ActiveCaptain

OceanLines Has a New Look and Focus

OceanLines.biz homepage screen capture

OceanLines Home Page as of New Year 2014

If this is the first time you’ve been here in a while, you might notice our new look and our new focus.  Since its first post in 2007, OceanLines has focused on the boats we like to live and cruise on, whether for the day or for long, ocean-crossing passages.  Since the Great Recession fully landed on the boating world in 2009, the appearance and sale of new boats gradually diminished, until it almost disappeared.  There has been a small resurgence over the last year, but frankly, new boats and designs in our cruising category are still rather scarce.

One thing that remains true, and which is a field that has continued much more steadily to innovate and produce new products for boaters, is the marine electronics and boating systems industry.  Ok, those are two industries really, but together they represent what we put IN our boats and what helps us to use our boats safely and efficiently.

So here at OceanLines, we’re going to focus on covering the developments in those two industries, bringing you all the latest news on marine electronics, software, and boat systems ranging from propulsion to electrical, hydraulic and sanitary.  If you can buy it to be installed aboard or fitted to your boat, we’ll cover it.

If there are new cruising boats developed and launched, we’ll cover them too, no worries.

There’s a lot of water to cover.  Consider the following:

  • Touch screens are the wave of the present and future.  But how you implement them and how you handle them when seas are rough are the sticky points.  We’ll look into the latest offerings, such as the chartplotters from Garmin, Raymarine, the Navico brands – Simrad, Lowrance and B&G, and Furuno, and any others we can find that we think might deserve your attention.
  • Radios are not the simple units of the past.  Most you’d want to consider are GPS-equipped and include hailing and sometimes a host of other features, including wireless mics, integrated AIS receivers, even constant recording so you can replay the last received communication (now THAT would be handy).
  • Depthfinders and other sonar units are as capable as the military technology of not so long ago.  Multi-frequency transducers adapt to conditions and requirements and many units now often side-scan capabilities.
  • Radars are decidedly more capable than the units of even five years ago.  High definition units make close-in navigation much safer and use significantly less energy and pose almost no radiation risk to boaters or crewmen on deck.
  • The “glass helm” has finally arrived in recreational boating and there’s a long list of new technology and products to consider.  These systems can integrate information from your propulsion, electrical and safety systems and display as much or as little as you want.  Multiple screens can serve to expand information or provide redundancy, although the reliability of today’s displays is much improved, too.
  • Propulsion options have all gained joystick control options, something I actually predicted back in 2007 (eh, I don’t publicize the predictions I get wrong).  Whether you have pod drives, inboards or outboards, they can all be controlled (sometimes requiring a bow thruster) with a joystick via computerized controls.
  • Other boat systems have kept pace (some more so, some less so) with the revolution in marine electronics — some can now be monitored by your helm displays, for example.  Tankage monitoring continues to get ever-so-slowly better.  We have systems now to better charge and maintain our batteries, not to mention the proliferation of new battery technology.  Everything from lighting (LED) and galley appliances (high-efficiency induction) have changed our power requirements.
  • There are new services available, too.  Consider Vessel Vanguard, a company that offers boat owners a comprehensive cloud-based portal to help manage and log maintenance requirements for all of their boat’s onboard systems..  And if you aren’t already a member of the ActiveCaptain crowdsource, you’re missing out on some pretty profound resources for cruising.

So, there’s a lot to review and a lot to discuss with you.  We’d appreciate any heads-up or tips you can send us on new products — and services — that might interest your fellow boaters.  Use our contact form to send us ideas, or email us at info at OceanLines dot biz.

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

Posted by Tom in Boat Systems, Boats, Electrical Systems, Marine Electronics, Propulsion, Technology, Website news
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

ActiveCaptain Expands Dramatically with Routes and More Reviews

ActiveCaptain logo

ActiveCaptain logo

ActiveCaptain.com, 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.

