The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Garmin Cut Vesper Users Loose


Although we had a lot of trouble with our first Vesper AIS, I have long been a fan of their products, with the exception of the Cortex, which tried to do too many things in one unit and had a lot of issues as a result.

When Garmin bought Vesper I had a sense of impending doom—these acquisitions of small companies by big ones almost always go badly for us users.

And I was right, Garmin has just announced that they will no longer sell any of the Vesper products except the Cortex, which, as I understand it, is still buggy.

That’s bad news since these were still good products at a fair price.

The Big Suck

But far worse news is that Garmin will not maintain the WatchMate app, which means that at some point, probably sooner rather than later, those of us with Vesper products—particularly those with no screen, like the XB-8000—are truly screwed, since unmaintained apps tend to stop working when the device operating system is updated.

In my view, this is totally unacceptable behaviour on the part of Garmin, particularly since the units that they are, in effect, trashing, were available for sale up until a few weeks ago, and some are still in the supply chainour XB-8000 on our new-to-us J/109 is just 30 months old.

To be clear, this likely means that someone who bought a XB-8000 a week ago will have a near-useless lump of plastic and components on their hands a couple of years from now, and maybe sooner.

And even if it keeps working with some reduced functionality, a working app was what said buyer was sold, so they should get that for a reasonable period of time.

Decent companies like, for example, Furuno make sure that their products are fully supported with parts and software for at least ten years after the last one is sold.

I suggest we all write to Garmin pointing out their bad behaviour and informing them that we will not buy their products in the future because they clearly don’t give a damn about us—this is my letter to them.

At the very least, Gamin should be maintaining the app on iTunes and Google Play for 10 years. That’s just basic, guys, and not that hard.

I’m also disappointed in Panbo for not making more of a fuss about this. I get that they are advertising funded, and Garmin are probably a big part of that, but, even so, sometimes you have to stand up and be counted. Just telling us that we can buy a new fancy and expensive, and probably still buggy Cortex from Gamin is not good enough, guys.

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Matt Marsh

Well, guess who’s off the list for our next electronics upgrade, and on the list for some unsolicited free business advice.

If one of my customers from 10 years ago calls to say “so, is it possible to get spare parts and a software update for this machine whose serial number is 4” you can bet that we’ll do our level best to help them. That’s not going above and beyond, that’s just normal and expected whenever equipment of this price and importance is involved.

Bruce Toal

I have had the Cortex AIS and VHF unit since it first started shipment and it has always worked well and had frequent updates and improvements. I never experienced any problem and they would eagerly take suggestions and implement.

Vesper service was competent and swift, but Garmin’s service is combersome and slow. My cortex portable handset had the contact pins fried while charging when an exuberant cleaning crew introduced water where I didn’t think they could. It was painful to get Garmin to replace, but eventually did so under warranty with DHL delivery. This was shortly after the merger, so maybe it has improved.

Happy Cortex customer,


Marc Dacey

Same with their “acquisition” of Navionics, the customer support of which is now cumbersome (though fine when you finally get someone working for that “division”. They seem to prefer if you download all charts instead of getting the microSD, but that’s problematic in certain places and I actually want to buy half the world at once…

Nojan Moshiri

This is a great catch. There are people about to depart on ocean voyages and there’s no end of life notice ? Terrible.

I’ve contacted Garmin via your link.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,

I fully agree with you. My conclusion is the same as the one Matt mentions. Garmin is now on my short list of companies I will recommend people to stay away from. A few thousand people find my opinions on sailing related issues interesting. This might hurt Garmin enough to notice.

I will write them. Let’s see what that leads to. Very often the people making decisions like this are those of the money/market people who should be fired for lacking a brain. There are always others nicer and more competent in a company like this. I have no products from Vesper or Garmin, but have talked to core reps from both, who were very nice.

Petter Mather Simonsen

Thanks for drawing our attentiin to this John. …..and I have a Vesper XB-8000 AIS unit nicely waiting in the cardboard box for a first time install in spring. Feels line having bought a real lemon.
Garmin will surely receive an email – or more.
Suggestions welcome.

Marc Dacey

If they change their corporate minds and support the XB-8000 unit, rest assured it is an excellent device, and, to judge by its tenure on our boat, it’s rugged, as well.

Tim Sowerby

Yes – totally unacceptable

Existing Vesper XB-8000 users might want to download the vmAIS program for Mac or Windows available at the Germin support page

vmAIS is primarily for installation configuration e.g managing the WiFi. However, it has some functionality in controlling the device, . (I haven’t fully explored the program so I don’t know if it has all the control features of the app ). One has to connect connect device to the computer via a USB port – inconvenient if the unit is behind a tucked away.

Like the mobile app, vmAIS may become unusable in the future, but programs seem to have a longer lifespan than apps.

vmAIS may extend the XM-8000’s useful working life, beyond simply sending AIS and position data to a chart plotter.

Get it now before it vanishes!

