Navionics Boating App Updated With U.S. Govt. Charts, New Features

Navionics Boating App Updated With U.S. Govt. Charts, New Features

The "About" screen of Navionics newly released Navionics Boating app, showing version 7.0.

The “About” screen of Navionics newly released Navionics Boating app, showing version 7.0.

Do you have an iPad (with GPS) or iPhone on the boat with you?  Okay, then, no excuses:  Download the latest Navionics Boating app update from the App Store, now standard with access to the free U.S. electronic navigation charts (ENC) from NOAA.  There.  You’re not lost anymore.  You’re welcome (from Navionics, anyway).

Now, a little more objectively. . .Navionics today released the latest version (7.0) of its free app, Navionics Boating, which now includes integration with free U.S. government-produced charts for U.S. coastal and navigable waterways, plus additional shorelines of major lakes and rivers from other public sources.

NOAA ENC Charts Included

This means that the Navionics Boating app is immediately suitable for direct navigation in these waters.  NOAA ENCs are vector charts, which means they scale up and down in a completely readable way, and they conform to the International Hydrographic Office (IHO) S-57 standard for electronic charts.

Navionics Boating app showing a NOAA ENC chart for Long Island Sound.

Navionics Boating app showing a NOAA ENC chart for Long Island Sound.

They include all the primary navigation data you need — depths, buoys, beacons, harzards, channel markers and more.  Of course, you can also purchase full-featured Navionics charts with enhanced detail and features such as newly improved dynamic tide and current information and displays.  The chart on the right here of the north shore of Long Island is a NOAA ENC.

You can see the little blue circle at the lower left labeled “GOVT” which means I’m using a NOAA chart.  If you click on that you can opt for a Navionics chart instead, or load one of the cool, crowd-sourced SonarCharts.  Also visible in that screen capture is the classic “navigate” button at lowest left, camera and search buttons to upper left, zoom buttons at upper right and a distance measuring tool at bottom right.

Enhanced Features

The updated app includes several enhanced features:

  • Tracking — The Navionics Boating app uses GPS to measure and record performance data.  Speed, Trip Time, Course Over Ground, Distance and more are all displayed in a new Tracking Console.  Boaters can pause, playback and review a track, and share details with others.
  • Expanded Routing — Planning and route creation are also free with the Navionics Boating app.  Boaters can measure distances, mark waypoints, create simple routes and save data across mobile devices.  The company says wind forecasts include 3-day projections, as well.  The app includes a free trial version of a Nav Module ($4.99) that includes Estimated Time of Arrival, Distance to Arrival and more.
  • Sharing — App users can share memories of their trips with family and friends via Facebook, Twitter and email.  Using a camera function within the app, photos and videos are automatically geo-tagged while recording a trip.  Other images, such as tracking screens and stats can be shared, too.
The Navionics Boating app showing one of the menu options with the various in-app purchases available.

The Navionics Boating app showing one of the menu options with the various in-app purchases available.

Integration with On-board Electronics

As of the most previous update, v6.0, early this year, Navionics Boating includes Plotter Sync, a new feature that allows on-board electronics to connect to Navionics servers on the Internet for uploading data and downloading new charts or updates.

The company says owners of Raymarine Wi-Fi-enabled plotters — just the first of Navionics’ manufacturer partners compatible with this technology — can now use Navionics Boating as a bridge for this connection, eliminating the need to remove a memory card from the plotter to update it.  The App will sync with the chartplotter and provide the update directly.

This is especially cool when users upload and share with Navionics their fishfinder’s recorded sonar tracks, allowing the company to verify and integrate the information in to SonarCharts™ — a new high-definition bathymetry maps that reflects the ever-changing conditions boaters experience in the real world.

Updating Advice

I checked out the new version on my iPad and it’s a big change.  The inclusion of NOAA ENCs makes a HUGE difference in out-of-the-box usability.  If you’re in need of the more detailed and feature-laden Navionics charts, by all means buy them.  They’re not that expensive for most areas (at least compared to what we used to spend for charts and updates) and you won’t regret the purchase.  But for starters, the NOAA ENCs will get you going and keep you safe.  When I fired up my iPad, it didn’t offer me the app update when I went to the App Store, so I deleted the version I had (6.0.3 – the April update) and then downloaded the app again and it was the 7.0 version.  I imagine the updating will be automatic and more smooth over the next couple of days (it could also conceivably have been my own iPad’s sometimes flaky relationship with my router).  If your older version doesn’t seem to be updating, just delete it and download it anew from the App Store (assuming you don’t have any data saved that you need).

