Friday, December 28, 2012

Bad Elf GPS Pro

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch,
Function: GPS position and tracking
Cost: Free
Rating: *****

I hope everyone had a glorious Christmas. I certainly did, celebrating with my family and relatives.  Christmas eve service, food, wine, gifts, and assorted Christmas goodies were all part of the festivities.  New Years is just around the corner and we are about to go off the Fiscal Cliff.  Well at least the world did not end on December 21st. We seemed to have at least dodged that one!

It is a busy time of year so, I will do my best to keep updating my blog.  Speaking of Christmas, how about some Bad Elves.  No not those little vertically challenged folks in green and red costumes.  I am talking about the Bad Elf GPS.   I followed the development of the original Bad Elf GPS a couple of years ago.  I had purchased an iPod Touch which had no GPS so I looked a various options to get GPS coordinates to my device and apps.  It easily plugged into the 30 pin connector on the bottom of my device and provided the needed GPS signal to my iPod Touch. 

Bad Elf has now come out with an new and improved version of their little GPS. The new model is called the Bad Elf Pro BE-GPS-2200.
This model has Bluetooth and a host of new features that make it make it real winner!


  • LCD Display
  • Bluetooth communication 
  • Supports dozens of third party apps
  • Supports up to 5 devices at a time
  • 16 hour battery life with Bluetooth connections
  • 32 hour battery life as data logger
  • Configurable GPS sampling rate
  • Stand alone data logger
  • Points of Interest
  • Splash proof IPX4 rated
  • 45 second GPS lock time
  • 2.5 meter accuracy
  • 60,000 feet max altitude
  • 66 channel MTK chipset
  • Mini USB port for charging
  • Upgradable firmware
  • 3.2 oz
  • Download logs to iPhone or iPad
The Bad Elf GPS Pro can be used as a GPS source for the iPad, iPad2, iPad3, iPhone 3G, 3GS, iPod Touch 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation.

The GPS is Apple Mfi approved and works with virtually any locational based app available in the iTunes AppStore.
All the major marine, aviation, hiking, vehicle navigation, cycling, running/walking, golfing and geocaching  apps can be used with the Bad Elf GPS devices.

Marine apps include, iNavX, Navionics, iSailor, MotionX GPS, MemoryMaps, Chart and Tids, SailMaps, Jeppesen, Marine Charts and Imray. 

The Bad Elf GPS Pro comes with a companion app to use and display logged GPS data.

The Bad Elf app has five soft keys at the bottom of the screen for navigating the different pages of data and maps. The first Bad Elf page allows you to select the Bad Elf version that you have. This is where you initiate the connection to your Bad Elf device. It will work with the original or the new Pro model.

 The second page show the GPS data. There is not much special here, just some standard position, accuracy, time, speed and heading data.

The Map page will show your realtime GPS position.  The Trips page is where you can view data from your logged trips.  Data logging is only available on the new GPS-2200 model. You can use it independently on your travels to record your trips.  The GPS-2200 can then be paired with an iPhone or iPad and the logged trip data files can be downloaded to the device for viewing and analysis.

On the Info page you will find the settings for the app. Here you can setup the units for distance, speed and export capabilities to email, and iTunes in KML an GPX formats. Other FAQ and support pages are offered here too.

The app provides the ability to email and export the log files to in GPX and KML formats. The OpenIn feature also allows many of the third party apps to display the GPS-220 log files also. Not all app support this feature but many of the marine charting apps will open and display the log files on marine charts.

A handy trip details page provides the user with many maximum and average speed, distance and altitude readings for each log file.

It looks like a solid device that does more than just provide you with some GPS coordinate data.  It can provide GPS data for up to 5 devices simultaneously so everyone on board can have access to it.  The logging feature is an added bonus and the free app let you control and view all the necessary information and log files.

If you have an older WiFi only iPad or iPod touch that you want to put to use on your boat this is one alternative. The price tag is around $144 on Amazon so it is not cheap. If you are buying a new iPad be sure to get the 3 or 4G versions that have the GPS chip in them. You pay about the same and it is much more convenient having the GPS on your iPad.

The device and app only support iOS devices at this time, so the Android folks are left out of the game again.  Rumor has it that it is just a firmware limitation and that it may be addressed in coming updates. Stayed tuned!

~~~Sail On~~~ /)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays - Xmas Touch

Application: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Function: Christmas photobooth
Cost: $.99
Rating: *****

The Christmas Season is upon us and it is a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  I hope that you are surrounded by family, friends, warm weather and fair winds. This is a time to reflect on the many blessings we have and how fortunate we are to live where we live and able to do the things we love.  Some of you are celebrating the holidays on land with the "dirt dwellers", like me, while many of you are anchored in some exotic locations worlds away. My hope it that you are all chasing your dream and living life to the fullest each day.  We are here on earth such a short time, don't waste a minute of it wishing you were doing something different with you life. 

I have been writing this blog for about two years and have to say it has been a blast. I have found a creative outlet for myself, learned alot and made many friends in the marine industry along the way. I have always found that people who hang around boats are exceptionally great people, willing to help out and lend a hand when needed.  We all have a common bond.  Boaters understand it is about the journey not the destination.  Most of us know that by putting good thoughts and deeds out there, they come back to you 1000 times over. 

In the blogi-sphere it takes a while to gain a following and I do thank my many loyal followers for checking in every few days to see what I have dreamed up.  Most of my blog posts are reviews or tutorials which are kind of technical and my be boring to some.  Whenever I try to explain these awesome marine apps to my wife I get this glossy eyed look, like I don't care. 

My goal all along has been to review the latest, coolest and Geekiest marine apps in hopes of explaining the intricate details of how many of them work.  I know I have helped a few of you because I get emails from people all over the world expressing their thanks.  The pleasure has been all mine. Just to know that I helped someone understand an app a little better gives me a great deal of personal satisfaction and a warm fuzzy feeling all over.

I try to throw in a post once in a while of something out of the ordinary to keep it interesting.  I don't get many comment on these so I assume they are not of interest and have kept them to a minimum.  Today is one of those days but I guarantee you will enjoy this app and get a chuckle out of this post.

I ran across a fun little app to make your Christmas a little more enjoyable.  Xmas Touch will cost you $.99 but it is well worth it just for the fun you will have. 

It is very easy to use and it will allow you to decorate any picture with a variety of Christmas items and ornaments.  It will work best with pictures of yourself, friends, family or even your family pet.

The app's first screen has options to take a picture with the camera on your iPhone or iPad or choose a photo from your picture gallery.

Once you have selected your picture it will drop you into the photo booth mode where you can start adding items to the photo.  This is where the fun starts!  Select the Cabinet icon in the lower left of the screen to access the items. They include different hats, glasses, lights, antlers, beards, ornaments, hair and other items.

With the cooperation of my Golden Retriever "Piper" I was able to quickly make him look more festive for the holiday season.  He is a very photogenic dog, don't you think?

Selecting the next Drawer icon brings up the items you have added to the picture so far. They show up in the side banner in the upper right of the screen. You can select any of these to edit or if you want to delete them, first select the item and then hit the Trash icon.

Add a catchy holiday greeting by selecting the T icon.  You can also change the size, rotation and position of the selected items by using the controls in the lower right side of the screen.

Once you have completed your Holiday Creation you will surely want to share it with your friends.  Select the Black Arrow, upper left, to return to the menu.  The Share option will allow you to post it to Facebook, Twitter, email, or Instagram.

To save it to your Photos camera roll on your device, select the Save to Role selection.

It is a fun and easy way to add some Christmas cheer to your photos or get someone in the Christmas spirit.

Send me some of your creations and I will share them on the blog!

I am looking pretty salty below with my Santa beard and bulb ear ring. I hope your laughing by now!

Happy Holidays

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch 3rd gen, requires iOS 5.0
Function: Calculate polar diagrams for sailing performance
Rating: ***
Cost: $9.99

Your average boater is not going to have a clue what a polar is. Let me first say it is not where Santa Claus lives and it has nothing to do with an Express train either. Sorry for the Christmas references but it is the season. Sorry, it was a very lame attempt at a joke to get you to read the rest of the post. Now that I have your attention, the cute bear picture is compliments of!

If you are a sailboat enthusiast you may be interested in the app called iPolar.  The very smart people at KND-Sailing Performance from Valencia Spain have built this Velocity Prediction Program (VPP) app to help you quickly create polar diagrams and data with a few inputs of the boats vital statistics.  Polar diagrams are a very complicated subject and I will not go into a complete explanation here. You can Wiki or Google it to find out more. Basically, a polar diagram is the graphical diagram, consisting of the theoretical maximum boat speeds at various true wind speeds and headings, along with the associated upwind and downwind VMGs (velocities made good).  Knowing your boats optimum points of sail with respect to the wind can give you an edge in a race or get your across oceans is a shorter amount of time.

  • Calculate polars for cruising yachts 8-20 meters
  • No multi hull support
  • Length Overall input
  • Displacement input
  • Mainsail area input
  • Jib area input
  • Unit in metric or imperial
  • Length Waterline input
  • Symmetrical Spinnaker area
  • Asymmetrical spinnaker area
  • Resulting polars can be visualized as a graph or table of numbers
  • Polars can be sent directly to the weather/routing application such as Weather4D Pro
The app will calculate a polar for each sail configuration in the input data.  iPolar will compute a polar diagram describing the yacht's performance in kts for wind strength ranging from 4 to 30kts and true wind angles ranging from 0° to 180°.

The app has three soft keys at the bottom of the screen. These include Parameters, Polars and Values.

The Parameters page is where you enter your boats name and mandatory data of Length, Displacement, Main Sail area and Jib sail area. Several different boats and configurations can be added to the app.

Optional parameters include Length at waterline, symmetrical spinnaker area and asymmetrical spinnaker are.

The Polars page shows you the diagram of your yachts. Note the two buttons at the top for selecting the Main-Jib configurations and the Main-Spinnaker option.

The app is designed to develop polars for cruising and racer/cruising types of sailboats.

The accuracy of the polar data decreases for yachts that have measurements or displacement to length ratios outside the range of production cruising yachts.

The Wind speed can be adjusted with the slide bar at the bottom of the screen. Note the different diagrams drawn on the chart.

The tabular Polar data is displayed under the third tab called Values. Wind speed is across the x axis and direction is on the y axis.

The polar data can also be exported to the Weather 4D Pro app. Select the arrow icon at the top to export the data.  The Weather 4D Pro app has a weather routing module that will calculate the optimum route for the current wind and boat polar parameters.

The custom polar diagram can be selected within the Routing module of the Weather 4D Pro app.

This is all pretty technical stuff and your average boater may never need to consider this level of detail.  If your a true ocean racer and want to get the best performance out of your yacht, iPolar will give you some data to improve your performance and cross oceans in the most efficient manner.  The Weather 4D PRO app is another great app to use when planning passages.

Christmas is coming soon and I hope all of you have your shopping done. If you know some Geeky sailor who might want to calculate Polars, I have just the stocking stuffer for him, iPolar.

~~~Sail On~~~ /)  

 ****Happy Holidays****

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Track Pad

Application: iPad Ver 5.0 or later
Function: Passage planning with currents and tides
Cost: Free
Rating: ***

I was paging through the many navigation apps the other day on iTunes and came across one I had not seen before.  Track Pad is a fairly new app that has been developed by the folks at Ruddernuts. I like these guys already just for their crazy name. They have put together a simple and intuitive app that can be used in passage planning.  It is designed primarily for sailors and calculates course and time to destination (TTD), calculations taking into various factors.  For us sailors this is an invaluable tool.

Track Pad is a great little app that should be on every sailor's iPad.  It is not available for the iPhone, so your out of luck there. 

The app is not a chart plotter, a GPS or a weather app.  It works independently from these devices to aid in your passage planning.  It allows the sailor to compute tacking solutions at any point of sail taking into account user selected wind and current directions and velocities.  Power boaters may also find it useful to calculate correct course settings taking into account wind and current conditions.

Tack Pad can use your sailboats Polar Diagrams to estimate speed and leeway.  Instant calculations provide estimated time of arrival and detailed information of the required course to steer and intermediate tacking points. Current and wind speeds and directions can be adjusted on the fly as conditions change. Instantaneous calculations provide the user with the new course to steer.

  • Drag and Drop multiple waypoints
  • Tacking solution calculate on the fly
  • Two pages for alternate routes
  • Downwind tacking
  • Estimate current speed and direction
  • Estimate wind speed and direction
  • Solve Course
  • Reverse Course
  • Add your boats polar diagrams through iTtunes
  • ETA and distances /tubes
  • Course to steer
  • Estimated leeway
  • Velocity made good
  • Estimated speed over ground

The main Track Pad display is simple and intuitive. The starting waypoint is the red waypoint labeled #1. Destination waypoints can be added with a double tap of your finger shown here as point #3. The gray intermediate tacking point is #2 and is automatically calculated.

The vital parts of the course and tacking points are listed in the diagram to the left. C is for Course to steer, B is for Bearing, Wind barb, TR is for Track, D is for distance, T is for Time and S is for speed.

All of these values are estimates and are used as a good starting point in you navigational trip planning.

The apps main display is used for creating the waypoints and adjusting the current and wind speeds and directions.

There are a set of icons on the lower right side of the screen to access other features and settings of the app.  The Top Page icon will allow you to select a second page for additional course calculations. The Arrows icon allows you to reverse the course and associated calculations with a touch of this button.  The Small i icon is for information of the waypoints. The last Gear icon is for the settings page which is shown at the left. 

Settings include velocity prediction programs (VPP) for three different boat characteristics. Polar boat performance settings and Leeway settings can be adjusted also based on your boats performance.

To start a course calculations just double tap the screen and start moving the points around the screen to estimate your intended route. As sailors we all know that wind and currents affect our boats intended course and speed. Tack Pad is programmed to make the calculations needed to come up with the course to steer taking into account these factors.

The example to the right shows my last trip from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini in the Bahamas.  The trip as the crow flys is about 50 miles at a bearing of 117 degrees.  The wind was about 12 knots right out of the east.  Simply double tap the screen to add additional points if needed.  Points can be removed by double tapping them again. A single tap on any point brings up the info screen for that waypoint.

The other important factor in this calculation is the Gulf Stream current. In this case I estimated it to be about 5 knots running northeast at about 18 degrees.

To adjust the current settings, I tapped and held my finger on green arrow.  I moved my finger in a circle around the point to set the direction and away or towards the point to increase or decrease the current speed.  The settings were shown at the bottom of the screen as I adjusted them.  I was able to tap and hold the wind barb and adjust the wind speed and direction in a similar fashion.

The red coarse to steer line then automatically calculated an estimated time to destination of  9 hours and 11 minutes, speed of 7.9 knots at a course of 153 degrees to reach Bimini.

Using your finger to make these settings takes some trial and error but it can be done with some practice. In this example I did not have to tack at all so no intermediate tacking points were calculated.  If the wind had been more on my nose, it would have calculated the optimum tacking point automatically.

This slick little app can take into account your sailboats Polar diagrams. Polars are a graphical representation of the performance of your boat at different wind speeds and points of sail.

In the settings menu, tap the Polar section to make changes to the Polar options.  Settings can be made for main and jib or spinnaker configurations.  Theoretical hull speed can be set here also.

Individual specific polar diagrams for your boat can be loaded in to the program using file sharing in iTunes. Open up iTune and connect your iPad. Select the APPS tab for your device and scroll down to Track Pad listed in file sharing. Simple drag or add the polar text file to this location. Make sure to change the file extension to .bp before adding it.

I am very impressed with this little app.  I found it very easy to use and I liked being able to modify the settings to fit my boat's performance characteristics.  It is very useful as a planning tool and is a good starting point for getting your boat headed in the right direction.  In situations where you are dealing with strong current or wind this app will quickly give you a sense of how those factors will affect your desired course.

~~~Sail On~~~

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Return to Basics!

Saturday mornings are my quiet time to sit down and write blog posts about some Geeky apps.  This morning is different.  I felt compelled to express some feelings about yesterdays tragedy.  When my eyes opened this morning I was still thinking about what took place in Connecticut yesterday morning.  Another troubled young man killing 26 people in the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. The victims included teachers, staff and 20 innocent children. This was in addition to the senseless mall shooting that took place in Oregon just a few days prior.

I watched the news most of the day as the details unfolded. At first it appeared most of the kids had made it out alive, then it was announced children had been slaughtered by a lone gunman with no apparent motive. I kept asking myself why, why would someone do this? How evil do you have to be to commit such unspeakable acts on poor defenseless children?  Some will say he was a troubled boy who no one could help. Some will foolishly blame guns for this insane act of violence.  I think there is something bigger happening here, something that goes to the very core of our society.

I am no expert but I can only give you my perspective and insight into why I think this may be happening.  In my short lifetime of 52 years, I have witnessed the decay of our society away from the morals and values that I was raised with and this country was founded on.  Good old Christian values of God, family, respect, caring, hope, love, humility, accountability, righteousness and community.  I was taught these by my two parents, my church and my community.

I was born in 1959 in a small Midwestern town to two loving parents that came from conservative christian backgrounds. I was no different from my friends or neighbors. You may have had a similar childhood. I spent my youth being taught values and principles that have guided my life and most of us in this country. My parents took us to church and taught us religious principles and values. In school it was ok to say a prayer, salute the flag, say the pledge of allegiance and be proud of our country and church. These morals and values are what held our society together. 

My father was the disciplinarian in our home. We learned right from wrong and respect by his example.  I would have never even considered using foul language for the fear of getting a good spanking.  A little fear was healthy and kept me on the straight and narrow path.  Today, we live in a society where parents are afraid to discipline their children for fear of child abuse charges. Today, kids have no fear of consequences for their actions due to this lack of discipline.

Like it or not, we are now reaping the results of what we have sown in our children.  We have to wake up as parents and return to these values or we will continue to see these societal problems get even worse.  Lets put a stop to this destructive path that we are on.  We need to all step up as parents and be responsible for the young lives we have in our hands, lead by example, teach them the morals and values we were taught. 

I gave both of my kids a big hug last night as I do most nights and told them that they are loved.  I can only think of those broken hearted Connecticut families who can't hug their kid tonight.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Welcoming Google Maps Back to the iPhone

Application: iPhone 3G, 4,4S,5
Function: Turn by turn navigation, search and POI
Cost: $Free
Rating: *****

Many of us remember when Apple made the big move to leave Google Maps out of their iOS 6.0 release.  I along with many users were up in arms over the deletion and protested.  Apple created their own Maps app which got alot of bad press.  Many users reported being taken to the wrong locations and many searches were reported to be inaccurate.  Heads rolled at Apple and they have since been working to improve their native Map App.

Google took their time to redesign their most awesome new Map app and just released it on December 12th for the iPhone.  The iPad release is expected soon.  Even though this is not strictly a marine app, I thought I would let you all know it is now available again and cover some of the new features.  This app will come in handy whether your on land or the water. The powerful Google search features just can't be beat.

The app is invaluable for searching for marinas, restaurants, fuel stations, parts stores, marine stores and grocery stores. 

  • Search for addresses, businesses and locations around the world
  • Best route and alternate routes
  • Mileage and travel time
  • Public Transit
  • Locate places to eat, drink, shop and play, with ratings and local reviews
  • Sign into Google to sync your searches, directions, and favorite places with your computer
  • Provides voice guided, turn-by-turn driving directions
  • Options for train, bus, subway or walking directions
  • Access live traffic information in many cities around the world
  • View 360-degree panoramas with street view and inside over 100,000 businesses worldwide
  • View high resolution satellite imagery
  • Use gestures to explore the map 
The new Google Maps app was redesigned from the ground up.  It has a great new look with a few new features sprinkled in.

Once you open the app it immediately finds your location and displays the search bar at the top. Simply type in an address, city, location or name of a business and it will instantly list the location along with address, phone number, website and a street view. Options for calling, saving and sharing the locations are listed for your convenience. 

On the top right side of the display are two icons. The People looking icon can be selected to sign into your Google account to save and synch your searches. The Turn arrow icon starts the navigation from you current location.  Select this to choose a destination to where you want to go.

The Arrow icon in the lower left takes you to your present position on the map.  The Three dots tab in the lower right brings up a menu to select real time traffic, public transit, satellite views and Google Earth.

A search for West Marine stores in the Miami area turns up several locations. The search results are listed from closest to farthest. Simply select one to start navigating.  The up and down arrows on the right can be selected to reverse the route.

At this point several routes should be shown with the best route normally highlighted in light blue. If Traffic is turned on the main route will show patches of yellow and red for traffic congestion.

Other alternate routes are highlighted in gray. Tap the gray alternate routes to see the mileage and time of travel.

One of the newest features of the app is voice guided turn by turn navigation.  Once you have selected you destination, you are provided with a pleasant voice giving you directions to your destination.  This new feature is awesome! It allows you to keep your eyes on the road instead of being distracted trying to read what your next turn might be.
The app has really become more of a full featured GPS road navigation app that will help you find and guide you to about any destination on the planet.
The Google Maps app is speedy, easy to navigate and now it talks to me. How cool is that?  Of course you will need to have cell service for it to work.  If your cruising along the ICW and want to know where the closest restaurant or marina is, just type it in, and your almost there.
~~~Sail On~~~ /)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weather 4D Pro 1.3.2 Updates

Application: iPad, iPhone 4S,5, iPod Touch 3,4,5 Requires 4.3 or higher
Function:Weather, Current Forecasts, Polars and Weather Routing
Cost: $27.99
Rating: ****

It snowed  yesterday for the first time this season.  We may have a White Christmas after all.  The weather has been unseasonably warm and dry up to this point.  You will notice from the picture above that our lake is not even frozen over completely yet.   Ice fisherman are normally out there by now wetting a line. They will have to wait for cooler weather.
Weather is a very important part of a boaters life.  Boats move with the seasons and the ebb and flow of the winds, currents and tides.  One app that gives you forecast weather data better than any other is Weather 4D Pro.  The author, Oliver Bouyssou, is constantly adding new features to make his app even more cutting edge and state of the art.  No other app puts together so much data and allows it to be viewed it in such an elegant way.

I reviewed the original Weather 4D app back in April 2011 and was blown away how cool it was.  Since then the app has gone "PRO" with new features to allow you to view currents, import polar data and create weather optimized routes.  Check out the list new features.

  • Compatibility iOS 6.
  • Isochronous routing  for sailing and motoring
  • Import of polar from csv file.
  • Management of polar combined with multiple sail sets
  • Mail request by Great Circle (Mail, XGate, AxcessPoint)
  • Management of a route from the current position
  • Compatibility with iPad mini and iPad 4th generation
  • Management of  Current GRIB parameter
  • Added units for currents
  • Compatibility with the "Export Routes" of iNavX
  • Ability to reverse a route.
  • Display of the estimate size of GRIB files.
  • Improved editing of grid.
  • Setting of the depth of historical (1d -> 30d or unlimited).
  • Predictions of satellite passes without a time limit related to the current GRIB file.
  • New weather models GCWF (Great Circle Weather Forecast)
  • Download GRIBs from Internet and Satellite connections
  • Added parameter "Currents" in the meteogram
  • Added display settings currents (Gradient, Isoplages)
  • Access to catalog Tidetech in the definition of GRIB file with filtering based on the geographical area
  • Tidetech tidal GRIB files and account management
  • Fixed maximum zoom level for GRIBs files containing "Currents" and / or "Waves"
  • Simulation of route and routing calculation with currents
  • Importation of polars from iPolar app
  • Visualization of polar diagram and tabular values 


Weather 4D Pro provides all the great weather forecast features of Weather 4D with all of the new additional features listed above.

The last several releases of Weather 4D Pro have added powerful weather routing features taking into account your yachts performance and polar diagrams.

Your average casual sailor in probably not going to worry about polar diagrams and maximizing your speed to that degree.  But if you race sailboats or plan on making a long ocean passage, it will come in handy to determine the optimum route for the forecast wind and current models.

A Polar diagram is the graphical diagram estimating the theoretical maximum boat speeds at various wind speeds and headings with the associated upwind and downwind velocities made good,VMG.  Polar Diagrams are used by sailors to determine the optimum course to sail, given the existing wind conditions.

Weather 4D Pro now gives you the ability to import a polar diagram data as a .csv file. The file can be email and then downloaded using the OPEN In feature to import the data file into Weather 4D Pro.  The Polar files are listed under the Route feature. Select your imported Polar file for use.


Routing was added to Weather 4D Pro with revision 1.3 and offers the ability to optimize your route in combination with the weather forecast GRIB data and your yachts polar diagram performance.

Francis Fustier at NavigationMac has a great tutorial on all the steps needed to import the polar csv files and optimize a route and then export the route back out to a program like iNavX.  He does a great job explaining it and has many nice screen shots showing exactly how it works, so I will not try to duplicate his efforts.  His routing comparisons with the MaxSea TimeZero program validate that the program works as advertised.

Current GRIBs: 

Another new feature for Weather 4D Pro has been the addition of Currents and being able to download and display these GRIB files. 

The current data comes from a company called Tidetech.  The current GRIB data is extensive and covers many areas. Make sure your area is covered before you make a purchase.

To get access to the data you will have to go to the Tidetech website to get a user name and login and purchase a PRO subscription to get access to the GRIB files.

The Pro subscription is a fairly expensive investment of $649 per year.  Once you have purchased your subscription go to the the Weather 4D Pro app and enter your user name and password for your Tidetech account at the bottom of the settings menu.

Weather 4D Pro continues to be the leader and my Go To app for GRIB forecast weather data.  The additional new features of Routing, Polars and Currents make this more than a just weather app.  These powerful features provide the mariner with additional tools to optimize the boats performance with the forecasted data and provide the optimal route.

If your a coastal cruiser like me the weather forecasts features are all I will probably use. If your in need of these additional technical planning features Weather 4D does a great job in providing them. 

~~~Sail On~~~ /)


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

iNavX 3.6.1 Introduces Theyr Weather

iNavX is one of the most full featured apps for marine navigation available today for the iPad and iPhone.  It is personally one of my favorites for is robust list of features.  They are constantly adding features and upgrading the user experience of their app. Their latest addition is the offering of high resolution GRIB weather forecast data and overlays for the app.  I have written about the iNavX app extensively, so be sure to check out all my tutorials on iNavX here.

iNavX is offering the new Theyr Weather high resolution GRIB data products for purchase on their X-Traverse site. Theyr is a fairly new company which has been around since about 2007.  They have quickly become one of the premiere providers of high resolution weather data products in the world.

Reliable and accurate weather forecast information is demanded by even your average boater today.  It can make the difference between a fun day on the water or possible disaster if your caught off guard by a storm.

Theyr Weather Forecast Features:
  • Wind
  • Wave
  • Pressure
  • Precipitation
  • Air Temperature
  • Sea Surface Temperature
  • Wind + Pressure + Precipitation
To add the Theyr weather data to your iNavX app you first have to go to the X-Traverse site and login with your user name and password. An X-Traverse account will cost you $10 per year.  Forking out $10 buck a year is kind of a pain, but if you want to download charts and GRIB files, pay up.  You will need to have Internet access, either WiFi, satellite or cell connection to download the GRIB files.

There are a couple of options when purchasing the Theyr weather GRIB overlays. If your on the water for just a few months a year it may make sense to purchase service on a monthly basis for $3.99.  They also have a monthly premium monthly product for $6.99.

If your sail more than a few months it is worth purchasing a yearly subscription for $9.99. The yearly premium product will run $19.99.

Standard subscriptions include: Pressure, Wind, Precipitation Rate, Air Temperature.  Premium subscriptions include: Pressure, Wind, Precipitation Rate, Air Temperatures, Sea Surface Temperatures.

Follow these step to purchase and access the data.
  1. Update iNavX to the latest version on the iTunes App Store.
  2. Log in to your X-Traverse account.
  3. Create an account if you don't have one. 
  4. Select Purchase Charts or Maps tab, then add the appropriate Theyr weather option to your shopping cart.
  5. Once purchased, launch iNavX on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.
  6. While viewing a chart, select Forecast, then Theyr Weather Parameters.
  7. Select the Region, then Mode.
  8. Select the Save button, then go back to the Chart tab.
  9. Use the arrows to advance to the next forecast or the animate button to cycle through the forecasts.
iNavX has the option to import the GRIB files from X-Traverse, email or through a satellite phone connection using XGate or the AxcessPoint app.

iNavX continues to provide value added services and data to the app.  The Theyr Grib file data is just another added feature in addition to the standard Grib file data that is available on iNavX.  I will be nice to have the option to access to the high resolution GRIB forecast data. 

Keep up the great work, iNavX!

~~~Sail On~~~ /)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vendee Globe 2012-2013

The Vendee Globe sailboat race is one of the most grueling test of the human endurance of any sport. The race takes place every 4 years and consists of 24,000 miles of unassisted non stop sailing around the world alone via the three capes.

This year 20 boat set out from Les Sables d'Olonne France on November 10th to take on the world's oceans. Seven boats have already dropped out of the race due to mechanical and electrical problems.

If your a sailing nut like me you want to be able to follow all the action and keep up on the latest news, videos and rankings of the boats.  Today's technology allows us up close and personal access to the race and the sailor's daily struggle. 

The Vendee Globe app is free, so download it now and start following your favorite skipper and boat. These 60 foot yachts are amazing and several 24 hour distance records have already been recorded.

The leader at this time is Francois Gabart who is sailing along at 20 knots on his way past the Cape Of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa. The race it close with several other boats in contention.

App Features:
  • Realtime tracking of boats and skippers
  • Get tracking and speed data of each boat
  • Check the latest weather
  • Keep up on the latest news
  • View pictures of the event
  • View Videos from the yachts
  • Get the latest rankings
  • Share your comments on Facebook and Twitter
  • Get the latest news and information relative to the village of Vendée Globe 2012-2013
I have to admit I will not ever get the chance to compete in this race, so this app may be the closest thing I will get to the real thing.  Don"t miss any of the action download it today!

~~~Sail On!~~~

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Garmin BlueChart Mobile Trip Planning App

Application: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
Function: Marine charting, planning and reference
Cost: Free
Rating: ****

The long awaited Garmin BlueChart app has finally hit the streets.  We were teased with a few screen shots back in February and promised the app this past summer. Well it was worth the wait. Garmin took their own sweet time and did it right.  I have owned numerous Garmin products over the years and have never been disappointed. This app also delivers with a ton of awesome features.

If you have not downloaded it yet here is the link to the app in the iTunes Store.

Garmin has been advertising this app as a trip and planning tool and that is what they delivered.  The list of features is extensive but there are some additional features that I wish it had. More on that later.


  • Create, edit Waypoint name and symbol as water, land, hazard with custom colors
  • Create and edit Routes
  • Picture of saved Routes
  • g2 marine Cartography
  • In app purchases for charts and advanced weather
  • Transfer routes and waypoints wirelessly to networked Garmin chartplotters
  • Fuel usage calculations in routes
  • Record Tracks
  • Chart notes
  • Celestial data, sunrise sunset, moonrise, moonset and phase
  • Tide stations
  • Currents
  • Active Captain user generated content points of interest
  • Garmin points of interest
  • Weather conditions, dew point, temperatures, wind speed and direction, water temp, visibility, wave height and period
  • Grib files
  • Premium weather in app purchase for radar and clouds $3.99
  • Graphical measuring tool
  • Shaded depth contours and inter-tidal zones
  • Spot soundings
  • Plan trips 
  • Radial menu dial
  • Powerful search feature for BlueChart services and ActiveCaptain content 
  • Realtime GPS tracking
  • External GPS capable 

Chart Menu: 

The apps main screen has a basic world map with banners at the top and bottom. The top banner has a gear icon on the left to select the Settings menu, a Heads Up button toggles between Track Up and North Up settings.  The center panel will give the status of your GPS connection if your connected via WiFi to your Garmin MFD.

The Record Track button starts and stops track recordings.  The Magnifying Glass icon lets you search the vast points of interest database.

Additional menu selections at the bottom center of the screen allow control of the Measuring Tool, My Content wheel icon and the Tides and Currents icon.  The Speed and Heading readings straddle these main icons left and right.

The last icon on the bottom far right is for selection of Chart Content. Chart content allows you to select various items to view on the display. These include Routes, Tracks, Waypoints, Tracks, ActiveCaptain POI, Weather, Grib weather files, and premium weather.


Charts are easily selected and downloaded from with the app. Select the Gear Icon settings menu and select the BlueChart Maps option. 

There are 9 different chart sets available for purchase. US Coastal, $29.99, North America, $44.99, Australasia & Africa, $69.99, South America, $59.99, Mediterranean, $59.99, Nordics, $49.99, and Australia & New Zealand, $43.99.

Garmin charts are some of the best in the industry. The markers, depth gradients, colors and annotations are clear and concise.

Once you have purchased the chart set you can start to download the portions of the chart that you want to display.  Simply tap a tile to download it or tap a downloaded tile twice to remove it.

Charts will also be automatically downloaded when you zoom in to an area on the main chart display.

Routes and Waypoints:

Garmin has created a new Radial Menu to create, edit and inform the user of items on the charts. Simply tap once on any chart item or location on the chart and the Radial menu will pop up.

Tap on a chart item to have it pop up in the Radial menu where you can select them for more information.

Position coordinates are displayed for the center of the Radial Menu. Options for creating a Route or Waypoint are on either side of the three dots. Tap the dots for additional menu selections of Chart Notes and Celestial information.

Routes can easily be created by selecting the Add Route button on the Radial Menu.  Route points can be added with a tap of the finger or moved to a new location by dragging the route point to the desired location.

As you add legs to your route the leg distance, fuel requirements, time and bearing are listed.  This a great tool for planning your routes and estimating fuel and time for your passage.

Routes can then be edited by going to the Wheel icon on the bottom of the screen and selecting Routes in My Content. You can then select the options of Edit on Chart, Delete or View on Chart.

Routes and Waypoints can also be uploaded to your WiFi connected Garmin Chartplotter with the optional WiFi Adapter

Waypoints can be added by tapping on the display where you want to add a Waypoint.  Select the Add Waypoint button on the Radial Menu.

A popup box with display the name, symbol, coordinates, depth and a notes section.  You can rename the waypoint by selecting the Name field.

The Symbol can be changed to a variety of different icons. Tap on the Symbol box and select from General, Water, Land, Hazard and Shape menus.

There is a ton of different icons and colored markers to place as symbols.  Garmin did a great job in providing about any symbol you might need

Measuring Tool:

Garmin has provided their version of  a nice distance and bearing tool.  It allows you to quickly determine the distance between any two points on the chart.

Select the Protractor Icon on the bottom of the screen. Two marker circles will come up. These markers can be moved by dragging them around with your finger.

The blue marker is the start and the pink maker is the destination.

On the top of the screen a banner conveniently shows the Bearing, Distance and Return Bearing.


One of the best features of this app is the amount of weather data that Garmin has provided.  The app requires that you purchase charts before weather data is available.  Basic weather is accessed with the Chart Content icon in the bottom right side of the display. Weather station data including buoy and land based NOAA weather is available for viewing.  

The only drawback is that it is limited to displaying one weather data type at a time.  Here I have selected Weather station temperatures.

Weather selections include conditions, dew point, temperatures, wind direction and speed, water temperature, visibility, wave height and period.  Grib forecast wind data can also be selected.

Premium weather includes Nexrad radar and cloud cover.  This can be purchased for $3.99 under the settings menu where you purchased the chart.

Point of Interest: 

Garmin has a ton of points of interest in their own database but they have also included access to the complete ActiveCaptain Points of Interest too.  Go to the settings menu and login with your ActiveCaptain username and password.  The database will download and remain on your device for offline viewing.

The ActiveCaptain POIs can be viewed graphically on the charts as you zoom in. Simply tap the icons to bring up a dialog box showing the information about the point. You can also leave your comments and reviews about the markers to be included in the database. Tap on the Comment or Review selection on the top of the dialog box to enter your comments.

Another way to find points of interest is to use the Search function. Select the magnifying glass icon in the upper right side of the screen to start your search. The app starts to search for POIs in your immediate location. To refine your search simply type it into the search box.  Within the search function there are settings to filter which points of interest you want to view. Simply check the ones you want included in the search.

I have reviewed alot of apps and Garmin has the most extensive points of interest that I have seen.  They make it easy to find almost anything you need.

Wish List:

There are always features that I would like to see in future app releases.
  • Satellite overlays
  • Importing and exporting of route and waypoint options such as emailing
  • Social networking options as a way to share locations and data
  • Navigation features of "Go to" or "Navigate to"
  • Marine instruments
  • TCP/IP connection for NAEMA data 

Not to shabby for Garmin's first Marine app offering.  The app is really packed with alot of features and data that everyone can use in planning their trips.  I realize Garmin was not going to give us an app that had full navigation capabilities.  They are still in the business of selling multi $1000 dollar chartplotters.  The app will be a great addition and companion for their chartplotters and allow boaters to enhance their yachting experience.

~~~Sail On~~~ /)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Garmin BlueChart Mobile Released

Garmin has finally released their long awaited app for iOS devices. It was released this morning in the iTunes App Store. Click on the link to download the free app. Maps can be downloaded through an in app purchase.

I wanted to let everyone know it is now avaialble.  I will follow up with a review after I check out all the great features.  I know what I am getting for Christmas!

Thanks Garmin
Merry Christmas early!


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vesper Marine AIS WatchMate App

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch requires iOS 4.1
Function: Vesper XB-8000 Remote Display and Control
Cost: FREE
Rating: ****

Vesper Marine was started in 2007 by two New Zealand sailors, Deirdre Schleigh and Jeff Robbins.  These guys spent several years sailing and cruising and learned first hand the need for collision avoidance.  Their products are designed by sailors so you know their going to be user friendly. They are based in Auckland, New Zealand where their products are designed and manufactured.

Before we cover the app, lets talk a little about the AIS hardware. Their latest offering is the Vesper Marine XB-8000 AIS class B transponder. This device not only receives class A and B AIS signals from other ships but also transmits your ships information and position so others can track you.  The hardware incorporates WiFI, NMEA 2000, 0183 and USB connection options.  It can easily be connected to your present onboard networked instruments, chart plotter or computer. Simply provide power, dedicated VHF and GPS antenna connections, NMEA neworks and your ready to go.

The integrated WiFi allows the device to be configured as a server for up to 5 wireless devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers.  It can also be connected as a client to your existing yacht's WiFi network.  It is the wireless options that allow the WatchMate app to connect to and control the XB-8000 AIS hardware. The XB-8000 unit retails for $799.00.

Hardware Features:
  • NMEA 2000 & 0183
  • Waterproof
  • WiFi and waterproof USB connectivity
  • High-performance parallel two channel AIS transponder
  • Received class A and B AIS signals
  • Transmits class B AIS
  • Transponder "Silent Mode"
  • Supports third party AIS applications
  • 50 channel GPS receiver with external antenna
  • Low 4 Watt power consumption
  • WiFi configured as Access Point or Client
  • WiFi security WPA/WPA2 protection
  • View AIS and navigate from your computer
  • Free Watchmate smart phone or tablet
  • Connect up to 5 devices
  • Monitoring and interactive remote control with smartphone app

The WatchMate App connects with the Vesper Marine XB-8000 AIS Transponder through the WiFi network. The app allows you to view AIS targets on remote devices but the real power of the app is the remote control functionality that is offers. The WatchMate App becomes the user interface for configuring and remotely controlling the AIS transponder.

WatchMate Features:
  • View AIS received targets
  • View your AIS Transponder's own GPS Position, Course and Speed
  • Check status of your AIS transponder
  • Adjust any of your AIS Transponder settings
  • Silent Mode and Normal Transmitting mode
  • Configure your Vessel's AIS MMSI, call sign, vessel type, vessel size
  • Connects to your WatchMate device's WIFI access point 
  • Supports Vesper Marine XB-8000 AIS Transponder
  • Supports Vesper Marine WatchMate Vision

The app has five soft keys at the bottom of the display. They include Alarms, Targets, My Vessel, WatchMate and Settings.

The Alarm key takes you to the Alarm Monitor page.  Select the Edit button to select the different profiles.  Profiles adjust the distance at which notifications are made for surrounding ships.  Profiles include Anchor, Harbor, Coastal and Offshore modes.

The Target display lists the AIS targets along with bearing, range, speed over ground, closest point of approach and time to closest point of approach. Targets are listed from closest to farthest in the list.

Simply click on any of the targets to get the details for that specific ship. The targets are only listed in tabular form. One display that I wish it had was a graphical radar or map display showing the targets in relation to the yacht.

The My Vessel screen simply lists the current AIS data for your yacht. Latitude, longitude, Course Over Ground, Speed over Ground and Heading are all shown.

TheWatchMate screen includes a selection for Silent Mode which allows you to turn off the transmission and receiving of the AIS signals. (Correction see Jeffs comment below: Turning on Silent Mode stops transmission but not reception of AIS signals.) This would most likely be used at anchor when there is no need to broadcast or receive AIS data.

One added feature that would be nice is the ability to turn on and off the transmit and receive signals separately.  There may be times when you want to see nearby yachts but keep others like, pirates, from seeing your position.

The Vessel Details is where you  add data to identify your yacht. These include an MMSI, Name, Call Sign, Type and GPS Antenna Position.

IO Ports, Status and Advanced pages are used to setup and monitor the status of the transmit and receive functions of the XB-8000.

The Settings page allows you to edit the IP address of the network connection and Enable the connection.

Other third party iPad apps like iNavX, Digital Yacht Systems, iRegatta and SEAiq can also display AIS data. Simply enter the XB-8000's IP address and Port number 39150 and start receiving data from the XB-8000 transponder unit.

The initial release of the app is basic in its function and control. I am sure there are features that will be added in the future to make it more functional. Are there any other features you would like? Make your comments here or contact Vesper Marine directly.

I like the ability to change settings and control the hardware with the app. The WiFi connectivity is an added bonus giving mobile devices access to AIS data anywhere on your yacht. 

With some added graphical displays this would be one sweet AIS app.

~~~Sail On~~~ /)