Saturday, July 12, 2014

WaveTrax Marine Logging App

Application: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, iOS 6.0 or later
Function: Automated GPS based logging app
Rating: *****
Cost: $12.99

Wow, it has been almost a month since I have made a new blog post. Summer finally arrived here in the Midwest so I have been trying to take advantage of every nice day and get out on the water.  I am sure you all understand and hope you are enjoying the summer too.

WaveTrax is one of the latest logbook apps to hit the market.  I have reviewed a few over the years including Salid , Boating Suite and NavPlay.  The unique thing about this logbook app is that it synchronizes your travels with the WaveTrax online website where you can edit, save, print and share your adventures. 

Features:
  • Automated Logbook
  • Live GPS
  • Crew
  • Certificates
  • Multiple ship details
  • Nautical maps
  • Trip details
  • Record all your adventures
  • Print logs in pdf format and share them online
  • Facebook, Twitter and email options
  • Compatible with iPhone or iPad’s GPS models
  • Records track logs in the background
  • Enhance your logs with maps, photos, notes & annotations
  • Access and edit your journeys on the Web
  • WaveTrax logs can’t get lost, damaged or filled up like a paper logbook.
  • Lifetime use of the App
  • Upgrades and customer support plus 1 year’s access to WaveTrax.com
  • Web access is renewable with an optional in-app purchase

The iPad version of the app is navigated with the seven soft keys at the bottom of the app. They include Journey, History, Contacts, My Ship, Saved Maps, Certificates and Settings.

The first thing you will first want to do is create a login and password for the app and website.  Next you will want to change some settings to reflect the units you want your trip information to displayed in.

Settings include Distance, Length, displacement, latitude and longitude readings, and speed.  The Setting can be viewed in English or Metric units.

Others setting included map marker settings, contacts information, map marker intervals, warnings and web access.

Next you will want to fill out your Ships information under the My Ship icon. Multiple yachts can be added if you have more than one vessel or crew on another and want to keep a log.

Ships data includes name, sail number, type, manufacturer, designer, model, year and  dimensions.  The app allows you to attach an image of your yacht to the log also.

Next select the Contacts page. Here you can list your Skipper, Crew, Mates and others onboard your yacht.

This data is save and can then be accessed when you start a journey.  This way you don't have to type in the crew names each time you start a journey.  WaveTrax remembers them for your next trip.

Select the Journey icon to start a log for a new trip.  The New trip entry page will then come up prompting you for a few bits of information about your trip.

Trip data entry items includes log type, trip type, departure point, destination, ship name, crew and starting conditions.

This process is easy and takes just a few seconds to quickly check off items to include in your trip.

You can add as much or as little detail as you want because most of the fields are optional.

Scroll down and tap the Begin Voyage bar at the bottom and your logs automatically starts recording speed, course and GPS tracking data.


The History icon is where all the logs of your trips are stored. Each trip can be selected to show a map of your travels. Use the filter to quickly find logs for a specific year or trip type.

All the pertinent information about the trip is listed along with the trip type, start and stop time, start and stop locations, duration, distance, average speed and maximum speed.

Details for your ships sailing or motoring time can also be displayed including fuel consumption, course, crew and log entries.

WaveTrax has tried to make the logging process as automatic and easy as possible.  They want to take the work out of boating so you can just start the app, select "Start a Journey" and you done.  WaveTrax does the rest for you automatically behind the scenes.

It automatically records the GPS track, speed and course of your boat at user defined intervals.

Logs and trips can be easily shared on Facebook, Twitter and through email by selecting the icon at the top of the page.  You will have to provide your account setting in the setting page to allow access.

The map shows a view of a log entry from a quick day sail on a local lake. Note the green start position. I did not get the app started until I was underway. The red maker notes the end of the trip.

The WaveTrax system also includes a website that is synched with the app. The site stores all your logs in the cloud and allows further editing of your boat and trip log details.

It also provides the ability to print out you logs so you can save a hard copy for your records if needed.

WaveTrax makes logging easy and fun by providing an intuitive and interactive way to create and store all your logging information.

The ships log can be printed out in a pdf format as shown on the left. It includes all pertinent log info and it allows you to attached pictures and sign the log if needed.

Whether your on an ocean passage or just out for a day sail it has never been easier to capture logging data.

I only had to use the app a couple of times before I became familiar with all the features.  The website automatically synchs with all my logs so I will always have of record of my trips.  It will be fun to look back at my logs and have a permanent memory of all my adventures.

