Jeffrey Siegel

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

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