Saturday, August 29, 2015

Transas iSailor 50 % Off Chart Sale

I recently reviewed the new Android version of the Transas iSailor app. iSailor is listed in my top 10 Best Marine Charting apps on this blog. It is a full featured marine charting app capable of helping you navigate rivers, lake and coastal waters almost anywhere in the world.  I have written many reviews of the app over the years since it was introduced in 2010.

I got an email recently from iSailor notifying me that they will be having a chart sale this coming week. That's right if you want to buy some charts for you new app you can get them 50% off starting September 1-15th. Not all charts are on sale. Only a limited number are half off so make sure your selecting the right ones to get this special deal.

The chart folios on sale are limited to Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. With each of these charts sets costing up to $24.99 each a 50% sale could save you some serious money.

To purchase charts in the iPhone or mobile Android phone version, pull up the Tools bar from the bottom of  the screen. Tap the Gear, (Settings) icon and Select the Chart Store.

If you have an iPad or Android tablet version of the app just tap the Gear icon in the lower right of the screen and then select the Chart Store.

Simply scan around the interactive map until you find the area you wish to purchase. Tap on the price button to purchase and download.

If your in the market for some new charts this would be a good time to stock up at half price.

Happy September 50% off iSailor Charts. Wahoo!!!!!


~~~ Sail On ~~~/)Mark



Saturday, August 22, 2015

i-Sailor for Android Devices

Application: Compatible Android tablets and phones
Function: Marine charting, AIS, GPS, navigation
Rating: *****
Cost: App download is free, with in app purchase for charts $4.99 to $24.99.

Transas i-Sailor is one of the leading apps in the Marine Navigation and GPS tracking area.  I have written extensively in many post about the iOS version of their i-Sailor app since it was released in 2010. Since that time may Android users have been very vocal about wanting a version they could run on their phones and tablets. Well after much pleading and outcry i-Sailor has heard you loud and clear and responded with an Android version. You can now download it on the Google Play store.

The functionality and features appears to be very similar to the iOS version. i-Sailor has evolved to be a full featured app including charts, routes, waypoints, tracking, weather, AIS, NMEA connectivity.  The navigation screen is clean and uncluttered allowing full view of the Transas's TX-97charts.

Features:
  • Internal GPS 
  • NMEA GPS over Wi-Fi (TCP connection Bluetooth NMEA GPS through the Android Location Provide or Bluetooth GPS 
  • Display of Charts and Routes
  • North Up, COG Up and Route Up chart orientations
  • Information on any vector chart objects
  • Free cursor, Point-To-Point and Own Ship referenced ERBL functionality
  • Navigational data: Position, Course (COG) and Speed Over Ground (SOG)
  • Route creation, Go To routes
  • Bearing to WP, Distance to WP, XTD
  • Time-To-Go and ETA to any selected waypoint ahead
  • Day and Night chart background colors
  • List of supported and tested devices with Android version 4.3.x (API 18) and higher:
Compatible Tablets:
  • Google Nexus 7 (2013)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
Smartphones:
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Lenovo S60
Other phones and tablets may be compatible but this is the list that i-Sailor had on their website. i-Sailor Android had GPS functionality that allows the user to select the onboard GPS of the phone or tablet. It also has the options of selecting NMEA and Bluetooth GPS options. The NMEA option is available for a $9.99 in app purchase. 

Charts:
The first thing you will want to do is download some charts. i-Sailor offer a wide variety of charts for most locations in the world. 

Select the gear icon to access the Settings Menu. From there select the Purchase Charts option to access the chart store. Charts range in price from $4.99 to 24.99. I downloaded the USA Gulf Coast Florida charts for $4.99.  The full list of Caribbean charts will run you $24.99.

The main chart and navigation screens are laid out nicely. The tablet version is shown in the image on the left. Selections for track up and north up are in the upper right of the screen. Indications for position information, latitude and longitude are displayed in the upper section also.

Course over ground, (COG) and speed over ground (SOG) are two of the most important navigation features most boaters need.

Waypoints and Routes:

The app has the ability to create routes with waypoints for more in depth navigation options. To create a route go to the Route icon in the Tools section. Select New Route, you will note that a waypoint box pops up on your screen. Place your finger on the waypoint and move it to the desired location. The latitude and longitude are displayed as you move the waypoint.  Select the Green + when you have it at the location you want. Tap the screen again to create another waypoint in your route. Continue doing this until the route is complete.

Navigating a route is one feature that not all marine charting apps have. i-Sailor provides this functionality and show Bearing to waypoint (BTW)and Distance to waypoint (DTW) along with Cross track error (XTR). Other navigation features include estimate time of arrival (ETA).

NMEA Options:

One of the most powerful features of i-Sailor Android is its ability to connect wirelessly through WiFi or Bluetooth to onboard instruments and external GPS devices. NMEA GPS can be accessed with an in app purchase of $9.99. This will unlock compatibility to receive GPS over WiFi connections through TCP and UDP protocols for the GGA, RMC, GLL and VTG sentences.

NMEA Compass rotation, Wind Sensor and Echo sounders can also be purchased for $4.99, and $8.99 each.  This level of connectivity with your onboard instruments give the app the information it needs to be a full fledged navigation chartplotter.

Wi-Fi Connection to an external AIS sensor is also provided with an in app purchase. This will allow the display of ships in your area on your mobile device. You will need to have a AIS receiver unit onboard capable of broadcasting the AIS data over WiFi to be able to receive this data.  

The Android version of the i-Sailor app is a welcome addition to the Google Play Store. I know the release of this version has made many Android users happy to finally have this app available to them. Please comment and let me know if you are using the app and how its working for you!

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark



 

Friday, July 10, 2015

GPS Nautical i-Boating

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Function: Mobile Marine Navigation and Charting app
Rating:*****
Price: App is free, $14.99 US version

There are no shortage of marine charting apps out on the market. I have reviewed many over the years and I can tell within a few minute of using them if they are worthy of making my Top 10 ListGPS Nautical i-Boating is a solid marine charting app using NOAA vector charts and USACE inland rivers. It has many of the basics features needed to be a decent app including Waypoints, Routes, Tracks, GPS Tracking, Tides, Currents and sharing of routes, tracks and markers.  Although this is a nice list of features there are many competing apps with similar features.

One unique thing about GPS Nautical i- Boating is that it is available on many platforms. Versions are available for the iPhone or iPad, Android phone or tablet, Windows 8 phone, laptop or tablet, and Blackberry phone or tablet.  I know of no other marine app that is available over so many platforms. You should be able to find a version that works on your phone, tablet or laptop.

It is getting harder for may apps to compete with the "Big Boys" like Garmin and Navionics who provide free apps with many built in features. These apps also require in app purchases for charts and additional features.

Features:
  • GPU accelerated vector charts 
  • Query the details of Marine object Buoy, Lights, Obstruction.
  • Customizable depth(Ft/Fathom/Meter) and distance units (km/mi/NM)
  • Customizable Shallow Depth.
  • Record tracks, Autofollow with real-time track overlay and predicted path vector
  • Voice Prompts for marine navigation (requires GPS
  • 1ft / 3ft depth contour maps for anglers for selected lake maps.
  • Supports GPX/KML for boating route editing/import
  • Tide & Currents prediction
  • Seamless chart quilting of marine charts
  • Enter or import Waypoints
  • NOAA vector charts, USACE inland rivers and lakes
  • Create New Route/Edit Existing Routes
  • Move Points
  • Add points to an existing route leg
  • Delete / Rename points
  • Import GPX, KML & KMZ files
  • Plot/Edit Routes
  • Enter Waypoints
  • Share/Export Routes, Tracks & Markers
  • Reverse Routes
  • GPS Auto Follow
  • Real Time Track Overlay
  • Predicted Path Vector
  • Course Up (Text stays upright)
  • Speed & Heading
  • Route Assistance With Voice Prompts
  • Prompts when approaching a boating route marker
  • Continous distance and ETA updates
  • Alerts when sailing/boating off route
  • Alerts when boating in wrong direction
  • Record Tracks
  • Tide and Currents for US, Canada, UK, Germany & New Zealand
  • High/Low Tides
  • Tidal Current Prediction
  • Active Current Stations
  • Share tracks/routes/markers on Facebook & Twitter
  • Export tracks/routes/markers as compressed GPX files.
Multiple chart regions are supported and must be purchases separately. Coverage is fairly wide spread.
The app has a main navigation screen with several icons to help with setup and viewing of your position or course. The free app does not come with any charts. You will have to purchase charts for your regions. These range form $14.99 to 25.99 depending which area you need.

Once you have purchased charts you will be able to download the portion of the chart you need for navigation. In the upper left of the screen is the Chart Download icon. Tap this and you will be shown a tiled map overlay of the charts to download.

The green colored tiles show the ones I had previously downloaded. I tapped the tile to the right and it turned purple.  Simply press the Press to Download bar on the top to download your chart tiles to your device. More than one tile can be selected and downloaded at a time. The charts can then be used offline while out cell range.

Other icons  are displayed across the bottom of the screen. On the bottom left of the screen is the Record Track, Follow, Route, Measuring Tool and Menu icons. The Tracking feature is nice to have to see where you have travelled. Tracks are automatically saved and can be found under the Route icon.

The Follow feature icon is second from the left and is used to engage the follow mode. In follow mode the app will keep your position centered on the chart as you move. Additional details including speed and course are shown in the lower left of the screen.

The next icon is the Route Manager which allows the creation of new routes and viewing of saved routes, waypoints and recorded tracks. Importing of GPX and KML route files can also be done through this display.

Routes and Waypoints can also be renamed, deleted or edited from the Route Manger.

Select Create New Route to enter route creation mode. Several icons in the route manager are displayed across the top of the screen. The Hand icon allow you to pan around the display, the Pin icon allows placing a marker for a favorite fishing spot or a hazard.

The Route icon is selected to create a new route. Simply set the cross hairs to the location to make your first waypoint and tap the New Point box, pan to the next location and tap it again. Continue tapping to create all your waypoints within a route.  Next select the Save Icon to name and save your route for retrieval later.

As you create a route your can delete the last point if you make a mistake. Select the grey box "Delete Last".

It would be handier to have a Waypoint icon on the bottom menu to easily create and edit waypoints like the Route icon. To create or view waypoints the Menu icon has to be first selected. Under the New Waypoints selection you can use the current GPS location, enter the latitude and longitude or use the cursor crosshairs to make a waypoint. One unique feature is being able to Geo tag a photo at a waypoint.

The last icon in the lower right of the screen is the Menu icon. Menu features include Route Assistance, New Route, Settings, New Waypoint, View Waypoints, Tides and Currents, Search charts, Purchase Charts and Help features.

The Tides and Currents selection allows making favorites of your tide and current stations. The data is listed in tabular form. Once you save a favorite they all go into one list. It would be nice to have separate favorites lists or a way to differentiate so you can identify which ones are tidal and which one are for currents.

Voice prompts can be enabled within the Menu/Settings selections. Voice prompts can be set up to notify that you have reached a marker or waypoint. Notifications for ETA and distance are continuously updated. It will even alert you when you are off course or going the wrong direction.

GPS Nautical has done a great job with the basics and I am impressed with the presentation of the NOAA ENC vector charts. They are very bright and easy to read and contain many useful navigational aids.

Some features that I would like to see are some points of interest. Active Captain is used by many app developers and it is provided to them for free.  Very basic instrument data is displayed. Incorporation of NMEA 0183 instrument data over WiFi would be a nice feature also. With WiFi you could also add AIS to display nearby ships for collision avoidance. Some form of weather and display options for satellite maps would be a bonus also.

If your looking for a solid entry level app with great charts i-Boating just may be for you. Check it out in the app store and let me know what you think!

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark

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



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