Then, when you start it up, after you acknowledge the EULA and settle on a chart area, you can download the NOAA ENC for that area for free.  I downloaded the chart for New England and it was about 68 MB, which downloaded over my Wi-Fi in about 1 minute.  Beautiful and ready to navigate.  You can see “me” in the screen capture up above, standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking Long Island Sound.  I will actually need to board the boat to navigate from here, but the readers come first!

Android Version Coming Soon

Navionics says an Android version of the updated app will be out soon, with features similar to those in the iOS version rolling out throughout the year.  You will find that version in the Google Play store; we’ll advise when it’s released.

Copyright © 2014 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.


Posted by Tom in Electronics, GPS, Marine Electronics, Navigation, seamanship, Sonar, Technology
Annual Top 10 Boat Names List from BoatUS

Annual Top 10 Boat Names List from BoatUS

A clever boat name from the photo files of BoatUS.

A clever boat name from the photo files of BoatUS.

I’m a little late on this one, but the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) recently released the national boating organization’s 24th Annual Top Ten Boat Names List. The BoatUS list of Top Ten Boat Names:

1. Serenity
2. Second Wind
3. Island Girl
4. Freedom
5. Pura-Vida
6. Andiamo
7. Island Time
8. Irish Wake
9. Happy Hours
10. Seas the Day

You can see the complete history of the BoatUS name survey  at this link.

We’d love to hear some of the better names you’ve seen out there.  Post them in the comments and we’ll do a roundup of them.

Copyright © 2014 by Oceanlines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boat Systems, Industry News, Legal & Insurance, Maintenance & DIY, seamanship
Smallest Personal Locator Beacon Available from Ocean Signal

Smallest Personal Locator Beacon Available from Ocean Signal


A rescueME PLB1 from Ocean Signal is shown attached to the upper surface of this inflated personal floatation device. Image courtesy of Ocean Signal.

A rescueME PLB1 from Ocean Signal is shown attached to the upper surface of this inflated personal floatation device. Image courtesy of Ocean Signal.

The Cospas-Sarsat satellite-based rescue system has saved more than 35,000 people in distress and nearly three-quarters of those were at sea.  Modern 406 MHz rescue beacons have had a huge impact on maritime safety.  If you go offshore anywhere, it’s time for you to equip your boat with an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and to seriously consider equipping your offshore crew and passengers with personal locator beacons (PLBs).  One such personal device is the rescueME PLB1 from Ocean Signal, touted by the company as the smallest PLB available.

Having a PLB like the rescueME PLB1 either on your person or attached to the floatation device that you are WEARING will give you an extraordinary advantage if you go overboard.  The current fleet of low-Earth orbit and geostationary satellites will pick up the emergency signal from your PLB, and will transmit it and the GPS-derived location data to a local rescue authority.  When that happens, you give the rescuers a huge leg-up on finding you.

Check out this video showing how the rescueME PLB1 works:


There are several brands of EPIRBs and PLBs, but I highlight the rescueME PLB1 here because it’s a great example of how compact and user-friendly these devices have become.  This device will sit comfortably attached to your personal flotation device (PFD), or your person, if for some inexplicable reason you are not wearing a PFD while on deck.

The rescueME PLB1 is currently on sale at Landfall Navigation.  And you can see the product description at Datrex, the U.S. distributor for Ocean Signal’s rescueME PLB1.

Check out these devices and don’t forget to properly register your device when you get it.  That ensures that rescuers know who to contact to get more information about you and your cruising plan.

Copyright © 2014 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boat Systems, Electronics, Gear & Apparel, GPS, Marine Electronics, seamanship, Technology
Argonaut Offers Android-Powered Smart MFD

Argonaut Offers Android-Powered Smart MFD

Love all those Android apps but wish there was a more integrated way to use them at the helm?  Argonaut Computer last week announced the A615 smart multifunction display (MFD) — a fully marinized Android MFD with built-in GPS and lots of delicious inputs to take advantage of all the other data sources on your boat.

The A615 Android-Powered Smart MFD from Argonaut Computer.  Image courtesy of Argonaut Computer.

The A615 Android-Powered Smart MFD from Argonaut Computer. Image courtesy of Argonaut Computer.

