Connecting GX2200 VHF/AIS to Garmin Chartplotter

Over the past week, we installed a Standard Horizon GX2200 VHF with AIS receiver and hooked it up to show AIS targets on our Garmin 541s chartplotter.

The GX2200 is a DSC-capable VHF with an internal GPS antenna (this makes DSC distress calls automatically include the GPS position – an important feature in and of itself) and also AIS receiver. If you install it in a location that blocks the internal GPS, it can also use an external GPS antenna or GPS position information from the chartplotter. Like most Standard Horizon models, you can also add a remote microphone at a second location (generally the helm).

I’ve had questions about how to do this, so here it is. From the little bit of looking at the owners manuals for other models of Garmin chartplotters, many will be the same or very similar but if you have any questions you will have to call the Garmin tech support and/or Standard Horizon tech support (SH seems to have info on connecting to many chartplotter models).

Make Sure AIS Works on the Radio

Begin by installing the radio — power and antenna hookups only — and verify that it works both as a VHF and that you can see the AIS information on the radio display. Hopefully there will be some boats transmitting AIS signals near you so that you can see them.

If you are connecting a remote microphone (RAM) you can do it now or later. The big thing is to know that the radio is receiving AIS signals before proceeding. There aren’t any settings or anything to change on the radio for this but if you’re not getting AIS hits on the radio, you won’t be able to get them on the chartplotter!

OVERVIEW

There are three steps to connect the VHF to the chartplotter for AIS/DSC display:

  • Wiring
  • Change/confirm settings on radio
  • Change/confirm settings on chartplotter

We are using the internal GPS for the radio, so I did not have to hook up an external GPS. However, the basic principles are the same for that wiring. For those wires, however, the chartplotter (or external antenna) will be the transmitter and the radio the receiver. Just as with the AIS/DSC wires, you are likely to have to change settings on both the radio (if using its output) and chartplotter.

Got a Raymarine chartplotter? For info on connecting the radio to a Raymarine chartplotter, read these directions that Mike McCollough left in the comments.

WIRING

The GX2200 uses NMEA 0183, not NMEA 2000, so you have to find the NMEA 0183 wires from the back of your chartplotter. On ours, they are in a wire bundle with the power wires — positive and negative — for the chartplotter. They are thin little wires in a variety of colors. [I think that if you have NMEA 2000 connected to your chartplotter, there is some way to connect NMEA 0183 devices into the NMEA 2000 wiring but I don’t know any details. This post is just about straight NMEA 0183 wiring.]

The easiest way to do the wiring — and the way I did it — is to use one wire for both AIS and DSC, instead of separate wires. Now, I say “one wire” but really it is a wire pair — one being positive and one negative. [NOTE: You can separate the AIS and DSC and use a pair of wires for each — according to Standard Horizon there is no advantage to doing so and means that you have to run twice as much wire.]

The important thing to know is that Garmin uses the power ground wire (yeah, the black wire of the red-and-black power wires) as the NMEA 0183 ground as well.

Turn off the power to the chartplotter and VHF before doing any wiring.

So here’s the wiring to do it as I did:

  • Connect the thin GRAY wire from the VHF (they call it the NMEA DSC Output positive) to EITHER the BROWN (Port 1) or VIOLET (Port 2) wire on the chartplotter (these are the NMEA input positive wires). Before deciding to use Port 2, make sure on your chartplotter that it can be configured to use NMEA High Speed data (on some models — such as the 3210 — only Port 1 can be configured for high speed).
  • Connect the thin BROWN wire from the VHF (NMEA DSC Output negative) to the BLACK wire coming from the chartplotter (in addition to being the power negative, this is the NMEA 0183 negative). There are many ways to tap into a wire like this, but I simply cut the black coming from the chartplotter and used a butt connector with black and brown on one side and the other black on the other side.

Three of these wires — the gray and brown from the VHF and the brown or violet from the chartplotter — are really thin. To make good connections, I strip 1/2″ (instead of the normal 1/4″) off these and then fold the bare wire over on itself before putting the connector on and crimping it. I use shrink tubing over all connectors.

