Saturday, February 11, 2017

RaceQs Regatta Sailing App

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, iOs 6.1 or later
Function: Sailboat Racing, Race tracking and recording
Rating: *****
Cost: Free

RaceQs is a fairly new app aimed primarily at sailors who either run regattas or race their sailboats.  The app can be used by all the sailors in the fleet to record their track and data during the race. The RaceQs website is then used after the race to review the play back in 3D. If you have ever watched the Americas Cup racing, the same graphics and analytics can be performed on your races. The app has many great analytical capabilities that can help any sailor improve their racing performance. Even if you don't race the apps tools allow you to record your tracks and help improve your sailing ability.

The app can be use to record your boats speed and movements using the phones internal, GPS and gyroscope and accelerometer. You can link you GoPro footage to the recording also to improve the playback experience.

  • Race Organization and Management
  • Free app and RaceQs account
  • One touch race recording
  • Max and average boat speed
  • Course
  • Velocity Made Good (VMG)
  • Roll
  • Pitch
  • Yaw
  • Drift
  • Track
  • Race Analytics
  • Wind direction from meteorological data
  • Real time upload
  • 5 minute delayed play back on website
  • Works below deck
  • Privacy controls
  • Website 3D race movie playback
  • Race analysis
  • Personal website journal page
  • Add crew list and duties
  • Notification email of events
  • Social Media Sharing

Download the App from iTunes to get started. The app is free so encourage all your crew and other sailors in your club to do the same.

Create an Account:

Creating an account is needed to be able to access all the features of the app and and RaceQs website. You can skip registration and use it to just record your tracks but you will not have access to the website features.

Having a user name and password will allow you to access your personal journal page on the RaceQs website to be able to review all your tracks and saved race data.

The website also has some social media and networking features which allow the users to organize races and contact crew members.

Record the Race:
Recording a race or track is done with a push of the Start Tracking button in the app. Only one person on board the boat needs to record the race.

A phone or tablet can be use to record the race. Make sure the device is secured so it does not slide around. The top of the phone should be facing forward towards the front of the boat. The device will then record the correct direction, pitch, roll and yaw of your boat.

The Live Streaming function can also be turned on in the app. This features allows the data from your phone to be streamed to the website with a five minute delay. Your friends or the crew back at the yacht club can watch the race in almost real time. The data is delayed for five minutes because other boats can also view your performance, tactics and data on the website.

Cell service for your device is required for live streaming. If you do not have cell service the data is still recorded and can be uploaded over WiFi when you return from the race.

Accessing the apps functions are done through several buttons at the bottom of the app. Preset Start allows the user to set up the time to automatically start recording data in the app.
Tracks is a list of all your boats recorded tracks or races. These are listed by date, time and included miles sailed and time.
Settings include, Auto shutoff, roll, pitch and yaw settings, a setup for an external data connection via TCP/IP or UDP WiFi protocol is also provided. This would be used if you had an external GPS source for this data.

The real time display shows a map of your boats track as it records your data. The real time data and track are displayed below in digital form.

Real time data includes Elapse Time, Distance, Average Speed and Maximum Speed.

The track display has a Compass in the upper right side of the screen.  This displays when the app is in the Course Up mode.  The Blue Course icon in the lower right let you toggle between Course up and North Up modes.

The Marker icon in the lower right of the map let the user drop a marker on the screen to note the start line or marks on the course. Once you drop a mark you cannot move it. If the mark is not in the place you want it, delete it and drop a new one in the correct location.

These markers can the be used on the website to set up the race course and place marker buoys for an accurate depiction of the course.

Fleet Race Replay:

This is where is gets fun! Once the race is completed everyone should upload their boats track data to the website. A 3D movie replay of the race can then be created and viewed by the whole fleet.

The RaceQs app works with any type of boat. The app uses your phones GPS to know which boats are sailing in the same geographic area at the time of your race. Boats can be divided into different fleets if needed by entering the start times for the different fleets.

The virtual course can be set up by anyone who has access to the replay. Once it is setup it can be viewed by all race participants. Setting up the course involves placing the start line and marks around the course.  The playback allows for an in depth analysis of each boats performance and analytics during the race.

When viewing playback of your tracks or races you can select between course view, fleet view, match view, front or helm view. This display is similar to the Americas Cup graphics and views of those races. Course view is the most general and provides an overall view of the boats and the course. Fleet view shows the view of all boats in the race. Match view allow comparison of any two boats performance metrics side by side.


RaceQs has many powerful analytical tools to review the performance of your boat. Color coding can be added to each track of the boats in the race. This allows the viewer to easily track the different boats around the course.

Groove line analysis shows when the boat is sailing the fastest and areas when it was showing instability.

Two boats can be selected during the playback to show the distance and separation of the boats as they tack and progress around the course.

The Dashboard is another tool to analyze SOG, VMG, heel and drift. This performance data can be displayed for any boat as it progresses around the course. The Wind shadow is another analytic that shows the boats lee bow zone and aft wind shadow of your boat. A complete list of video tutorials can be found on the website and YouTube to set and use the app and website features.

I have not had a chance to use the app yet because it is still winter here in South Dakota. As I look out at the our lake it appears to be more of an ice rink right now. Is anyone using the app? If so, please comment below and share your experience.

The sailing season will soon be returning for us in the higher latitudes.  Get your sailing club members signed up for RaceQs to be able to record your races and use the analytical tools to become better sailors.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Social Media Sailors, YouTube and Patreon

If you follow my blog you are probably some type of boater and if you do Facebook or watch YouTube you have probably run across a new wave of social media sailing channels.  I have been following some of these on Facebook and YouTube for years.

Before the Internet in the early 1990s, most of us never new that it was possible to sail and cruise on a private yacht around the world. Those that did it back then did it on the cheap, were independently wealthy or sponsored by some large corporation. The world wide web allowed many of these sailors to start websites and blogs to share and document their adventures. As cruising caught on some boaters would write magazine articles and books about their travels and attend a few boat shows to make a few bucks to pad the cruising kitty.

Fast forward 20 years and we now have a younger generation finding out that they can go cruising now and pay for it along the way.  Cruisers can now develop an income stream to support a cruising lifestyle by developing content and posting it on social media sites like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Patreon and Twitter. Social media is no longer just a fad, it is a multi-billion dollar business.  Many young and old cruisers are becoming savvy at harnessing social media to buy their freedom and live and share their dreams.

Many of these millennial aged kids are taking to the high seas with little or no sailing experience and documenting all their exploits on YouTube. It make for some entertaining video. I have found that the most successful channels usually include some sort of hunky guy as captain and some very attractive young female sailors as crew. This usually makes for an interesting dynamic on board. Who doesn't like a little eye candy to keep the videos interesting. Throw in some sailing, sun, sandy beaches, rum, bikinis clad babes and you have a hit! That by no means is the only successful formula for a sailing YouTube channel. There are many channels which feature older less hard bodied sailors on board so their is hope for all of us.

YouTube  can been a steady source of income for many sailors who post videos.  YouTube pays channels advertising revenues which can be very lucrative if you have a large following and popular video content. The secret is to provide consistent and predictable content that people will continue to follow week after week. The more traffic you drive to your site generates more clicks by your viewers on the adds provided by Google.

Another site that has really become a gold mine for many of these cruisers is Patreon. Patreon is a crowd funding site that allows people to support many types of content creators. Sailors who produce videos are now finding a second income stream from developing Patreon followers and supporters. Followers can sign up to donate from $1-$50 per video to help support the sailors as they travel.

The website notes that more than $100 million has been donated to creators on the site since it started in 2013. This is such a unique concept that I had a hard time getting my head around it.  I guess there are millions of people in this world that are living vicariously through these creators and are willing to pay and support them to continue providing this content.  It is truly a win/win for both parties.

There has been some controversy around this in that some consider it a form of "Internet begging" of sorts while others consider it as just a tip for appreciating the content put together by these hard working content creators. I tend to agree, if you appreciate some one's artistic abilities or creation you should be able to support them if that is in line with your beliefs.

I have put together a list of the most famous, successful and profitable of these YouTubers and Patreon creators.  Some are just on YouTube while other subscribe to many forms of social media.

Established Channels:

Photo courtesy of  Distant Shores
Distant Shores
Creators: Paul and Sheryl Shard - Canadian
YouTube:Distant Shores
VIMEO: Distant Shores
Patreon: No
Website: Distant
Boat: 49 ft Southerly sail boat

Synopsis: Paul and Sheryl have been producing an award winning TV show called Distant Shores for over 15 years. They built their first sailboat and set out from Canada to travel the the world produce videos for TV, DVD, YouTube and Vimeo. They provide breathtaking professional video and commentary of the places they visit. The videos are more of a documentary travel series. Most of the series are for sale while some shorter teaser clips are provided for free on YouTube. I have been following them for over 10 years and enjoy the detail and amount of work they put into their projects.

S/V Delos
Creators: Delos Brian and Brady Trautman - American,
Karin Syren - Swedish
YouTube: S/V Delos
Vimeo: S/V Delos
Patreon: SV Delos
Website: S/V
Boat: Amel Super Maramu 53ft

Synopsis: Older brother Brian discovered the sailing and cruising lifestyle and bought a boat.  He sold everything and quit his job in his early 30s to sail the world for a few years. He was joined by his brother Brady for the Pacific crossing and the two have been sailing now for 7 years.

While cruising the South Pacific Brady and Brian met Josje Leyton and Karin Syren who haveDelos Tribe" as they liked to be called have had various other family and friends along as crew during their travels through southeast Asia and across the Indian Ocean. The videos have improved over the years and they provide a quality product.
Photo courtesy of Sailing Delos
crewed and helped produce the videos. These two ladies are young, blond and attractive and very capable sailors. They also add a great deal to the visual appeal of the videos. The "

 The videos are full of sailing, snorkeling, diving and exploring of all their destinations. The crew parties quite a bit and enjoys mixing with the locals at each destination. They have a very successful YouTube following with over 150,000 followers and earn almost $6000/video on Patreon.

Sailing Sofisticated Lady/Abient Real Life
Creator: Rick Moore - Canadian
YouTube: Sailing Sofisticated Lady
Vimeo: No
Patreon: Ambient Real Life
Website: Ambient Real
Boat: Jeanneau 51

Photo courtesy of Ambient Real Life
Synopsis: Rick has been sailing the Caribbean for over 10 years and produces some of the best videos of the islands I have seen. He started with his Ambient Real Life series and has since provided others series to keep it fresh.

Rick travels between the Virgin Islands and Grenada each season spending time at each island shooting video, flying drones, working and enjoying what the local islands have to offer.

He has had a constant stream of charter guests, family and other women on board over the years which has made it interesting. He augments his lifestyle by having charter guest, doing professional video work, YouTube and most recently

Sailing La Vagabonde
Creators: Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu - Australian
YouTube: Sailing La Vagabonde
Vimeo: No
Patreon: La Vagabonde
Website: Sailing La
Boat: Beneteau Cyclades 43

Synopsis: Riley had a life changing accident which made him question is there more to life. He decided to buy a sailboat in Italy and happened to run into another Australian, Elayna who quickly became his love interest and first mate. The two had little or no sailing experience but that did not stop them from sailing through the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic, through he Panama canal and across the Pacific. They posted their first video in November of 2014 and have since posted close to 70 videos of their travels.

Photo courtesy of La Vagabonde
Elayna started sharing the videos to keep family and friends up to date on their travels. Soon a following of over 250,000 YouTube followers fell in love with this cute young couple.  The two are very relaxed and down to earth. Their videos started out very crude but have always had a sense of freshness and honesty about them. Elayna is the artsy guitar playing beauty who does most of the videos and commentary. Riley has this wild curly hair, collection of strange hats and his famous mustache which is immortalized in their sailing logo. The two love to free dive and fish to augment their food supply. They are now able to support themselves through YouTube and Patreon where they now receive almost $9300 per video. They will be moving onto a new Outremer 45 catamaran in the spring of 2017.

Gone with the Wynns
Creators: Jason and Nikki Wynn
YouTube: Gone with the Wynns
Vimeo: Gone with the Wynns
Patreon: The Wynns
Website: Gone with the
Boat: Leopard 43 Catamaran

Synopsis: The Wynns are new to sailing but were very popular YouTubers while they toured the US and Canada for 5 years in various recreational vehicles, RVs. They literally just move out of their motor home and onto their 43 ft catamaran to continue their travels. These two are a riot to watch and are quickly becoming one of my favorite channels.  These two are such a cute couple and seem to always be impeccably and stylishly dressed. Its like they were plucked right out of a JR Crew magazine or something. They both are very personable and engaging on the camera and always seen natural in their videos.

Photo courtesy of Gone With the Wynns
Jason has a background in photography which is evident by the many beautiful pictures on their
website.  He says he found the video button on his DLSR one day and has been making videos of their travels ever since.  His photography skills have help him produce amazing video of all their travels.

Nikki is this cute little bubbly gal that seems to take on any challenge with gusto and a can do attitude. She has quickly become proficient as a sailor and skipper of their new 43 ft catamaran. Her collection of sunglasses and snappy boating attire are endearing to her followers.

Sailing has been a huge learning curve for these two but they are picking it up fast and documenting all of the challenges. If you are total newbie to boating, their videos will walk you through the whole process of purchasing a boat and gaining the experience to head offshore.

Photo courtesy of Chase the Story
Chase the Story
Creators: Tasha and Ryan
YouTube: Chase the Story Sailing
Vimeo: No
Patreon: Chase the Story
Website: Chase the
Boat: Fontaine Pajot Helia 44
Photo Courtesy of Chase the Story

Synopsis: Tasha and Ryan sailed to the Caribbean on their first boat Hideaway. They came back and sold their businesses in New York and bought a new Fontaine Pajot Helia 44, "Cheeky Monkey" in France and have since sailed across the Atlantic, through the Caribbean, Panama Canal and across the Pacific.

They have brought on several friends and crew to help sail, take video and produce their content for YouTube.  The videos are high quality and well done. They cover the day in the life of a cruiser and the many exploits of the crew.

Follow the Boat
Creators: Jaime and Liz - British
YouTube: Follow the Boat
Vimeo: No
Patreon: Follow the Boat
Website: Follow the
Boat: Oyster 43
Synopsis: Liz and Jaime  and their cat Millie have been cruising on their 43 foot sailboat through Mediterranean and southeast Asia for over 10 years.

Photo courtesy of Follow the Boat
They just completed a total refit on their boat over the past year which they documented on YouTube. The videos are creative and entertaining and contain a lot of working on boats in exotic places.

This couple has been able to develop a large YouTube and Patreon following by showing us the good the bad and the ugly of sailing. They show it all.

Honorable Mentions: Other Great YouTube sites!

Drake Paragon
YouTube: Drake Paragon
Drake and Monique sail on their 42 ft Westsail from the east coast to Scotland.

White Spot Pirates
YouTube: White Spot Pirates
Nikki is a young German girl who bought a boat in Panama site unseen and has single handedly fixed it up and sailed the western Caribbean. She has just crossed the Panama Canal and will be tacking the Pacific Ocean.

Ran Sailing
YouTube: Ran Sailing
A young Swedish couple travels from northern Europe across the Atlantic on their custom aluminum sailboat. Very accomplished sailors, beautiful video and very well done.

Have Wind Will Travel
YouTube: Have Wind Will Travel
Annie and Philip from Pensacola restore their boat and sail to Cuba. Annie is a bubbly blonde who has embraced the cruising lifestyle with an engaging enthusiasm.

Sailing Uma
YouTube: Sailing Uma
Young couple restores their vintage boat and sails to Haiti.

Sail Surf Roam
YouTube: Sail Surf Roam
Synopsis: Young Australians build a catamaran and explore the south pacific sailing, surfing and traveling.

Miss Lone Star
YouTube: Sailing Miss Lone Star
Aubrey and Rob move onto their power boat and head to Florida. They buy a sailboat in the northeast and attempt to sail south to Florida.

Sailing Britican
YouTube: Sailing Britican
A family from England sails to the Caribbean and the US exploring the islands.

Sailing Happy Together
YouTube: Happy Together
Randy and Lennie are cruising on their new Leopard 48 catamaran from Florida to the Caribbean in style. This is bigger budget cruising at its best. Randy does the videos for fun and the two tackle the Caribbean and are presently in Columbia.

Sailing Doodles
YouTube: Sailing Doodles
Synopsis: Bobby and Meagan leave Florida on a small sailboat and head for the Bahamas with two golden doodle dogs on board. Bobby is retired pilot and his attractive crew member and the dogs makes the videos entertaining.

SV Seeker
YouTube: SV Seeker
Synopsis: This guy has the biggest dream and project of anyone I have seen on YouTube. He is building a 75 ft steel ketch mostly by himself in the middle of Oklahoma of all places. He has since enlisted volunteers to help with the construction of the yacht. Lots of welding, grinding, casting and how to videos of this immense project.

Catamaran Impi 
YouTube: Impi Sailing Catamaran
Synopsis: South African couple Brent and Anna sail the world on the Lagoon 45 catamaran. Great in depth videos of the places they travel to. Brent's enthusiasm for the islands they visit is engaging. Every island is "Simply Amazing!

As you can see I watch a lot of YouTube and follow many sailors as they travel around the world.  I am not alone. Millions of other YouTube watchers are doing the same thing and looking for entertaining content to watch.  YouTube and Google are a great source of income if you can develop a large following. Pair YouTube with Patreon, Facebook, Instagram and others social media sites you can support yourself in your sailing adventures.

~~~ Sail On ~~~/)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Signal K and the WihelmSK App

Application: iPad, iPhone Apple Watch, iOS 9.03 or later
Function: Marine Data
Rating: *****
Cost: Signal K free/Open source, WihelmSK $19.99

What the heck is Signal K?

Signal K is new modern open source data format for use with marine electronics. Signal K is based on web communications and display technologies which makes it available to anyone who wants to build systems to use and display marine data. This is truly an open format available for anyone to contribute to and help develop.  A whole new world of possibilities has been made available by converting data from a closed standard proprietary NMEA format to open Signal K standard.

The compatibility of marine electronics was very limited years ago due to the many proprietary protocols of each company. The National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) 0183 standard was developed in the early 1980s in an effort to provide a standard protocol for marine electronic device communications. NMEA 0183 is a serial protocol that defines how data is transmitted from one device to another. As modern electronics and chart plotters began to develop manufactures realized it had many data and bandwith limitations. The NMEA 0183 was finally updated with the NMEA 2000 protocol in about 2005.

NMEA 2000 had been in development since about 1994. It was developed cooperatively by over 40 manufacturers and organizations including the US Coast Guard.  It was intended to facilitate interconnection and interchangeability of the new digital marine electronics. The NMEA 2000 format allowed for greater bandwith, additional data types, standard connectivity and a faster network style format.  The NMEA 2000 format has worked well and was a much welcome update to the older NMEA 0183 standard.

The creation of the Internet, mobile devices and especially the iPhone in 2007 along with the development of marine apps created the next revolution in the marine industry.  Suddenly the need for this NMEA data had exploded and boaters with mobile devices were hungry for access to it.

The Signal K revolution was started as an open source project by several marine boating enthusiasts back in about 2014 as far as I can tell. The project members develop and supply the software code to anyone wanting to use it or help develop it further.  Signal K received a big boost when Digital Yacht launched a KickStarter project for a Signal K device called iKommunicate. This was well received by the many "early adopter" marine electronic enthusiasts and Digital Yacht has since produced the device for sale. It is available for $299.

The Signal K code can be easily run on a Raspberry Pi server also. The Raspberry Pi 3.0 board can be purchased for about $35 on Amazon. The full installation instructions for the software can be located on the Signal K site. The Raspberry Pi will then wirelessly provide the Signal K marine data to any mobile device over WiFi.

Getting the NMEA 2000 or 0183 data to your Raspberry Pi can be achieved by using a signal converter which plugs into the Pi's USB connection. Actisense is one company that produces these devices. If your onboard instruments are NMEA 2000, the Actisense NGT-1 can connect to your 2000 network and convert the data to USB. A Google search found several companies offering them from $169 to $189. If your marine instruments are the older NMEA 0183, Digital Yacht makes an adapter cable to convert the data to USB for about $55 on

Still in it's infancy, Signal K is starting to receive more support from hardware manufacturers, app developers and programmers.  Apps are now being written to accommodate any data type and display it in digital, analog, line or bar chart display.

Wilhelm is one new app that was developed by a long time programmer and sailor, Scott Bender. He wanted the flexibility to display marine data the way he wanted on a variety of devices. The $20 app is impressive and has the versatility to display a variety of marine data. The list of feature is extensive as seen below.


Supported Connections:
  • Signal K REST api or streaming 
  • iKommunicate REST api or streaming 
Connection Configuration:
  • Apple Watch support 
  • Manual configuration of ip/hostname and port 
  • Signal K discovery via Bonjour 
  • iKommunicate discovery via Bonjour
Raymarine Auto Pilot Support:
  • View or change current mode (Standby, Auto, Wind, Track)
  • View current target heading or Wind direction
  • Change target heading or Wind direction
Alarms and Notifications:
  • View list of current current alarms
  • Acknowledge Raymarine "Turn To Waypoint' 
  • Push notification support 
  • Setup server side alarms 
  • Set an anchor alarm with the push of a button 
  • Raymarine MFD: display and interact with a Raymarine MFD (discovered via Bonjour)
  • Water Temperature
  • AWA
  • AWA and COG
  • AWS
  • Drift
  • Set
  • TWA
  • TWS
  • GWA (Ground wind angle and speed calculated internally from AWS, AWA and COG)
  • GWS
  • Battery Voltage
  • Alternator Voltage
  • RPM
  • Coolant Temperature
  • Oil Pressure
  • Oil Temperature
  • True Heading
  • Magnetic Heading
  • Pitch
  • Roll
  • Yaw
  • SOG
  • COG
  • GPS Position (with link to Apple Maps)
  • XTE
  • Water Speed
  • Distance to Waypoint
  • Route ETA
  • Time to Waypoint (computed internally from DTW and SOG)
  • Depth (adjusted via depth offset)
  • Fuel Tank Level
  • Black Water Tank Level
  • Fresh Water Tank Level
  • Rudder Angle 
  • AWA Close Hauled
  • Engine Run time
  • GNSS Date 
  • GNSS Time
  • GNSS Date/Time
  • Atmospheric Pressure
  • Create a gauge for any value available via Signal K
  • Customize gauge display using Signal K meta.zones
  • Wind Angle gauges can optionally be rotated to the bow, regardless of device positioning
  • Place gauges by long pressing on a gauge and choosing a different one
  • Make a gauge full screen by double tapping
  • Multiple layout support. Create a different layout for Steaming, Sailing, Home Monitoring, etc.
  • Customize the number of pages and layout
  • Manual connection configuration synced across devices via iCloud
  • Automatic connection selection based on current IP (useful when Bonjour is not available and you have multiple boats)
  • Dark and light themes
  • Animated gauge needles
  • iPad Slide over and Split View support (Your gauge configuration can be customized for these views)
  • Connections refreshed manually or at specific intervals
  • Design your own custom gauge templates
  • Share templates via Air Drop, eMail, Text, etc.
  • Edit ApplyTV or other device layouts and templates remotely using your iPhone or iPad
  • Digital or analog gauges
  • Enter the Signal K path and title for any gauge to show data not supported by default

The list of gauges that WilhelmSK supports is impressive. The app has the versatility to display over 40 different parameters and more are being added with each release. The gauges can be displayed in either digital or analog format with light or dark backgrounds.  

The app displays can be customized in several ways by the user which allows development of personalized displays. Several instrument layouts can be developed to include the data in the desired groupings.  You can even develop displays for the Apple Watch.

WilhelmSK Apple Watch
The app should work with any Signal K server. Digital Yacht's iKommunicate device and the low cost Raspberry Pi servers can be configured as well. These devices have to be connected physically with your onboard instrument's NMEA 0183 or 2000 networks. The data is then provided from the server over WiFi to your mobile device. 

Apple Watch support is also provided. How cool would that be to have all your boat's instrument data available on your wrist. Alarms could alert you to problems on board that you might otherwise miss. My mind is just racing at all the possibilities for using this technology.

I applaud the Signal K group and programmers like Scott Bender who are blazing a new trail in the marine data industry. Making data available in a non proprietary open source format sure make sense to me. 

Other app and devices that support Signal K are listed below. I am sure this list of apps and servers will explode within the next year as this new and open source protocol catches on. 
I am excited for the marine industry and the future of Signal K. This effort will allow the average user to create their own displays and better utilize all the marine information for hopefully a safer and more enjoyable boating experience.

So who is ready to buy a Raspberry Pi and get started?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sony SRS-XB3 Pairable Bluetooth Speakers

I know this is a little different than my usual Marine App post but I thought it might be of interest to some of you. As a sailor I am always looking for technology that will make my boating experience easier and more enjoyable.

Entertainment on your yacht will most likely includes some form of music. Most sound systems on boats are hardwired into the vessel's 12 volt power supply. A set of wires then has to be run to each of the speakers at various points around the boat. This means the installation can be messy and expensive. That is the traditional "old school" way to set up a stereo system on your yacht.

