navigation software

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

Nobeltec Releases Admiral and VNS 11.1 Service Pack

Nobeltec said today it has released a free service pack update for users of the new (January 2011) version of Admiral and VNS.  The service pack offers integration with Furuno’s popular Digital Fish Finder (DFF1) Sounder, as well as a number of NMEA 2000 integration improvements.  While I don’t often simply reprint a press release, Nobeltec is a pretty straightforward company and it makes more sense to just quote it here.  I am also planning a full review of the Nobeltec TimeZero Trident software, to which I believe most boaters will eventually want to move.

Herewith the Nobeltec News:

“Nobeltec announces new hardware integration and software functionality with the service pack release of Admiral 11.1 and VNS 11.1. VNS and Admiral are optimized for safe and accurate navigation on recreational boats, commercial vessels, and mega yachts. This newest service pack adds value to Nobeltec navigation systems. One of the most significant updates to the marine navigational software is the ability to integrate with the Furuno Digital Fish Finder (DFF1) Sounder.

“Integration with the Furuno DFF1 sounder is a natural addition to our Nobeltec software suite,” Nobeltec General Manager Bill Washburn said. “We’re glad boaters can take advantage of the integration of two great products: the Furuno DFF1 Sounder and Nobeltec VNS and Admiral software.”

Improvements to NMEA 2000 integration also enhance functionality in the Admiral and VNS software. The new release supports NMEA 2000 AIS Device Priority, and the real time weather functionality has been upgraded to include Pressure, Air Temperature and Humidity inputs from NMEA 2000 sensors.

Admiral and VNS 11.1 showcase improved AIS target filtering. In the Admiral software, the service pack adds the ability to filter AIS targets based on class and both VNS and Admiral offer the option to display a target’s class (A or B).

The latest version will also, for the first time, include NV. Charts digital chart integration and support. These raster charts cover Europe, Bahamas, Cuba, and other areas in the Caribbean. The integration of NV. Charts digital charts is in addition to many other types of raster charts as well as C-MAP® MAX Pro™ vector charts already supported by VNS and Admiral.

This is the first service pack for the software since the successful release of Admiral 11 and VNS 11 in January 2011. The new release is available as a free download to customers currently running the latest version of Admiral or VNS. Customers can visit the Nobeltec website (www.nobeltec.com) to access the new service pack.”

Copyright ©2011 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, 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
Nobeltec:  The Future Has No Dongle

Nobeltec: The Future Has No Dongle

Screenshot of Nobeltec Time Zero Trident 3D Nav View

Screenshot of Nobeltec Time Zero Trident 3D Nav View

I have seen the future of Nobeltec, and it has no. . . okay, okay, I couldn’t resist.  But c’mon, let’s admit, that dongle was the only real thing we hated about Nobeltec navigation software.  And yes, I know all the reasons they had for using it, but it really got in the way.  And now that you know that the future Nobeltec nav software won’t require a dongle, let me tell you that that is the least important of all the improvements coming.  Nobeltec gave journalists and industry insiders at the Miami Boat Show a  peak at the next-generation software, code-named Trident, that has been under development for some time at the company.  The future is very bright, indeed.

In fact, Nobeltec liked the code-name so much they kept it for the new product, married to a term that underlies the technical philosophy of the new products — “TimeZero.”  The full name will be TimeZero Trident.  The TimeZero moniker refers to the high-speed chart-drawing engine that will be the basis for all Nobeltec software going forward.  This is the result of the purchase of Nobeltec by Signet S.A., in October of 2009.  The TimeZero codebase is shared between Nobeltec, MaxSea and Furuno (who is a 49% shareholder of Signet).

What does this mean to you?

The major benefit to you as a navigator using software based on this chart engine is the nearly instantaneous, seamless chart re-draws, no matter what you’re trying to do — pan, zoom in or zoom out. You don’t wait for anything.  And when that kind of speed is available, then integrating full-time 3D is easy to do. In fact you can fuse photos into the 3D view as well and with a feature called Depth Shading, you can keep the high resolution satellite photos in place and watch it become more transparent with increasing water depth, allowing you to see where shallow water ends and deeper water begins.

The Charts?

TimeZero Trident will run MapMedia 3D charts, including official S-57 vector and raster charts from hydrographic offices around the world, as well as vector charts from C-MAP by Jeppesen and DataCore by Navionics.  The bottom line on this feature is that you will have access to the best cartography available and you can run in and out of the different charts without any work on your part.

The software is fully integrated, as you might expect, with the latest Furuno hardware, including NavNet 3D and the FAR 2XX7 series of radars, as well as a host of other Furuno and Insight (Nobeltec) hardware.  There are nice integrations of NMEA data streams, too, so a real glass bridge can be even more flexible and functional.

The Best Part

Despite all the previous gushing, what I liked best about the Trident product is the new user interface.  A couple of extremely useful and flexible toolbars are placed around the periphery of the screen, allowing you to configure your activity and views with nearly limitless customization.  But you don’t have to dig through a foggy manual to learn how to do it.  For example, in the screenshot at the top of this piece, you can see a small ribbon at the top of the screen, which allows you to select the “workspace” that you are in.  You can move with a single click from an active navigation (monitoring) workspace, to a planning workspace, without disrupting the former to get to the latter.

On the right side of the screen above you can see a transparent sidebar with a new key instrument view.  This, too, is customizable.  To read all about the features in TimeZero Trident, download the attached brochure PDF (6+MB).

You can see the screenshots in this special OceanLines Gallery 

.

The Future

While TimeZero Trident will be a stand-alone product, distinct from the current Nobeltec VNS and Admiral 11 software, eventually, its TimeZero engine will be the basis for all Nobeltec software in the future.  I think it’s fair to say you can expect to see TimeZero VNS and Admiral versions, which do still have somewhat different feature sets from Trident.  The Nobeltec folks didn’t say so, but it seems logical to me that at some point down the road, I don’t know when, everything will become Trident labeled (hey, it’s a cooler name, right?).  Nobeltec expects TZ Trident to be available later this spring.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, seamanship, Technology

New Website for C-Map by Jeppesen

New Jeppesen Light Marine Website

New Jeppesen Light Marine Website

Jeppesen, a Boeing company, said today it has launched a revamped website for its light marine business.  The new look is clean and uncluttered and looks like it will be much easier to navigate.  I’m a big fan of “white space” on websites.  It allows your eye to quickly capture the most important information, and in this case it’s the navigation links, which are all now front and center.  Kudos to Jeppesen for an improved web experience.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, 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

Here’s Why You Need an iPad on the Boat

by Christine Kling

 
 

The Apple iPad Loaded with Marine Apps - Photo Courtesy of Christine Kling

The Apple iPad Loaded with Marine Apps - Photo Courtesy of Christine Kling

(Editor’s Note — Chris Kling is a sailor with with more than 30 years of experience on the oceans of the world. She’s also an English professor at Broward College, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the published author of the Seychelle Sullivan series of mysteries, including SURFACE TENSION (2002), CROSS CURRENT (2004), BITTER END (2005, and WRECKERS’ KEY (2007). You can and should buy them at this Amazon page. They’re great page-turners and the protagonist is a female tug captain and salvor through whom I could easily live vicariously (you know, except for the requisite sex-change operation of course). Chris recently got an iPad and has wasted no time collecting and testing marine apps for the sleek new tablet. You can visit her at her main website here or at her new blog, co-hosted with fellow writer Mike Jastrzebski, Write on the Water.)

I have wanted to share this list of some of my favorite boating apps for the iPad.  Some people have looked at the iPad and the high price for the device and they have said they just don’t get it.  Why would someone pay so much for that.  I can only report on my own experience — and this little computer has changed the way I interact with technology.  I find myself using my laptop less and less.  The iPad is so fast, so intuitive and does so many things that I could no more imagine living without one than I could imagine living without a computer.  Today, I will cover boating apps and in a later post, I will discuss writing apps.

To begin with, there is the problem with the screen outdoors.  I have found though, that if I change the setting from auto-brightness to manual and crank it all the way up, it is very easy to see and use for navigation outdoors.  Most of us wear Polaroid lenses when we are out on the water, and the iPad screen goes black when viewed in portrait mode with Polaroids on, but just turn it to landscape and the image reappears.

