I F**king Love AIS
01 December 2014 | Somewhere In The Caribbean Sea
AIS or Automatic Identification System is an electronic gizmo that is an automatic tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic systems for identifying and locating vessels by electronically exchanging data with other nearby ships. Information provided by AIS equipment are each vessel’s unique identification, position, course and speed; all commercial ships (except fishing vessels) are required to have an AIS transponder onboard. On the recreational side, there are not requirements regarding having AIS onboard. However, many cruisers are equipping their boats with AIS receivers at a minimum these days. Smart Move is equipped with both a receiver and a transponder.
Last night during my watch (about 4:00 AM), I spotted a lights off our starboard side. It didn’t take very long for the lights to get bigger and I didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out a ship was heading towards us at a pretty fast pace. Thanks to our AIS I was able to identify the ship as the Cala Pino (a big freighter) traveling at 17 knots and their closest point of approach (CPA) was .25 NM in about 20 minutes – :O – this is one of those HOLY CRAP moments. I immediately changed our course to spill some wind and slow us down, dropping our speed from 7.5 knots to 4 knots. I realized, however, that the person on watch on the Cala Pino had no idea what I had done, or my intentions, or even if I was there at all and it only changed the CPA to .5 NM in about 23-24 minutes. That was certainly too close for comfort for me ... what to do, what to do!
Blond I may be, but it didn’t take me long to decide on a course of action – I would call the Cala Pino on the VHF radio. I will admit though that I was quite surprised when the person on watch responded to my call and forever grateful he spoke perfect English! I identified myself and our vessel. I reported that I had AIS onboard and that it showed us having a close CPA, so I had changed course to a bearing of 135-degrees to slow us down. However, I was still concerned we would pass too close. I also asked if he could see us on his AIS. He reported he could not see us on his AIS but he could clearly see us on his port side. Based on the information I had given him, he increased his speed to 20 knots separating us by 1.5 NM at the CPA.
He thanked me for calling and them complimented me by saying “Good watch”. I f**king love AIS!!!
Postscript: Barry thinks he did not see us because our transmit power isn’t has high as his and we were still to far out for him to pick us up. It is something will be figuring out in the near further though!