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Using Coastal Explorer 2017 (version 4) with the Standard Horizon GX2200

Posted by Doug Miller on 5/23/2019 to Configuration Examples

Previously, I have provided instructions for making an older version Rose Point Navigation Coastal Explorer work with the Standard Horizon GX2200 VHF/AIS radio. This article discusses how to make the latest version of Coastal Explorer (referred to as the 2017 Edition or Version 4) work with the GX2200.

The Standard Horizon Matrix GX2200 AIS/GPS Receiver VHF Radio is not only a VHF radio, but also includes a GPS receiver and an AIS receiver. The question we get from customers is, how can I connect this new radio to a PC and can I get AIS and GPS data sent to the PC? Fortunately there is a simple solution using our USB Breakout Cable that allows Coastal Explorer or any PC-based navigation program to use the GPS, AIS and DSC NMEA data that is received by this radio. While the wiring is very straight forward, you need to configure a few settings on the radio to make this work.

Before jumping into how to connect these solutions together, it is worth reviewing what each product does.

Rose Point Navigation Systems Coastal Explorer

Coastal Explorer is one of the leading PC navigation packages on the market today. Not only does it support all the latest navigation features, such as AIS integration, weather overlays, free US charts and automatic chart updating, but at $369 list price it is probably the best value solution when compared to other computer-based navigation solutions.

Coastal Explorer can accept NMEA data from vessel electronics using a variety of wireless or wired methods. At the very least, you’ll need to connect a GPS or chartplotter to the computer in order to see your own position in Coastal Explorer. Since the GX2200 has a built-in GPS we will be able to use that GPS data to fix our position in Coastal Explorer.

Standard Horizon Matrix GX2200 AIS/GPS Receiver VHF Radio

Standard Horizon has been making marine radios for years but this year it launched a new AIS Matrix radio that has integrated a dual-channel AIS receiver and a GPS receiver in a standard marine VHF radio form factor. With the built-in GPS, not only did you get full DSC functionality, but you also get a mini AIS display showing a radar-like view of nearby vessels. To call an AIS vessel, you simply selected the vessel on the display and hit the CALL button. Another major benefit is that you only need one VHF antenna connection to get both AIS and VHF radio support. No additional antenna splitter is required. The AIS data that is used by the internal display can also be used by external devices that support AIS by hooking up the radio’s AIS output wires to the other device’s input wires. These output wires can also carry GPS and DSC NMEA sentences as well. The most common scenario is hooking the Matrix up to a chartplotter but lots of people use computers for navigation so the question comes up – how can I get that AIS data to my computer?

USB Breakout Cable

The easiest way to connect the radio to a computer so you can use AIS and GPS data with Coastal Explorer is to use our USB Breakout Cable. This cable has a USB connector on one end and bare leads that can be connected to serial-based instruments on the other end. It uses the rock-solid FTDI USB chipset. This cable provides an easy way to not only connect the GX2200 to your computer but any marine instrument that has NMEA 0183 output wires can also be connected. We offer this cable in two versions:

  • An RS232 version uses a common ground-based system, which is used by many chartplotters and radios and;
  • An RS422 NMEA version which uses opto-isolated wire pairs for input and output communication – a system used some manufacturers such as Raymarine.

For this scenario, we are using the RS232 version of the USB Breakout Cable. It is also possible to use the RS422 version with a different wire pair.

Making These All Work Together

This solution provides two major new capabilities for making these products work with new functionality:

  1. The AIS data coming Matrix GX2200 is used by Rose Point Navigation Coastal Explorer, allowing you to see real-time AIS traffic overlaid on your digital charts. Not only do you see other vessels moving in relation to your vessel – you can also see the other vessels’ speed, course, name, call sign, closest point of approach, time to closest point of approach and more. Plus you also get audible warnings when you are on a collision course. As a bonus the GX2200 also outputs DSC NMEA data so if another vessel sends out a DSC distress call, the position of the vessel will automatically be displayed on your Coastal Explorer chart.
  2. Since the GX2200 also has a built-in GPS, we can configure the radio to also send standard GPS NMEA sentences from the radio to your Coastal Explorer system. This means you no longer need a separate GPS connected to your PC to fix your own position.