Navigation:

First, I need to mention that it is necessary to have the iPad 3G to get the real GPS chip in the unit for navigation purposes.  The non-3G units require wifi, which, of course, is not going to work at sea. Some have questioned whether the iPad GPS would work outside the range of the 3G connection, and I can attest that as long as you have already downloaded your charts, your GPS will work fine offshore.  Mine worked continuously on the passage three weeks ago from the Abacos to Charleston, North Carolina when I had absolutely no 3G connection.

iNavX Screen Capture on the iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

iNavX Screen Capture on the iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

iNavX – $49.99  I started using the Mac version of this software about four years ago and I love it.  There are other cheaper apps for marine navigation now, but I like using the same software on my laptop, iPhone and iPad.  This one app is universal, meaning it works with both the iPhone and the iPad with full versions for each device.  With many of the other apps listed here you would have to buy separate versions for the iPhone and the iPad.  Yes, it is a lot of money, but it is absolutely worth it to to get this full featured complete navigation system that can interface via wifi with your boat’s instruments.  The program comes with free access to all the NOAA charts, but you can purchase additional charts through X-Traverse. This service allows you to save, retrieve and move data on and off the iPad.  I bought the US and Bahamas Navionics Gold charts for the iPad for $49.99 which do show some marinas and other land features.

Charts & Tides Screen Capture on iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

Charts & Tides Screen Capture on iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

Navimatics Charts & Tides/ East Coast – $19.99 You might ask yourself what do I need another navigation program for.  Good question.  This app is by Navimatics and the app does show another type of cartography, but the navigation features do not work as well and are not as extensive as iNavX.  However, what this program does have is Active Captain, the Interactive Cruising Guidebook.   It was well worth the twenty bucks to get this feature that drops dots onto the charts where marinas, boatyards and various points of interest are located.  When you click on the dots you get a ton of info including cost of slip rental, phone numbers, reviews, laundry and grocery info, etc.  This is a sort of Wiki type thing for boaters and once you have your membership to the Active Captain website (free) and you input your info on the iPad, you can click a synch button and you’ll get the most up to date info available. When we were in Deltaville, VA, I saw a review that had been written one week earlier.  This is far better than a print cruising guide.  Yes, the info is available on the laptop if I am on the Internet, but with my iPad and my 3G account, when cruising here in the US, it’s available almost everywhere.

Navionics – $19.99  I have not purchased this, but Navionics has their own nav program which like the one above, includes the nave. program with the charts and for this price you get the East Coast.  You would pay again for the West Coast and again for the Great Lakes.  You can only use their charts.  With iNavX all the NOAA charts are included for free, and then you can add other charts if you want to buy them.  However, I’d like to hear from others who might use this to know how they think it compares to iNavX.

MotionX-GPS $2.99 has recently added marine charts.  I have not gone this route or explored it, but I would love to hear in the comments if anyone else has done so.  As soon as I have the time I intend to explore this — I mean, for three bucks — why not??

AyeTides Screen Capture on iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

AyeTides Screen Capture on iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

Tides:

AyeTides XL — $9.99  This tide program is fully integrated with iNavX so that you can click on a tides button in the nav program and get your info.  The program has just released this iPad version (August 2), and it is beautiful.  And it still has more tide stations and information than the tide program included with Charts & Tides.

Marine Day Tides — free   Actually, there are two versions of this program and I use the free one which gives the most tides info I’ve seen, but it will only give you the info for today — not for the future.  The planner version of the program is $9.99 and it is great, but I get enough info to suit me with the Ayetides and it interfaces with my navigation program.

Weather:

I have tried a few marine weather apps for the iPad, but I haven’t found anything yet that I particularly like.  I would be very interested to hear from others what they like best.

Wundermap —free   This great app comes from the folks at WeatherUnderground.  This includes various types of radar and infrared screens which require an Internet connection.  It uses the GPS to determine your location and gives you a satellite map with an information overlay.  Now I just wish they would make a version that includes Marine Weather forecasts.

Weatherbug Elite for iPad — free   This little app has tons of great info on a very tight screen.  I like their wind direction compass rose.

Miscellaneous:

Boater‘s Pocket Reference — $4.99  1,800 pages of boating information including Rules of the Road, aides to navigation, illustrations, photos, buoys, signal flags, etc.  A great on-hand resource.

