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

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