Routes Function in ActiveCaptain Will Change the Game

Screen Capture of New ActiveCaptain Routes Editing Function

Screen Capture of New ActiveCaptain Routes Editing Function

I know that’s a bold statement, but when I can have access to a library that will eventually likely hold many thousands of already planned (by me AND other boaters) routes, and then someday soon use those routes with more ActiveCaptain technology to tell me what’s up ahead, I will be in a different place than I am today with my capable but largely uncooperative navigation technology.  I’ve been talking to Jeff Siegel, who, with his wife Karen Siegel, is the developer of ActiveCaptain, and it’s clear to me that the live database technology of this website has reached a major new milestone.  The fact that many navigation software programs will update their ActiveCaptain integration with a live Internet link is valuable itself, but the new Routes function within ActiveCaptain is going take us much farther.

Let me back up a bit.  On April 1, ActiveCaptain will roll out a new Routes capability to the ActiveCaptain experience that will allow you to upload, modify, save and share (sharing will start in May), GPX-formatted routes.  Virtually all computer-based navigation software can export a route in this format, and although few chartplotters are also capable, you can use software such as GPSBabel and GPS Utility to translate your equipment’s native file format to GPX.

Screen Capture Showing GPX File Upload to New ActiveCaptain Routes Function

Screen Capture Showing GPX File Upload to New ActiveCaptain Routes Function

The routes will all be shared with the community — after all, what’s there to hide; your route to the floating Hooters?  That means that, within a short time, given the 100,000 active users currently on ActiveCaptain, there will be routes for many, if not most, of your typical trips; or at least for some part of them — like entering and leaving ports and harbors.

There are a number of significant advantages to this.  First, you will have yet another good way to back-up all your own meticulously planned routes.  If a belt AND suspenders are considered redundant, then you can add the elastic waistband to the mix and have yet another way to keep your trousers up.  (wow, the analogies just don’t flow some days…).

A second advantage derives from the fact that other key components of the ActiveCaptain database — that IS what ActiveCaptain is; a gigantic community database of navigational information (a Wiki-Nav?) — can tell you how good that route is for your situation.  For example, you can factor in your refueling requirements with up-to-date pricing info.  You can take into account the latest info on local hazards reported by other captains.

In fact, there is more technology coming from ActiveCaptain that will make the underway integration of all this planning capability even more impressive.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom

Tom Tripp is the owner of OceanLines LLC, the publisher of OceanLines and founder of Marine Science Today. He is an award-winning marine journalist, science writer and long-time public communications specialist. His PR career and much of his writing stems from the fact that he loves to explain stuff. It all began when he and his brother Mark threw all of Mom's tomatoes at the back wall of the house. . .


Danny Fletcher

When are we going to get an App for Droids?


I would also like to know.

Jeffrey Siegel

There are two companies who have shown screen shots on Android with ActiveCaptain support. Check out these two newsletters giving more info about them:

I understand that the NutiCharts app is about to be released in a free version. Contact them for more info.

We’ve been waiting for it anxiously too!


Let me make some suggestions for “quality & control” of this web site. Anyone can create a route. I hope there will be a place for “verified” routes and “unverified” routes. A “verified” route is one that a real vessel has travelerd. There shouuld be a place for keel depth and tide (or date & time of passage). Another suggestion is to have a place for “tracks”. A track would be the equivalent of a “verified” route.

as a person that has spent hunderds of hours planning routes and dozens of hours traversing routes, this is a great idea and one that we can all use. I will submit routes I have actualled traveled (verified) but will not submit one that I have only “planned”.

Question: If I contribute a route with a mistake in it and someone uses this route and goes aground can I get sued for his boats damage? What’s my liability when I post a route? The question can be asked in reverse as well. Suppose I use a route someone posts who doesn’t have a clue how to navigate. This seems dangerous and risky to me.
I find it quick and easy to plan my own routes (all double checked) and never use anyone else’s routes since they may have a boat with much different capability then I have. Draft, beam and power in a current all can play a part on where a route goes for a particular vessel or the experience level of the captain.

Jeffrey Siegel

I can address some of the suggestions and concerns of the last 2 comments.

Every route has a handful of data fields in the database. A few with applicability to the above are:

MaxDraft – the maximum draft suggested for vessels transiting the route at low water.

MaxHeight – the maximum height suggested for vessels transiting the route at high water.

Followed – (checkbox) signifies that you have followed the route on your vessel.

When route sharing is turned on, you’ll see statistics about each route you’re looking into. In addition to descriptions and changes others have made to the route, you’ll be able to see how many people have copied the route to their own account. So for example, if you find a route that has been copied by 50 other people and 35 of them have said that they’ve followed it, that gives you a pretty good idea of the quality and reliability of the route.

That said, every time you copy a route, you’ll have to check a disclaimer to limit liability. Obviously the data in ActiveCaptain can’t be used as the sole source of navigation and only a fool would download someone else’s route, load it into an autopilot, press go, and go below to watch a movie. Our intent is to protect ActiveCaptain and the individual captains. More about this is in our current newsletter. You can see the newsletter at:

You can also see our terms of service which everyone using the ActiveCaptain data has formally agreed to before they can use any data inside:

We believe our current terms of service provide full liability limitation now but we’re still going to add that “I understand…” checkbox every time someone copies another route because we want it to be absolutely obvious.

It should be noted that Garmin has a feature on many of their chartplotters where you point to a destination and it’ll automatically create a route for you that zigzags around all obstacles to get to the destination. There hasn’t been a suit from those routes and no human ever evaluated the route created. Well, hopefully at least one human looks over it. On ActiveCaptain, you’ll get a good indication of other’s use of the route. I think that as the database of routes matures, a route in ActiveCaptain will potentially provide more safety and vetting than any other route you’ve used. There are advantages to knowing that multiple eyes looked over the path and used it.

This is all not much different from the other marina and anchorage information we have today. When you see an anchorage marker in ActiveCaptain, it doesn’t mean that’s the exact spot where you must drop your anchor. It’s a general indication of position that you are responsible to evaluate with other navigation aids.

When you see a fuel price at a marina, pull in, fill up, and find that the price is $0.50/gallon more this week, you don’t have damages against ActiveCaptain. It was sort of your responsibility to verify the price before you pulled in.

Routes is very much like all of this.

A lot more will make sense once you see how it all works. The way we’re implementing it is not by creating a huge single list of routes that everyone shares. There are only individual routes in each account that you can find, analyze, and copy as your own to comment on, change, and use. You can’t modify someone else’s routes and you can’t write a comment on a route that someone else owns. You can only modify your own data but there is a tree structure remembered that tracks where routes came – there are advantages to being able to see what others did with the route you copied. Nothing like this has been done before – we looked for other models. There just weren’t any.

I think it’s going to provide a lot of great functionality and none of this describes the huge advantages that are coming next when you combine a planned route with all of our other point-of-interest data. The real magic happens then.

No matter what the capabilities though, it doesn’t remove the responsibility from each skipper to pilot their boat using multiple sources of navigation data. At best, ActiveCaptain is just one of many sources.

Jeff – Thanks for that clarification. We will continue to follow these enhancements to the ActiveCaptain experience here on OceanLines. In the meantime, I will urge our readers with very specific ActiveCaptain questions to visit the ActiveCaptain website ( and get involved. The more captains who participate, the better the overall quality of the data.