ActiveCaptain

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

CaptainRated

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

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
Navimatics Charts & Tides App Now Lets iPad, iPhone Update ActiveCaptain Data

Navimatics Charts & Tides App Now Lets iPad, iPhone Update ActiveCaptain Data

Image of the Navimatics Charts & Tides App Via Navimatics Website

Image of the Navimatics Charts & Tides App Via Navimatics Website

Apple has just approved the latest update of the Navimatics Charts & Tides app so that iPhone and iPad users can update ActiveCaptain data from their devices.  The update allows markets to be edited and reviews and comments to be added.  The single license works on both an iPHone and IPad at the same time, so there’s no need to buy it twice.  ActiveCaptain said this week that if you currently own Charts & Tides, it’s a free update with all new and current charts.  The big plus here is that you can update that relocated market you just discovered immediately, as long as you’re within 3G range.  Could even be a safety enhancement if you get that marker updated quickly enough that nobody else misses it.

ActiveCaptain said that Navimatics is the first developer to release an updated product with support for ActiveCaptain’s update APIs, but that other companies will be doing so with their software as well.

Our recent guest author, Christine Kling, wrote about using Navimatics Charts & Tides on her iPad in this piece.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

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

How to Mark Your Anchor Chain

Jeff and Karen Siegel Work on Their Anchor Chain - Photo Courtesy of Jeffrey and Karen Siegel

Jeff and Karen Siegel Work on Their Anchor Chain - Photo Courtesy of Jeffrey and Karen Siegel

This post is the result of an item on Jeffrey Siegel’s personal blog, Taking Paws, on which he and his wife Karen document their travels aboard aCappella, a 53′ RPH DeFever trawler.  The subject of marking your anchor chain is a popular one on forums and discussion boards around the boating world, and one of the reasons it’s such a perennial topic, I suspect, is that it’s a problem without a perfect solution. 

Here’s Jeff’s view, “Every boater has their own technique for marking chain. None of them work. We’ve tried them all.”  Blunt.  Succinct.  And accurate, as far as I’m concerned. Having said that, we all still do it; in fact, need to do it, so. . . what to do?

Jeff and Karen recently pulled all the chain out of the locker and did some good maintenance work on it and Jeff blogged about the best method he’s found to mark the chain — “best” out of a lot of ultimately imperfect solutions, that is.  Anyway, have a look at Taking Paws, it’s a blog you should follow anyway if you’re interested in following a half-year liveaboard lifestyle (who isn’t?). For those of you who don’t know, Jeff and Karen are also the inventors and principals of ActiveCaptain, the “Mother of All Local Boating Knowledge” websites (my term, not theirs).

And let me know in the comments how you mark your chain. I think Jeff’s got it right, but maybe you’ve figured out a better way?

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Gear & Apparel, Maintenance & DIY, People & Profiles, Powerboats, seamanship
ActiveCaptain on the iPad – Wicked Cool

ActiveCaptain on the iPad – Wicked Cool

ActiveCaptain on the iPad - Screenshot Courtesy of Jeffrey Siegel, ActiveCaptain

ActiveCaptain on the iPad - Screenshot Courtesy of Jeffrey Siegel, ActiveCaptain

I’ve been looking for a reason to have to get an iPad and I think now I’ve found it. In his latest on-the-road blog entry, Jeff Siegel of ActiveCaptain demonstrates how well the software works on the new tablet platform from Apple. Regular readers know I’m a big fan of ActiveCaptain — I use it on my Palm Centro with a Bluetooth GPS — but on the iPad it arrives at a whole new level.

As Siegel explains, ActiveCaptain will be included in an upcoming update for the Navimatics Charts and Tides software, and the app itself will work on both iPhone and iPad. He also notes that while offline, the iPad shows all of the ActiveCaptain data, and then, when Internet is available, can be re-synchronized with the live database so that you have the latest possible local information. Perfect.

He notes, as well, in a response to a reader comment, that Coastal Explorer, which ActiveCaptain now sells for a good price in its online store, will also do the synchronization. All we have to do now is get a PC maker to build a real-world tablet for us, maybe with an OLED screen and splash-proof case so we can use it on the flybridge.  And no, I cannot afford a Panasonic Toughbook. If there was some real competition for that one, maybe Panasonic would lower those prices from the stratosphere.