Eric Klem

Hi John,

Thanks for the heads up on this, it is a real bummer. We have one of the affected units which has worked quite well to date. This sounds to me like Vesper has become a victim of Garmin marketing’s’ seeming need to have an all new product portfolio every 3 years. An AIS unit just isn’t that complicated and there is no need to bring out new hardware every few years.

Garmin’s original announcement about the purchase of Vesper mentioned bringing AIS expertise in house and I will be curious to see whether they actually succeeded at that. My experience in watching hardware companies being bought is that it is the exception when the development team looks like the same group of people 2 years after the purchase. The execs are usually the first to go and then the engineering teams get fed up with new management, new time demands with no relaxing of old schedules, demands to relocate, etc.


Nojan Moshiri

Nothing heard from Garmin so far. Not even a auto reply.

I guess our search for a new AIS begins. Yay.

Mark Wilson

Happy to report that I successfully installed my Vesper AIS on 25th January 2023 – maybe not.

Actually I don’t think Garmin is the villain here. Vesper chose to take the money and run from a company that they must know are very successful at pushing kit which is less than wonderful. What did they think would happen ?

Marc Dacey

Can’t speak to that logic, but I do recall when I had to call Vesper, I got “Jeff” (the president/owner, I believe) on the phone and he sent me a hand-annotated pin out for the Vesper NMEA 2000 connection, allowing me to get the XB-8000 talking to my B&G plotter to my delight, as with its own GPS unit, it is pretty accurate.

I guess Jeff’s on a beach now.

Marc Dacey

Bad news for us. I hope I can dodge issues by the fact that the two computers that “talk” to the XB-8000 (which we have found a very helpful piece of kit) are an old Asus netbook running Win 7 and a slightly less old Win 8.1 full laptop.

This literally will affect my decision to get a new laptop if it pooches the XB-8000.

Guess I’ll be yelling at Garmin. Thanks for the info, nasty as it is.


I doubt they’ll revert their decision but I wrote to them requesting that they do it or at least release the source code of the mobile apps so the community can keep maintaining them

Peter Carrie

I asked Garmin for a refund on my yet-to-be-installed Vesper AIS. I’m not holding my breath!

David Shepherdson

I just found this thread. I am one of the suckers that purchased a Vesper Cortex (before it became Garmin). I purchased it in large part because of the glowing reviews on PanBo. The unit is worthless to the point of being dangerous. Problems include: wifi connection dropping several times a day, gps dropping occasionally (no gps = no AIS, no DSC, no COB). False alerts constantly, handset mysteriously turns off and won’t come back on. To cap it all when the handset gets wet and subsequently drys off salt crystals form behind the keys and the unit is inoperable until flushed with fresh water! I could go on but you get the gist
Garmin have ignored all my recent requests for help. Do yourself a favor and get something like a Standard Horizon GSX 6000 for a third of the cost.

Craig Tyler

Echoing David’s comments above, we have had nothing but problems with our Cortex since day one. The Hub failed off the coast of Baja leaving us in a dangerous game of chicken with a northbound freighter that we could not see on AIS, nor talk to on VHF as the hub splitter took down our backup VHF as well. With a warranty replacement hub installed over our cruising offseason we then had to pay import and shipping into Mexico when the wireless handheld failed the next year. I just got off the phone with Garmin Customer Support now that our second handheld has failed and their only offer was a discount on buying another handheld since we are now out of warranty. We have had wifi and GPS issues for the past year as well. My wishful thinking had me hoping they would refund my purchase price and allow me to replace all of the individual components with Garmin specific products, but alas not the case. This isn’t a thread about the Cortex, but anyone looking to replace their XB-8000 should seriously consider alternates to the Cortex. Unfortunately we are now looking at writing this whole system off and starting from scratch for AIS, VHF, and anchor alarm capabilities as the unreliability of it is too big a liability for us once we head west from Mexico.

Jonathan Schwartz

Very sadly watching my Vision2 screen go blank white now. It would seem that there is no longer a repair option and I can either use it as a headless display while the app remains, or throw it away. Unfortunately, I can’t find another unit anywhere on the market with the same capabilities. Cortex would give me everything plus, except no dedicated AIS display with a moving map. Other units I can find with a moving map lack the gateway features and the advanced anchor alarm with plot that included the ability to easily move the anchor to its actual location and adjust the radius accordingly. Very sad that Garmin killed off these great products without bringing an updated version out under the Garmin brand, but they clearly were only interested in Cortex.

Tadashi Arisaka

Jonathan – I also have a Vision2 and prior to that the Vision. Great unit. I also had problems w/the screen but Vesper warrantied a swap twice, from NZ to US. Solid after sales support. Not so much anymore. I reported a software defect in their N2K WiFi Gateway (which I presume is the same base code as in the Cortex) and they refused to issue a fix as the device was discontinued. I think I am going to hold onto a wifi only iPhone with the Watchmate app and never do any iOS updates to it for the next couple of years.