NOTE: Since the VHF and chartplotter are about 5 feet apart as the crow flies but 20-ish as the wire snakes, I got some 20/2 boat instrument wire to run between the two. It’s a red/black pair, which makes it easy to keep the pos/neg connections straight. So, from the VHF to the chartplotter it was actually gray-red-violet (I used Port 2) and brown-black-black.

RADIO SETTINGS

When combining the DSC and AIS signals using the gray and brown wires only, you have to tell the radio to use 38400 baud on these wires (AIS data needs the higher baud rate; DSC doesn’t care). If you don’t do this, the VHF will only transmit DSC data to the chartplotter.

Directions for doing this are on page 94 of the GX2200 manual, but basically:

Turn on the radio. Hold Call Menu until Setup Menu appears. Rotate channel knob to General Setup, press Select. Rotate channel knob to NMEA Data In/Out and press Select. Rotate channel knob to 38400 and press Enter. Press Quit twice to get back to main screen.

GARMIN CHARTPLOTTER SETTINGS

There are four settings that you must change or confirm on the Garmin chartplotter. On most models, they can all be found under Home/Configure (check the owners manual for your chartplotter as to exactly where these are and how to access):

  • Turn on the chartplotter.
  • Under Communications: Go to either Port 1 (if you used the BROWN wire on the chartplotter) or Port 2 (VIOLET wire) and set it to NMEA High Speed.
  • Under Other Vessels:
    • AIS — turn ON
    • DSC — turn ON
    • AIS Alarm — set alarm range and time to.
      • Range: If a vessel will come within this distance of you, you want to know.
      • Time To: Sound the alarm this amount of time before the vessel is at the specified range.  In other words, if you said that you want to know if a vessel will come within 1 mile of you, and here you said 5 minutes, it will sound an alarm 5 minutes before the vessel gets to that 1-mile mark (assuming constant speed and course).

TEST

Check on the radio that there is a boat within range that is transmitting an AIS signal. You may need to increase the AIS range. Note approximately where the boat is.

How to connect a Standard Horizon GX2200 VHF with GPS and AIS receiver to a Garmin chartplotter. Wiring and device settings.

Then bring up a chart of the area on the chartplotter. Adjust range as necessary so that it includes where the transmitting boat is.

You should see it on the chartplotter. On ours, boats that are not a threat are shown as green triangle outlines. Boats that are a potential danger appear as a solid red triangle with their direction of travel shown as a line. Boat names are shown for both (when you first turn the radio on, it can take several minutes for names to appear in place of MMSI numbers).

How to connect a Standard Horizon GX2200 VHF with GPS and AIS receiver to a Garmin chartplotter. Wiring and device settings.

On ours — admittedly an older unit with a smaller screen — information about the vessel appears on a separate screen. I move the cursor with the 4-way rocker to the vessel and then press select.

If we need to call one of the vessels, it’s easiest to just do it from the AIS screen on the radio — go to the list, select the boat and press call. This is all shown on the RAM mic that we have at the helm.

BUYING THE GX2200

The GPS Store has had some good deals on the radio and they have excellent customer service — that’s where we bought ours. You can also buy them on Amazon and most other chandeleries.

The Boat Galley makes a tiny bit on sales through Amazon, but frankly The GPS Store is cheaper and has much better customer service and tech support. I recommend The GPS Store.

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27 Comments
  • Michael Poehlitz
    Posted at 02 January 2017 Reply

    Thanks for posting – this is on my to-do list for 2017!

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 02 January 2017 Reply

      I had a hard time finding info and made several calls to tech support so I figured it might be useful info. It wasn’t really that hard to do ONCE I knew all the steps . . . and that pesky bit of info about the Garmin ground!

    • Michael Poehlitz
      Posted at 02 January 2017 Reply

      I’m sure your post will help a lot, but as you often say – it a boat project!

  • Matt Garand
    Posted at 03 January 2017 Reply

    We have the same setup, it works great. We are considering upgrading to the new gx6500 so that we can transmit as well as receive AIS.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 03 January 2017 Reply

      The GX6500 looks really interesting. I’ll be interested to hear how it does!

