Monday, October 8, 2018

C-Map Embark Marine Charting and Navigation

Application: iPhone, iPad, and Android devices
Function: Marine charting, navigation, weather, routing and way points
Rating: *****
Cost: Free with in app purchases

Finally, we have another new marine app introduced for our mobile devices.  Navionics, iNavX, SEAiq, i-Sailor, SeaPilot and SeaNav are the most popular apps to date. There have been many upgrades to these existing app and I have tried to cover most of them. You can see my list of Best Marine Charting Apps in the blog menus above.

I am excited to see how C-Map Embark stacks up with the existing list of apps. Embark is now available in iOS on iTunes and Android versions.

Features:
  • C-Map Charts
  • Offline Maps with in app purchase
  • Routes
  • Way points(Places)
  • Tracking
  • Real time navigation 
  • GPS tracking
  • Search feature with 1000's of marinas and points of interest
  • User POI ratings and feedback
  • Speed
  • Heading
  • GPS position
  • Weather 
  • Tides and wave forecasts $8.99/yr
  • Marine Traffic
  • Share your position with friends
  • View other Embark users
  • Backup places, way points and routes

Display:

The main display of Embark as the app opens up is a world map. The continents are shown in a tan color with a white background.  There are very few soft keys or buttons for navigation.

The menu for the different features is reached using the three horizontal lines in the left side of the search box in the upper left of the screen.

Selecting this shows a drop down of features including, Place, Routes, Tracks, Transport mode, Traffic, Weather forecasts, Offline Maps and Help and Feedback.

The Search feature is very powerful and will help you locate specific locations and services.  Tapping in the Search box will display search headings for marinas, anchoring spots, fuel and beach locations.

The chart is then updated to display the locations of your selected searches.  Some searches produced good results while others produce very few on the chart.

Using the pinch to zoom gestures you can quickly zoom into the area of  your choice.  Once zoomed in you will see more and more chart detail come into view. Lights, channel marker, depth gradients, anchorages and wrecks will show up on the chart.

Charts:

The Embark app uses C-Maps marine charts. Charts are updated monthly and can be used with an Internet connection for free or purchased for offline use with an in app purchase. Charts are not yet available for worldwide coverage but most continents are covered. Charts are purchased from a list of 70 regions with the app. Purchases are only good for one year subscription.

There is a 14 day free trial of the offline charts, weather and tide information. Chart prices range from $25.99 to $65.99 dollars depending on the region you purchase. Maps colors can be adjusted for depth contours and night versions for ease of viewing.

Places:

The Places page can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page.

Places are not really way points in that they cannot be use in a route. They are more like pins of locations you may want to save to go back to.  It would be nice to have a "navigate to" option for places that you have saved.

Once you have created a place you can view the list of places and sort them with the icon in the upper right side of the screen.


Traffic:

The app has a Traffic feature which can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page. Enabling this feature will allow you to see nearby vessels and for them to be able to see your location on the chart.  This is not a true AIS feature in that it you will need Internet or cell service for it to work.

This feature will only show vessels with AIS targets that are picked up by land based receivers.   You can also elect to show your position to other nearby Embark users.

Weather:

Weather is a premium service and is only available with a paid subscription. There is an offer of a free trial period to see if these functions are worth the price. One month of service is $8.99 and one year of service is $39.99.

This feature will only work with an Internet connection so it is of little use offshore.

Forecasts include maritime weather, water, air temperatures, tides, wave, wind speed and direction. Tides are also included with the weather data.

Tracking:

The app has a tracking feature which can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page. 

Select Tracks to bring up the Tracks page and the list of saved tracks.  To record a track select the red record button in the bottom right of the screen. The tracks can be sorted with the up and down arrow icon in the top right of the screen.

Routes:

The app has a Route feature which can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page. 

Select Routes to bring up the Routes page and the list of saved routes. To create a route, select the purple button in the bottom right of the screen.

The routes can be sorted various ways with the up and down arrow icon in the top right of the screen.

There are some display issues on the Routes page which need correcting. You can see that the way points list on the bottom is not properly displaying the latitude and longitude.


Transport Mode:

The app has a real time Tracking Mode feature which can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page.

Selecting this brings up your current GPS position and chart of the area. On top of the display you will see your speed (COG course over ground) and you heading.  The current GPS location is also listed.

This display is pretty basic and only shows minimal data of speed and heading for real time navigation.