The price point of $13 seems a little high for just a logging app.  I am not sure boaters will want to pay that much for an app that just does logging.  One other requirement is that you will need to renew access to the website each year.  The app does not say what this will cost.

I think WaveTrax has done a great job in providing a quick and easy way to do automatic logging.  I found it easy to use and really like the web storage, backup and printing capabilities to record all of my adventures. If your looking for a logging app WaveTrax is a serious contender!

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Predict Wind Update - "Impressive" New Features and Interface

Application: Android & iOS devices. iPad, iPhone, iPad Touch, iOS 7.0
Function: Wind Forecasting, Marine Weather Routing
Rating:*****
Cost: App is Free, in app purchase for forecasts

I reviewed the Predict Wind app almost a year ago in this post. The developers at Predict Wind have since been very busy making some changes and upgrades to the app. It is nice to see that continued development is taking place.  If you spend any time on the water this app is essential.  It will provide you very accurate wind and weather forecast data on your mobile device. The Weather Routing and Departure Planning features are the best I have seen in any iOS app. It is available on Android devices also from the Google Play store.

The unique thing about Predict Wind is that they use observations from both the Canadian Met Center (CMC) and Global Forecasting System (GFS) models to produce their own PWC and PWG forecasts. Predict Wind has developed their own process to produce high resolution 8KM and 1KM forecasts.  The forecasts are updated twice daily every 12 hours.

The forecast results for the PWC and PWG models can be listed side by side so they can be analyzed to determine which model is working the best in your area.  The app is awesome for use on mobile devices but Predict Wind also has a very functional website that can be used for forecasting also.  The website allows users to sign up and get a free forecast to see if they like the product.

New Features:
  • New User Interface
  • Pinch to Zoom Tables and Maps
  • Larger Screen Support
  • Horizontal and vertical orientation
  • New Graph features
  • Improve time slider for viewing time lapse forecasts
  • In app help files with video
  • Split page menu

The new user interface brings you right to a very intuitive split screen display where you can select from any of the major wind and weather display pages. 

The menu can be viewed on the left while other pages are displayed on the right side of the screen. This split screen viewing is only available on the larger iPad display, not on the iPhone.

The menu on the left side of the screen can be minimized by selecting the horizontal lines icon in the upper left of the display. This gives the viewer a full screen view of the forecasts maps and data.  Tap the icon again to return the display of the menu.

The slider bar at the bottom of the screen has been improve also. It can be used to step through the forecast period. Use the arrows on either end of the slider to increase or decrease the time of the forecast. You can also use your finger on the circle and move it to anywhere on the time line.

Tables:

Table data displays provide a nice tabular format of the forecast data. In this view I have minimized the menu and zoomed in on the graph for a full screen display.

The zooming feature is available on both the iPad and iPhone.

Select the Gear icon in the upper right of the display to show or hide specific forecast data on the table.  The Gear icon is used to access the settings on each of the forecast pages.

Wind indication can be selected to show arrows, numeric or cardinal directional data.

iOS navigation features including pinch to zoom and panning are now available on the tables and maps for added viewing options.

To create a forecasts the first thing you will have to do is select a location. Select the black bar above the menu and select the + icon to add forecast locations.

Graphs:

The Graph section has been totally redesigned to show an expanded forecast window.

Select the settings Gear icon in the upper right of the screen to select 1 or 7 day forecast graphs. Select the Compare on Graph option to display multiple location forecasts on the same graph.

In the compare on graphs option I found the sliders to be a little slow in responding and unresponsive at times when I swiped them on and off. It may make sense to have a radio button selection instead.

In this graph I had three locations selected for comparison of the 1 day forecast wind speed data.

Swipe down on this page to see additional graph data for gusts, rainfall, cloud cover, temperature, pressure, wave height, wave direction and wave period data.  I like that all the graph data is displayed on the same page and easily viewable.


Weather Maps:

On the main menu additional selections can be made for forecast data including Swells, Rain, Clouds, Isobars and Sea Temperature maps.

These are all viewed on separate maps and include time lapse display  of the forecasts.

The same slider bar at the bottom can be used to view any time period of the forecast.




Weather Routing and Departure Planning:

The Weather Routing and Departure Planning features both have a new improved header which allows entry of start and stop points for the route. 
Routed points can be added graphically by tapping points on the map.

