a remarkable contingent of Volvo Ocean Race one designs back on the water and duking it out on the Caribbean circuit. While it’s no surprise that some of the VO65 teams intending ...read more

05-Sailboats-moored-in-sheltered-waters-off-of-Kärrsön

Charter: Sweden

With 2,000 miles of coastline, 270,000 islands and seemingly countless bays and inlets, Sweden is truly a sailor’s paradise. One of the top sailing destinations here is the archipelago just outside the country’s second largest city Gothenburg (locally known as Göteborg), on the ...read more

fa70b13c-8eec-4c35-b30f-f89e497b469a

Crowdsourcing Age-of-Sail Weather Data

Although big, multi-million-dollar projects like the Large Hadron Collider and the human genome project with their legions of PHD’s tend to grab headlines, there’s still a part of play for the “citizen scientists” of the world. Amateur birders have long contributed to an ...read more

01-LEAD-Ultime-race-Yvan-Zedda,-OC-Sport-Pen-Duick

Ultims to Race Solo Around the World

For years now, maxi-trimarans, both solo-sailed and fully crewed, have been racing the clock on their own around the world in an effort to set ever faster records for the world’s fastest circumnavigation under sail. Back in 2000-01 there was also a no-holds-barred ...read more

P1-01-LEAD-018_CARYNBDAVIS_AMISTAD

Juneteenth on the Water

Discovering Amistad and Mystic Seaport Museum have partnered to organize their third annual Juneteenth festival, featuring concerts, speakers and a reflection on the lasting legacy of racial injustice in America. Declared a National Holiday in 2021, Juneteenth celebrates the end ...read more

Lead-2021-01-17-vue-03-34-av-tb-01

New Multihulls for 2022

Lagoon 51 In keeping with many of the more recently launched models created by French multihull builder Lagoon, the Lagoon 51 is all about comfort, “en plein air,” in particular, as the French might say. Topside, a whopping 80 percent of the boat’s flybridge is given over to ...read more