The A615 — a 15-inch, waterproof, sunlight-viewable unit — is also directly web-connected via its own WiFi connection, so if you are docked or have Internet access while underway, you can access live data for your apps beyond just the GPS.  Here’s a quick rundown of the specs:

  • Built In Android Processing For Web, Apps
  • Powerful Navigation App With U.S. Charts
  • Weather Monitoring with Live Radar Plot
  • Full Featured AIS App with Alerts/Status
  • On Dash Access To Over 875,000 Apps
  • Built In 2.4G WiFi Network Send/receive
  • Multiple Input/Output Signal Connectors
  • Tflex 15” Bonded Sunlight View LED
  • Precision Lock TouchPad User Control
  • Unmatched Low Power Consumption
  • Includes 48 Channel GPS Receiver
  • Shock Isolated Design, 360 Waterproof
  • Industry Leading Three Mounting Options
  • Comprehensive Two Year Warranty

The A615 is not cheap.  MSRP is $2,999, which seems like a lot until you consider that this is not just a monitor, but a fully-powered MFD, with its own Wi-Fi, GPS and waterproof, marinized construction.  That makes it on a par, cost-wise, with other stand-alone marine MFDs.  One tremendous advantage is that you can load it up with free and low-cost apps that, in many cases, are as capable as their PC- and MAC OS-based sister products.

The A615 can also be mounted in a number of different ways — surface mount it like any other fixed helm display; in an optional U-bracket, or an optional RAM arm mount.

Here’s a LINK to the detailed specs for the A615.

This is a product to consider if you’re building a new helm or looking to update one and you need a lot of bang for your buck.  It’s a great way to build in functional redundancy in your helm, or even as the centerpiece of your helm.

Copyright © 2014 by Oceanlines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, GPS, Marine Electronics, Navigation, Radar, seamanship, Technology
Navionics at Center of ICW Magenta Line Renovation

Navionics at Center of ICW Magenta Line Renovation

Last year, NOAA’s Coastal Survey Office announced that it planned to discontinue the so-called “magenta line” on charts of the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) because the line placement was based on data that, in some cases, hadn’t been updated since the original charts were produced in the early 20th century.  Well, that generated quite a storm of response from the user community but that response turned into something much more substantial and positive — a commitment by some companies and from boaters themselves to help get the data updated themselves.  Navionics, known for its comprehensive charts of nearly all the navigable waterways, lakes and coastal areas visited by recreational boats, decided to employ some of its latest crowdsource-supported technology to assist in the effort.

An example of the "magenta line" on a chart of the ICW.  Image courtesy of Navionics.

An example of the “magenta line” on a chart of the ICW. Image courtesy of Navionics.

Navionics is at now at the center of the NOAA Office of Coastal Survey’s efforts to reestablish an accurate magenta line on IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) charts.  The Navionics effort involves updating the charting data on its “Freshest Data” servers with information generated by boaters who upload sonar logs and who submit edits to charts using the Edit Map function on their Navionics mobile application.  Given that there are more than 1.5 million users of the mobile apps, Don Black, global vice president of sales and marketing for Navionics, says, “We are able to deliver invaluable enhancements to charting data at an unmatched pace.”

Crowdsourcing (have you noticed how German the American English is becoming, just combining words into compound words?) is one of the hottest developments in the online world today.  The technology of “connectedness” makes it possible for users to now share local data and build profoundly more accurate databases of information.  In the marine charting world, that translates to the possibility of much safer local navigation, offsetting many years of neglect from government hydrographers who had higher priorities and insufficient budgets.

If you’re a user of the ICW and you would like to participate, get onboard with the Navionics Boating APP and get your local sonar logs and information uploaded to Navionics.  You may also contact NOAA’s Coastal Survey Office directly with input and comments. Use the link above to see how.

Copyright © 2014 by Oceanlines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Depthfinders, Electronics, Marine Electronics, Navigation, seamanship, Sonar, Technology
Navionics Plotter Sync Wirelessly Updates Charts on Raymarine plotters

Navionics Plotter Sync Wirelessly Updates Charts on Raymarine plotters

If you own a wirelessly enabled chartplotter from Raymarine  and you use charts from Navionics, your life is about to get MUCH simpler. An updated Navionics app on your iPhone or iPad will download daily chart updates, and then when you are within range of your wireless-enabled chartplotter from Raymarine (with the latest firmware update, likely by late April), the app will communicate with the chartplotter using an embedded technology called Plotter Sync, and update your Navionics chart cards. You really just won’t have to think about it or worry about it anymore:  you will always have the latest updates for your charts.

