Learn Spanish and Surf in Fuerteventura


Learn Spanish and surf the waves of Fuerteventura, Spain

We are always happy to know about exciting new projects. This time, we have visited the Spanish school in Corralejo, Fuerteventura, where not only will you harness your Spanish skills but also will be able to surf in the amazing beaches and reefs of this unique island in The Canary Islands archipielago.

All is Lost, Robert Redford’s movie or how to save your life on a boat

How would everything have happened if the skipper (the actor Robert Redford) had taken the best-in-breed measures to avoid the problems he found himself drawn into

I have just watched All is Lost (2013), the latest film from Robert Redford.

It is amazing how a simple accident that really could happen to anybody while sailing, can turn into a dreadful experience. In this case, the context was harder since the sailor Robert Redford was during a solo (singlehanded) navigation. But I believe that the initial problem, crashing with a floating container lost in the middle of the sea, is something that can happen also with a crew, but under low visibility conditions such as night navigation or under a storm.

All is Lost - 203 movie by Robert Redford

All is Lost, movie about a sailor that breaks into a container and has to fight for survival

What strikes me most is how vulnerable this sailor is when the little accident takes place. The radio stops working, and you wonder if there is no simple solution to it like carrying a simple handy vhf radio that is water resistant. Well, everything should be water resistant in a Yacht, shouldn’t it.

Also, I don’t understand why he is not carrying a Distress RadioBeacon. This is a very simple piece of equipment that as soon as taken out of its craddle, it will start transmitting. In many countries, this is a compulsory equipment for the yacht that is in open seas.

Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon

Distress Radio Beacon – Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon

They are making a very little favour to those people who are navigating seriously. I mean, after watching this movie, somebody who is not knowledgeable or experienced in the matter could think that sailing is an extremely risky activity to undertake. And it is not true. It is risky, but not that risky. Moreover when you are taking the measures to minimize risk, and when you are equipped to face these types of situations, they should have an easy solution.

Equipment I recommend to the All is Lost captain:

- Handy VHF radio
- Distress Radio Beacon
- AIS transmitter and AIS Beacon

Also, next time, please do notify your friends and family about your plans, if you spend 8 days in open seas they would search for you. You can use a GPS satellite tracking solution such as AtPosition to let the people know the position of your yacht, or even Spot.

Even the first problem of the collision with the container could be solved with a navigation radar system programmed with an alarm while the sailor is sleeping.

iPhone, iPad and Android apps to receive AIS info via WIFI

If you are looking for applications that you can use in your mobile or tablet in order to see AIS data coming from your installed transponder,

With the Vesper XB-8000 AIS transponder here is the official Vesper list of compatible applications: http://www.vespermarine.com/xb/apps


There is also this good article explaining how it works http://i-marineapps.blogspot.com.es/2012/11/vesper-marine-ais-watchmate-app.html

Lastly, if you want to see how simple it is to configure the iNavX app with this transponder, nothing better than watching this short video:

Share maritime traffic data with your AIS base station

AIS information is shared among many users that have built a pretty good global coverage of the coastal maritime traffic in real-time

In order to share, normally you just need to have your own base station:

In order to have your base station, we recommend using a simple but powerful AIS receiver with USB port, that will allow you to simply plug it to your computer using the USB port, and plot the AIS messages in any of these free AIS decoder programs.

As additional software, you would need a basic VHF antenna that you will have to secure in a place with good visibility towards the coastline that you would like to cover.

These are some of such networks that will accept your feed:

Good luck! and enjoy sharing your AIS data!

How to decode AIS sentences !AVDM !AVDO

So you would like to decode NMEA AIS sentences of the type !AVDM and !AVDO


The best thing is to use one of the free available programs to decode AIS messages we listed here.

But if you want to do this on-line, you have some on-line tools where you can paste the messages that you would like to decode. These are NMEA 0183 messages:

And if you would like to dig in further and build your own decoder, there is available information here:

AIS receiver (AIS decoder hardware) Simple to install and connect with a USB cable

AIS decoder hardware. Simple to install and connect with a USB cable

How to connect AIS receiver or transponder to OpenCPN software

As you probably know the AIS receivers generate NMEA sentences.

In other posts we have presented the excellent software for navigation OpenCPN that more and more sailors are using as their main chartplotting solution on board. This open source software is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX.

In the latest version 3.2 there are significant improvements for AIS data processing.

Today we will focus on the installation and configuration procedure.

1. Connecting the AIS receiver to the chart plotting software OpenCPN

If the AIS receiver has USB connection, like for example the True Heading AIS RX Carbon, then it is very straight-forward.

If it has a serial connector (DB9 RS232), then you will normally have to use an adapter, because modern computers do not feature serial ports anymore. These have been replaced by USB ports.

We can recommend any Prolific chipset based converter, there are a lot of generic brands. Or if you want to search for a specific model, Belkin offers a few.

2. Configuring OpenCPN

You should follow the same guide used to configure a GPS, because basically as the GPS uses NMEA sentences, it works similarly to an AIS receiver. You can find them here http://opencpn.org/ocpn/setting_up_gps. This example is based on Windows. Basically you have to identify what is the COM port being used by the USB serial converter.

There is additional info in this page http://opencpn.org/ocpn/data_connections. You will see that the example is based on Linux.

3. Plotting AIS targets

The result of decoding the AIS data can be shown in the charts, as seen in the below image:

OpenCPN navigation software AIS decoding example view

OpenCPN navigation software AIS decoding example view

And a lot of configuration options are available, as described in the manual here: http://opencpn.org/ocpn/ais

Free AIS decoder software

If you want to set up an AIS receiver station, this is what you need to put together:
- VHF antenna
- AIS receiver/decoder
- Connection to a PC (via serial or, even better, USB)
- PC
- Decoding and plotting software

Apart from the software used, the most important piece of the set is the AIS receiver. We offer an affordable, two-channel, light and USB pluggable receiver:


Regarding the antenna, a VHF compatible antenna is suitable to receive AIS frequencies, since they are within the range of VHF.

Thanks to our experience and some research, we have put together a list of free AIS decoder software available. Some of these programs offer AIS decoding as a subset of something much more capable as a generic navigation software.

A complete and open source navigation software, with very good AIS plotting features

OpenCPN navigation software AIS decoding example view

OpenCPN navigation software AIS decoding example view

Another open source software

GNUAIS AIS decoder open source software

GNUAIS AIS decoder open source software

A classic one, offers tons of options for sharing

SHIPPLOTTER AIS decoding and sharing software

SHIPPLOTTER AIS decoding and sharing software


SeaClear navigation software with AIS decoding and plotting capabilities

SeaClear navigation software with AIS decoding and plotting capabilities


AIS Plotter software to decode and display AIS targets

AIS Plotter software to decode and display AIS targets

A complete AIS solution for your yacht, transponder and display from Vesper Marine

In the on-line store for AIS nautical products AISnautica.com you can find the new Vesper Marine AIS class B wifi enabled transponder and the display.

AIS class B transponder Vesper Marine X8000 and Watchmate 670 display

AIS class B transponder Vesper Marine X8000 and Watchmate 670 display

You can buy them separately from AISnautica.com on-line store:

Any doubt, please get in touch with us