Vesper Marine, new Class B AIS & antenna splitter

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.

10 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Incidentally, once it’s received FCC approval, the WatchMate 850 will retail for about $1,100, and the SP160 for $250.
    Also, I just realized that spec sheets for the 850 and splitter can now be downloaded at Vesper:

  2. steverow says:

    Hmmm, That screen although larger is not dissimilar from NASA’s Screen Stand alone AIS at $800 less, although unfortunately it has no PC connectivity as yet.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Good grief, Steve, the NASA unit is not even a transponder. If it’s similar to anything in the Vesper line it’s the WatchMate RX, which costs a few hundred dollars more, and is worth every penny of the difference. Lack of a PC connection is only one of the NASA Radar’s weak points. How about the fact it can only receive one AIS channel at a time, which means it will only plot Class B targets every minute, at best? How about the funky faux radar plotting technique?

  4. norse says:

    The SP160 splitter PDF says VHF has priority over AIS.
    The Garmin 600 seems to take the other tack:
    The active splitter ensures that all VHF and AIS communications are sent and received with minimal signal loss or interruption, while ClearTrack ensures no interruption of the AIS traffic position transmission, even when the VHF radio is in use.
    (from the Garmin 600 press release)

  5. steverow says:

    OK Ben.. Sorry…how to make a fool of oneself to the world. It was late..that’s my excuse anyway.
    Yep I forgot it was a transponder, I was just struck by how similar the screens were…sort of murky monochrome LCD. I did have a NASA display once for a little while on the old boat, but couldnt see it very well, worked OK though. Why they dont put a serial or USB output on it though beats me..for a few extra quid. I would have thought that for over a thousand Dollars that the Vesper would have a better screen than that. As for the splitter, Ive never been a fan of these, either active amplified types like this, or passive diplexers, they invariably cause some sort of signal degradation or other unwanted effects. It’s just not good RF practice. Obviously the Vesper has a very sensitive RX amplifier in the splitter unit. I wonder how long it will stand up to 25W (or more) of crude RF up it. It’ll need a lot of dB’s Isolation.

  6. Richard C says:

    You mean it doesn’t output N2K, only NMEA 0183? That’s too bad, seems they got everything just right with this one exception. Did Jeff Robbins mention if this was ever considered? For such an outstanding product I can’t imagine they didn’t think of adding an N2K output during the 850’s development.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Norse, I think that what the SP160 does is to give the VHF priority if power to the splitter is lost and hence it can no longer switch between AIS and VHF transmissions. I’m not 100% positive, but I think that all these splitters will switch from VHF transmission for the micro second it takes to send out an AIS message. What I don’t think any of them can do is to receive AIS messages while you’re transmitting on VHF, which is why Vesper puts up a warning icon on the WatchMate 850, but again I’m not 100% positive.
    Interestingly, the SP160 is rated for 12.5 watt AIS transmissions (and 25w VHF), which means you could use it with a Class A transponder, I guess.

  8. ToddR says:

    In my opinion, the screen of the WatchMate 850 affords a very crisp and clear view of information and targets. It is easy to read and understand in various lighting and at varying angles. Perfect for a stand-alone unit. I’m not sure what a “better” screen would be? And, it can easily interface for using the info on a more glorified platform.
    3 watts (.25 A @ 12VDC)! Great engineering – others are drawing 10X that to do the same thing. This is perfect for any offshore sailor.

  9. jeff says:

    Richard, yes we did consider N2K. But in the end we didn’t put it in for a few reasons. One is simply physical space for the connector (the unit is pretty compact and there are already four fairly large connectors on the back leaving no room for another). As a result, we felt a USB connection that can also power the unit was a higher priority. As with everything, there’s trade-off’s…
    Regarding the splitter: Yes, it always gives priority to the VHF even if the power goes off. This is important because we’ve found there are other splitters out there that provide no isolation when their power is off and therefore they can inadvertently damage AIS receivers.
    With respect to the screen… unfortunately the screen photos always look fuzzy when reduced for web. I think the actual screen is very crisp and it’s even better in direct sunlight.

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Vesper Marine’s AIS WatchMate 850 Class B just got FCC certification and will retail here in the States for $1,100.

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