There are four steps to making this work correctly:

  1. Wiring: First, we need to connect the output wires on the GX2200 to the input wires on the USB Cable. Only two wires are used. You’ll want to use a terminal block or other approved system for connecting the wires. If you need to extend the wires, you can do so using a two-wire shielded cable but it is generally recommended to not exceed 16 feet of length of wire. The wiring connections are as follows:

    If you decide to use the RS422 version of our USB Cable, then you should connect the WHITE RS422 wire to the GRAY wire on the radio and the YELLOW RS422 wire to the BROWN wire on the radio.
  2. GX2200 Baud Rate Configuration: You will need to ensure that the NMEA port on the GX2200 is set to communicate at 38400 baud. Do to this, with the radio on:
    1. Press and hold the [CALL (MENU)] key on the front panel.
    2. Press the [SELECT] softkey to enter the GENERAL SETTINGS menu.
    3. Use the CHANNEL knob to scroll down and until the NMEA DATA IN/OUT settings menu item is highlighted. Press the [SELECT] softkey.
    4. Use the CHANNEL knob to highlight 38400 BPS. Press the [ENT] softkey.
    5. Press the [QUIT] softkey three times to exit back to the default radio display.
  3. GX2200 GPS Output Configuration: Next you will need to ensure that the GX2200 is outing GPS sentences on the NMEA wires in addition to the AIS and DSC sentences. To do this, do the following:
    1. Press and hold the [CALL (MENU)] key on the front panel.
    2. Press the [SELECT] softkey to enter the GPS SETUP menu.
    3. Use the CHANNEL knob to scroll down and until the NMEA OUTPUT settings menu item is highlighted. Press the [SELECT] softkey.
    4. Use the CHANNEL knob to highlight each of the GPS sentences (GGA, GLL, GSA, GSV and RMC), press the [ENT] softkey, select ON, press the [ENT] softkey then press the [QUIT] softkey. Repeat this for each GPS sentence type you want to send to the PC. As a minimum you should at least turn on RMC sentence output.
    5. Press the [QUIT] softkey three times to exit back to the default radio display.
      See the GX2200 manual for more information if needed.
  4. Computer Configuration: The following steps are required to configure your computer:
    1. Before plugging the USB cable into your Windows-based computer, load the device driver. The device driver can be downloaded from the link here. Select the download program on the far right side of the first column labelled Windows. The link is in the comment field under the text "Available as a setup executable".
    2. Now plug in the USB cable into an available USB port on your computer.
    3. Start Coastal Explorer and click on the wheel icon on the bottom left bar which should bring up the settings fly out menu.
    4. Under the word “Configuration” towards the bottom, click on the word “Electronics”.
    5. Click on “Configure a New Device” at the top of the screen.
    6. Under “Communication Ports” you should see a list for “USB Serial Port (COMx)” where x is a number representing the COM port number auto assigned to the USB Cable.
    7. Click on Try to auto-detect devices on these ports”.
    8. This should automatically find your USB Breakout Cable on its assigned port plus any other devices connected to the computer. You should see results similar to this screen:
    9. Click on the “Use This” button.
    10. Once the devices have been detected, you can confirm your port settings by clicking on the new “USB Serial Port (COMx)” link in the “Electronics” window. If you have multiple devices that use the FTDI chipset then you may see more than one entry with “USB Serial Port (COMx)”. The USB Breakout Cable connected to the GX2200 should be already set as a listener using a baud rate of 38400. The following screen shows an example of a properly configured port (note that the Talker box should not be checked):
    11. One final step. Make sure that AIS target display is turned on. At the bottom of the chart display screen, click on “Chart Vector” or “Chart Raster”. That should bring up a list of items. Make sure AIS Targets” is checked (it is unchecked by default).

Your computer should now be configured. 

Summary

You should now be fully operational. Check the GX2200 display and ensure you have a GPS position showing on the home screen. You should also see nearby AIS targets on the AIS display screen similar to the following:

You should also see AIS targets on your Coastal Explorer screen similar to the following:
 

This completes the steps to integrate a Standard Horizon GX2200 radio with Coastal Explorer using our USB Breakout Cable. 

If you run into problems, double check your wiring, your radio settings and refer to the documentation for Coastal Explorer. Note when running Coastal Explorer, if you are not seeing green flashes on the USB Cable, then something is wrong with the wiring or the radio baud rate.

One other note with this setup: in order to have GPS and AIS data sent to Coastal Explorer both systems have to be running and connected together with the USB Breakout Cable. The radio of course will work correctly with or without the PC connection.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Feel free to comment below.

Safe boating.

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