No, I don’t get paid by ActiveCaptain. I’m just a Believer. Go get it.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Destinations, Electronics, Industry News, Technology

Diesel Delivered to You at Anchor

Peterson Fuel Delivery Barge Brings Diesel -- Photo Jeffrey and Karen Siegel

Peterson Fuel Delivery Barge Brings Diesel -- Photo Jeffrey and Karen Siegel

Passing through Miami or Fort Lauderdale and need fuel? How about having it delivered to you at anchor by Peterson Fuel Delivery. They’ve been doing it for almost ten years but I didn’t know about it until Jeff and Karen Siegel took advantage of the service and wrote it up in their cruise blog, TakingPaws.

According to the Siegels, Peterson has high-speed pumps that are fully adjustable — a nice feature if you know your plumbing can’t handle more than 40 or 50 gallons per minute of fuel flow. I wish we had this kind of service in my cruising waters in the Northeast. I love having the Aldo’s Bakery visit my boat while I’m moored at Block Island, and having the pumpout boat come by my slip at the dock. Jeff and Karen agree that if we could just find a dog-walking service to come pick up the “kids,” there’d be no reason to leave the boat.

Do you know of other fuel delivery services? Let us know in the comments and make sure you log them into ActiveCaptain so everybody gets the gouge.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, Industry News, Maintenance & DIY, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, Sailboats

Second Great Technique for Dinghy Anchoring

Tuggy Products' Anchor Buddy Elastic Dinghy Anchoring Line

Greenfield Products' Anchor Buddy Elastic Dinghy Anchoring Line

Our recent piece by Jeff Siegel of ActiveCaptain about a novel dinghy anchoring technique stimulated quite a bit of discussion from readers and we even heard about another, possibly even better, technique from John Marshall, owner of the Nordhavn 55 Serendipity. Marshall discovered a particular product that makes the process of anchoring the dinghy off the beach but keeping it within reach even easier.  Best to read this in his own words:

“Securing a dink on a shore with big tidal exchanges and keeping it both floating and within reach is one of life’s challenges. My dink weighs 900 pounds, so if it grounds, I’ve gotta wait for the next high tide. Not fun if its raining and the next high tide is in the middle of the night and I didn’t put my rain gear in the dink. (Don’t ask!) All it took was one time of that nonsense and I bought an Anchor Buddy, and I started packing a dink bag with rain gear, space blankets and tube tents that would let me spend the night on shore in bad weather if needed.

There is a neater way to do this that’s very popular in the Pacific Northwest…using an Anchor Buddy.

Basically, is a large woven line with surgical tubing inside it that curls up small when not in use, but stretches out about 50′. It’s also very strong. You attach whatever size anchor is appropriate, drop it about 50′ from shore, motor in to shore stretching out the Anchor Buddy until you ground. Then, when you get off, you let it pull the boat back out to the anchor until you need it.

We use a 100′ of thin line on the bow as the retrieval line. Even with our big tides up here, it generally keeps the dink floating.

The two key advantages over the approach you cited is that you can use a bigger anchor, even one that could hold in a gale, and you are setting and retrieving it directly over the side of the dink where its easy to work. The second advantage is that the strong elastic actively pulls the boat back to the anchor, even in a stiff wind. It also cushions the shock on the anchor so its harder to pull out if you do get caught in a gale.”

Marshall uses an eight-pound Danforth-type anchor, which is pretty stout for a dink, but according to Marshall it fits under his seat. “I don’t like the folding grapple-type anchors, as they have failed me a few times. Good in rocks, but lousy in mud or sand. So far, the Danforth is 100% on any kind of bottom,” he says. Also, the surgical tying is inside a wide-weave tube of poly line, basically a hollow line, says Marshall. “So when it’s fully stretched out, it’s very strong. The elastic isn’t what provides the holding power in a big blow, although I think it would take a gale to stretch it out, even with a heavy dink.”

Here’s a link to the product page at the original company that developed the Tuggy Product line (somewhat loud narration on this page), and here is a link to the current manufacturer Greenfield Products, which also shows a lighter weight version of the Anchor Buddy.  The Anchor Buddy and related products are sold through many marine suppliers and chandleries, including at West Marine which shows it on this webpage.  Many thanks, as usual, to reader John Marshall for his generous contribution. And thanks to Wes Pence at Greenfield Products for the photo.