Route points latitude and longitude can also be typed in using the keyboard. Tap the + icon to add additional points along the route.

Select the Gear icon to choose the forecast model, optimizing route options, boat polar diagrams and motoring options.  The What If selection allows you to adjust wind speed and time to see how they would affect your route.


The Departure Planning page looks very similar to the Weather routing page. Simply select a start and stop point and the app calculates the best time of departure within the next few days.  It takes into account the weather forecast and plots the different paths on the map. 

The header area seems to take up a lot of space on the screen. This areas could be reduced in size without any loss off functionality. The header can be hidden by swiping up on the screen. Once I swiped up I had a little trouble getting it back down. A tab could be added to drag the header back down.

Extensive trip data is also listed below as you page down. It calculates passage time, max and min wind speed, % time up wind, reaching and down wind.  Both PWC and PWG model data is listed for comparison.

Predict Wind has made some substantial improvements to an already great app. The fresh new look and added functionality has made the app an even better value.  It is great to see that improvements continue to be made. It tells me that Predict Wind is serious about providing the best wind and weather forecast data to it customers. 

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark




Saturday, June 7, 2014

Furuno 1st Watch Marine Radar App

Application: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch. Requires iOS 6.1
Function: Mobile device display of marine radar
Rating: *****
Cost: App is Free

All images compliments of Furuno


I can't believe it took the marine industry so long to finally provide radar on my iPad.  Yes, you heard right. RADAR on the iPad, now we are talking baby!

Radar is one of the last features to be brought to mobile devices. This now rounds out the iPad as a complete Navigation, Charting, AIS, Weather, WiFi Instrument display, AIS, Tides, Currents, POI Social Networking and now Radar tool.

Furuno is a world leader in the marine hardware and software industry. It has produced an 4KW Radome that will transmit it's output wirelessly to mobile iOS devices like your iPad. Furuno made the introduction of the DRS 4W at a boat show in Stockholm back in March of this year.  I can't believe I have not heard more about it in the press. Well, leave it up i-Marine Apps to bring you the latest news. It is not available for sale in North America yet, so that might be why it is not more well known.

The free Marine Radar DRS 4W app did not show up in the App Store until April, 2014.  

Features:
  • 19 inch 4KW radome
  • .125 to 24 mile range
  • 2.4GHz WiFi signal
  • Connect 2 iOS devices simultaneously
  • Full screen mode
  • Day/Night mode
  • Gain, STC, Rain VRM
  • Cursor position range and bearing on iPad 
  • Portrait or landscape mode
  • 12-24 volts power supply
  • 2.1 at 12 volts and 1 amp at 24 volts 
  • IP6 water resistant rating
  • 10-30 meter power cable
  • Range scale
  • Gestures zoom in and out
The installation of the radome hardware is simplified by the fact that all it need is a 12 volt power source. No communication wires are needed to get the signal to the display because it is broadcast over a proprietary WiFi. This WiFi signal can only be use by two separate iOS devices.  I would have been nice to have an open WiFi source that could be networked with other on board WiFi systems. I guess that was to much to ask.

The free app is a pretty basic but is a fully functional radar display. When you first start the app it looks for a signal from a DRS 4KW radome hardware.  Once connected it starts displaying data instantly.

It does have some features including day and night viewing. The night and day options allow easy viewing in the dark or bright sunlight.

The Range scale is located in the upper left corner of the app. Zooming in an out can be done with these selections on the bottom corners of the screen.

Transmission indication is show in the upper right corner letting your know your connected to the radome network.

Range rings are evenly spaced and identifiable. The off center display can be achieved by dragging the ships position to the desired location. This allows easier viewing of a greater distance ahead of your position.

One has to wonder if radar is becoming obsolete with the adaption of AIS. Although large commercial ships are required to have AIS, most recreational boats do not yet have AIS receivers or transmitters.  Radar still remains a very important tool in collision avoidance.

Radar has many other uses besides collision avoidance. Radar is great for picking up land masses which can help verify your position.  Tracking the movement of weather systems and storms is also a valuable use for your radar system.

Furuno has beat everyone to the punch by providing radar on iOS mobile devices. I think this compact system will be very popular with large and small yachts and recreational boaters.

The 1st Watch Radome is only available in Europe at this time but will hopefully be introduce in North America soon. I can't wait!

