Vesper Marine is best known for its WatchMate series of products which provide low-power dedicated AIS displays for use on both recreational and commercial vessels. Vesper released the XB-8000 last year and we often get the question: how can I hook up this "black box" (actually "blue box") transponder to a low-power dedicated AIS display. We also get a lot of interest in Standard Horizon's AIS Matrix radios which can display AIS targets right on the radio. So a creative solution is to connect the XB8000 to the Standard Horizon GX2000 VHF radio which includes the ability to display AIS information right on the radio. 

The Vesper Marine XB-8000 is a very popular Class B AIS Transponder that features a broad range of input / output connections including support for Wi-Fi. This allows to XB8000 to output AIS and GPS data via NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 to marine instruments, as well as computers and tablets via USB and Wi-Fi. The device is also a multiplexer, meaning that data sent into the device via the NMEA 0813 or NMEA 2000 inputs can be combined and passed to other devices connected to the XB-8000. The only thing missing is an integrated display since it is designed to be used with other display devices such as chart plotters, computers and tablets. That said, if you really want an integrated display, the Vesper XB-9000 Vision has everything that the XB-8000 has plus a color AIS display. 

The Matrix GX2000 is the little brother of the famous GX2150 and has the same AIS display capabilities unique to the Matrix line but has no built-in AIS receiver. This makes it a perfect mate for an AIS transponder. The GX2000 now supports getting both AIS and GPS data on a single input wire pair so connecting this radio to an AIS transponder is now much easier than it used to be with earlier GX2000 models.

First of all you will need the following parts:

Second, we are going use the NMEA output from the XB-8000 to provide AIS and GPS data for the GX2000. The default NMEA output baud rate for the XB-8000 is 38,400 so no change is needed on that device. The GX2000 NMEA input baud rate may be set to 4800 so that may need to be changed. To change the baud rate on the GX2000, do the following:

  • Press and hold the Call / Menu key until the "Setup Menu" appears.
  • Rotate the CH knob to select "GENERAL SETUP".
  • Press the "Select" soft key, then rotate the CH knob to select "NMEA DATA IN/OUT".
  • Rotate the CH knob to select 38400 baud.
  • Press the "ENT" soft key to save the setting.
  • Press the "QUIT" soft key two times to return to the radio mode.

Consult the product manuals for information on how to set the baud rate.

Now we will connect the signal wires together. The two NMEA output wires from the XB-8000 should be connected to the AIS input wires on the GX2000. This will supply the AIS and GPS NMEA data to the GX2000. That is:

  • Connect the XB-8000 NMEA positive output GRAY to the GX2000 YELLOW AIS positive input wire
  • Connect the XB-8000 NMEA negative output YELLOW to the GX2000 WHITE AIS negative wire

If you are using the optional antenna splitter then connect both the GX2000 radio and XB-8000 to the splitter and the splitter to your antenna cable. Be sure to connect the GPS antenna to the back of the XB-8000. Make sure power is connected to all devices and turn them all on. Generally for this setup I like to have all three devices on the same breaker.

There you have it. With this setup, you should now have:

  • The Vesper Marine XB-8000 running as a Class B transponder, an AIS receiver and a GPS receiver.
  • The Standard Horizon GX2000 with both GPS and AIS data supplied by the XB-8000 which allows the GX2000 to:
  • Display your GPS position and even use the GPS waypoint functionality on the GX2000.
  • Display other AIS vessels using its mini-AIS display
  • Ability to set AIS alarms for collision avoidance based on user-configurable CPA and TCPA settings.
  • Have full DSC functionality which also uses the GPS input from the XB-8000.
  • Have the ability to call other AIS vessels by simply selecting them on the AIS display and hitting the call button.

One of the many benefits of this setup is reduced power consumption. In most cases you will always want to have a VHF radio on and the transponder is useful to have on all the time. Knowing where you are and where you are going is also helpful. You can accomplish all of this with these devices while consuming less power than having a chartplotter or computer running all the time.



Date 1/6/2016

Doug Miller

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