There were some display formatting issues which can be seen on the knots and heading display.  This error showed up in the landscape and portrait displays. Hopefully this will be addressed by the developer. I was using a 5 generation iPad to take these screen shots.

Cruising Guide:

The Cruising Guide contains information about places added by boaters and is made available to the entire boating community. Users created posts with marinas, fishing spots, anchorages, beaches, restaurants, services, pictures and reviews.  A search feature allows quick look up of various locations in these groups. Simply type in a location to find it on the charts.

The app is pretty basic in its features and functionality. If you are in need of some free charts and only do coastal cruising this app is a good free choice.  If you are in need of advanced charting features and more functionality, I would suggest some others apps like Navionics, SEAiq or iNavX.

What charting app do you use? What features do you look for in a charting app? Comment below!

~~~ Sail On ~~~/)
Mark

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Digital Yacht iAIS with Navionics Charts

Application: iPad, iPhone
Function: Mobile device AIS display on charts
Rating:*****
Cost: The iAISs app is free but a $9.99 in app purchase for Navionics chart display.


I am constantly looking for apps that provide value and unique features to share with the boating world. Many of you are familiar with AIS, Automatic Identification Systems.  This system allows boaters to identify others yachts around them and get valuable information like speed and course data. This data can then be use to determine if you and the boats around you are on a collision course. Many recreational boats now have AIS B receivers and transponders to add this level of safety.

Digital Yacht is one company that provides AIS systems along with various other marine electronics.  I do not work for Digital Yachts and I do not have any affiliation with them.  I do like many of the innovative products and apps that they produce.

In their latest news release they have teamed up with Navionics to allow you to use the charts you have already purchased to display AIS data in their iAIS app. No other app that I know of has this capability.

Digital Yacht had developed the iAIS app several years ago which displays AIS data from many of their AIS products on mobile devices.

They recently teamed up with Navionics to allow users who have already purchased Navionics electronic marine charts to use that subscription on other apps.  The Digital Yacht iAIS app is free to download and with an in app purchase of $9.99 a user can then display AIS targets in the app on their Navionics marine charts. You simply log into the iAIS app with your Navionics account and you then have access to your Navionics charts in the iAIS app.

Features:
  • Requires a WiFi enabled AIS system already installed on your boat
  • Real Time AIS position and target display
  • Pan and zoom around the chart
  • Tap AIS targets for detailed information
  • TCP/IP or UDP protocol
  • Simple AIS plotter and NMEA data instrument display
  • Used with WiFi AIS receivers and transponders
  • SOG, Speed over Ground
  • GSA, Position Type
  • ALT, Altimeter
  • HDG, Heading
  • HPE, Horizontal Position Error
  • LAT, Latitude
  • LON, Longitude
  • TCT, Target count
  • AWS, Apparent Wind speed
  • AWA, Apparent Wind angle
  • TWS, True Wind speed
  • TWA, True Wind angle
  • AWD, Apparent Wind direction
  • TWD, True Wind Direction
  • GSV, Satellites in view
  • FIX, Position mode
  • CON, Connection type
  • Destination
  • Boat type
  • Length
  • GPS and Wind instrument data display
  • In app purchase for use of your existing Navionics charts
  • Share your boats position, speed, course over free Internet based AIS apps and websites


The iAIS app has four main pages, Plotter, Targets, Instruments and Settings.

The Plotter page is where the AIS targets are displayed relative to your position. The targets can then be selected to display more information about their identity, speed and course. This data can then be used to determine if your yacht is on a collision course.

Other soft keys at the bottom of the Plotter page include Targets and Instruments. Each of these pages have Settings pages to adjust the values associated with them.

The Settings gear icon in the upper right lets you select display modes, icons position, vector sizes and scales.

The option to the Navionics Chart Add-on is also shown here.  For $9.99 the in app purchase will allow current Navionics chart owners to use them in the iAIS app to overlay and display the AIS data.

This screen shot shows the Navionics charts with an AIS targets displayed. Selecting the target, in this case the yacht Vantage, shows all the information from that yacht.

The iAIS app can still be used to display AIS targets even if you don't have any Navionics charts. I have purchased Navionics charts for my Navionics Boating app so those charts are available to use with the iAIS app.


The next page is the AIS Targets page, this shows a list of all the AIS targets in the area near your yacht. The range of the AIS targets can be up to 20 miles away in good conditions.

Any of these targets can be selected to show additional information about the other yachts. Data such as course, heading, speed, bearing, call sign, MMSI type of yacht, destination and position.

