Saturday, January 25, 2014

Gemeco iNstall

Application: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch iOS 6.1 or greater
Function:  Marine Electronic Reference and Tools
Rating: *****
Cost: Free

You have heard the saying, "There is an App for that"! Well if your a boater needing to design, test or install electronics on your yacht, this is the app for thatThe great folks at Gemeco and Millport Media have put together a great list of reference material and a few handy tools to help you do the job. Gemeco is a marine wholesale supplier of marine electronics located in South Carolina.

Although they do not sell retail the app can be used by anyone wanting to learn more about transducers, wiring diagrams, NMEA cables and more.  Several programs within the app help the installer with installation guides, PDF product brochures, tilt measurement, wire sizer, EDI test data and temp sensor testing.


Gemeco has put together a dozen useful reference and installation tools for the marine electronics installer and made them available on your iOS device in one slick app.

Transducer selection

This option allows the user to find the exact transducer for their specific needs.

By making a few selections from the spinner wheels the app takes you through the process to locate the product you need for you installation.

Select Type, Mounting, Housing, and Cable type to locate the transducer for you project.

Tilt Measurement

There are several apps that will give you angular measurements.  The cool thing about this is that it is included in the iNstall app for free.

This would probably work best on your iPhone so you could get into tight places on you yacht to measure the hull angle.

This handy too allows you to measure the deadrise of your hull where you want to install you transducer.  The proper tilt of the transducer is shown at the bottom of the app.

Wiring Diagram

This selection provides the transducer cable pin out wiring diagrams for all the popular companies including SiTex, Lowrance, Raymarine, Foruno, Garmin, Simrad, Navman and Northstar.

Select any diagram to view the details. Options to print or email the diagram are also provided.

Installation Guides and Brochures

These selections provide a very extensive list of PDF formatted installation guides and information brochures. 

Most of these are Airmar products.  Airmar is the major manufacturer of all sorts of transducers including, depth, temp, weather, speed and GPS devices.

In addition to all the informational sections of the app it also has some very useful tools to help you do electronic installations.

Magnetic Field

Magnetic and electric fields can influence and affect the readings or your onboard  electronic.  That is why it is good to use shielded wire and cable for installations. 

The Magnetic field meter is useful to detect the source of electronic fields and possible interference on you yacht.  If your installing sensitive devices like auto pilot heading sensors or fluxgate compasses. Use this tool to find a magnetic field free area of your boat.


I have reviewed several apps that do wire size calculations.  This selection allows a quick and easy wire size selection with an entry of a few parameters.

Simply select the system, voltage, % voltage drop, and whether it is in the engine room or not. Resistance of a wire increases as the temperature increases.

Select the circuit type, length, current  and the correct wire size is calculated.

Temp Sensor Testing

Many through hull transducers have a built in temperature sensor.  To determine if your sensor is reading correctly you need to know the resistance at certain temperature readings. The temperature sensor testing tool provides a list of temperature readings and corresponding resistance readings.

Simply select the thermistor type for you model and then measure the resistance of the transducer with an ohm meter.  Select the Test Pins page to see what pins on the cable to measure with your ohm meter. Measure the water temperature and see if the resistance readings match the listed temperatures on the spinner wheel.

EDI Test Data

For the real electronics technician, test data including resistance and frequency are provided along with the measuring pin outs. This will not make much sense to the average boater unless you have some EDI test equipment around and know how to use it.  Most of us know that if the transducer is not working we pull it out and get a new one. It is pretty tough to field troubleshoot and repair these devices.

I am very impressed with the iNstall app. I like the idea of getting all the data, tools, manuals and brochures in one spot on my iPhone or iPad.  I wrote a blog post showing how to save PDF manual in the iBooks app on your iOS device. This is easy to do and you can save just the manuals you need for the equipment on your yacht.

Download the iNstall app, it is a no brainer. Add it to your tools folder and have it handy if you ever need to do some trouble shooting or need to select a new transducer for your electronics.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

NOAA Paper Charts, New Online Viewer and 400dpi

NOAA's Office of Coastal Survey announced that starting April 13, 2014 they will no longer print lithographic nautical charts. These lithographic charts have been around since 1862 when the Office of Coastal Survey began printing the popular marine charts. Sailor, boaters and mariner have relied on these charts to navigate the coastal water of the US including the Great Lakes, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

In recent years the increased use of electronic charts and a decreased use of paper charts has been overwhelming.  The availability of electronic charts in ENC format for PC and mobile devices and print on demand chart services were some additional factors that necessitated the change.  Paper charts will only be available for purchase from NOAA's certified print on demand chart suppliers.

PDF Nautical Charts Service

NOAA has also introduced a service that will allow you to download, view and print the PDF versions of the paper like Raster charts.  This version is nice because it is portable and readable by any pdf viewer and most web browsers.  Zooming and panning of the images is allowed.

They are in the process of evaluating this service also to determine if it is useful to mariners. So if you like the PDF version of the files let NOAA know so this service will continue to be offered.

RNC 400 Dots Per Inch Upgrade

NOAA also recently announced that it will be upgrading the NOAA Raster Nautical Charts to 400dpi resolution.  The present charts are 254dpi so there will be a noticeable increase in clarity and readability of the new charts.  A test set of a limited number of 400DPI files is located on the NOAA site. The test files include Tampa Bay, Detroit, Long Island Sound, and Puget Sound.  If no issues are noted with the test files NOAA will begin upgrading all the RNC files starting in January 2014.  NOAA is taking comments on the new format at this time. If you have any comments about the new format direct them to the NOAA site.

This increase in resolution will be an added bonus to the iOS and Android marine charting apps that use these files. iOS app like iNavX, SEAiq and NobelTec are some of the top performing apps that I have reviewed and that use the RNC charts. I assume it will take some programming changes by these developers to use the new 400dpi chart formats.

Online Chart Viewer

The online chart viewer is another way you can access all of NOAA's RNC charts.  The viewer is an easy way to access charts if you have an Internet connection.  It will work on any PC or Mac web browser along with the Adobe Flash Player.  I tried to use it on my iPad with no luck do to the absence of Flash support. Darn you Steve Jobs. It should however work on any Android mobile device since they do not have that limitation.

The charts are listed by Region, number and name so it is easy to find the area you are interested in.  Regions included Atlantic Coast. Gulf Coast, Pacific Coast. Alaska and the Great Lakes.  A notice to mariners that these screen captures do not fulfill the chart carrying requirements for regulated commercial vessels under Titles 33 and 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Only official full scale nautical charts should be used for real world navigation.

Well, it appears our US government is in fact paying attention to the changes in the marine industry.  They are changing with the times to better serve the mariners who use their products.  I find it encouraging to see the government actually stopped some processes that are no longer used or required. I commend the Office of Coastal Survey for listening and reacting positively to change.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)