Everyone now carries around a cell phone or mobile device. These phones are little super computers that not only allow us to communicate but to also run a variety of marine app which I have written about in this blog. My phone already has all of my favorite music and some video on it so, why not build an entertainment system around that? I also have a blog for my S2 22 ft sailboat in which I shared my design for the Ultimate On Board Entertainment System. This included the an iPhone, a WiFi router, an AppleTV and some AirPlay speakers.
iHome IW3 AirPlay Speaker

Bluetooth and AirPlay speakers have been around for several years now and I own several of them. They offered an easier mobile solution to my entertainment needs. I liked the idea of not having to drill holes and run wires all over my boat. In my blog post I designed my system around the Apple TV which I converted to 5 or 12 volts to either run off of USB or 12 volt power. I wanted to be able to have more than one speaker so I pursued the use of AirPlay speakers which require that the boat have a WiFi router that both the speakers and my iPhone can connect to. This worked fine and I have been using it for the past few years.

My latest discovery, which you may already know is that the latest version of Bluetooth allows more than on speaker to be connected to each other and then be connected to a device providing a true mobile wireless stereo system.

I researched the latest Bluetooth speakers and found a few that have this capability. Some of these manufacturers are Sony, JBL Flip 3 with JBL connect, Sharkk and Logitech UE Boom and SoundBot Quadio.  Those are a few of the speakers that I found with the capability to be paired together and there may be others.

Sony SRS-XB3 Bluetooth speakers
I chose the Sony SRS-SBX-3 model after some research and watching some YouTube videos. This model has a large rechargeable battery with a long 24 hour run time. The speakers come is several colors and normally run about $149 but I purchased some on Amazon for $98.

  • 2 Channel speakers + passive radiators
  • Extra Bass
  • Audio in jack
  • Bluetooth Version 3.0
  • Remembers 8 paired devices
  • Weight 32.8 oz
  • Compatible sound formats A2DP, AVRCP, HFP and HSP
  • Range 32.8ft
  • Condenser microphone
  • Noise suppression for phone calls
  • Omni directional speaker
  • Li Ion battery, 24 hour battery life
  • AC charger
  • Auto Power off after 15 Min
  • NFC, Android Near Field Communication
  • 20-20,000 frequency response
  • 30 Watts power
  • Dimensions L 8.31 X H 3.15 X W 2.37
  • Audio In jack
  • 5 Volt USB charging outlet
  • Water resistant IPX5 rating
I liked that the speakers were very compact and re-chargeable so I could not only use them inside my boat but I could move them out into the cockpit or take them ashore for a beach party if I wanted.

They are water resistant so a little rain or sea spray will not damage them. Mounting options are limited but I found Velcro works nicely to hold them into place on a bulkhead or shelf.

The speakers have seven button on top of the speaker to control the functionality. These include the Power button, Volume Up and Down, Phone, Add, Pairing and Extra Bass.

The Power Button will power the speaker on and it will also power down the the speaker and the other speaker that it is paired with.  This is convenient not having to go to each speaker and power them down separately.

The volume Up and Down buttons control volume on both the speaker and the other speaker that it is paired with. Volume can also be controlled from your mobile device's volume controls.

The Pairing button is used to connect the speaker to your mobile device and to a second speaker if desired. Make sure to turn on Bluetooth in your mobile device's settings. Press and hold down the pairing button until you hears some beeps which puts the speaker into pairing mode. The pairing indication will flash rapidly white. Go to Bluetooth settings on your device and select SRS-XB3. Once the speaker is paired it will remember your device. The speakers will remember up to 8 devices and automatically pair to your mobile device the next time it is used.

The Add button is used to pair an additional Sony SRS-XB3 speaker to the existing speaker. The speakers have to be paired with each other before they can be paired with your mobile device. First turn on one speaker and hold the Add button down until you hear a tone. Next turn on the other speaker and select the Add button again. This will pair the two speakers together.

Next to the Add button you will see a L and R indication light.  Once the speakers are paired together, tapping the Add button will change between stereo, left and right channels or mono natural. When L is selected on one speaker and R is selected on other this will give you true stereo channel separation for an awesome sound.  Selecting both L and R on each speaker will give you both channels in each speaker. I have not seen many speakers allowing the stereo channel separation option.

Once the two speakers are paired together you can then pair your mobile device to the first speaker that has the pairing indication flashing.

The Extra Bass button provides just that. Pressing this allows each speaker to delivery a richer and deeper bass sound. When the two speakers are paired together pressing this on one speaker enables it on both speakers.