The Navionics Boating App is available for iOS and Android platforms.  Image courtesy of Navionics

The Navionics Boating App is available for iOS and Android platforms. Image courtesy of Navionics

Navionics Plotter Sync on Raymarine chartplotter

Navionics Plotter Sync wirelessly updates the Navionics charts on Raymarine chartplotters. Image courtesy of Navionics

According to Navionics, the Navionics Boating app gets the latest chart data from Navionics Freshest Data servers and, using Plotter Sync, automatically syncs to the chart card.  You never have to remove the card or take it back to a computer.  A bonus comes if the Raymarine user is sharing her sonar logs with Navionics.  Then, the logs will also wirelessly sync to the mobile device and then up to the cloud where they become part of Navionics crowd-sourced SonarCharts.  In the right-hand image here you can see the Navionics chart display on a Raymarine e97 chartplotter, which the image on the left shows the same chart info on an iPad, which is using the Plotter Sync technology to sync with and update the e97.

Navionics PlotterSync on an iPad synchronizing chart updates to a Raymarine e9 plotter.  Image courtesy of Navionics

Navionics PlotterSync on an iPad synchronizing chart updates to a Raymarine e9 plotter. Image courtesy of Navionics

This technology represents a significant safety enhancement.  A boater using Plotter Sync not only will have the latest charts on the Raymarine chartplotter, but also on an independent mobile device.  If you were smart enough to buy your iPad with a cellular modem, and thus with an actual gps receiver in it, then your iPad becomes a fully functional offshore navigation device.  Our resident expert on iPad navigation for boats, Christine Kling, has written extensively about iPads on boats.

Print out a up-to-date free PDF chart from the NOAA website before you leave for the dock and you’ve set yourself up for success with a triple layer of navigation redundancy.  Get the updated Navionics Boating app from the iTunes store if you want to sync your Raymarine unit via your IPad.

Plotter Sync will also soon be working with chartplotters from Navico.  The Simrad, Lowrance and B&G units equipped with GoFree wireless will be able to sync routes, tracks and logs according to current plans.  The Navionics Boating app is available also for Android devices, for use as a planning tool or for navigation.  Current Android capabilities do not include the wireless chart sync with devices on your helm. Without trying to put words in Navionics’ mouth, I can imagine that at some point in the future, we will be able to use any and all of our mobile devices to sync with our fixed-mount plotters. The technology is evolving almost on a daily basis, it seems. It’s already pretty cool and useful.  If you are using this or testing it, let us know in the comments how it’s going.

Copyright © 2014 by Oceanlines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, GPS, Marine Electronics, seamanship, Technology
Marine Navigation on Android Arrives in Style

Marine Navigation on Android Arrives in Style

Well, it’s not that you couldn’t do it before, but now you can do it with Plan2Nav, a world-class app, C-MAP charts by Jeppesen, and seamless integration of critical cruising data from ActiveCaptain.  That’s the upshot of the release of Plan2Nav from Jeppesen this week.  The app is available for free from the Android Store and from “the iTunes,” as Sheldon’s Mom would say.  Obviously, if you’re gonna run it on Android, you’ll get it from the former, probably through Google Play.

Plan2Nav Marine Navigation App for Android

Plan2Nav using C-MAP charts by Jeppesen power your Android marine navigation. Image courtesy of Jeppesen.

Once you’ve got the app, you buy a chart region — and they’re truly reasonably priced — and start navigating.  Here are the details from Jeppesen:

Depending on coverage area, charts for Plan2Nav begin at $19.99 (USD) and unlock a variety of powerful features, including:

  •         Detailed harbor charts with Jeppesen’s exclusive C-Marina Port Database, marina diagrams and aerial images
  •         Dynamic Tides and Current Predictions for added safety, better fishing and more efficient cruising
  •         Detailed depth and land elevation data for a more informative, realistic chart presentation
  •         Charts that can be viewed in 2D or Jeppesen’s unique Perspective View format
  •         Accurate, up-to-date NavAid positions for safer navigation

Plan2Nav operates in north-up or course-up orientation for fully rotating visualization, while its compass rose display provides an at-a-glance graphic presentation of your current heading. Speed Over Ground, Course Over Ground, Estimated Time of Arrival and Time To Go data help you stay on top of every voyage.

Plan2Nav Screen Capture on Android Device

Here’s a Screen Cap of one of my local striper haunts, the Shinnecock Canal on the south shore of Long Island. Plan2Nav with C-MAP charts by Jeppesen. Image courtesy of Jeppesen.

One of the best things about this app is that it allows you to access the huge ActiveCaptain database of local information — crowd-sourced and verified.  This means you have the best official information complemented by the best real-world updates.  Did a shoal hazard develop in that inlet?  Has a local buoy moved?  Is there an especially hazardous current running in this inlet?  That’s the kind of critical stuff you get when you add ActiveCaptain to your navigation solution.  It’s available offline and gets updated when you are online.  Use it.  You are safer.  Period.


Jeppesen's New Plan2Nav Android App.

Jeppesen’s New Plan2Nav Android App. All images courtesy of Jeppesen.

Try the app and let us know in the comments what you think.  I’ll test it on my Samsung Galaxy SIII next week at the Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors Show in Rockland, where I hope to spend some time aboard THIS gorgeous vessel!

Copyright © 2013 by OceanLines, a publication of OceanLines, LLC.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, seamanship, Technology

Northport Systems Announces Fugawi Marine 5

New Fugawi Marine5 Screenshot

New Fugawi Marine5 Screenshot

Northport Systems announced that its newest marine navigation software, Fugawi Marine 5, will be available at the end of March for new purchase and upgrade from Fugawi Marine ENC. According to the company, Fugawi Marine 5 takes advantage of the latest Windows technology, including a touch-screen control optimized for use with Win 7 and 8 tablets.

New Fugawi Marine5 Screenshot

New Fugawi Marine5 Screenshot

Northport Systems said the new software includes several specific new features including:

  • Marine Touch™ — touch-screen control optimized for use with Win 7 and 8 touchscreen tablets.
  • ClearChart™ — “ultra fast, smooth and brilliantly clear chart presentation.”
  • SurePlanner™ — “simple, intuitive and efficient route and waypoint planning.”
  • ClearDash — “instrument display for sophisticated and versatile instrumentation that integrates with the Actisense NGT-1 NMEA 2000® gateway or stand-alone instruments via NMEA 0183.”

Here’s a link to the full press release, which has lots of specific details about supported file formats, chart compatibility  and instrument display options.  It looks like a great package for cruisers using PC navigation and planning, especially since the user license explicitly allows the software to be installed on two different PCs, say one at home for planning and one aboard for navigation.

Copyright © 2012 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.


Posted by Tom in Electronics, seamanship, Technology

ActiveCaptain Expands Dramatically with Routes and More Reviews

ActiveCaptain logo

ActiveCaptain logo, the crowd-sourced database of local navigation and cruising knowledge, has been expanding its offerings over the last couple of months with some significant new capabilities.  The two most important, in my view, involve route-sharing and an allied site devoted to captain reviews of boating-related services.  Here’s a quick rundown on some of the new developments.


Route sharing is now active in the Interactive Cruising Guidebook section of the ActiveCaptain website.  Several thousand pre-plotted routes, posted by ActiveCaptain community members, are available.  They’re saved in a file format (GPX) that is compatible with most updated navigation products.  There are several different ways of searching and exploring routes which make it easy to both find something specific and just browse interesting places.  Route sharing is a logical extension of the original premise of ActiveCaptain, which is to take advantage of that huge database of “local knowledge” that exists in the boat cruising community.  Highly recommended!  Upload your own routes to contribute to the community and explore more at the website.

One other thing to note is the number of external software/hardware packages that now support ActiveCaptain.  The total is up to 14 and includes some of the most well-known nav packages, as well as tablets and smartphones using all the major operating systems.  I use Nuticharts Lite  on my Android-powered Droid X.  Catch up with the latest on this page.

CaptainRated logo

CaptainRated logo


This is the related website that takes advantage of that same knowledge universe, but this time captures data on services not necessarily tied to a specific chart location.  As an example, the first categorites open for contribution — others will open over the next year — include boat brokers, surveyors and transporters.  Future categories include products, resources and retail organizations.  There’s a good load of initial information in the database and room for an infinite number of captain contributions, all conforming to the same factual, honest format of the original ActiveCaptain chart-related knowledge base.  Check out CaptainRated and let other boaters take advantage of your experiences with the services we all rely on for our boats and cruising.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, seamanship, Technology

When Chesapeake Bay Becomes a Hurricane Hole for a Ship

Instrument Panel Photo of Cruise Ship Carnival Pride during Hurricane Irene -- Photo courtesy of Bill Band

Instrument Panel Photo of Cruise Ship Carnival Pride during Hurricane Irene -- Photo courtesy of Bill Band

A fascinating blog entry yesterday on the Kadey-Krogen Yachts website recounts the Hurricane Irene experience of Chesapeake ship pilot Bill Band, father of Shannon Band, KKY’s marketing manager.  Band was one of two pilots who took the 960-foot Carnival Pride out of the Port of Baltimore and into the Bay to ride out the hurricane.  Just check out the wind-speed reading on the instrument display photo above, taken by Band during the storm.  Yikes.

It’s a fascinating story about modern ship handling and heavy weather strategy that should interest any captain who has wondered how he or she would fare at sea in a tropical cyclone.  The scale of everything in this story is larger than what most of us deal with every day, but many of the experiences hold similar in principle.

Have a look at the blog entry from Pilot Band on the Kadey-Krogen website.  There are some other impressive photos there, too.

If you were at sea during Irene, or any other major storm, we’d love to hear about your own experiences in the comments.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, seamanship

Expedition Medical Kits — For Journeys Long and Short

I recently learned of a new provider of cruising medical kits from the cool website Three Sheets Northwest, which covers Pacific Northwest boating and is run by Marty McOmber and Deborah Bach. 

The Expedition Medical Chest series is the brainchild of Kirsten Hansen and her partner, Steve Roberts (he of Technomad and Nomadness fame).  Unlike the cheap kits you get from the typical marine supply house, these kits are stocked with professional-grade supplies and tools to help you deal with health emergencies while at sea.

Kirsten Hansen is a nurse with 17 years of experience (including ER).  She has patched many a cut, assessed countless traumas, changed innumerable complicated dressings, given thousands of injections, started many IV’s, assisted with surgeries, sutured many incisions and generated a few trees’ worth of documentation and is teamed with Steve Roberts in this new venture.

Steve became known in the 1980’s as a “technomad,” pedaling a computerized recumbent bicycle 17,000 miles around the U.S. while freelance writing with a handlebar chord keyboard and built-in networking tools.  He has written six books, and is now converting a 44-foot steel pilothouse sailboat into something akin to the Starship Enterprise, with a distributed sensor network and voice/browser user interface.

I asked Kirsten to post a version of one of her recent blogs, wherein she discusses the philosophy behind the kits and some of the specific supplies.  Yes, she’s selling these.  But I think they’re a great idea and I want my readers to hear about them from the people who build them.


The Expedition Medical Chest Modules -- Photo Courtesy of Kirsten Hansen

The Expedition Medical Chest Modules -- Photo Courtesy of Kirsten Hansen

Expedition Medical Chests
by Kirsten Hansen

One of our basic philosophies is that we must take responsibility for our own health, and this is not even optional in the cruising setting. We have to educate ourselves, stock the best tools and supplies, and take a deliberate approach to on-board health management.

The first module in our Expedition Medical Chest line is focused on wounds and burn care. Since lacerations, abrasions, punctures, and burns are common injuries on a boat, we decided to focus on those for our initial offering. Steve told me how he shopped for his boat’s expensive medical kit, and as I browsed the contents with a critical nurse’s eye, I found myself surprised at what was (and was not) included. I realized that if I were called upon to take care of someone who had just cut themselves badly at sea, I would not want to reach for that kit… which is a high-end and well-marketed product.

This brings me to the reasoning behind our first Medical Chest module, which reflects my nursing experience as well as Steve’s colorful career of adventure on land and sea. I have specific preferences in the items I reach for when I enter the hospital supply room, so here is an inventory of the contents packed in a logical sequence in our gasketed Lexan cases, along with some commentary on my rationale behind each:

Ten non-latex gloves – We chose vinyl since many people are allergic to latex (including some who are not aware of it).

Two 8” X 10” high absorbency ‘Abdominal’ pads – these dressings are extremely absorbent, versatile, and generous enough to cover a large wound.

25 4” X 4” gauze sponges – when someone is really bleeding, pressure is the first thing to think of to stop it. Gauze 4×4’s are great to just grab and hold on the fresh wound.

10 stretch fabric knuckle/fingertip bandaids
20 stretch fabric 1” X 3” bandaids– this is my favorite tape for applying and changing dressings (and I’ve tried them all). It is easy to manipulate in tight spots, the adhesive lasts a long time, and it seems to cause the least irritation.

One roll Micropore paper tape

Two 100mL bottles of sterile water – sterile water or saline is a very good thing to have on hand for flushing a fresh wound.

One 12mL syringe – when you are flushing a wound with the sterile solution, a syringe helps to get some pressure going. This can be very helpful with displacing debris and microbes.

One tube of triple antibiotic ointment – a good broad-spectrum topical antibiotic ointment can mean the difference between quick healing and a painful infection. Indispensable stuff.

One pack of 10 3M Steri-strips – To close a gash, these are my tool of choice.

5 Povidone Betadine swab sticks – iodine (betadine) is really an amazing substance.  It will nearly sterilize skin around a wound and is used in surgical prep as well as complicated dressing change protocols.

20 Alcohol wipes – alcohol will also nearly sterilize skin as well as instruments (such as forceps) before use.

5 Telfa 3”x5” non-adherent pads – these dressings will help prevent ripping off a newly formed scab (your body’s natural protective layer).

Two rolls of Kerlix gauze wrap – I really like this stuff for keeping a dressing in place in a spot like an elbow or wrist where there is a lot of motion or friction, but where you don’t need moisture protection.

Two sterile eye pads– this is the wrap to use when you need to secure a dressing, further protect the area, and/or give some support to a joint. Coban is wonderful.

One roll of 3M Coban wrap

One 2”x2” 3M Acticoat burn dressing – these dressings are impregnated with a silver antimicrobial substance which is particularly effective for healing a burn.

One Instant Ice Pack – before you tape a dressing on an area, if you remove the hair it is much easier to achieve cleanliness as well as less painful dressing changes.

One disposable razor

Self-published instruction manual and starter medical log – To tie all this together, I’ve written a set of procedures for dealing with typical lacerations, presented in a logical sequence that matches the grouping of supplies within the chest.

As a nurse, maybe I am spoiled, but I know there is a huge difference in the quality and usability of these items. Lower grade bandages will fall apart as soon as they get wet or you bend your elbow to hoist a line… better ones last longer, are easier to work with, and give you a better chance to heal. The supplies in our kits are the same ones I am used to grabbing when I run into the supply room in hospitals, and the quantities reflect my experience with first aid as well as ongoing care. The gasketed polycarbonate box is completely waterproof and will keep your supplies dry… a must in the marine environment.

Upcoming modules in the series include a smaller version for local journeys (out now), a “ship’s pharmacy,” CPAP storage, and a few others. Future blog posts will look at such topics as what to stock in your onboard medicine cabinet (both over-the-counter and with a prescription from your MD), prophylactic “guerrilla” antibiotics (broad spectrum and others), to Tourniquet or not to Tourniquet, the proper way to do dressing changes and wound assessments, shock, hypothermia, aseptic technique, burns, how to wrap, how to give an injection, how to document incidents in a medical log, use of epinephrine pens and so on. I expect it to be interesting and fun… especially with the added color of your stories about medical adventures at sea!

Cheers and thanks for dropping by!

Read a more detailed version of this blog post, and find much more information at:

Kirsten Hansen &
Steve Roberts
Nomadic Research Labs

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Gear & Apparel, Passagemaking News, People, seamanship

Time to Check Your Insurance for Hurricane Coverage

Hurricane Omar Victim in St. Crois, U.S. Virgin Islands

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Michael Grubbs and Petty Officer 1st Class Angela Alonso, marine science technicians at Sector San Juan, Puerto Rico, inspect a vessel that has been tossed into the beach by Hurricane Omar at the St.Croix Yacht Club in St.Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008. MSTs have been deployed to St.Croix in order to determine the extent of damage to the environment and control any damage which has already occured. (Photo: U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Barry Bena)

An updated 2011 Atlantic basin hurricane forecast from Colorado State University yesterday should serve as a reminder to all East Coast and Gulf Coast boaters to check their insurance policies for hurricane coverage.  More importantly, now is the time to create your own “hurricane plan”  — whether it is to move the boat, haul it, secure it; whatever.  You need a plan and you need to ensure that you and your insurer agree on both how your boat will be covered and to what extent the insurance company might help cover the cost of a precautionary haulout.  A haulout, while inconvenient and expensive, is ultimately the best protection for your boat.  Yes, you can suffer some damage to surfaces and fittings, but a properly secured boat on dry land is never going to sink.

Every year, boaters seem to be surprised by the arrival of hurricanes and tropical storms in their area and hundreds of boats are damaged and destroyed, many needlessly.  Granted, Mother Nature is, ultimately, unpredictable, but preparation and vigilance can go a long way toward minimizing the consequences.

Now back to the forecast.  Originally started by Dr. William Gray and now released by him and Dr. Phil Kotzbach, these tropical cyclone forecasts are meant to give the public a sense for the probabilities of these storms, but of course can’t predict them with certainty.  Even lacking certainty, they are informative and useful.  The group issued its first forecast for 2011 last December and this week’s update slightly reduces the expected amount of activity, but only slightly.  All categories — tropical storms, hurricanes, etc., are still forecast to be significantly above statistical averages for the last half of the 20th century.  The slight adjustment for this forecast is predicated on a subsiding La Niña in the Pacific and slightly cooling sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic.

Here are some useful links to see these forecasts and to track the weather yourself.  If you know of others, let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to the list.

The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University

The Updated (April 2011) Atlantic Seasonal Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2011 (pdf)

National Weather Service (NOAA) National Hurricane Center

U.S. Navy Fleet Weather Center (good for all oceans)

Tropical Weather and Hurricane Info from The Weather Underground (great maps and visuals)

Tropical Weather Page at (some interesting historical analysis of specific storms)

Stormpulse Weather Website (good tracking maps and satellite imagery, including cloud cover)

Intellicast Tropical Winds Webpage (great view of upper-level steering currents)

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Environment & Weather, Legal & Insurance, seamanship

Maybe You Don’t Need 3G on Your iPad 2?

iPad 2 3G Version -- Photo: Verizon Wireless

iPad 2 3G Version -- Photo: Verizon Wireless

Brian Chen, at Wired, has a piece today that suggests a clever way to avoid having to pay the extra money for a 3G version of the iPad 2 just to get GPS and phone data network capability.  The solution basically involves using your current Smartphone as a wireless hotspot. 

Here’s an excerpt of his piece:

GPS transplant

The Wi-Fi iPad doesn’t have built-in GPS, but if you want to use that beautiful Maps app for navigation, you still don’t need a 3G iPad, so long as you have an iPhone. It turns out that if you hotspot with an iPhone, the connection transfers the GPS to the iPad.

Just connect the iPad to the iPhone’s hotspot, then launch the Maps app, and you’ll see the blue dot tracking your location.

(We’re not sure if this works when hotspotting with an Android phone — if you can confirm, let us know in the comments.)

For the complete article, visit the Wired article here.

There are some questions still.  For example, if the GPS data is being imported by the tethered iPad, can it be used by other nav programs instead of the Maps app?  I’m betting so, but I need to hear from somebody with the gear who is willing to experiment with it.  My best sources for iPad info are Jeff Siegel at ActiveCaptain, Christine Kling at Write on the Water (an amazing writer/sailor/geek), and my friend Ben Ellison at Panbo.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, seamanship, Technology

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 in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, Passagemaking News, seamanship, Technology

Vessel Assist San Diego Refloats Sunken Nordhavn 75 EYF

Vessel Assist San Diego Salvages a Sunken Nordhavn 75 EYF in Mexico - Photo Vessel Assist San Diego

Vessel Assist San Diego Salvages a Sunken Nordhavn 75 EYF in Mexico - Photo Vessel Assist San Diego

Vessel Assist San Diego routinely performs some pretty amazing salvage work, but refloating a 150-ton Nordhavn 75 EYF that sank in its slip in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, was an especially prodigious effort since it required driving all the proper salvage equipment 24 hours down the Mexican penninsula.

You can read the full story here on Vessel Assist San Diego’s blog, but the basics are that a failed bait tank pump sank the gorgeous Nordhavn right at the dock, which, believe it or not, is where most sinkings occur.  Various online discussion fora have debated the actual how-and-why of the sinking, but the real mystery is why the boat wasn’t alarmed properly, with local emergency contacts available to respond.  Perhaps a reader with that information will enlighten us in the comments.

In any event, the Vessel Assist salvage team, consisting of Captain Robert Butler and his brother Salvage specialist Tom Butler, Captain Shane Thompson, Captain Greg Rood and Salvage Diver Augustine Malfavon, essentially accomplished the job in 10 hours, using a combination of high-flow “trash” pumps moving about 90,000 gallons per hour, and another 60,000 pounds of float bags.  According to Vessel Assist, they also managed to prevent any significant leakage of the nearly 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard.

Vessel Assist San Diego Team in Front of Salvaged Nordhavn 75 EYF - Photo Vessel Assist San Diego

Vessel Assist San Diego Team in Front of Salvaged Nordhavn 75 EYF - Photo Vessel Assist San Diego

It’s nice to know what can be done when necessary, and who to call to get it done.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Maintenance & DIY, People & Profiles, seamanship