Thursday, September 11, 2014

Navionics Boating for Windows

Application: Windows PC or Tablets with Operating System of 8.1 or higher
Function: Marine Charting and Navigation
Rating: *****
Cost: App is Free, in app purchases for charts and features

Hey, who said apps are just for tablets and phones, how about Windows PCs.  Navionics has just introduced their popular Boating app for the Windows operating system.  The Boating app came out in the spring of 2014 and is now Navionics main marine app.  It had been available only on mobile devices running iOS or Android until now. Navionics now offers a version of the popular navigation and charting app for free on Window 8.1 compatible laptops and Window tablets. It can be download from the Windows Store. I did not even know Windows had a store.  Score this app for free and get started!

The trick is that it will not operate on all PC or Window machines.  The app is free so download it and give it a try. If your device does not have an onboard GPS like a tablet, you will not be able to follow your position on a chart or navigate to waypoints. It states that they do not support 3rd party GPS units. That is a real drawback. It would be great if they could support Bluetooth or USB GPS units that are cheap and readily available. It would be a good planning tool for your PC if nothing else. Several tablet models are supported including some Dell and Nokia models.

Features:
  • Processor requirements: x86, x64, ARM
  • System requirements
  • GPS features require that the device has a built in GPS sensor. Navionics does not certify use with third party GPS accessories.
  • Supported devices, Nokia Lumia 2520, Surface Pro2 4G LTE, Dell Venue 8 Pro, Dell Venue 11i Pro
  • Large selection of Marine Charts worldwide
  • Record your travels with Tracks
  • Create routes for your trip.
  • Measure distance between points.
  • Share you travels through email 
  • Share you local knowledge with Community Edits. 
  • Search a wide variety of Points of Interest 
  • Tides and Currents forecasts and graphs 

The main display has three soft keys at the bottom center of the screen. Select Tracks, Menu or Route to get started.  Navionics charts are available with an in app purchase.  Select Menu then Charts to purchase the region and charts needed for your travels.

Navionics has worldwide chart coverage so your sure to find charts for your cruising grounds.

The app provides many of the same great features found in the iOS and Android versions.

Routes can easily be added to the chart with a tap of the screen. Continue tapping to add additional waypoints to your route. Routes can be modified by adding or deleting waypoints or moving waypoints to new locations.

The Navionics Windows app also has Tidal and Current information available. This feature is not free but can be acquired through an in app purchase.


Select Menu and locate the Current and Tides selection. Locate the tide station nearest you to check on tidal information. Save your favorite tidal locations for later viewing.  Forecast for currents direction and speed  is also available within the app.

Points of Interest are also a popular feature. The app allows searching for marinas, restaurants, hotels, marine stores and other services that you may need on the water.

This feature also requires an in app purchase to access the Points of Interest feature.  So if you don't mind paying a few buck you can access these premium features. What do you expect from a free app, they have to make money somehow!

Navionics is really making a push to cover all platforms when it come to marine charting. I have to give them credit for making it available to all kinds of different devices.  Unlike many other apps that only concentrate on iOS or Android devices, Navionics Boating is almost universal.

I don't have a Windows 8 tablet yet, so I could not check out all the features of this new Windows app. Has anyone downloaded this yet and tried it out?  Let me know what you think!

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Transas iSailor 1.7 Update

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, iOs 6.1 or later
Function: Marine Navigation, GPS, Charting, AIS, NMEA data
Rating: *****
Cost: App is Free, in app purchases for charts, AIS, NMEA data and weather.

Transas iSailor is a real contender if your looking for a iPhone or iPad marine navigation app.  I have reviewed the iSailor app several times over the years. The developers have continued to add functionality and features that all of us boater want and need.

The lastest 1.7 release in the App Store this month adds a slew of new features and options to an already great app.

New Features:
• Multi-language support: English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Korean, Chinese.
• Internet AIS Service: real time map view of ships via global AIS Internet Service. This is a 1-year subscription option (Requires iOS 7.x.x and internet availability)
• Theyr Weather: Global coverage real time Weather Forecast. Wind Speed & Direction, Pressure, Wave Height, Precipitations. 1-year or monthly subscription option
• New types of AIS targets include Aids-To-Navigation (AtoN) and Base Stations
• New symbols include Cardinal buoys, Service symbols
• Cursor ‘Call Up’ window (ERBL, AIS Target data)
• Improvements for the graphical Route Editing mode (no linkage in ‘Ahead’ plotting mode)
• Boat Dimensions settings additions
• New colors for Ownship contour, Motion Vectors and Route
• iPhone interface update 

One of the most anticipated updates is the multi language support for the app. The app now supports not only English but German, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, Korean and Chinese versions. This will allow many more people around the world can use this great app.

The language can be changed in the Settings Menu. Select the Gears icon and go to Units & Language and then Language to view optional languages.

 Make your selection and view the app in any of the 8 provided translations.

The language support option is free of charge.


Internet AIS

Internet based AIS systems have been around for several years.  Land based AIS receivers pick up
the AIS data of ships on the coastal regions of the world and re-broadcasts this data over the Internet from various sites. 

iSailor can now pick up and display these internet based AIS targets on the iSailor app. Class A and B transponders, AtonNs(Aids to Navigation) and base stations are now supported. 

Ship information can be displayed along with the closest point of approach, bearing and speed information of the vessel.

This option can be unlocked in the Settings menu under Sensors.  A one year subscription for the Internet AIS option is enabled with an in app purchase for $15.99.

An Internet or cell connection is needed for this option to work so it will not work if you are offshore and out of cell service range.

iSailor also offers the NMEA AIS option for displaying AIS transponder data via TCP and UDP in the form of VDM sentences. If you have an oboard AIS transponder this data can be displayed by the app over WiFi. This option will cost you another $9.99.

Weather Overlays

The Theyr weather service data can now be displayed in the iSailor app.  This is the same weather data service that is used by the iNavX app. World wide coverage is available for the display of weather forecasts, wind speed, direction, atmospheric pressure, wave height and precipitation.

The Theyr Weather service can be unlocked in the Settings Menu under Subscription Options. One month can be purchased for $6.99 or a yearly subscription will cost you $19.99. iOS 7 is required for you iPad along with an Internet connection to receive the data.

New iPhone Menu Interface

iSailor has changed their User Interface several times over the years to improve the functionality of the app.  The 1.7 version of the iPhone interface is noticeable different from the iPad interface.

Menu and settings options for the iPhone display can be accessed by tapping the Tools bar at the bottom of the iSailor display. The Route, Waypoints, Tracks and settings can then be selected from the on screen menu.

The Navigation display can be accessed by tapping the NAV bar at the top of the display. COG and SOG information are then displayed. Page to the right to see four additional pages of navigation data including bearing to waypoint, distance to waypoint, cross track error, time to waypoint and ETA.

Display options for the iSailor charts include North Up, Head Up, COG Up and Route Up. The last page show the GPS source, accuracy and GPS position.

Transas continues to improve their iSailor app and make the needed changes and product enhancements to keep it fresh and up to date.  Many of these features require in app purchases which is kind of annoying but on the other hand it allows you to pick and choose which options are important to you.  The initial app is free so that is a plus. In app purchases for charts, AIS, NMEA data and weather options however, do add up.

Anyone using the iSailor app out there? Like it? Love?  What are your thoughts?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark


Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Attack of the Drones


The latest rage on the Internet besides the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" is drone photography and video.  If you have not seen or are not familiar with drones, go to YouTube and start searching. You will see some amazing photos and video that have never been possible before. The small size of the drones lets them capture a unique perspective never seen before.  Drones get shots that can't even be done with most helicopter.

Drone are now being used in all sorts of industry and security applications.  The military uses them for both domestic border surveillance and reconnaissance missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. Other industries use them for law enforcement, advertising, tourism, farming, tower and pipeline inspections and more. Amazon even wants to use them to deliver packages to customers. By 2025 drones are expected to be a 80 billion dollar industry employing hundreds of thousands of people. Just when you thought all the million dollar ideas were thought of, we now have drones.

Drones capable of carrying an HD camera come in a wide range of prices ranging from as little as $500 to $2000 and up. Some come with cameras but many models allow the mounting of a GoPro camera onboard.

I follow several sailing blogs and YouTube channels that use drones to capture footage for their sites. Drake Roberts is a long distance sailor and cruiser who is now in Scotland and has used a drone to take amazing video of his time in Greenland and Iceland. He just started a new YouTube channel called ParagonSkies where he will display all of his amazing drone footage.



Mick Bergsma is a GoPro enthusiast who shows tips on how to use all features and accessories of the GoPro cameras.  He also uses drones to take some awesome video. His latest video of Costa Rica is excellent.



Rick Moore is a Canadian who has found a way to make a living while working off his 50 foot yacht, Sophisticated Lady in the Caribbean. His Ambient Real Life Videos give you a glimpse of the cruising lifestyle.  He recently purchased a waterproof Mariner Drone that he uses to make advertising videos for the many island villas in the islands.



I have been following Brian Trautman and the crew of Delos the past few years as they work their way around the world. Brian and his crew recently purchased a drone to capture some awesome shots of their boat while cruising in Thailand and the Philippines.



DroneFly is the site of DJI, a distributor of one of the most popular model of drones. They have a great site with many breath taking videos taken using their products.




If you are using a GoPro with your drone they have their own GoPro App that you can use to control the camera only.

The app is compatible with the Hero 3+, Hero3 and HD Hero 2 with WiFi backpack. Software upgrades will need to be done for the last to options.

Features:
    • See what your camera sees with live preview for easy shot-framing
    • View photos and play back videos*
    • Copy photos and videos* to your device, then share via email, text, Instagram, Facebook or other app
    • Browse and delete files on the camera’s microSD card
    • Watch the GoPro Channel and get your fix of the latest GoPro videos from across the globe
    • Wirelessly update your HERO3+ camera software
    • Wirelessly update your camera Wi-Fi network name and password

There are of course mobile apps which can be used to control and fly your drone. The DJI Vision app is used exclusively with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision drone.

The DJI Vision App is used with the Phantom 2 VVision. It allows full remote camera control through a mobile device. This App is only for the operation of the Phantom 2 Vision.
The app allows first person view while flying. It has a long WiFi range and with the WiFi Range Extender up to 300 meters.  It displays real time flight parameters onscreen.  The location of your device is also locked on radar.

The onboard camera takes 14MP Still Photos and 1080p30/60i Full HD Video.  Other controls include camera tilt, pitch and yaw axis controls through your mobile device.

The DJI40 app is used with the DJI Phantom 1 drone. This app enables you to remotely control the FC40 camera installed on DJI PHANTOM 1, including photo capturing, video recording, album management, etc.

After watching all these great videos it is inspiring me to by a drone and get started. As many of your sail and cruise around the world a drone might be a great way for you to document your trip with photos and video. 

There has been a lot of concern lately over regulation of drones by the FAA and other organizations so make sure you check out what is allowed in your specific country as far as avaiation rules governing the flying of drones.

~~~ Fly On ~~~~ /)
Mark

Sunday, July 27, 2014

JollyMon Takes First in the Kampeska Cup

I have been boating for most of my life. My Dad got us started back in the 1970s when he drug home an old wrecked 1952 Century speed boat.  We spent the next year restoring it and it provided endless hours of fun for our family.

My brother and I became proficient at tubing back when we used a real tractor tire inner tube.  We mastered slalom skiing and we even surfed behind our boat way before the rest of the world discovered it. It wasn't until I was about 14 that a family friend took us sailing on his Johnson C scow. That day sail lead to both my brother and I owning many sailboats over the years and chartering extensively throughout the Caribbean the last 25 years. Sailing has been a big part of our lives.
The great thing about boating is that it brings the family together.  This was evident last week when my two kids sailed with me in our local race.

Like my father I knew the best way to keep kids out of trouble was to occupy their time with good clean fun.  I also bought a sailboat and a speed boat and taught my kids all the different activities on the water.

Since we live on a lake our home is very popular with all my kid's friends.  We always had a boat full of kids and we taught them all to knee board, ski, wake surf, wake board and tube.

My kids only recently took to sailing and now seem to enjoy it as much as I do. It helps that we have a fast boat and have won the race the last three years.

The boat is an S2 6.9 and it is the perfect size for the small lake we live on. S2(Tiara Yachts) built sailboats back in the mid 1980s when sailing was very popular. My S2 is a 1985 which makes it a 30 years old classic.

Race time is a great opportunity to try out some of the many apps that I talk about in this blog.

As the race weekend approached I was constantly checking the weather daily on the Predict Wind app.  This app provides two models which very accurately provide wind forecasts. You can view the wind forecast in tabular or chart format.

The app was predicting light winds on race day and that is what we had.  There was not enough wind to race so we decided to move the race to Sunday as the forecast looked much improved. Predict wind also has a remarkable weather routing feature which looks at forecasts and provides the best route taking into account forecasts over the next few days.

iRegatta is probably one of the most useful for sailboat racing. The main display lets you set waypoints to mark the committee boat and the start line marks.  It then automatically calculates your time to the start line.

The lower section provides a 5 minute count down timer that is very handy for timing the start of the race.

Other displays provide speed SOG, course COG, velocity made good VMG and wind information if you have wind instruments.


Another app that I like to use anytime to display speed, course wind and instrument data is the Marine Information Display, MID WiFi. 

The app has multiple displays that allow you to choose the right text size and color for easily viewing all the navigation data at the helm.

The display can be toggled between the white, black or red backgrounds. The original MID app uses your devices GPS to provide the data.  The newer MID WiFi can optionally use the devices GPS or NMEA supplied GPS and instrument data over WiFi.

Predict Wind Tracker is another cool app that can allow your committee boat and other boaters to track and enjoy the race in real time.  This app was developed by the same folks that wrote the Predict Wind forecast app.

The race chairman sets up the races on the Tracker website.  Each boat must purchase the app and enter the specific race listed under Yacht Clubs.  Select Start Tracking within the app prior to the start of the race to record the track of your yacht. 

Spectators can login to the website and view all the boats being tracked in the race. This is great to get folks on shore involved and it easily allows them to follow the race.

I have personally used this during some races but have not got all the boats in our yacht club convinced to spend the $3 bucks to record their tracks.

This is great technology and it allows each boat the ability to record a track of the race.  It is also useful to later replay the race back and analyze the racers performance after the fact.

If you are racing offshore and are away from cell service you can still track your position and share it with friends. I recently purchased a Delorme InReach satellite communicator. The InReach unit communicates with the satellites and reports back your position at a user selectable interval.

The unit can be paired with your smartphone through Bluetooth. SMS text messages can then be sent through the satellite system to your friends and family. An SOS button can be selected if you have an emergency and need assistance.

You can set up a personal tracking website with Delorme to show your track and current position.  The website records and saves all your adventures for you. An annual registration fee and monthly charges apply for satellite service.

Well, it was a great race and JollyMon and her crew took home top honors in the monohull fleet and were overall winners in also.  By using some of these apps you too can improve your sailing performance and become a better sailor. "Bringing More Geek to Yachting" is or motto here at i-Marine Apps.

Good luck and I hope your have a great summer boating season. Drag the kids away from the TV and Facebook and make some memories out on the water.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Mark




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