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Author Topic:   AIS Real-time On-line
jimh posted 03-30-2008 07:48 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
The SIITECH.NET website has a great real-time AIS server available for free. It has excellent coverage. We can even see a few early season boats out on Lake Erie:

I love watching the Seattle and Vancouver areas. The high-speed ferry boats move fast enough you can watch them run their routes. There is a lot of traffic out there!

ConB posted 03-31-2008 07:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for ConB  Send Email to ConB     
Jim, don't the Great Lakes ore boats use AIS? They are running now, but they do not show up on the AIS real-time.

We could have watched the Callaway and American Republic collide when tangled in the ice last Friday west of the Mackinac bridge.


jimh posted 03-31-2008 08:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Con--The same rules for AIS carriage apply in the Great Lakes. However, there may not be a monitoring site that is participating in that network. The coverage depends on someone having an AIS receiver, using a particular type of software to collect the data, and volunteering to participate in that network. The range of each AIS receiving station depends on its location. For a receive site to have long range it has to be optimally located. Unless locating on a tall bluff or very tall tower, most AIS receive sites will have a range of only about 20 miles or so.
Stinger23OR posted 03-31-2008 12:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for Stinger23OR  Send Email to Stinger23OR     
Have you Michigan guys been following the ice issues in the St Marys, Soo, Port Huron, and various other areas at the Boatnerd site? Interesting reading and pics. A tough spring for Great Lake shipping for sure.
ConB posted 03-31-2008 02:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for ConB  Send Email to ConB     
Thanks Jim. Now it makes sense.

Stinger, Boatnerd is almost as cool as Jim's Continuous Wave site.


Stinger23OR posted 04-01-2008 07:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for Stinger23OR  Send Email to Stinger23OR     
I fully agree, this site, CW is tops and JimH a big thank you. And anyone boating the Great Lakes too will enjoy Boatnerd for sure.
jimh posted 04-01-2008 07:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
There was a website which had AIS monitoring for the Great Lakes. I saw it last year at the pilot boat station in Detroit. It was not accessible to the public, however. You needed credentials to visit. is quite a collection of information. Some of those boat enthusiasts know more about the ships than the guys sailing on them.

By the way, I have been aboard AMERICAN REPUBLIC. See

I wrote that article 12 years ago, and at that time the internet was mainly reached by slow modem connections. That is why the thumbnail size images were used. Jeez, the internet c.1996--seems like just yesterday!

Click on the thumbnail images to see the "large" pictures--they're not very large by today's standards. I do have those images (somewhere) in 3,000 x 4,000 pixel format. Back then my computer did not have enough memory to even open one image that size.

DeeVee posted 04-01-2008 08:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for DeeVee  Send Email to DeeVee     

Puget Sound is a busy place.

I helped my brother in law as a deck hand/engineer/cook on his 900 HP, 65' steel tug, Panther, towing log rafts between Everett and Shelton back in the early 90's.

The Coast Guard Seattle Traffic system does a pretty good job of keeping things untangled. Ferries, container ships, other tug/tow combinations, commercial fishing boats and pleasure boats make for a pretty busy sea way.

One time, a ferry departing Southworth, east bound for West Seattle (if I remember correctly) crossed between the tug and the log tow. Needless to say, that was a very big screw up on the ferry captain's part. I don't know how much water the ferries draw or how deep the tow wire was below the surface of the water, but apparently no conflict occurred, because no catastrophe ensued.

Another time, some drunks in a fast 18-20 skiff hit the log tow at night. The boat stopped in the middle of the log raft- about 70 feet from the edge of the tow. Another big screw up. Fortunately, no serious injuries occurred.

I have some pretty good memories of working the long shifts on Puget Sound.


Stinger23OR posted 04-02-2008 09:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for Stinger23OR  Send Email to Stinger23OR     
JimH, I was able to reach the AIS site this morning, really neat. I notice the list of vessels shown was short as to the number actually sailing, ie all Great Lakes. The coverage shown was from Thunder Bay/Superior (American Fortitude) to Buffalo/Erie (Canadian Leader). Why is that if I understood your last post correctly? Or is it like the trucking industry where only some companies elect to use the service, place tranponders in their cabs for tracking purposes etc.?
Off thread, going aboard the American Republic must have been some experience, particularly the wheel house. We have seen her when she does the Lorain/Cleveland trips.
Stinger23OR posted 04-02-2008 09:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for Stinger23OR  Send Email to Stinger23OR     
I now see, Superior/American Foritude left the screen. Obviously out of range of receiver. I now follow your earlier explanation post. thanks
BellBoyBob posted 04-02-2008 03:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for BellBoyBob  Send Email to BellBoyBob     
Jim -
Would a unit such as the Garmin 540s be able to broadcast AIS so that this site could track my boat? I noticed there was one lone vessel bradcasting AIS from Lake Ontario this morning...
jimh posted 04-02-2008 07:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
In the United States, AIS transmission is only possible via a Class-A AIS Transponder. Any device emitting a radio signal in the United States has to be in compliance with the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC has not approved any Class-B transponders, only Class-A transponders. Class-A transponders are mandatory for certain vessels. Class-B transponders are less complex (and lower power) and can be used on vessels which are not required to carry a Class-A transponder. Just about every other maritime nation in the world has already approved Class-B AIS transponders, and there are many Class-B devices available everywhere, except in the United States where they are currently illegal to be sold or used.

As far as I know there are no general vessel navigation devices (Garmin or otherwise) which are able to receive AIS broadcasts except specialized AIS receivers. If you wish to be able to receive AIS transmissions you have to purchase a specialized AIS receiver or a Class-A transponder.

For a list of AIS receivers, see

An AIS receiver outputs serial data datagrams which give information about the vessels whose AIS transmissions it has received. Some electronic chart displays are able to interpret these datagrams and display the vessel position and other information on their screen, Check with the manufacturer of your electronic chart display to see if it understands AIS data and will display it.

Currently you can buy:


--an AIS receiver for $200 or more

--a Class-A transponder, which probably cost $5,000 or more


--the above equipment

--a Class-B transponder for about $600 or more

Stinger23OR posted 04-04-2008 08:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for Stinger23OR  Send Email to Stinger23OR     
Off thread for a moment. The 2 ore boats that ConB referenced above, pics of the damaged hulls can now be seen at the Boatnerd site. (Know your ships/updates news pics) It appears it was more than a casual bump in the ice.
Liteamorn posted 04-04-2008 02:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for Liteamorn  Send Email to Liteamorn     
For some reason New York Harbor only works once in a while.

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