Testing Vesper Cortex M1: excellent AIS, monitoring, and much more in one box

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

12 Responses

  1. Neal R Trombley says:

    Great Write Up Ben,,

  2. Nick Reynolds says:

    From your comments it sounds like this needs its own phone service. I want wifi on the boat, of course. Can I use existing cell service to run this device, or can I use it to provide cell service to the boat, or would I need two cell lines on the boat?

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Correct, Nick, Cortex can only use its built-in cellular service for monitoring and that cell service can’t be used for anything else. But that’s pretty common for boat monitoring systems and true of two other major new systems, Siren 3 Pro and Garmin On Deck (which, also like Cortex, can use NMEA 2000 data in their monitoring).

      I too like the idea of separating the cloud connection from the monitoring system, and that can be done with Maretron and FloatHub products, among others. But most monitoring, video certainly excepted, involves very little data and companies like Cortex seem able to negotiate multi-service plans that cover broad geographic areas, if not global, which they can then fully integrate into their system with a relatively reasonable subscription cost.

      In fact, with Cortex, if you can do without the notifications, relays, and remote Anchor Watch, you can check out your boat data from your phone up to twice a day at no charge for the product’s lifetime. Which may be a first, and I think a lot of users will especially enjoy it during winter layup and then buy monthly service for the off-boat Anchor Watch and other alarming:

      https://www2.vespermarine.com/cortex/plans

    • Jason Young Jason Young says:

      Hi Nick, You and Ben are correct. However this is something that we have been looking at for some time and recently has gotten more attention as we are getting more feedback from Cortex users. Combine that with cellular coverage being limited in so many places in the world having the ability to connect to existing network connection onboard certainly has it’s benefits.

      As Ben mentioned in his post that he will keep folks aware of any updates in the comments. Keep an eye on this post as Ben is so great about doing that and I suspect there will be some updates to this post in the not so distant future.

  3. Bob Easterday says:

    Wow. Thanks for the detailed write up! I recently got an email from Vesper outlining a few up-coming features, including Boat Network, Channel Scanning, and Intercom.

    As for the VHF pass through, I do not have a secondary VHF, so I added a Shakespeare AM/FM breakout box and wired that up to my onboard Stereo. Now I have VHF, AIS, and AM/FM all running off a single antenna.

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Just noticed that Doug Miller posted an interesting review of Cortex monitoring:

    https://www.milltechmarine.com/Vesper-Cortex-Monitoring-One-of-the-most-compelling-reasons-to-buy-this-product_b_40.html

    Especially note Doug’s PS, wherein he learned about an engine hose gone wrong from the bilge pump activity reported by Cortex Monitor app. He was onboard at the time, so lucky he was also in cell range. But here’s the thing: I haven’t heard it discussed yet, but it seems completely possible that Cortex off boat monitoring alerts like that could also be onboard alerts via M1 buzzer, H1 handsets, and Onboard app.

  5. Maldwin M Drummond says:

    I saw this at the Miami show in February, and immediately decided I wanted it. I am doing a yard period in April with a major electronics refit on my Nordhavn and have asked my installer to look into changing my radios. After reading this, I may layer it on at first so I keep the other radios as backup and as a loud hailer. My installer was a little concerned about distribution and tech support, should I worry about that?
    Best,
    Maldwin

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hi Maldwin, I know several installers who gladly work with Vesper Marine products, and I believe that the company has built out nearly worldwide distribution since its startup in 2007. Here in the States they sell wholesale at least through CWR Electronics, and I think that’s where some of the first Cortex shipments went. And, incidentally, while based in New Zealand, two of the cofounders are Americans who sailed there on a yacht named Vesper.

      https://www2.vespermarine.com/about-us

    • Jason Young Jason Young says:

      Hello Maldwin,
      Just to echo Ben’s comment we have an amazing global dealer and support network. Although we take a slightly different approach than a lot of manufacturers, like Garmin, Navico, Raymarine, etc. in that we have try to form true partnerships with a core group of knowledgeable dealers and distributors. In other words, we choose quality over quantity. And while we are headquartered in New Zealand in 2007 we opened an office in New Jersey to better support dealers like your installer as well as customers like yourself. We pride ourselves on our service and believe we have a track record to support it.

      That being said we do have a couple distributors in the US that I am sure your installer currently deals with and if not I can personally introduce him to one and make sure he is in good hands.

      Best Regards,

      Jason Young
      -VP of Sales

      Vesper Marine
      128 Bartlett Ave West Creek, NJ 08092
      Phone: (609) 246-5067 Fax: (609) 277-2690
      http://www.vespermarine.com

  6. Maldwin M Drummond says:

    Thank you Gentlemen,
    I have a meeting with the installer next week, and based on this information, I think we will move forward.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hey Ben . . . loved the article and commentary . . . interested in your ability (capability maybe?) to interconnect with your hearing aids via bluetooth. This concept is becoming more and more easily used as hearing aids are being fitted to additional boat users every day . . . should we just say “boat users are aging?” Somewhat funny but actually a very serious and useful concept.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      The Cortex Onboard app works great with my hearing aids. Since I upgraded to Phonak Marvels almost two years ago, my Pixel2 XL phone is almost always to connected to them over BlueTooth and so I hear the Cortex audible alarms right in my ears. And that’s true even when I’m listening to music, podcasts, or Audible books streaming from the phone. Cortex Onboard pauses other streams just like when I get an actual phone call.

      Also, in my view, WiFi to phone and then BlueTooth to hearing aids is the way to go, largely because of the capabilities above and also because WiFi range from something like Cortex will be much better than if it used BlueTooth directly.

      Finally, I’ve been meaning for years to write about the Bose Hearphones I often use when I’m underway in the pilothouse (and other noisy conditions). They are great at reducing the engine noise and can also amplify sounds very well in difficult environments for people with hearing disabilities like live theater.

      On the boat I used to turn up the VHF to max volumn so I could hear it despite the Hearphone noise cancelling and that’s still true with Cortex Onboard (except for the audible alarms). But Cortex Onboard could be updated to include at least the receive side of the VHF now only heard with the Cortex handsets. That would be excellent with noise cancelling Bluetooth headsets, especially because Cortex VHF is very clean sounding due to excellent automated squelch.

      As for the Bose Hearphones, I was sorry to see that they were recently discontinued, but I encourage hearing challenged boaters to check out the remainders on EBay (with 30 day trial period):

      https://www.ebay.com/itm/BRAND-NEW-BOSE-HEARPHONES-Conversation-Enhancing-Headphones-Black-/264843846770

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