Track us by AIS

What is AIS?

AIS (Automatic Identification System) is a technology used for collision avoidance, similar to radar. A special transceiver is installed and programmed with a unique ID (MMSI number) obtained from the FCC or other federal agency. Additional details about the ship such as name, type of ship, VHF call sign, and draft can also be programmed into the device. It then uses GPS to calculate the ship’s position, course, speed, and heading, and transmits all of this data digitally across the VHF radio. Ships and other land-based stations within range (about 10-20 miles) can receive that information and display it on their navigation systems.

Advantages of AIS

Received AIS data is typically displayed on a ship’s navigational system. While larger ships use an ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System), smaller ships will typically use a chartplotter or other AIS-enabled device. On Shantí, we have a Class B AIS transponder, which is active whenever we are motoring or sailing. It allows us to transmit our data to area ships, and also allows us to receive other ship’s data, as well. Each ship is displayed on our chartplotter as a small triangle, which we can click on to get more details. Both our VHF radio and laptop can also receive AIS data and display it on their screens. In addition to radar, AIS is a wonderful safety feature!

Here are a couple pics of what AIS looks like on our chartplotter, and the detail screen we can see:

ais targets on chartplotter

AIS Targets on Chartplotter

ais targets on radar

AIS Targets on Radar

ais detail screen

AIS Detail Screen

AIS and the internet

Many land-based stations receive AIS data and feed it to the internet. This allows websites and smartphone apps to display the data in various ways. Some websites have fully interactive maps with icons showing each ship’s location, while others are simply text-based. While we would never rely upon any of these sites for navigation, they are useful for tracking ships and providing information about them. Because we transmit our data, these websites can track us, too.

AIS tracking websites

We have provided what we feel are the two most useful AIS tracking services available: and Both services include interactive maps that will show our position as well as the other navigational data we transmit. They differ in their timing and how long their maps display (persist) the information. The first,, displays information in real-time. If we are in range of a station, you should see us on their map. However, if we go out of range, and there’s no other station in the area, we immediately disappear from their map. The second will display our last known position and persist it on their map for several days (or even weeks). However, their system is delayed by 12 hours, so everything you see is a half day old. Using both together, though, should give a pretty good idea of where we currently are.

On a smartphone?

If you are viewing this page from either an Android or iPhone, there are several apps which are better suited for displaying the maps and other information. We currently use FindShip, which is available for both Android and iPhone, but there are others as well. These websites or smartphone apps may ask for our MMSI number or possibly our VHF radio call sign:

NOTE: There are many places that do not have ground-based AIS stations. If you do not see us, or you know the location they show is not up to date, then we are probably in an area that has no ground-based AIS stations to receive our signal. Also, we have noticed that many places will show SOME ships but not others. We believe this is due to the fact that many vessels carry satellite-based AIS, which these websites and apps might pick up. But, since ours is Class B, it relies upon ground-based receivers to pick us up.

MMSI: 367623370
Call sign: WDH4988


19 thoughts on “Track us by AIS

  1. I was thinking about you guys last week as I cruised up the North Shore and the lake was not so kind from Duluth to Grand Marais. I hope all has gone smooth and you are either on your adventure or will be heading out soon! I’m still thinking of packing a bag to jump ship (although in this case it would be getting on board). 🙂

    • There’s still plenty of room! We have a wonderful, 5-star quarter berth (space to sleep in the back of the boat). You can really hear our engine running from there! I (Kate) have tried to text but it hasn’t gone through. I will try to friend you on facebook

  2. I see that you are in Big Bay. Hope the weather is improving. I’m having a hard time remembering if we were there.

    • It was a nice place to stop. A very tiny bay with only a small wall for a tie up. There was a small town up the hill from the bay. We had a nice dinner at The Thunder Bay Inn. Not much else there!

  3. Looks like you are headed for Whitedfish Point?? Saw lots of traffic as you approach St. Marys Bay. Hope your weather has gotten better. The chart has you going 6 knots. With no cities around how can I still see you?? Go figure.

    Love Dad

    • Yep, we made it to Whitefish Point. We had fog the whole way. 1/4 mile visibility. Stopped at the harbor of refuge there. Not much there but some docks and a parking lot!

  4. hey guys,
    I see that you made it through the locks. Hope it went OK. Whats this with the Canadian locks, eh!! It was fun watching your trip from White fish Bay. Will write again soon. I hope that I am doing this right and you are getting these messages.


    • Yep made it to Sault Ste. Marie! Fog again today the whole way. 15 knot winds and 5 footers from the stern. Tossed us around a little, but we made it! Went through the Canadian Locks but are now back on US soil (you are not allowed to leave the boat if you use the Canada locks).

  5. See that you are underway and are following first, the RT Hon Paul J. Martin and then (now) the Mottler. You can’t get away with anything. “keep on truckin”. Write later.
    Love, Dad

    • The RT Hon Paul J. Martin was just leaving the locks as we left the marina. It passed us a little over an hour into our journey down the river. A little while later, we caught back up to it and almost passed it, but then it took off down the river and we didn’t see it again. We “kept pace” with it for about 4 hours total!

  6. Love those pics of the Soo. You guys are doing it right, Enjoying the towns and the trip. Sure does bring back memories. Keep those pics coming.
    Love, Dad

    • We’d rather take our time and enjoy everything along the way, even if that means we don’t make it all the way to Maine this year and have to continue next spring/summer. We’ve been enjoying the towns along the way and sometimes we have to stay 2 or 3 nights to really take it all in. It might blow our “schedule”, but then, we’re not supposed to have a schedule while doing this, right?

  7. Great pictures. The North Channel is really beautiful. How is the engine running and did you find the problem? Charlie wants to know if you are still having problems.


    • Hi Dad

      Yes, The North Channel is spectacular. Wish we could spend a whole summer here just to explore it. And we’d love to go down through the Georgian Bay sometime, too. Perhaps another trip in the future sometime.

      We haven’t figured out the engine yet. It seemed to work good from Sault Ste. Marie to The Benjamin Islands, but today it just started doing it again. Right now we’re thinking we may have picked up some bad diesel along they way and it’s quickly fouling our fuel filters.

      Hope you and Lin are both doing well!

      Pat & Kate

  8. Hi guys,

    Little Current is where we had that awesome hatch of mayflies. They covered the entire boat and most buildings near the dock. We didn’t know what to do but they finally just left.


    • Hey Dad,

      That would have been something to see (or maybe not)? We have only been blessed by mosquitoes! We didn’t have mayflies, but we had 2 days of 15 knot winds and a fast current flowing at the stern of our boat. We were literally trapped in our slip for 2 days. Last night, the winds died and the current reversed, and we made our escape! We tied to the town wall overnight so we could finally leave Little Current and make our way to Killarney.

      Pat & Kate

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