Promising to revolutionize the way sailors communicate on board, the Vesper Cortex integrates VHF radio, Class B AIS, remote vessel monitoring and more
Tested: Vesper Cortex VHF radio, AIS and remote monitoring
The modern sailor has a range of navigation systems at their fingertips, providing information and certainty unimaginable for previous generations.
As radio, GPS, radar and AIS have multiplied, so you need to have electronic gadgets at the chart table and on the deck.
Getting them to talk to each other can still be a challenge, even in the days of NMEA 2000.
Problems can arise when you try to integrate different transmitting devices, such as DSC radio, AIS, WiFi and cellular gateways, and all the radio frequency processing that goes with it, this is where the Vesper Cortex.
A neat, hidden black box and intuitive user interface for the world of smartphones, integrates all these functions so that they work perfectly together.
So what does it do?
Cortex is a VHF DSC radio with up to ten connected or cordless handsets.
This is an AIS SOTDMA Class B + transceiver that shares the VHF antenna to avoid splitter issues, although it does include a splitter for a standalone VHF radio to go through the same antenna.
The smartAIS also calculates the risk of collision and the necessary avoidance actions. It is a MOB anchor and alarm monitoring system.
It is a remote monitoring and control system when you are out of the boat. It is a wifi gateway between your smart devices and the boat network.
It is a verbal alarm system that tells you what an alarm is for without having to look at the screen.
Because the system is built around its software, rather than separate hardware for each function, it can do all of these things at once and has the ability to add new functionality over time, thus avoiding have to replace it, hopefully for a while. .
Intercom between handsets, multi-channel VHF scanning, and rewinding the radio transmission to replay conversations you missed are all in progress.
Installation of the vesper cortex
Setup is pretty straightforward, and you can install it alongside your existing setup, or instead, and get rid of a number of bulky boxes.
It requires power, a network cable, an antenna cable, and a GPS cable, and each handset needs a power supply (all data is wireless), either at the wired tether or at the telephone base. charging the cordless handset, although it is not. should be near where you are going to use it.
It has its own wifi antenna as well as built-in sensors including battery voltage, barometer, 9-axis motion and heading sensor, five ports for NMEA 0183 or NMEA 2000 inputs and two outputs for you to monitor. any information on your network and add a speaker.
In normal listening mode with AIS on, it uses only 0.8 A (12 V). Low power VHF emission which goes up to 0.9A and high power 3.4A.
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Audio is delivered through a 10W, 85dB speaker in each handset, and the hub and handsets are IPX7 waterproof (30 minute immersion).
The super high resolution, sunlight viewable touch screens are made with tempered Gorilla Glass and can be used when wet or with gloved hands, although all controls are replicated with physical buttons (menu, back, VHF , channel 16, MOB and call) and paddle wheel.
The handsets have rubber edges and back for non-slip protection.
The microphone is central in the front, with a push-to-talk button on the left side and a volume and power control button on the right, and a DSC distress button under a hinged flap at the rear, so it looks like a standard combined VHF to use.
For a system that does so much, the operation is surprisingly intuitive and straightforward. There are seven main screens, accessible from the main menu giving: VHF radio, vessel directory, AIS plotter, instruments, collision prevention, anchor monitoring and MOB.
Each page has a status bar at the top showing the VHF channel and power, as well as the status of the battery, GPS and wifi.
The VHF radio page displays your call sign and MMSI number, transmit power, channel and its purpose – selected by swiping the screen or turning the paddle wheel, saved favorite channels and dual day before.
The squelch is automatically set to your preferred sensitivity (although exact control is good and the volume can be adjusted for the hub or for individual handsets. At the bottom of the screen, all vessels monitored or collision risk are displayed.
The AIS vessel directory page displays priority / collision risk vessels, then saved favorites, then others in alphabetical order, with the option to call, search on the plotter screen, or avoid.
The plotter screen has no mapping, but has a clear range display, with head-up or north-up options, zoomable from 0.5 miles to 60 miles.
Collision risks or saved ships are highlighted, and you can filter out ships such as those that are not moving.
Icons indicate if it is a ship, motor or sail and how fast it is going. You can see all of the same data displayed on your plotter screen.
Tap any of them to view vessel details including current distance and bearing, CPA and TCPA, and call it on DSC, or view it in Collision Avoidance, where you can see the impact of any course adjustments on your CPA before you make them.
When you come to anchor, press the anchor button down to save its precise location, then set the guard zone you want.
The page displays the depth, calculates the range chain you laid down and other vessels on AIS. You can change the exact location of the anchor and the swing circle settings.
It will alert if you are dragging, if the wind changes, or if you reach a water depth setting.
If you have the Vortex Cortex Onboard app, you will receive a notification by phone for all alarms set, both for the anchor and the selected onboard systems, with a full view of the same information and display as if you were at edge.
Verdict on the vesper cortex
This allows almost all electronic functions other than navigation to be grouped together in one place, designed to work together seamlessly.
After installing the unit, connecting the handsets and entering my boat details, there was no setup – everything worked.
Using the Vesper Cortex as an AIS to find, contact, and avoid other vessels, and as a simple VHF radio, while still at the helm with a portable device, was so intuitive that I quickly forgot how much it was. revolutionary.
There are also other DSC radios with built-in Class B AIS that have just hit the market, but the fact that they do so much more – including anchor monitoring and remote monitoring – makes them a truly revolutionary piece of equipment. .
The quality and functionality were all top notch.
It felt strong and sturdy, performed well when wet and not at all vulnerable.
On small boats, the supplied captive handset would be sufficient, with a plug at the chart table or on the deck allowing it to be used in both locations.
On large ships, the ability to keep the handset with you at the helm, on the deck or next to your berth is invaluable.
The thought of losing one overboard, especially if it’s your only handset, can’t bear to think about it, so attaching a lanyard and a float would be the first thing I would do.
The only minor complaint I had was that the screen was not as bright in direct sunlight as the screen on my B&G Triton 2 instrument, although it was still perfectly readable.
Unsurprisingly, its price tag is outrageous, at least compared to other radios, although that quickly balances out if you also add the cost of AIS, antennas, dispatchers, and remote monitoring systems.
So it’s more likely to be installed on new boats or on those with a full electronic upgrade so your setup can be designed around it.
While the system has some shortcomings – intercom, channel scan, and transmission rewind are not yet available – what is reassuring about this system is that it is designed for functions are added via free software upgrades as functions are imagined and added, which makes it a fairly long-lasting investment.
Price of the vesper cortex
V1 – Cortex Hub and connected handset: £ 1,929.95
H1P – Portable handset: £ 649.95
M1 – Cortex Hub only: £ 1,399.95
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