Shipfinder Screen Capture on the iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

Shipfinder Screen Capture on the iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

ShipFinder HD — $7.99  This app shows the AIS feed of ships in your area.  It is broadcast over the Internet so it will only be good as long as you have an Internet connection either via wifi or through a 3G account.  When coastwise cruising, however, it’s wonderful to see the name, course and speed of that ship in the distance. Yesterday, sailing from Fishing Bay to Solomons, we passed a strange gray ship off Point Lookout, and I was able to look it up with Shipfinder and discover it was a Naval High Speed Craft called SEAFIGHTER and she was at anchor.

Nautical Terms for iPad — $0.99 This is a great replacement for the old dog-eared nautical dictionary I had and the numerous bookmarks that I could never find for online dictionaries.

Knot Guide HD — $2.99 This includes 91 knots in 17 categories.  What more could you ask for?

Pocket First Aid and CPR — $3.99 From the American Heart Association, this guide appears to be one of the most complete for emergency situations as it includes illustrations and videos.

Air Display – $9.99 – This turns your iPad into a second display for your laptop.  Currently this only works with Mac OS but they are working on a Windows version. You could run your laptop nav program on your iPad using it as a slave screen and avoid having to buy the costly iPad apps.

Another boating plus is that you can load all your PDF manuals into Goodreads or now into iBooks, and they will be there ready to load in a hurry.

As for waterproof cases for the iPad, I have found the simple for $19.99 that looks like a glorified Ziplock bag to this fancy one from Germany for 280 Euros.  There are also various mounts here and others here that one can get to make your iPad function more like a helm chart plotter, but I am waiting for the swing away arm.

The iPad has become much more than just an eReader for me, and though many of these things I could do on a laptop, I couldn’t do any of them as fast or as easily as I can on the iPad.

Fair winds!

Christine

Original article Copyright © 2010 by Christine Kling. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, Environment & Weather, Gear & Apparel, megayachts, Powerboats, Sailboats, Sailing Gear & Apparel, Technology

Fugawi X-Traverse Now Compatible with iPad

Fugawi X-Traverse

Fugawi X-Traverse

Well, here is reason number 967 why I probably should get an iPad. Northport Systems Inc., recently announced that itsFugawi X-Traverse online map management system is now compatible with the iNavX Version 3 app for the Apple iPad. Fugawi X-Traverse was designed to ensure that map users had ready access to their up-to-date cartography subscriptions and the enhanced mobile access means that iPad owners can have the functionality of their color chartplotter, with the advantage of knowing they always have the most up-to-date charts available from their supplier.

If you haven’t checked out the X-Traverse service from Fugawi, it’s worth a look. X-Traverse is basically an online storage system that allows you to upload, retrieve and transfer across platforms — PC to iPhone, for example — your waypoints, tracks, etc., assuming you’re using compatible software, such as Fugawi’s Marine ENC or Global Navigator or iNavX. You can also purchase Navionics charts through X-Traverse, some of which can be simply downloaded.

We recently reviewed Marine ENC here and thought it was a great PC-based system for the pilothouse, either as primary or backup navigation.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, Technology
Jeppesen Announces C-MAP Charts for Furuno NavNet 3D

Jeppesen Announces C-MAP Charts for Furuno NavNet 3D

Furuno NavNet 3D Displaying New C-MAP Charts

Furuno NavNet 3D Displaying New C-MAP Charts

Jeppesen said today that selected C-MAP by Jeppesen MapMedia charts are available for the Furuno NavNet 3D chartplotters. The charts come pre-installed on U.S.-based, newly purchased NavNet 3D units and the company said older NavNet 3D plotters can be updated with a free software update to be compatible with the new charts.

Jeppesen said boaters “can select from eight Wide chart regions for $300 each, including the pre-loaded WM73 (USA East Coast & Bahamas), WM74 (Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes & Rivers) and WM47 (USA West Coast & Hawaii).  Additional available Wide coverage regions include WM 72 (Canada North & East), WM48 (Canada West Coast), WM75 (Great Lakes & Maritimes), WM76 (Central America & Caribbean) and WM49 (Alaska).  Boaters can also choose from two expansive Mega Wide regions for $600:  MWM17 (Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean) and MWM18 (Pacific Coast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean).”

