Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ActiveCaptain - Location App


Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch iOS 5.1.1 or later, Android too!
Function: Boat Location Sharing
Rating:*****
Cost: Free

Active Captain is all about using technology to improve the yachting experience. The ActiveCaptain crowd sourced points of interest website has become a necessity when traveling the ICW or other coastal waters in many countries.  Jeff and Karen Siegel have taken their many years of cruising, interacting with other yachties and marina owners to develop some websites and apps that provide some unique features and capabilities. Their work helps cruisers become more aware of points of interest, obstacles, hazards, events and most recently other boating friends locations.


I reviewed the Companion App back in 2012. It notifies users of upcoming points of interest and hazards while they cruised. The Siegel's most recent creation is the Locations App which can be found on iTunes or the Google Play Store. Locations was created as an extension of their eBoatCards site to help boaters keep in contact and share location information between each other.
The eBoatCards site is an electronic way to blog, message and share information between individuals or marine groups. The website also has access to resources including many different cruising areas, boat products and systems, organizations and boat clubs. There is also a Services section that has lists of boat brokers, surveyors and transports companies. It is free to sign up for an account with just a user name and password. Other services are planned for the future.

The Locations app shares the users GPS data according to the privacy and profile settings in eBoatCards. It is not AIS but an Internet based location and tracking system.This version only shares data with your designated friends and nearby ActiveCaptain members. The Account Privacy Settings in eBoatCards allow you to control who can sees your location.
Location's Features:
  • eBoatCard friend integration
  • Base Maps include Bing, OpenStreets 1 and 2, Satellite and seamless NOAA Charts.
  • Friends location tracking
  • Delorme InReach and SPOT integration through eBoatCards
  • NMEA GPS option
  • PC and Mac GPS integration
  • Internal GPS option
  • Pan and zoom
  • Location tracking
  • Course up, north up and track up

The first thing you will notice are the high quality Bing, OpenStreet maps and NOAA charts available for display. The maps were a major drawback with the Companion App. Even after you downloaded the detailed maps they were not very functional. Neither the Locations app or the Companion app were meant for navigation purposes even though most users want to use them that way.

The main map and chart screen displays several buttons for navigation to the various functions of the app. Along the left side of the main screen you will see the Follow Button which looks like a bulls eye. This will only be visible when you are not in the follow mode. Tapping this will bring your location to the center of the screen and follow your position in real time. Course up, north up and heading up can be selected while in the tracking mode from the Settings Menu.

Just below the Follow Button is a Search Button. Tapping this takes you to the search screen where you can view the list of friends and search for new ones. Filtering is provided to list your contacts by Friends, Nearby, and Stationary. A handy sort feature lists your friends by Name, Distance and Data age.

Tapping on one of the listings will instantly display your friends location on the map or chart. Tapping the icon on the map will provide you the boats name, hailing port and location information.

The darker blue colored icons are your eBoatCard friends that have accepted your friend request while the lighter ones are Active Captain members.

If the position icon has a circle in it, the boat is not moving. If it has an arrow in it the arrow shows the last know course. If it has an Omni-directional icon, it was last know to be moving but course unknown.

Along the right side of the main display are the + and - buttons for zooming in and out of the chart or map.  You can also use your fingers to pinch in and out on the display for zooming as well. Below the zoom controls is the Orientation button which shows the orientation of the map settings. A north up icon is shown if that mode is set. Otherwise a course up or heading up icon will show those orientations of the base map.

I am the only eBoatCard member in SD, go figure!
The last icon in the lower right of the screen is the Menu icon. The Menu page allows you to login to ActiveCaptain, select your base map or chart, size of user interface, keep on, zoom buttons and follow mode.  Sounds can be turned On for notification of friends locations and new nearby boats. There is a section for selecting your unit preferences also.

The app has options to allow the user to use the Internal GPS of your phone or tablet or use a NMEA GPS source over WiFi. For external GPS use the app requires a WiFi network and settings for the IP address and port number. The Windows and Mac OSX versions allow the selection of USB or Serial and settings for the COM port and Baud rate.

If you own a SPOT or Delorme InReach satellite location device you can set them up in eBoatCards to download your real time position.  Log into eBoatCards, click the Edit Profile button on the top right of the screen. Next click the Boat Details tab at the top, scroll down to find the DeLorme inReach and SPOT configuration fields. Each item has a link to the detailed instructions for getting the configuration data for your device. This will allow your friends to keep track of you while you are out of cell phone range.

The Active Captain Locations program can also be used on your PC or MAC. Just login and you will have a full screen display of your friends locations.

With AIS being so prevalent and costs of AIS hardware coming down, I have to wonder if Locations will catch on. Once you look at the other features in the app it is well worth the free sign up price to join the community. Reports are about 6000 boaters have downloaded the Locations app. I guess it is catching on!

I know Active Captain has others features in the works to add to the Locations app. Rumor has it that the Companion app features will be moved into the Locations app.  There are plans for the addition of 20 new categories in the services section. Other future additions to the Locations app will include a Display Only Mode, Integrated Messaging, Group Support, Follow Friend, Sponsor Messaging and Drag King. See all the details of these latest developments on the Active Captain Blog.

Jeff and Karen will continue to be visionaries in the yachting community bringing technology and cutting edge apps to their users.  The cool thing is that all their websites and apps are all free to boaters. So there is not reason not to get involved and become a member of the Active Captain community.  It is way better than FaceBook!!!!

~~~ Sail On ~~~~ /)

Mark

 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Waterway Guides on iNavX

Application: iNavX Waterway Guides
Function: POI on US Coastal Waterways, Great Lake and Bahamas
Rating:*****
Cost: $9.99 per region, 50% off for iNavX users

If you have done any cruising on the ICW you are probably familiar with Waterway Guides. Waterway Guide has published their popular paperback guidebooks for years. The also publish a magazine and some mobile apps along with their very popular interactive web site (waterwayguide.com).  The guidebooks are used as planning tools by mariners and provide updated information for anchorages, alerts, navigation, marinas, fuel prices and more. The company has been recognized as one of the leaders in providing reliable travel and navigation guides for boaters and cruisers within the United States.

Waterway Guide has teamed up with Fugawi, the developer of the iNavX app to make available their guides and points of interest data to mariners.  Fugawi is a Canadian company who is a leader in providing online chart services through the Fugawi X-Traverse website. The Waterway Guides are now available on X-Traverse and provide geo-referenced data layers for use with the top-selling iOS iNavX navigation app.  The guides are available for 6 regions covering the East Coast of the United States, the Great Lakes, western Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Bahamas. The Waterway Guides provide iNavX users five layers of data that can be overlayed on any of the chart products provided by Fugawi.

If you own the iNavX app on your iPhone or iPad the Waterway Guide regions can be downloaded from the X-Traverse website. All of Fugawi's charts are only available for purchase through this website.

The iNavX app is a full featured app that allows users to view real time positioning on charts displayed on the iPhone and iPad. Other features include creating waypoints and route and support for displaying NMEA instrument data over WiFi through TCP/IP. The app also displays AIS data of surrounding ships for collision avoidance.
iNavX can also provide weather and routing information to be incorporated on the chart display.

You will first need to set up an X-Traverse account to use the site. The Waterway guides are listed under Content and Pricing on the website. Select your platform and software from the Guides listed near the bottom under Cruising Data.

To enable the guides in iNavX on your mobile device select the gear icon in the upper right of the main display to open a menu. Select the Points of Interest list then select Setup and choose the Waterway Guide region you have purchased. Only one region can be displayed at a time. The Waterway Guide data should then show up overlayed on the iNavX charts. Simply select anyone of the icons to display the detailed information.

The Waterway Guide data is overlayed on the iNavX charts and includes layers for anchorages, navigation alerts, bridge height and lock opening times and contact information. The data is updated daily so you will have the most up to date alerts and notices. Data is updated directly from NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Waterway Guide also incorporates observations from actual cruisers on the water with local knowledge. This data is then vetted for data integrity by Waterway Guides.

If you do a lot of coastal cruising or spend time on the Great Lakes or the Bahamas these guides are invaluable. Now that they are incorporated with iNavX it is easier than ever to access this information. The Waterway Guide information works offline so if you are out of cell range you can still get access to all the info. This will allow you to navigate the waters safely with all the latest alerts, POI and updates.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark



.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sailing Log by BoatBook

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch requires iOS 7
Function: Marine Tracking and Logging
Rating: *****
Cost: Free

I ran across an app the other day on FaceBook of all places.  There are getting to be a lot of marine companies who have FaceBook pages.

Sailing Log is the newest sailing log book app that can be found on iTunes. They also have an Android version found on the Google Play Store. It is made by BoatBook who appears to be a new developer in the marine app industry.  Sailing Log is fully automated so all you have to do is start boating or sailing and it senses and records your every movement. Heading, speed and distance are all recorded for you on each trip. There is also a companion website at www.boatbook.co where all your logs are kept and maintained for access on any device.

Features:
  • Works Offline
  • Automatic recording of your motor or sailing trip
  • Live worldwide maps and sea charts. Constantly updated by the best in GPS and mapping technologies
  • Real time sailing data at any point of your sail, cruise and voyage
  • Review your heading, speed and distance throughout the sail
  • Mark your waypoints and tag them by type of event
  • Log back to any leg of your voyage to look up your stats at past points
  • Sailing Log automatically saves your sailing route so you can log back to historic routes and review the sail at any time
  • Compatible for yachts, motor boats, kayaks and sail boats
  • Automatic recording of your sail on your maritime logbook
  • Innovative logbook software – get online and desktop records of your sailing trips by registering for free as a user.
  • Electronic logbook support – log into Boatbook’s website at any time to see all your app’s sailing log data online.
  • Maritime pro logbook for sailing, yachting and boating professionals at any stage of their career – fully functional marine log book.
  • Marine navigation & GPS software daily updated with the most accurate nautical charts.
  • Manage all your ship log book information, routes and trips in one easy to find app.
Screen Displays:  The main navigation screen is a two tone tan and blue type worldwide map. I would not call it a nautical chart because it does not provide much more than a map.  I am not sure where they get their map data but it does appear fairly detailed for most river, lakes, shoreline and coastal area. No depth or sounding data is provided.

All navigation features of panning and zooming work as expected with a touch of your finger.

Several icons are located on the screen for navigating the various features of the app. A Knot icon in the upper left of the screen provides access to Settings, Tutorial and Contact information. The settings are minimal. The tutorial is just a little five page slide show showing the various features of the app.

The app is very easy to use so there are not a lot of setting to make. Contacts just provides an email address to the developer.

In the bottom left of the screen you will see the Marker Icon.  This is used to drop marketers or pins to show anchorages or special spots along your journey.

When you begin your travels the app automatically starts records heading, speed and distance travelled.

 The Eyeball icon will only begin to display after you have started your journey. This can then be selected to display your navigational details.

The Choose Boat button in the middle allows the user to set up the details of the vessel that they will be traveling on.

Multiple  vessels can be added to keep track of your trips on individual vessels. Specific information can be added for each boat including type, length, builder, year and home port.

The last icon on the main display is the GPS Location Icon located in the lower right of the screen. Tap this to instantly move to your position on the map.

The Wheel in the bottom center of the screen can be selected to view all of your log entries for each trip. Simply turn the wheel left or right to see older or newer log entries from previous trips.

Older trips can be selected and they can be stepped through with the slider on the right side of the screen reviewing your performance along the way.

The Marker Icon allows the user to place markers on the map during the trip to add locations for points of interest. This is a handy feature to mark a favorite anchorage or marina.

The app only allows placing of marker on the water so it is of no use for marking other points.

It is still spring here at home so I have not had the chance to get out on the lake and try out all the features. I will report back once I have recorded a few trips.

I have reviewed other log books with better features and more capability.  Other features that may be nice to have are a way to add pictures, email friends and post your trips to social media like FaceBook or Twitter.

A free form note page for each log would allow the user to enter wind direction and speed, fuel levels, sea state and other pertinent trip details.

While not the most full featured app it is a quick way to capture some data for your yachting trips. I am sure the developers are working on more features for future releases.

The app has a companion website where you can access all of your trip too. If you are out of range of an Internet connection your logs are stored on the device and uploaded to the website when you reconnect.

There is functionality to create boats, Captains and view a running total of the miles you have traveled.  The website could also be expanded to include photos, social media, log editing and more.

What do you use for a log book? Do you still use an paper log or do you use an electronic log?

Do you use your iPhone or iPad or other mobile device or do you use a PC to capture log entries?  It would be great to hear what other people are using. Please comment.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Navionics Plotter Sync for Raymarine Chartplotters

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Function: Marine Charting, GPS, Navigation
Rating:*****
Cost: Boating app is free, Chart through in app purchase

Navionics is one of the leaders in providing GPS locational navigation and charting with mobile apps for the recreational marine environment.  They recently announced some significant new features with their Navionics marine apps. The Plotter Sync functionality has been added for use with Wi-Fi enabled Raymarine multifunction chart plotter displays.

How it works:

The Navionics apps include an innovative ground breaking feature called Plotter Sync that allows boaters to wirelessly connect their mobile device to a Wi-Fi enabled Raymarine chart plotter. This connection allows the chart plotter to automatically update itself with the freshest chart data from the Navionics app on your iPhone or iPad.

This provides a convenient way to update your chart plotter without having to remove it or the card for updating. Updates are done wirelessly through the Navionics apps without the need for a computer.

The Plotter Sync feature works only with Raymarine a, c and e series chart plotters which are equipped with Wi-Fi. Models must have the LightHouse II R10 software software updates.  Your mobile device such as the iPhone or iPad must have the Navionics and Navionics Boating app version 7.1 or newer with Navionics+ chart updates covering similar Navionics+, Platinum+ or HotMaps Platinum charts on your chart plotter's cards.

Features:
  • Activate your Navionics+ charts and map regions. 
  • Download new coverage areas and updates to your Navionics+ charts.
  • Download updates to Navionics+, Platinum+ and HotMaps Platinum cards.
  • Enhance the SonarCharts by uploading your sonar logs from your chart plotter to your iPad.
  • Upload updated SonarCharts from the Navionics app to your chartplotter.
Setup:

To set up Plotter Synch on your chart plotter make sure you have a Navionics+, Platinum+ or HotMaps Platinum card with maps loaded on your chart plotter. Turn the Wi-Fi network on your Raymarine plotter by going to System Settings/Wireless Connection/Wi-Fi ON.

On your mobile device, go to Settings/Wi-Fi/and select the Raymarine network. Open your Navionics app and it will read the data on your chart plotter's Navionics card. Next connect your mobile device to the Internet and the Navionics app will download the freshest data for your chart plotters card.

Finally reconnect your mobile device to your chart plotter and your updated charts will be automatically uploaded.  Once you have done this the Navionics app will automatically keep your chart plotter chart data up to date with the most recent chart every time you visit your boat.

Some Raymarine chart plotters can also record sonar logs using your depth sounder. Sonar logs are detailed depth readings of areas that you have covered on your travels. Learn how to record your own SonarLogs here.  Navionics created the SonarCharts program to crowd source detailed marine depth charting information. The Navionics app can then upload this sonar log data and contribute it to the Navionics SonarCharts
database. So by participating you can help build more detailed Sonar Chart data for yourself and the Navionic's community.

It is good to see that some of the electronics manufacturers are getting it and embracing the mobile device functionality.  Navionics is there to make it all work seamlessly with the Boating app and SonarCharts.

I do not own a Raymarine Chart plotter so I was not able to test all the features. Is anyone using the Navionics app and PlotterSynch?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark




Saturday, April 11, 2015

Calypso Instruments Anemotracker Wind App

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch Optimized for iPhone 5 and 6
Function: Bluetooth Wind Instrument display for iOS and Android
Rating:*****
Cost: Calypso Cup Anemometer $575. App is Free

I have been searching for a cost effective wind instrument for my small 22 foot sailboat. I really don't want to spend $1000 or $1500 for a full blown Raymarine or Garmin wind instrument system that needs NMEA 2000 cables run all over my boat. I looked at the Raymarine i40 with the Rotovecta sensor but have heard many comments about issues with the accuracy of the sensor. Raymarine bought out Tacktic a few years ago but there systems are $1000 buck also.

I have an iPad and an iPhone 6 and was thinking that there has to be some way to get wind data to those devices. As you know I hate drilling holes in my boat and having an excessive number of wires running everywhere. I was looking for a wireless solution that would work with my mobile devices.  

Many apps have the capability to get your onboard yachts data displayed on them through TCP/UDP over WiFi.  This requires that you already have a wind sensor and a NMEA WiFi device on board. You can even get radar to your mobile device over WiFi these days, why not wind.

After an extensive search of the web I found Calypso Instruments. They are a Spanish company and a spin-off of Prodero Ingenieria, an engineering team dedicated to industrial design.

They have developed an elegant solution to my wind instrument problem. The Calypso Cups 4.0 wind anemometer is self powered with solar technology and it will communicate through Bluetooth with almost any wireless device.  It can be easily mounted to any boat or yacht with one of their quick mount devices.

The Anemotracker app is free and available in both iOS and Android versions. This allows the display of all the pertinent wind data from the device to your phone or tablet.

Features:
  • Wireless
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 50 Meter range
  • Solar charged power supply
  • No need for communication or power cables
  • Displays real and apparent wind
  • Boat course and speed
  • VMG velocity made good
  • Boat course compared to wind
  • Data logger
  • Track sail from home
  • Polar Curve for performance
  • Satellite map tracking view
  • Live Track mode
  • Quick mounting options
The Anemotracker app is free from both the GooglePlay store and the AppStore. It is very intuitive to start using with your Calypso Cups device right out of the box. 

The main Basic screen has both analog and digital wind direction and speed indications. Additional screens can be accessed on the bottom of the display with three other soft keys for Settings, Map and TriData displays.

To pair the app with your Calypso Cups device you will need to go to settings on your mobile device and turn on Bluetooth. The first time  you will need to pair it with the device. Go to the setting page and at the top select Scan for BLE sensors. Once the sensor is displayed select it.

Other screens can now be selected and wind speed and direction should be displaying on your app.


Select the Map button at the bottom to access the very high resolution satellite display. I assume this will only work if you have cell or WiFi service.  The screen allows multi-touch gestures so you can pan a zoom around the map.

The analog and digital wind instrument readings are displayed at the top of the page.

The last screen is the TriData display. Digital readings for Apparent and True wind speed and angle are displayed.

The iRegatta app is another app that now supports Bluetooth connectivity with the Calypso Cups wind device. On the entry screen when you start the app you will see two red icons in the lower right of the screen. The top one is for labeled BT LE, select this to connect via Bluetooth to the Calypso Cups wind device. 

The developers have recently decided to make the software open source so other app developers will be able to connet the anemometer with their app. iRegatta was the first to become compatible and I am sure others will follow.

What are you using for wind instruments?

~~~ Sail On ~~~~ /)
Mark