Any other suggestions out there?

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Gear & Apparel, Industry News, Passagemaking News, Powerboats, Sailboats, Sailing Gear & Apparel, seamanship, Technology

Great Technique for Dinghy Anchoring at the Beach

By Jeffrey Siegel (ActiveCaptain); Videography by Karen Siegel

Here’s a great technique for anchoring the dinghy off the beach. Our dinghy weighs about 800 pounds. She’s a rigid inflatable with a 40 HP engine. It’s our family car when we’re cruising and we put a lot of demands on her.

So I was telling Larry how much of a hassle it is when bringing the dogs to the beach. Beaching the boat ends up pushing the whole boat sideways on the beach with oncoming waves and can become very difficult to re-float it when it’s time to leave. Instead, we keep going back every 5 minutes to push the boat back into the water.

Larry had a solution. He always does. And this one is a doozy.

Editor’s Note — The Siegels are currently cruising the warm waters of the southeastern U.S. and Bahamas in aCappella, their DeFever 53RPH trawler, along with canine kids Dylan and Dyna. Jeff wrote this piece on a new dinghy anchoring technique for their travel blog, Taking Paws, and I asked if we could reprint it here.  You’ll want to practice this in relatively calm waters the first time you do it and you should have a pretty good idea of the bottom slope off the beach. With that info in hand, this looks like a terrific solution. Tell us what you think in the comments.

“You don’t know how to use the trip line on the anchor to remotely anchor the dinghy?” Larry asks. Well, no, I don’t. I’ve never seen anyone ever do it. With that Larry gives me the specs for what I need an explains exactly how to do LRA – Larry’s Remote Anchoring.

First, the equipment and deployment.

I use a grappling hook type of dinghy anchor. LRA is real anchoring so I created a special rode of 5 feet of chain with 8 feet of 3/8″ line. I attached a clip to the end of it so it could be attached to the bow eye of the dinghy close to the water.

The critical piece of equipment is 100 feet of 1/4 inch nylon line on a spool. That gets attached to the trip line eye at the bottom of the anchor.

With that all ready, this video shows the equipment and deployment at Sombrero Key.  We land in about 2 feet of water and push the boat out to anchor in 4 feet of water. Turn your sound up – it’s hard to hear – lots of dogs hanging around the “studio”.

The magic is in putting all of the equipment on the bow easily popped into the water by a slight tug of the trip line. The trip line is the retrieval device and an emergency line in case the anchor fails. It isn’t good enough to hold the dinghy in a gale, but for going to the beach, it’s plenty good enough.

Retrieving the anchor is just as easy.

It’s all pretty easy to do. I strongly suggest using chain on the anchor if you’re going to use this technique. Total cost for this was about $25 plus the anchor which we already had.

Now Larry, how about a trick for rinsing and drying off wet dogs before they get back onto the boat?

Story text and video Copyright © 2010 by Jeffrey Siegel and Karen Siegel

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, Gear & Apparel, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, Sailboats, Sailing Gear & Apparel, seamanship

ActiveCaptain Launches Major Website Upgrade

ActiveCaptain X Screen Shot Showing Marina Details in Damariscotta, Maine

ActiveCaptain X Screen Shot Showing Marina Details in Damariscotta, Maine

Jeffrey Siegel said this week that the ActiveCaptain “X” beta website, under development for the past year, is now fully launched and live, providing everything from a new user interface to NOAA charts and Microsoft Virtual Earth cartography.  The website benefits greatly from having been available in beta form for the last several months and many of the final features were suggested or enhanced through user feedback.

Here’s a rundown on the updated features, provided by Jeff Siegel:

– New interface. We have redesigned the interface to make it easier and faster for you to find information and make updates. The interface is based on a deck of cards to allow for expansion of ActiveCaptain features.

– NOAA charts. The ActiveCaptain website can now display markers on NOAA US charts making it easier to evaluate that anchorage or judge an approach.

– Microsoft cartography. ActiveCaptain now uses Microsoft Virtual Earth for the map and satellite images. We find that these images load faster and are higher quality.

– Expanded location search. A dedicated card now lets you find rivers, harbors, canals, islands – anything with a location name.

