We got AIS working. We applied through the FCC, which requires a station license as well, but this was necessary for international waters (Hello, Canada! Looking forward to hanging out after the virus!) There’s a post on Trawler Forum with step-by-step instructions. To the FCC’s credit, we got our number a couple of days after applying.

The MMSI needs to be programmed into each device separately. We have a Vesper XB-8000 AIS which runs headless, so you need to connect to it using an app over it’s dedicated WiFi network (why can’t boat electronics just be added to the ship’s WiFi network?!) So I added the MMSI and Station ID over the WatchMate app. You need to get this right since I think they only let you do it once or twice before you need to send it in for a reset. This is weird because MMSIs aren’t transferrable. Anyway. We got it added there and I also added it to the Pilot House Garmin VHF for DSC. I still need to add it to the radio on the flybridge.

After adding it, I was surprised to find we weren’t on Marine Traffic, even after several days when all of our neighbors were. I ran through the Vesper troubleshooting and it looked like everything was working. So, eventually North Pacific sent a Marine Electronics expert out to help. Turns out the NMEA-2000 bus is powered by the same breaker that the chart plotter is on. So, when the chart-plotter breaker is off, the whole NMEA-2000 network is down. Now, honestly, the AIS broadcast shouldn’t need the NMEA-2000 network to work. But, once we powered it on we showed up on Marine Traffic.

My leading theory here is that it wasn’t actually the NMEA-2000 bus. It was just that the AIS data on Marine Traffic is crowd-sourced, and it took several days to get all of our information uploaded. Regardless, it’s good to know that we need to keep that breaker on for anything to go across the NMEA-2K network.

Duncan from Puget Marine electronics went over a few other things – mostly getting our engine data onto the NMEA-2K bus so we can access it from the multi-function displays. He also priced out some fuel tank gauges for us, since we only have dumb floats in there now, and I’d like to use one of the built-in boat computers to calculate MPG and other data for us (we only have live burn rate right now).

Regardless, here we are on Marine Traffic, if you want to follow along.