  • Mike McCollough
    Posted at 04 January 2017 Reply

    I have been trying to do this to a RayMarine chart plotter for some time now, unsuccessfully. ?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 04 January 2017 Reply

      Did any of this info help? The steps are basically the same, although you’ll have to find the wires and the settings. Let me know what model and if I can find the owners/installation manuals online, I’m happy to take a look and see if I can figure out the wiring and settings.

  • Mike McCollough
    Posted at 04 January 2017 Reply

    Hi Carolyn,

    I connected the brown and grey wires to an Actisense NGW1STNG white and blue wires respectively. I needed the Actisense to convert from NMEA 0183 to SeaTalk. I connected the Actisense to a terminated 5 block which then goes to an RayMarine a78 chart plotter SeaTalk connection. I don’t see any indication of the messages being received.

    Mike

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 04 January 2017 Reply

      Have you double-checked all the settings on the radio and on the chartplotter? Both have to be set to 38400 baud (aka high-speed). Don’t know if this is automatic on the SeaTalk end, but it is NOT on the radio side of things.

      • Mike McCollough
        Posted at 04 January 2017 Reply

        Yes, I have also enabled the GPS output to see if that would get through. I disabled the internal GPS on the chart plotter, but it never saw the GX220 GPS messages. I tried a few different combinations of the wiring but no change in the results. I was going to pull out an oscilloscope to see if messages are being transmitted, somehow I believe they are. Unfortunately, without a decoder ring, interpreting the message from the electrical signals is very difficult.

        • Carolyn Shearlock
          Posted at 05 January 2017 Reply

          I’d suggest calling the SH tech support. They supposedly have wiring/setting diagrams that they can e-mail you for many chartplotter hookups (of course, not for mine since it was old). Raymarine tech support was also helpful to me with another project to get the chartplotter to talk to the autopilot. Another thought would be if your Raymarine plotter has a direct hookup for MNEA 0183 (our autopilot did, in addition to the SeaTalk ports) — if so, you might try wiring it using those.

        • Carolyn Shearlock
          Posted at 05 January 2017 Reply

          I just downloaded the Actisense Installation info. My understanding from page 7 on connecting a NMEA 0183 device is that since you want data to flow FROM the NMEA 0183 to the Actisense (that is, the VHF is the talker and the Actisense the listener in their terminology), you should be using the RED and BLACK wires. Specifically the GRAY wire from the VHF would connect to the RED Actisense wire and the BROWN wire from the VHF would connect to the BLACK Actisense. And then you’d have to set the VHF out to 38400 baud and set the Actisense to be at 38400 baud also. Page 10 of the manual tells how to view status LEDs to make sure that NMEA 0183 data from the VHF is being received by the Actisense. This is the manual I was looking at: http://www.trueheading.se/files/document/products/accessories/actisense/ngw-1/NGW-1-ISO%20(Rev%20A)%20Install%20Manual%20issue%201.00.pdf Info on configuring the baud rate is in: http://www.improducts.co.uk/download/1981

          • Mike McCollough
            Posted at 05 January 2017

            Hi Carolyn,

            I had connected several combinations of the wires including the correct ones with no change in performance. I used a terminal block to breadboard the system to verify the system working before final install. I am talking with Actisense, they are telling me I need to do a firmware upgrade. It was surprising when I did WebResearch how many people have similar problems. If I get it working I will document and post here, Active Captain and AAC.

            mike

          • Carolyn Shearlock
            Posted at 05 January 2017

            It’s got to be frustrating. I know how I felt trying to figure ours out and we didn’t have so many components.

            Yes, once you figure it out I’m sure that it would be a great help to others to have an exact connect this to this and that to that, make these exact settings, etc. Please do post!

  • Gil Lhotka
    Posted at 04 January 2017 Reply

    Great article Carolyn,
    We are hooked up something similar with the GSX 2100 and our Garmin chart plotter. After using it for about a year however we felt like the display was a little bit too cluttered when turning the AIS overlay on.
    Our solution came on the clearance table of West Marine, when they had a dedicated AIS screen that we now have at the helm next to our chart plotter. The only challenge with the set up is there are times with an odd shaped Shoreline or a curved river or ICW that make it a little bit of a challenge to see where the AIS symbol is coming from as the display for the AIS does not have a chart under laid on it.