– ICW interpolation. You’re no longer limited to selecting ICW locations by NOAA’s 5-mile increments. Selecting ICW interpolation will approximate the location of any mile marker (435.6, 1072, etc).

– In-place detail updates. When you update a detail item, the data is edited right in the detail window. Submitting updates shows them right in the edited section so you know they are pending. This makes it much easier and quicker to update the data.

– Marker filtering. There’s now more control over which markers are displayed. Choose to limit your marina display to ones carrying gas, diesel, or pump out services. Turn on only certain types of local knowledge markers.

– Optional sorting. You can also choose to have fuel or slip pricing displayed with the marina list items and sort the markers based on pricing.

– Marker move/delete. Changing the location of a marker or deleting obsolete markers is now simpler. Select the More link in the marker balloon and a popup menu appears to guide you.

– Adding a new marker. It’s faster and simpler. Press and hold the mouse at the position for the new marker, select the marker type, and fill in the form.

– Permanent link. Quickly create a direct link to a location or marker in ActiveCaptain. Select More in the marker balloon, or press and hold your mouse at a location, and select Permanent link from the popup menu.
It’s easy to include the link in blogs, emails, forums, or websites.

– Hazard markers. One of the most significant additions is the new hazard marker. You can easily find problems areas, find out what cruisers are experiencing, and let others know what you’ve found.
This is especially nice for ICW migration in the Spring and Fall to alert you to the changing ICW conditions.

Siegel says ActiveCaptain gets more than 1,000 updates a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from its participants. In my opinion, there is no better place to get detailed, reliable information on everything from marina dock rates, to fuel prices, to local market knowledge.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, Industry News, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, seamanship, Technology

VIDEO: Active Captain Integrates with MaxSea-Furuno

ActiveCaptain Will be Integrated into MaxSea Time Zero Chart Software

ActiveCaptain Will be Integrated into MaxSea Time Zero Chart Software

Jeff Siegal of ActiveCaptain recently notified users of the fabulous online cruising database that the information from ActiveCaptain will shortly be available inside MaxSea’s Time Zero charting software. The MaxSea folks were demonstrating a beta version of the software and Jeff did a short video of the demo, which is below.

An impromptu demonstration at the Miami Boat Show showing the very latest ActiveCaptain support in MaxSea/Furuno Time Zero.

I don’t know for sure what kind of computer the MaxSea folks had in their exhibit at the Miami Boat Show, where this demo was filmed, but the chart zooming and panning are perfectly seamless.  And switching from vector to raster charts is literally just a click of a button. The best thing is that anytime the system has an Internet connection it will check, then download and cache all the updated info from ActiveCaptain.  All of this is done in the background.  Eventually, MaxSea will build in a feature so that users can simply enter their own ActiveCaptain updates right into the MaxSea software and it will be sent upstream to the database.

In this demo video from MaxSea, you can see how the software works. The video has a music soundtrack for some reason, but you get a good look at the functions. I guess it’s time to have a closer look at MaxSea’s Time Zero software, which, by the way, integrates seamlessly with the Furuno Navnet products and so would be a logical choice for a PC-based nav solution that includes black-box sensors from Furuno. Naturally, MaxSea also includes NMEA 2000 connectivity, so other brands should be usable as well.

Jeff is going to have the MaxSea software available for ActiveCaptain users (ActiveCaptain is free to use, by the way). He expects the price for the non-Navenet version to be less than $350.

If any of our readers are MaxSea users, I’d love to hear from you in the comments as we begin a review of that software. And if you’re not already an ActiveCaptain, you should be. There is no better way to find the kind of information you need to more easily enjoy your cruising, whether it’s the latest fuel prices, a marina recommendation, or info on hazards provided by the locals who know.

Update: I’ve just learned that my friend and colleague Ben Ellison of Panbo actually helped get ActiveCaptain and the MaxSea folks together. You can read more about his assessment of the new confab on Panbo.