All of this data can then be used to determine if these targets may be on a collision course with your yacht. Having this data adds a level of safety that has never been possible before AIS.


The third page in the iAIS app is the Instrument display page.  The app will display a variety of instrument data if your yachts instruments are connected to a WiFi enabled router.

A wide variety of up to 20 different instrument data types can be displayed including location, wind speed and direction, satellite data, course, speed and position data.

Select the gear icon in the upper right of the display to enable the different instrument and data displays.


WiFi connectivity can be set up using the TCP/IP icon in the upper left of the Instrument display setup.

The TCP/IP connection will need an IP address and port number of the WiFi router.  The UDP connection will need just a port number.

Once you are all set up the instrument data from you yacht will be available on your iPhone or iPad.  This will allow you to access and view your ships data from anywhere on your yacht, from your helm, chart table, the head or in the comfort of your berth.

Digital Yacht continues to provide innovative and useful hardware and software application for the geeky connected boater.  Let me know what your experience is if you are using the app.  Do you find AIS useful as an added safety feature?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark







Sunday, February 18, 2018

Digital Yachts Nomad Portable Class B AIS Transponder

Application: iPad, iPhone, PC and Android Devices
Function: AIS Class B receiving and transmitting
Rating: *****
Cost: Nomad AIS Unit $699 US, compatible with many PC and mobile devices.

Image compliments of Digital Yacht
Digital Yacht is a leading edge marine electronics company. They are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to improve marine electronics and connect our mobile devices to yacht electronics. You may be familiar with some of their AIS, wind, GPS, multiplexer, signal K and wireless products.

Digital Yacht's latest Nomad AIS product is in the area of AIS.  AIS is the Automatic Identification System used by commercial and other yachts to identify each other at sea.  All commercial ships over 300 tons are required to have a AIS Class A system. Non commercial yachts use the Class B system. The system uses VHF frequencies and has a range of about 15-20 miles.  Early systems only allowed receiving AIS data from other ships. The new transponders can now not only receive other ships position data but also transmit data.  Many of these class B transponders range from $500 to $2000 dollars.

The advantage of having an AIS system is that it provides data about other ships which can improve your safety by knowing if other ships are on a collision course with your yacht.  Other ships can also see your course, speed and position data which improves safety and prevents collisions.

Digital Yachts new Namad  AIS system is portable and costs $699. It is designed for recreational users who want a low cost portable solution.  It has a wireless connectivity for computers and tablets and is USB powered all in a compact portable package.

The Nomad device was built to be mobile so it would appeal to charter captains and pilots who want this AIS capability on any yacht they step onto. 

Features:


  • Class B AIS transponder
  • Compact antenna receives AIS 10-12 nautical miles and transmit 5 nautical miles.
  • Mast mounted antenna receives and sends AIS signals 20 nautical miles at 2 watts.
  • Opens up new “portable navigation” market with the 1st portable Class B AIS transponder
  • Applications include charter and delivery skippers, pilots, tenders and back up for main systems
  • Can be utilized as AIS/GPS receive only
  • Powered via USB – connect to PC, USB outlet or USB battery pack for power
  • Wireless interface for iPad, tablet or PC/MAC
  • Built in high performance GPS
  • Supplied with portable VHF antenna with sucker cup mount
  • Can be used as AIS receiver only (if no MMSI programmed) or if silent mode selected
  • Programmable via PC, Mac and app
  • Choose your favourite charting and AIS app!
  • Wireless connectivity through TCP/IP and UDP for up to 7 devices
Image compliment of Digital Yacht
Any AIS compatible software can be use to create a virtual com port. The unit is compatible with many PC charting and navigation software packages like MaxSea, Nobletech, Expedition, SeaPro and OpenCPN. Connecting it to your PC with the USB cable will power the unit and send data AIS and GPS data to your PC.

For tablets and iPads the wireless WiFi interface is used. Up to 7 devices can be connected using TCP/IP or UDP protocols. Simply go to your setting page and select the Nomad WiFi connection. Once connected the AIS and GPS data can be used by many iPad and Android devices. 



The only downside I see for the Nomad is the cost. If you don't need a mobile solution there are other cheaper options out there for Class B transponders. A did a quick Google of AIS class B transponders and it showed a Milltech model for $499, Garmin AIS 300 for $406 and Vesper's XB-6000 for $555.

Has anyone use the Nomad, if so, please share your experience.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark