The main mast is our highest antenna position and here we have a marine VHF antenna. We will connect the antenna to an automatic antenna splitter which allows both the VHF radio and the AIS transponder access to this antenna.
The mizzen mast will get a HAM dual band antenna for VHF and UHF bands that we use often. This radio is also a backup for the marine VHF band as I modified it to allow transmission on most VHF and UHF bands in case of emergencies. This is the equipment we have selected for our short range communications:
Main antenna currently is a Shakespeare 5401-XT Galaxy Little Giant. The Galaxy series is their top line and they hold up very well in the tropical conditions we are in. We have had this antenna since 2006 and it has performed beyond expectations. That said, it was not designed with the use of AIS in mind, meaning that it isn't tuned well at the AIS frequencies. Also, we lost our HAM radio in a near lightning strike last year and it was connected to this antenna so it may have been damaged. If we need to replace it, we will use an antenna that is designed for shared use between VHF radio and AIS transponder.
Simrad RS35 VHF/AIS radio. This is a marine VHF with class-D DSC and NMEA2000 port. It also has a 2-channel AIS receiver built in and it sends all AIS data onto the NMEA2000 network. This was one of the big problems with equipment the past few years as it was riddled with software bugs and incompatibilities. The radio can display AIS targets on it's own display, and make individual radio calls to the targets using their MMSI numbers. This same radio is also sold under the B&G and Lowrance brands. There is one competitor and that is an Icom radio, but our previous experiences with an Icom VHF have been bad enough to avoid it. It is also much more expensive and I don't like the look and feel of Icom radios to start with :) The most important factor however is the availability of the next component, which is where all the competition bites the dust:
Simrad HS35 wireless handset for the RS35 radio. No more cables! This remote is fully waterproof, has a 100 meter range, intercom function and can even show AIS targets on it's large display. Best of all is that it's price is only as much as we paid for a lousy wired remote that we used with the old Icom. I also like that big speaker.
Vesper XB-8000 AIS transponder. This is a black box type of unit that transmits our own AIS data as well as receive AIS and send it onto the NMEA2000 network. It has an option to disable transmission of our AIS info (to make us invisible for others) which means that we will probably always have this unit switched on, so we may well configure the VHF radio to not transmit AIS targets onto the network.
This transponder can also send GPS data to the network plus it has a wifi radio that can connect to our wifi network and bridge data from the NMEA network onto the wifi network! This then allows apps on our iPads to receive that for information display or even navigation! It is amazing what software and charts are available for the iPad and also the price level is so much lower than the same software and charts on other platforms like a chart plotter or laptop.
Vesper SP-160 antenna splitter allows the VHF and the AIS transponder to share the same antenna. This allows us to put a dual band HAM antenna on the mizzen mast instead of the current marine VHF antenna. This is a smart device that allows the AIS transponder to transmit on the antenna as long as the VHF, which has priority, does not transmit. When there is no transmission, both the radio and the AIS transponder can receive simultaneously. The received signal is pre-amplified before it is sent to the AIS transponder (and the VHF radio?) to compensate for the loss of the splitter plus some extra to improve AIS performance. Users report that it works great, which pushed us to this option.
Mizzen antenna currently is the mainstream Shakespeare 5215 antenna. It's not good for much according to the specs but it has served well for our old AIS transponder. This antenna will now be replaced by the Diamond NR770 dual band HAM antenna which we already had mounted on our bimini and will connect to the next in the list:
Kenwood TM-D710 VHF/UHF Ham radio. We use this radio in combination with a couple of handheld Kenwood TH-D72's that have the same capabilities with their on-board GPS receivers and APRS system. They allow us advanced communications and satellite based navigation when we go on our expeditions in search for photography subjects, pirate gold etc. :) For example, the handhelds allow GPS navigation to each other and to the D710 aboard Jedi.
Besides the gear listed above, we also have two Standard Horizon handheld VHF radios that we bought in 2003 and keep working perfectly. Standard Horizon is a brand owned by Yaesu and it shows that by it's quality! It's a shame that Yaesu does not put a NMEA2000 port on their radio because I would have preferred it over the Simrad in that case.