More from the Jeppesen release:

“C-MAP by Jeppesen MapMedia charts can easily be viewed in traditional 2D or life-like 3D presentation using Furuno’s patented TimeZero technology for a realistic and seamless navigation experience. “Boaters have long recognized Furuno’s NavNet 3D system as a revolutionary navigation tool — but one that has been unavailable until now to legions of loyal C-MAP users,” said Jeppesen Light Marine Division Director James Detar. “We’re proud of the work we’ve done with Furuno to once again bring this powerful combination of technologies to boaters and look forward to getting it into their hands,” he added.
Boaters have a couple of options to purchase new C-MAP by Jeppesen MapMedia charts for Furuno NavNet 3D. They can work through their local Authorized Furuno or Jeppesen dealer. Consumers can also purchase charts and unlock codes directly from Jeppesen by calling (508) 477-8010, faxing to (508) 539-4381 or emailing [email protected]

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, Technology

Krogen 58′ Northbound: Part 2

Our Krogen 58' Departs Jensen Beach and turns north up the ICW

Our Krogen 58' Departs Jensen Beach and turns north up the ICW

It’s 2 p.m. on Friday and I’m stowing my camera gear carefully in the salon of this big yacht when I hear a sudden muted rumble from below decks. Our captain, Kadey-Krogen Project Manager Gregg Gandy, has started the John Deere diesels. We’re ready to depart our Jensen Beach, Florida, marina and head north to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina with this brand new Krogen 58′.

Our departure has been delayed for a couple of hours, courtesy of the U.S. Postal Service, who somehow figured out how to take four days to make an express delivery from Tampa to Stuart of our radar set. But that’s behind us now; Gregg and a local technician have the old Furuno unit hooked up and running well. This is a brand new yacht that Kadey-Krogen has been using as a company demonstrator and now they’ve decided to sell it, so it’s on its way up to the Annapolis, Maryland, office. So naturally, we don’t want to be making holes in the beautiful helm panels for this temporary gear. We’ve got it installed on a removable panel offset to the right side of the helm, along with the new Furuno autopilot and the VHF radio.

Gregg Gandy (foreground) and Greg Kaufman in the Krogen 58' pilothouse

Gregg Gandy (foreground) and Greg Kaufman in the Krogen 58' pilothouse

We’ve got full (1,760 gallons) fuel and water (400 gallons) tanks; the galley lockers are loaded with fruit, cereal, granola bars and microwave meals and we let go the lines and head east from the marina into the ICW, then turn north and head for the Fort Pierce Inlet. We could have turned south and gone out the St. Lucie inlet, but the tide isn’t high and Gregg “hates” backtracking, so north we go.

A bottlenose dolphin swings by while we’re in the waterway, just checking out the nice lines of the big Kadey-Krogen. I’m adjusting to steering the yacht from the flybridge. It takes a few minutes before I stop over-correcting and adopt the smaller, more anticipatory movements that keep this deep-keel boat on track. In short order we turn east into the Fort Pierce inlet and get ready to head offshore. Gregg takes the wheel, transferring command from inside the pilothouse and I head below to join him and Greg Kaufman, Kadey-Krogen’s newest sales team member, himself a long-time sailor and captain.

The Fort Pierce Inlet is deceptively calm when viewed from inside

The Fort Pierce Inlet is deceptively calm when viewed from inside

From well inside, the inlet looks calm enough, but the aerial antics of a couple of kite surfers suggest that more is going on at the mouth of the inlet than we can see from here. The tide is still going out and a strong east wind is piling up wickedly steep waves. Gregg has a firm hand on the wheel as the bow starts to rise and fall with the increasingly short-period waves; some breaking now. The TRAC stabilizers have the roll element handled nicely but we’re pitching markedly as even our big, heavy yacht can’t defy the physics of tons of green water completely. It’s a tad dramatic and a crash from somewhere aft in the saloon reminds us that we forgot to latch the refrigerator doors. The lovely Jenn-Air has neatly emptied itself during one of our uphill climbs. Oops.