Copyright &copy 2010 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, Industry News, Passagemaking News, Powerboats, seamanship, Technology

The Underway Engine Room Check: Why You Need It

I saw a great example recently of why you need to be diligent about the hourly (or whatever regular schedule you set) engine room check while cruising offshore.  As you know from some earlier posts, Jeffrey and Karen Siegel, owners of ActiveCaptain, aboard their DeFever 53 aCappella, are headed south for the winter and recently made an overnight passage off the North Carolina coast.  They’re experienced offshore cruisers and they keep to an hourly engine room check during the day when both are in the pilothouse, and on shift changes at night.

Well, Jeff noticed a tiny leak during one of his checks and monitored it diligently over the next couple of checks.  His ultimate discovery should put the fear of Poseidon in you.

Have a look at his video of the episode.

 

You can follow the Siegel’s trip aboard aCappellaat their blogsite TakingPaws.

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Boats, Passagemaking News, People

iPhone for the Boat? Jeffrey Siegel of ActiveCaptain Says “Yes”

Editor’s Note — I recently talked with Jeff Siegel about some of the issues related to mobile phone service for coastal cruisers.  Jeff and his wife and business partner Karen are the founders of ActiveCaptain, a website we think very highly of and have written about.  They are also the authors of an extensive series of articles on the use of mobile phones (cell phones) aboard boats.  Recently, during some downtime on their annual pilgrimmage southward aboard their DeFever 53RPH named aCappella, they updated this award-winning series with the latest information on equipment and service.  You should take a look at that series, which I consider the definitive “go-to” for cell phone info.  One of the major updates is a new endorsement of the Apple iPhone, which until now the Siegels had serious reservations about.  I asked Jeff whether the data rates for the iPhone and others were really good enough to rely on for a typical coastal cruise such as theirs.  I think you’ll find his reply, as usual, not only informative, but definitive.

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DeFever 53 RPH aCappella Runs Offshore

DeFever 53 RPH aCappella Runs Offshore

“You raise a very interesting question – do the different networks provide good connectivity?  Or more importantly, do they provide good enough connectivity for boaters?

This is our third trip between Maine and Florida where we’ve had both AT&T and Verizon.  We’ve created a qualitative impression previously that both networks allow connectivity throughout the entire coastline.  There are some places where AT&T is better and some places where Verizon is better.  The nice thing is that each year, the speeds increase and both networks seem to be getting better for coastal use.

This year we’ve gotten more technical and quantitative because so many people tell us that they can’t use one network or another.  We thought it would be a good idea to start making speed measurements and putting it, of course, into ActiveCaptain.  There are a few web sites that can give you actual numeric bandwidth results from your connection:
http://www.dslreports.com/mspeed?jisok=1&more=1
http://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/

That’s how we obtain our numbers.  We hope that our start with this will prompt others to do the same thing because there is nothing like real numbers to show the full story.  And we’re sure the numbers will change for the better over time.

The results?  There are some places where AT&T is better and some places where Verizon is better.  Just as we sensed before.  For example, here’s an anchorage we stayed at near Northport, NY on the Long Island Sound:
http://www.activecaptain.com/OTW.php?lat=40.92259&lon=-73.35657&type=1&zoom=4

If you look at the details for the Asharoken anchorage, we wrote that AT&T had a 500 kb connection and Verizon had a 100 kb connection.

Another example – an anchorage in Atlantic City:
http://www.activecaptain.com/OTW.php?lat=39.3816483879913&lon=-74.4215154647827&zoom=3

Verizon and AT&T were pretty equivalent there – 400 kb vs 500 kb.  That’s not a big enough difference to be meaningful.

Finally, here’s where we were last weekend – off the Chesapeake on the Great Wicomico River at Rogue Pt:
http://www.activecaptain.com/OTW.php?lat=37.85215&lon=-76.33026&zoom=4

Verizon was much better than AT&T there – 800 kb vs 100 kb.

Here’s the best news though.  We haven’t been to a place yet where we lost all connectivity from either provider.  We’ve been able to get email from both systems every place we’ve been between Maine and Virginia.  We’ll keep tracking this on our way to Florida as well.  Downloading the 30 emails that are waiting with a 100 kb connection can take a minute but it’s still possible.  Getting current weather information and radar has all been possible at all of these connectivity speeds.