  • Connie Lukas
    Posted at 08 January 2017 Reply

    Thanks so much for the easy step by step. It was in our list to connect these two, but the instructions in both manuals were confusing. You really made it simple. Thanks again.

  • Mike McCollough
    Posted at 03 February 2017 Reply

    Hi Carolyn,
    I finally got the system working. I had to send the Actisense back to turn on the feature I had bought it for. I will email to you, Active Captain and AAC with pictures greater detail.
    In Summary
    Raymarine a78 Chartplotter/Sonar/Radar already had
    Standard Horizon GX 2200 AIS Rx Radio $300
    Raymarine SeaTalkng Starter Kit $100
    Actisense NGW-1-STNG NMEA 0183 to SeaTalk NG Gateway (w/o AIS msgs turned on) $200
    Hours working in close boat quarters, experimenting, dropping and finding terminal screws in bilge, web researching, reprogramming, and finding someplace to mount the extra HW, $Priceless.

    mike

  • Mike McCollough
    Posted at 08 February 2017 Reply

    Yes, you can get a Raymarine a78 Chartplotter to receive the AIS information from a Standard Horizon GX 2200 AIS Rx Radio.
    This is how it is done.
    You will need the following ingredients.

    Raymarine a78 Chartplotter
    Standard Horizon GX 2200 AIS Rx Radio
    Raymarine SeaTalkng Starter Kit
    Actisense NGW-1-STNG NMEA 0183 to SeaTalk NG Gateway (w/o AIS msgs turned on)
    optional terminal strip

    1) Have the Actisense AIS msg capability turned on, either you build an I/F cable and using a Windows PC turn them on or send to someone who can do it for you.
    2) Program the NMEA I/F on the radio to be 38400.
    I used a terminal strip to connect the following wires.
    3) Connect the backbone power cable to a switchable12V supply and return, positive and negative.
    4) Connect the GRAY wire from the Radio to the RED Actisense wire.
    5) Connect the BROWN wire from the Radio to the BLACK Actisense wire.
    6) Turn all systems on and wait for GPS acquisition and system startup.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 08 February 2017 Reply

      Thanks so much for giving all the details. I KNOW it’s going to be helpful to a bunch of people!

  • Ron Harbin
    Posted at 17 March 2017 Reply

    Thanks so much Carolyn. I just got my GX2200 in the mail yesterday. The instructions for hookup are a little confusing so I went to Google and found this. The similarities are amazing. I got the same VHF unit – with the Ram mic. Got if from the GPS Store. And I’m hooking up to a Garmin 441 (off by one digit (inch)). Hopefully I’ll get the same results as you. Thanks again.
    Ron

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 17 March 2017 Reply

      I think you’ll really like it — we do! Hope it all goes smoothly for you.

  • Clay Coan
    Posted at 06 May 2017 Reply

    Do I have to connect the brown wire from the VHF to the black wire from the GPS or can I just ground the brown wire into my grounding strip? I have assumed that a ground is a ground.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 06 May 2017 Reply

      You have to connect the brown wire from the VHF to the black wire from the GPS. It completes the pos and neg for the DSC/AIS circuit. It will not work if you just connect it to a neg bar. It’s weird.

  • Clay Coan
    Posted at 07 May 2017 Reply

    Carolyn,
    Thank you for the great advice. I don’t know why owners manuals could not be so straight forward but I’ll just blame it on the lawyers :).

    What can you tell me about MMSI? My understanding is that DSC will not work without the VHF radio having an MMSI number input into it.

    My situation is a bit complicated because I live overseas and use the boat in the Arabian Gulf (the safe part!!). I will return to Texas in a couple of years and will then bring my VHF home with me to use in my boat I use offshore of Texas. While in both the Arabian Gulf as well as the Gulf of Mexico, i would like to have full functionality of the VHF including DSC. Any suggestions?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 07 May 2017 Reply

      The MMSI number stays with the radio. You can get an international MMSI number from the FCC (don’t use the BoatUS one — they are good only in the US and are not put into the international database). I believe it’s FCC Form 655 — the Ships Radio License and you check the box saying you want an MMSI number. You can do the whole transaction electronically, so it doesn’t matter that you are out of the US.

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