Do you use Radar on your boat? Do you find it useful? Share your thoughts about the new Furuno DRS 4W system.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Mark


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Navionics Boating 7.0 with Free NOAA ENC Charts

Application: iPad, iPhone iOS 6.0 or later and Android devices
Function: Marine navigation, charting, POI
Rating: *****
Cost: The new Boating app is Free with NOAA ENC charts. Optional in app purchases for chart sets and additional app features.

The Navionics Boating app was introduced a while back and I wrote about it in a blog post back in March of this year.  I confess I was a little hard on Navionics for phasing out an older version of the app that I had originally spend money on.
The big news this week is that Navonics has a new 7.0 version of the Boating app that was just released on May 29th.  This release now provides boaters with an very functional full featured chart plotter with free NOAA electronic charts.

NOAA ENC charts are vector data sets that conform to the International Hydrographic Office (IHO) S-57 standard. The new preloaded Gov charts include primary navigational data such as depths, buoys, beacons, hazards, channel markers. They provide boaters with a ready-to-use tool as soon as they download the free app. A worldwide basemap is also included.

Initially the app came with only a base map and you had to make in app purchases of the Navionics chart sets. These optional detailed Navionics charts sets will cost you from $49.99 to $64.99 for the iPad versions.

Navionics has now made the Government's NOAA ENC charts available for free for use within the app.  So if your a casual boater you can now own a full featured chart plotter app for your iPad or iPhone for free!  I have to wonder what Navionics is thinking.  They must be trying to gain market share with the freemium model and then entice users to buy the additional detailed chart sets and features with the in app purchases.  Who am I to question their marketing plan.  All I know is the Boating app is now free with some very functional charts and features.

Navionics Boating HD has many of the same features as the previous Marine and Lakes USA HD  versions.  See a complete listing of all the Navionics app features on their web site.

Features:
  • Free NOAA ENC Charts
  • Routes
  • Tracks
  • Range and bearing measuring tool
  • COG(course over ground), SOG (speed over ground) instrument display
  • Markers 
  • Weather and Tides
  • POI, Crowd sourcing edits, Fuel Prices
  • Sharing to Twitter, Facebook and via email export .kmz files
  • In app purchases for Auto routing, Advanced Map Options, Sonar Charts
  • Magazine Guides.
  • Sych Data and Synch Plotter allow boaters to share routes, tracks and data between mobile devices and chart plotters.
  • Map Types and options
  • Geo-tag photos and video
If you already own the Navonics HD version for your iPad you will also have the option to use the free NOAA charts also.

Select the charting icon in the lower left of the display to select Gov Charts(NOAA Charts) or your purchased Navionics or Sonar charts.
Both versions of the app now show a basic speed and course over ground display as shown in the top left of the display.  Tap the instrument display to change settings or share through Facebook, Twitter or email. Additional instrument data would be a nice to have.

The apps still lacks the integration of AIS and NMEA instrument data over WiFi. Many other apps provide these features with the price of the app.  I have to believe these features may show up at some point in the future as an in app purchase.

They do offer the Plotter Synch feature which allows on-board electronics to connect to Navionics servers on the Internet for uploading sonar data and downloading new charts or updates. This only applies to owners of Raymarine Wi-Fi enabled chart plotters at this time.

Several upgrades for the app can already be made with in app purchases. Select the Menu button at the bottom of the screen and select Upgrades and Apps.  Here you can choose to purchase additional Navionics charts which include very good coverage of the world.

Upgrades include the Nav Module, Autorouting, Advance Map Options and Navionics Plus.

Navionics seems to be back on track and now I understand why they made the changes they did earlier this spring.  As you know, I am a big fan of free.  Navionics has won back a little of my admiration with the addition of the free NOAA charts to their free Boating app.

Download this app today and see if it meets your needs. If not check out some other options on my list of Best Marine Charting apps.  Apps like iNavX and SEAiq offer additional premium navigation and instrumentation features not found in Navionics.


~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark


Saturday, May 24, 2014

Boat Instrument App

Application: iOS 5.1 or later, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, optimized for iPhone 5.
Function: Marine Instrument Data and AIS Display
Rating: *****
Cost: $6.99


      
Happy Memorial Day to all! We are having a warm and windy weekend here in the Midwest. I hope you are on the water and enjoying yourself.

Tucabo's Boat Instrument app is a fairly new on iTunes so you may not have run across it yet.

I you own an iPad or iPhone you are probably aware of the many capabilities it has.  All of us Geeky boaters, including myself are always looking for new ways to use our mobile devices onboard our yachts. Viewing weather, tides, AIS, instrument data and tracking your ships real time position are just a few of the many uses.

You could invest in a big name fixed networked MFD(multi-function display) costing thousands of dollars or you can purchase a few apps that will display the data just as reliably and sometimes with more flexibility.

I have reviewed many instrument data apps over the years and there are very few that are worthy of buying.  This app appears to be one worth buying.


A few of my favorites data display apps are Marine Information Display, NMEA Remote, iRegatta and nke Display. You can see reviews of all these apps on this site on my Top 5 Best Marine Data Apps page.

The name of the page is kind of misleading because the list now contains about 10 apps including this one that are great at displaying NMEA 0183 instrument data. Some will even display the next generation NMEA 2000 data.

The Boat Instrument app includes not only a nice variety of instrument data but also AIS and GPS data.  This is a bonus if your marine charting app does not already include the AIS feature.

Instruments for the app can be customized to include either analog or digital displays. I am more of a digital display guy myself so having both options with this app is a plus.

The apps main display has six pages of instrument data that can be configured.  A soft key menu across the bottom of the app allows for navigation to the other pages including AIS, Log, NMEA and Settings.

Features:
  • Six custom pages of instruments
  • Digital or analog instruments
  • Graphed instrument readings
  • Day/night mode
  • Depth
  • Speed
  • Course
  • Wind speed and direction
  • GPS Location
  • Rudder
  • Engine RPM
  • NMEA 0183via WiFi
  • TCP/IP or UDP protocol
  • Can use device GPS, COG and SOG
  • AIS
  • Course
  • Collision Detection CPA
  • Forecast Position
To get started editing your displays simply select the Edit button on the top right to modify the instrument display setup.

In setup you will be able to customize what data you have on each of the six pages. To delete an instrument select the red minus - on the instrument to delete it from the page.  Select the plus + sign icon on the top of the page to add new or additional instruments to the page.  This customization feature is great and it allows you to create displays with the exact instruments you want instead of some standard setup.

To move instruments to a different location on the page use the Drag and Drop feature.  Hold your cursor on the instrument and drag it to where you want it on the display. One to four instruments can be displayed per page.

Up to six pages of instrument data can be configure to include all the necessary data you need displayed on your yacht. Use one page for wind data, one for GPS and one for navigation.  The app gives you the flexibility to design your own custom displays.  Very few apps allow this customization.

Data instruments presently included are Speed over ground (SOG), course over ground (SOG), heading, depth, rudder angle, latitude, longitude, wind speed, wind angle, velocity made good, engine RPM.  The developer promises more instrument types in the future.

The AIS screen shows relative position, speed and course for nearby targets that are being reported from the on board AIS receiver.  In the settings section you can set a minimum safe distance to show warnings about potential target collisions.

The relative direction of travel of targets is shown with colors to indicate relative position in 5, 10 and 20 minutes intervals.

Additional information about the AIS targets can be displayed by selecting the targets.
 
NMEA Sources can be selected from the NMEA soft key menu at the bottom of the screen. If your onboard instruments are already connected to a multiplexer with WiFi your can easily send the data to this app.

Optionally you could also use a PC or MAC and send data to your mobile device through an Add Hoc connection.

Several NMEA WiFi devices are already programed into the app. Select the NMEA Sources icon in the top right of the NMEA settings page. 

The following device settings are pre-programmed: iMux, Digital Yacht WLN10, Sailtimer, vYacht, Molgaard Seamate, SeaSmart, Shipmodul and SailMon.

You can also enter your own custom TCP/IP or UDP IP address and port settings of your WiFi device.

The Log page will help trouble shoot your NMEA connection by displaying data that is streaming to your device.

The Settings Page includes items to select a NMEA source, TCP or UDP, port, MMSI and GPS On.  You can also select the GPS preference. You can optionally use your devices internal GPS data or the NMEA GPS data. This way you can use the app on your mobile device as a stand alone instrument display if you do not have WiFi on your yacht.
 
Tucabo has put together a very nice instrument app that would be useful on anyone's yacht.  It is very customizable and provides the ability to create your own instrument display pages.
 
If you already have your instruments on WiFi this would be a "no brainer" to purchase. Check it out and let me know if you find it as useful as I do.
 
~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark