Saturday, December 20, 2014

Vexilar SonarPhone now on Navionics

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, >iOS 4.3 and Android 2.0
Function: Marine Depth, Fishfinder, Sonar
Rating: *****
Cost: App is free, T-Box $149/$199

Along comes a company called Vexilar to shake up the sonar and fish finder world. They are a Midwestern company located in Minneapolis Minnesota. It is fitting they would be located in a state famous for great fishing and known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  They are probably more well known for their line of fish finders and underwater cameras for fishing and ice fishing applications.

They recently set the fishing world on fire with their SonarPhone application for smartphones and tablets along with the T-Pod and T-Box products.

Vexilar has their own free app called SonarPhone which comes in an iOS version or Android version found in iTunes and the Google Play store.

So, why am I so excited about this fish finder sonar?  Well, Navionics has recently released an update to their Boating and Charting apps that also incorporates the SonarPhone capabilities into their Marine apps.

If you purchase any of the T-Pod or T-Box products they can be easily connected to the Navionics app to provide sonar data and a depth display.  To get started, power the T-Box sonar unit up. On your mobile device enter Settings/WiFi and select the T-Box WiFi network.  Go back and open the Navionics app and the Sonar data should automatically be displayed on your chart display. See this YouTube video for easy setup instructions.

You can access the demo through the app in Menu/Charts and Upgrades. Select SonarPhone under Features.

Navionics app T-Box demo under Charts and Upgrades

Navionics App Note Sonar icon in bottom left on iPad

Navionics App Sonar chart split screen view on iPad

Vexilar App Features:
  • WiFi Connectivity to T-Pod, SP-200 and SP-300
  • Multiple user access via WiFi
  • Automatic Ranging
  • Transmit Range: 90 yards
  • Water Temperature, Depth Indicator
  • Audible Alarms for Fish/ Shallow/Low Battery
  • Gain settings
  • Depth Range
  • Depth alarm
  • Color Options
  • Fish Icon
  • Zoom Bottom Track
  • Noise Rejection
  • Chart speed
  • Keel Offset
  • Fish Alarm
  • Surface Clarity
  • Battery Indicator and alarm
  • Screen controls: Touch screen, split screen display with touch screen zoom control.
Vexilar SonarPhone App display features

Vexilar SonarPhone app iPhone
Vexilar SonarPhone app settings

Specifications - SP200 & SP300 Wi-Fi Boat Sonar
  • Permanent boat installation: (#SP200 only)
  • Portable boat installation w/suction cup transducer bracket: ( #SP300 only)
  • Transducer: High-speed skimmer-style transducer with keel offset and 6 meters of cable.
  • Max depth range: 240 Feet
  • Sonar frequency: 200/83 kHz
  • Dual Beam: 20º/40º
  • Power source: 12V DC power
  • Power output: 800 Watts Peak-to-Peak
  • Transmit speed: 100 Mbps
  • One year warranty
  • Included 12V, 4.5 amp-hour battery and charger. (#SP300 only)
  • Carry case with 12 volt battery and charger: (#SP300 only)

Vexilar offers several sonar units. The first is the T-Pod which is an rechargeable unit that can be towed or set in the water near your boat.  The onboard battery lasts about 4 hours. It has a water activated transmitter that will automatically start when it hits the water. It transmits through WiFi the same high quality sonar information to your smartphone or tablet.
If you fish from your boat or from shore this is a cost effective way to get sonar and fish finding information on your iOS or Android device. I found it for $115.00 on
Vexilar also offers the T-BOX (SP200).  This is a unit that can be more permanently mounted on your boat.  This is the unit that I am most excited about. If you own a small boat or sailboat and don't want to invest is a chart plotter costing thousands you can have a fully functioning sonar system for only $149.00. Vexilar has made it that cost effective to add depth and sonar to your boat.
The T-BOX (SP300) is similar unit but is a mobile version that can be temporarily mounted on your boat or used for ice fishing. It has its own battery and retails for $199.00.
The SP-200 system can be easily wired into your boats 12 volt power supply. The sensor can be transom mounted and will provide depth, sonar data and water temperature in that configuration.
You can also mount the transducer inside your boat on solid fiberglass hulls. The transducer will work right through your hull if it is not a cored hull. You will lose water temperature in this configuration.  
The SonarPhone uses WiFi technology to create a WiFi hotspot.  It turns your smart phone or tablet into a fully functional sonar system. There is no limit on the number of users, so everyone on board can have access to the sonar data. You simply open Settings on your iPhones or Tablets and select the TBox WiFi network source, enter the network password and your connected. This system is not dependent on cell coverage so it will work anywhere.
The SonarPhone app offers their app in 17 languages for world wide use. 
There is no easier way to get high quality water depth, temperature and sonar onboard your boat at a great price. Vexilar and Navionics have made it seamless and super easy to put powerful sonar data in the palm of your hand.  
This would be a great stocking stuffer for Christmas. Hint, Hint!
*****Happy Holidays Everyone*****
~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

iPhone 6 Plus - Awesome Marine App Display

I have been racking my brain trying to come up with a worthy post this week.  I have been hunting high and low for a new app that would both amaze and impress you my loyal readers.  I have been somewhat distracted by getting ready for Christmas.  Christmas is just around the corner so I have been busy with preparations for that season.  The house is decorated, the tree is set up and all the lights are working.  I hope you are getting in the Christmas spirit too!

I recently upgraded my phone to the new Apple iPhone 6 Plus.  I used to have an iPhone 4s. It served me very well for the 3 years I had it. I skipped the iPhone 5 upgrade because I was not impressed with the added features and improvements made my Apple at that time.  I was getting a little big screen envy of the large phones Samsung was developing.  I had even toyed with the idea of buying an Android phone.

I ordered my phone directly from Apple and it took over 3 weeks to arrive.  I was able to back up my old phone to the iCloud so I was able to download all my apps, messages and contacts to my new phone. I sold my old phone back to Apple. They gave me $105 in Apple store credit for it which was about $30 more than some of the other third party sites.

I am totally blown away how great my marine apps are looking on the larger iPhone screen.  The 6 Plus has a 5.5 inch screen and the iPhone 6 has a 4.7 inch screen.

The shot below shows the size compared to a 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet.  Notice the narrower sides bars with allows the screen to fill up more of the display.

Here are a few of the stats compared to the iPhone 5.

iPhone 6 Plus Stats                                                    iPhone 5 Stats

5.5-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology  4-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen Multi‑Touch display with IPS technology
1920-by-1080-pixel resolution at 401 ppi  1136-by-640-pixel resolution at 326 ppi
1300:1 contrast ratio (typical)  800:1 contrast ratio (typical)
500 cd/m2 max brightness (typical)  500 cd/m2 max brightness (typical)
Full sRGB standard  Full sRGB standard
Dual-domain pixels for wider viewing angles   
Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating on front  Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating on front
Display Zoom   
The iPhone 6 has a new and improved 8 megapixel camera and a 1080P video camera. Video now includes slow motion and 120 or 240 frames per second. You can even take photos while recording video. The camera alone is reason enough to upgrade.

Here are a few of my favorite apps shown on the bigger iPhone 6 Plus screen. I am loving it! I am finding that I don't even use my iPad as much because the apps looks so great on the iPhone 6 Plus. They are easier to read even with my over 55 year old eyes.

Marine Information Display

NMEA Remote


Navionics US


Sea Nav

iRegatta Pro

I think the iPhone 6 Plus would be a great Christmas present for anyone, especially a sailor or boater. Be extra good this year so you end up on the "NICE List" and hopefully Santa will bring you one.  If you don't get one, there is no harm in buying one for yourself.  This could be considered required essential gear for any boating vessel. You can always argue that it is for safety reasons and you just had to have it to use all those great Marine Charting, Marine Data and Marine AIS apps.

*****Have a Super Holiday Season****

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Volvo Ocean Team Vestas Runs Aground

The Volvo Ocean Race management announced last night that the sailboat Team Vestas had run aground on a small reef north of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The vessel grounded on the Saint Brandon(Cargados Carajos) archipelago which is comprised of a number sand banks, reefs and shoals.  The reef measures more than 50 km from north to south and is 5 km wide. Saint Brandon is located in the India Ocean about 430 km northeast of Mauritius.

Image from the Volvo Life at the Extreme App
The yacht was racing along with the other six Volvo Ocean 65 foot sailboats in the second leg of the round the world race. The second leg started in Cape Town South Africa and will end in Abu Dhabi.

Race officials were notified on Saturday evening that Team Vestas had run aground.  Several other yachts ahead of Vestas had passed the reef on the west side just a few hours ahead of them. Team SCA passed to the east of the reef later that night without incident. Vestas is the blue boat shown in the image above.  This is an image from the tracker section of the  Volvo Ocean Race app available for iPhone and iPad.

Later reports from the Volvo Ocean command center reported the yacht was aground and both rudders were broken off.  A leak in the stern of the yacht was allowing water to enter the aft watertight bulkhead area. .

Team Alvimedica was placed in standby and was asked to provide assistance to the Vestas team during the night if needed.  All nine crew members were accounted for and no injuries were reported aboard Vestas. Alvimedica motored within a few miles of Vestas just behind the reef to the west of the grounded vessel.  They remained on the scene until Coast Guard and rescue personnel arrived just before dawn on Sunday morning.  All Vestas crew members were transferred to rescue vessels shortly there after.

Race officials reported that the Vestas crew will stay in a facility on Ile du Sud until arrangement can be made to extract the crew.  Plans then can be made on how to salvage the multi million dollar yacht.
Team Alvimedica was released after the rescue personnel arrived and have rejoined the race to Abu Dhabi.  They will be compensated for the time they lost while they remained in standby aiding Vestas.
Image from Google Earth

Wow! the first thing that came to my mind was, how could this happen?  These yachts have the best state of the art equipment and the most highly trained crews in the world.  I cannot conceive how a yacht of this caliber could ever run aground in the middle of the ocean.  I guess we should not be so quick to judge until we have all the facts.

This is the first time the Volvo Ocean race has sailed to Abu Dahbi. Concerns of pirates on the east coast of Africa forced the race officials to ship the yachts to Abu Dhabi the last time the race was held three years ago.  So sailing in these unfamiliar waters may have been a contributing factor.

I am sure there will be a million articles attempting to figure out how this happened. Was it human error, was it bad electronic charts, who is to blame?  It is no doubt a huge oversight by someone.  My heart goes out to the sailors onboard.

The Google Earth screen shot above clearly shows the sliver of an island and the reef north of Mauritius. This appears to be the area where Vestas ran aground when you compare it to the Volvo Ocean Race Tracking position.

The image on the left is a close up Google Earth image of the Saint Brandon reef.  This low laying reef is a sunken atoll which is at times partly under water during high tide.

I do not own any charts for this area and I do not know what type of charting systems these boats had on board.  Apparently they were not adequate enough to keep the boat out of trouble. Perhaps an app like the Active Captain Companion would have alerted the navigator to the approaching hazard and shoals and prevented this tragedy. Would the Navionics Boating App Auto Routing feature factored in the shallow area and guided the boat safely around the shoals.  Having an app with view of satellite imagery would in this case made it obvious shoals were ahead. If the navigator was using a crowd sourcing app that had this spot listed as a hazard they might have been alerted to the problem.  I am impressed with the way mobile apps have continued to add features that address safety and security in real time navigation.  Maybe it is time for the Big Chart Plotter companies to rethink their approach.

This incident should be a lesson to us all.  Make sure you know the waters that you are boating in.  Check all sources of information including paper charts, electronic charts, satellite images and local knowledge. Don't rely on one set of information.

If I was racing in a multi million dollar yacht at 20 knots I would want to use all the tool available to me. There was apparently a serious lapse in judgement by someone.  The other 6 yachts were either aware of the shoal or just lucky to avoid it.  The crew of Vestas is fortunate in that no one was hurt and the boat can possibly be towed off the reef. There are probably a few bruised egos on Vestas following this incident. I am sure they will all be back racing again after learning this important lesson. 

What do you think happened?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)


Saturday, November 22, 2014

FLIR ONE for iPhone 5/5s

Application: iPhone 5/5S
Function: Thermal Imaging camera
Rating: *****
Cost: App is free, FLIR One camera $349

The FLIR company provides state of the art night vision and thermal imaging cameras for law enforcement, maritime first responders,  commercial and personal use. Their marine thermal imaging cameras have been featured in all the boating magazines. 

Many of the megayachts now come with night vision and thermal imaging cameras as standard equipment. Some of these marine commercial cameras can run as high as $20,000.

If your not a mega yacht owner you can still have access to this technology. FLIR also produces hand held night vision units from or $2000 to $8000.

The company's latest development, the FLIR ONE, now makes this technology available to an average boater. The FLIR ONE is a thermal imaging camera attachment for the iPhone 5 or 5s. At $349 it is a low cost alternative to the other more expensive cameras in the FLIR product line.  The infra red camera is housed in a sleek sleeve that the iPhone slides into. It looks much like an external battery charging case. The sleeve houses the thermal imaging camera and a normal camera for enhancing the image.

  • Live thermal imaging/night vision display
  • iPhone 5/5s compatible
  • Camera sleeve with battery
  • Load images and videos to camera roll
  • Upload images and video to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
  • Separate battery for with 2 hours of continuous use
  • Mini USB charging
  • See what the naked eye cannot
  • Detects temperature differences of about one-tenth of a Fahrenheit degree, and the temperature readout is accurate to within 2 degrees.
  • Observe heat sources, heat differences, fire, overheating equipment or components
  • See through smoke and haze
  • Detect insulation leaks and energy efficiency problems.
The FLIR ONE app is the interface to managing the camera settings and images taken by the device. Start by attaching your iPhone 5 or 5s to the FLIR ONE sleeve.  Move the switch to the middle position to turn on the device.

You can now see live thermal images on your phone's screen. The FLIR ONE uses MSX technology which utilizes two cameras. One camera picks up the thermal imaging and the other picks up a visual image. The two images are combined to create a unique viewable image.

The FLIR ONE thermal imaging can be used for a variety of applications around your home or on your boat. The thermal imaging also provides night vision and could help you to locate objects in the water or other vessels ahead during the night.  If you have a man overboard situation on a pitch black night you may never find that person.  Thermal imaging could help to locate that person by viewing their heat signature on the device.

Use it in the engine room to take a quick scan of your batteries and wiring connections to locate hot spots before they cause a failure or fire on your yacht.

The Settings page allows adjustments for Emissivity, location, photos and temperature units.

Images and video can be taken using the on screen buttons similar to taking photos and video with the iPhone camera app.

The app makes it easy to collect and share your interesting and useful thermal images. Images and video are easily captured and can be saved directly to the Camera Roll on your device. Images can also be share on Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels.

The images and video show temperature differences by the variations in color. The darker parts of the image a cooler and the brighter parts of the image are hotter in temperature.

I could see occasionally using it around the home or boat. I am not so sure I would fork out $349 for the device. Although Christmas is coming, so if you have that hard to buy for Gadget Geek this might be just what he would love!

Having the device on the phone would make it very handy to use. I might be surprised how much I would use it if I carried it around everyday.

Is anyone using this device? I would be interested in any feedback from actual users.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Microsoft Office - Free Apps for iOS Devices

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Function: Word Processing, Spread sheet and Presentations
Rating: *****
Cost: Free, in app purchases for additional features

I know, these are not exactly marine apps, but they are very useful for anyone who needs to keep a ships log or keep track of finances or a parts inventory on a yacht. It is now possible to create and edit Office documents from all your mobile devices anytime anywhere. How cool it that?

On November 6th, new versions of Word, Excel and Power Point were released for use on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.  These new updated versions are optimized to work on all of your iOS devices.

To get started download the apps from the Apple App Store. You will need to sign up for a free Microsoft Live account  to initialize the apps. Your live account provides access to your Skype, your Office 365 subscription, games, music and movies from Microsoft's participating stores. It also allows you access to all of your photos, videos, and documents on OneDrive. Your account consists of an email and password, plus your profile info, billing and payment details.

The prior version of the Office for iPhone was just a single app that let you connect with your Microsoft OneDrive. It lacked many of the document creation features of the new suite of apps.  The old version also required a subscription to Office 365 to do anything more than read. The new versions allows many of the basic viewing and editing features such as making edits to words, fonts, font sizes and font color. Making more complex formatting changes to documents and spreadsheets will require purchase of an Office 365 subscription.  The basic features will probably be good enough for most people for light everyday use.

The Office 365 subscriptions will run you $6.99 a month for a single desktop and mobile version. For $9.99 a month you get Office 365 for 5 computers and 5 mobile devices.  These in app purchases will be charged to your Apple account.  The subscriptions will automatically be renewed unless you turn off auto renew in your iTunes account.

With your free Microsoft Live account you automatically get 15GB of free space on OneDrive which is Microsoft's cloud storage service. This account allows you to save and open documents across all your devices.

These new apps have been designed specifically for use on the for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. They work seamlessly by adjusting to the screen size of your iPhone or iPad.


Word documents now display nicely on your iOS iPad and iPhone. When you edit or create documents, you can be sure they will look exactly the same across all platforms including PC, Mac, tablet and phone. Word, Excel and Power Point all have the familiar Office look and feel.  The interface is very intuitive to use with all the common touch gestures. 


• Images, tables, charts, SmartArt, footnotes, equations 
• On your phone, choose between the real document layout or an easy-to-read layout.
• View email attachments and access Word documents from OneDrive, Dropbox, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint.
• Pick up from where you left off because Word knows what you were working on last, no matter what device you were using.
• Print Word documents to an AirPrint printer, with or without markup.
• Content and formatting are maintained across all your devices - PC, Mac, tablet and phone.
• Rich formatting including fonts, pictures, tables, charts, textboxes, shapes, footnotes and page layout.
• Track changes, add comments and work simultaneously with others on the same document.
• Word automatically saves your document, so you can rest assured that you don't lose all your work while you're on the go.
• Simply share your work with others by emailing a hyperlink, the file or a PDF.

Microsoft Excel

Excel is the most popular spreadsheet application and can be use to keep track of your spare parts inventory, finances and expenses while afloat.  I have built several spreadsheets for use on board to keep an inventory of all my storage lockers.  I never have to guess which locker or bin something is stored.

All of the new Microsoft apps allow the files to be save, emailed or exported to your Microsoft Drive or Dropbox accounts. Dropbox and Drive will automatically update the saved files on all your devices so you can work seamlessly from home or on the water.


•Formulas, tables, charts, comments, PivotTables, sparklines, conditional formatting .
•Excel spreadsheets look just as they do on your PC or Mac.
•View email attachments and access all your Excel spreadsheets from OneDrive, Dropbox, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint.
•Pick up from where you left off because Excel for iPad knows what spreadsheet you were working on last, no matter what device you were using.
•Print an entire Excel workbook, a worksheet or a selected range to an AirPrint printer.
•When you edit a spreadsheet, your content and formatting are maintained across all your devices – PC, Mac, tablet and phone.
•Use formulas, charts, tables, sorting, filtering, and more.
•A special formula keyboard lets you add numbers and formulas rapidly – much easier than with the standard touch keyboard.
•Excel automatically saves your spreadsheet.
•Share your work by emailing the spreadsheet, a hyperlink or a PDF.

Power Point

Power Point is great for making and editing presentations on your iPad or iPhone. It may not be very useful to most boaters but you may someday need to create a presentation of your recent travels to share with your yacht club or friends. Power Point allows you to make engaging and dynamic presentations for your audience. Power Point allows you to easily insert text, pictures, video or links to the Internet in your presentations.


•Themes, images, tables, charts, SmartArt, transitions, animations are all there, nicely formatted.
•PowerPoint presentations look just as they do on your Mac or PC.
•When presenting, see your speaker notes and use the built-in laser pointer, pens or highlighters to get your point across.
•View email attachments and access all your PowerPoint presentations from OneDrive, Dropbox, OneDrive for Business, or SharePoint.
•Pick up from where you left off  no matter what device you were using.
•Print to an AirPrint device.
The apps are free so go ahead and add them to your devices.  If you find you need more features and options you can always sign up for the paid premium versions.  Who knows, if you work while you travel you may have a need to edit documents on the fly. These apps give you the freedom to do that from any of your mobile devices.

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