On the back of the speaker behind a pop off door are the connections for the DC in for charging the speaker, USB DC out for charging a mobile device, audio in jack and a reset button.  The USB DC charging feature is another option that could come in handy if your mobile device needs charging.

I am sure there are other more expensive Bluetooth options out there for mobile speakers but for $98 on Amazon, these little speakers are an awesome set with many capabilities.

What are you using on board your boat for speakers and entertainment systems? Please comment below and let me know what is working for you.

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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

FLIR One for iOS and Android

Application: iPhone, iPad, iOS>7.0, Android devices
Function: Thermal Imaging, night vision
Rating: *****
Cost: FLIR One $249, Apps are Free

All images compliments of FLIR
The iOS and Android mobile devices are impacting every industry on the planet. These small computers and apps that we carry around in our hands can do some pretty amazing things. My blog is primarily focused on marine charting, weather and navigation apps. The application of a thermal imaging device is a bit of a sidebar but I thought it was interesting, useful and very applicable to the marine industry.

The digital imaging capabilities of the iPhone make it perfect for a thermal imaging device. FLIR is one of the leading thermal imaging companies in the world.  FLIR makes commercial imaging cameras and devices for a variety of uses including night vision, fire fighting, law enforcement, security and surveillance, safety, electrical maintenance, search and rescue, marine, energy efficiency.

I reviewed the iPhone 5/5s FLIR One thermal imaging device in a blog post back in 2014. That device retailed for $349 and was more of a case version that the iPhone fit into. Rather than trying to keep up with the ever changing sizes of each iPhone release, FLIR created a more universal device which connects through the lightning charging port on the bottom of the iPhone or iPad. There is an Android version also.

Their latest addition to their product line is the FLIR One compact dongle that can be attached to your iPhone or iPad which allows you to see the infrared spectrum on your devices display. The Android version connect to the micro USB of that device.

The FLIR ONE dongle uses MSX technology which utilizes two cameras to scan images. One camera picks up the thermal imaging spectrum and the other picks up a visual image. The two images are combined to create a unique viewable image.

  • Measures temperature from -4 degrees F to 248 degrees F(-20 C to 120 C)
  • FLIR MSX technology
  • Lepton imaging technology
  • Attaches to iOS devices through the lightning connection
  • Attaches to Android devices through the micro USB port
  • Capture still or video images .mov
  • Panorama
  • Time lapse
  • Close up
  • 7 Dynamic video display palettes, rainbow, BW, WB, rainbow, contrast, arctic, hot and cold and iron
  • Social media sharing Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email and text
  • Internal re-chargable 350 mAh battery
  • Battery monitor
  • Copy image to camera roll
  • 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
  • Aid in man overboard nigh time situations 
  • One year warranty
Boat Beacon Man overboard
There are several apps that can be used to display the thermal images. The popular Boat Beacon app has incorporated the use of the FLIR One into its augmented reality display. Other iOS apps can be found in the App Store such as Thermal Compare and the FLIR One Paint app.  Check out FLIR's list of all compatible apps for the FLIR One.

This device can be used for many applications around your home or on you boat. I can think of many uses including checking engine temperature, exhaust or hot spots, checking insulation around windows and refrigerator seals. This app could help you see hot spots and locate faulty wiring connections.
Boat Beacon Augmented reality night vision
On a boat it might be useful in a man overboard situation. This thermal imaging device could help you locate a person by their thermal signature on a pitch black night.

There are marine apps that have incorporated this functionality into their displays. The image from Pocket Mariner's Boat Beacon app shows what their augmented reality app display looks like. This night vision display make it easy to pick out other boats and ships in the area. Pocket Mariner has a blog post about the use of augmented reality night vision display using the Flir One dongle attached to an iPhone.

I am a real gadget guy and think it would be cool to have one but would this really be something I would use on a daily basis. I am still on the fence. The price of $249 makes it a little more attractive.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who may have this device or a night vision scope. Do you find these devices handy or are they just an expensive piece of gear one could live without?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)