So I really don’t buy the idea that the iPhone should be ruled out because AT&T isn’t good enough.  That is probably true in some selected places just as I could find some selected places where Verizon connectivity isn’t good enough.  But for the east coast, I don’t think there’s much of an issue.  For all boats, we suggest having an amplifier (portable or built-in) to boost signal strength for either network at times.

It’s a good time to be using these digital services on a boat.  And it looks like it’ll only get better over time.”

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Copyright © 2009 by OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in People, Technology

ActiveCaptain Could be the Wave of the Future

ActiveCaptain Screen Shot of Annapolis, MD-area Marinas

ActiveCaptain Screen Shot of Annapolis, MD-area Marinas

Telling you that ActiveCaptain “could” be the wave of the future is probably a little bit like saying the Internet will “probably be a big thing.”  The truth is, ActiveCaptain already is a fantastic resource for cruisers and passagemakers, but it might actually become something huge — a source of real-time, up-to-the-minute information that your navigation system can access while underway.  That’s saying something and the more ActiveCaptain develops, the less far-fetched it sounds.  But more on that later; let’s see why it’s already worth your time to “become” an ActiveCaptain.

Here’s the scenario; it’ll sound familiar.  You pull into a nice marina.  The docking goes smoothly; lines are all set; there’s good power onto the boat; registration with the dockmaster was a breeze, and it looks like happy hour will be a little earlier than first thought.  You get to talking with your neighbor in the next slip and mention how great this marina is compared to the last one you stayed at.  He looks at you like you have three heads and says, “I can’t believe you even stayed there.  NOBODY stays there!”  Okay, he might have let you down a little more gently, but you feel like an idiot for not knowing something that apparently everybody else already knew.  How do you keep that from happening again?  There’s a simple new answer:  ActiveCaptain, which is a number of things but above all else a repository of reliable, real reports and reviews of more marinas, anchorages and other places than you could ever visit in three boating lifetimes.

ActiveCaptain Balloon Display of Marina Info

ActiveCaptain Balloon Display of Marina Info

ActiveCaptain works by assembling, in a Wikipedia-sort of method, information useful to cruisers in a comprehensive, searchable database, called, for now, the Interctive Cruising Guide (a snazzy, re-vamped version called the ActiveCaptain Explorer wit even more life information, is in preview on the site).  You can find everything from marina reviews, to updated locations of channel and inlet markers, to up-to-the-minute reports on fuel prices — all contributed by registered members of the site and confirmed by ActiveCaptain founders and owners Jeffrey and Karen Siegel.  The Siegels have a number of things going for them.  First is the appetite for up-to-date information on cruising.  Waterway and marina guides in print are fine, as far as they go, but all suffer from latency — the time delay from the gathering of information to the time you buy the guide and read it.  Things, especially lately, can change quickly in the marine industry and ActiveCaptain has no time lag at all, with the exception of the possibility that no member has visited a particular marina lately and reviewed it.  Then again, if nobody is visiting it, you probably aren’t either.

The Siegels are also active cruisers, with a particularly interesting and useful blogthat you should check out.  They’ve traveled many of the waters and waterways covered by ActiveCaptain and their experiences continue to generate enhancements to the website.

Aside from the benefit of knowing you are contributing to a more complete database for cruisers, you can earn “points” with all your contributions of information to the site.  Accumulated points are redeemable in a new company store recently opened at the ActiveCaptain website.  The points allow you to make purchases at the store for select marine goods, such as handheld VHF radios.  The discounts afforded to site members are significant enough to bring prices down below wholesale level; essentially to dealer cost. 

ActiveCaptain Mobile Shown on Cell Phone

ActiveCaptain Mobile Shown on Cell Phone

ActiveCaptain also has a Mobile version that now works on both Palm OS devices (such as my own Palm Centro) and Windows Mobile Professional.  You can get charts for all of the U.S. for less than $50 (raster) and the system works very well.  I recently had to use it when, during a recent boat test, the chartplotter GPS failed and we got lost in the Fort Lauderdale canal maze.  I simply fired up a bluetooth GPS receiver (I’m stuck with Verizon for cell phone service, which deliberately disables GPS on its phones) and we were instantly back in business.

Posted by Tom in Destinations, Passagemaking News, Technology