The water color marks the limit of the inlet outflow

The water color marks the limit of the inlet outflow

Just when the ride is getting to be a little tiresome, we approach the boundary of the inlet outflow, marked by a decidedly sharp line between the murkier water of the inlet and the blue water of the ocean. We’re still in for a bit of a head-bash as we turn north, with the long ocean swells from the northeast and an east-northeasterly wind mixing the sea surface up. Full confession — I’m a tad green around the gills by nightfall and find I need to stay topside while my inner ear, brain and stomach negotiate a settlement. I have the 10-2 watch and by my turn I’m feeling better and slip into the routine. My two shipmates decide to get some sleep and head below to the guest stateroom amidships, which has twin bunks.

The helm routine on watch is simple. Let George (the autopilot) steer, while you watch the course track on the GPS-linked laptop, monitor the VHF and watch the radar. We periodically change the radar range to ensure we don’t miss a small boat up close, but mostly we’re focused on keeping a lookout for the big stuff; large freighters, warships and cruise ships, moving a high relative speeds and sometimes seemingly oblivious to anything else in their way. Gregg is running MacENC on his Mac laptop, while I’m running the latest version of Fugawai Marine ENC on my Windows 7 laptop over on the other side of the helm. Our SPOT Messenger is velcro’d to a forward pilothouse window where it reports our position every 10 minutes. Friends and family follow our trip by checking in on a website that displays the last 50 position reports.

We keep an hourly manual log of time, position, heading, speed, engine RPM, and comments. It’s standard practice offshore and allows you to pick up a dead reckoning position should you lose your electronic fix. The paper charts we would need to do so are in the wide chart drawers to either side of the helm. We do an engine room check every two hours, looking for leaks, loose belts, odd vibrations, expected fuel levels in the sight glasses, etc. The John Deere diesels are in their element, however, and run on and on at 1,850 RPM for virtually the entire trip. These are continuous duty-rated engines that are built to be started and run forever. At that RPM, we’re getting somewhere just north of 8.5 knots of basic hull speed, but the Gulf Stream will add to that significantly once we get in the middle of it.

Toward the end of my watch, the wind and waves have both veered into the southeast, easing the ride considerably and I hand over the helm to Gregg, who has the 2-6 watch. It’s a dark night, with no moon and lots of clouds obscuring the sky. I settle back onto the comfortable settee behind the helm and close my eyes, listening to the symphonic rhythms of a boat at steady cruise — the steady thrum of the engines, the constant rush of water by the hull, the occasional splash of an errant wave. I’m tired, and it’s all very. . . sleep. . .inducing. . .

Cruise ship passes astern of our Krogen 58' at sunset on friday

Cruise ship passes astern of our Krogen 58' at sunset on friday

(to be continued)

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Destinations, Electronics, Engines, Environment & Weather, Passagemaking News, Powerboats, seamanship, Technology

Fugawi Announces NavPlanner 2 and Updated Marine ENC

Screenshot of NavPlanner2 Showing Google Earth View

Screenshot of NavPlanner2 Showing Google Earth View

Fugawi recently announced the release of Navionics NavPlanner2, powered by Fugawi. The company also said it has released version 4.5.5 of its Fugawi Marine ENC.

NavPlanner2 is an atlas of U.S. coastal waters, navigable waterways, and more than 12,000 inland lakes for use on a home computer for map viewing, searching, printing, waypoint planning and GPS data managing. NavPlanner2 includes the 2010 edition of Navionics Gold U.S. marine charts and the HotMaps Premium U.S. lake maps for use on a PC. While you can’t use the charts themselves on another plotter, you can export and exchange routes, waypoints, etc., with such devices, so it can serve as a great planning tool away from the helm station. Recommended retail price is $129. The program is available directly from Fugawi or from any Navionics dealer.

Fugawi Marine ENC Version 4.5.5is software for navigation that can use many charts from many different sources, including many of the Navionics formats, S-57 format charts, S-63 encrypted ENC charts, BSB charts, NV. Digital charts, topographic maps, and your own scanned paper maps.

Screenshot of Fugawi Marine ENC with Navionics Platinum Charts

Screenshot of Fugawi Marine ENC with Navionics Platinum Charts

I will be evaluating this latest version of Fugawi Marine ENC during an upcoming offshore delivery from Florida to Annapolis aboard a new Kadey-Krogen 58′. We’ll have multiple computers running different nav programs so it should be a nice run. We’ll get a chance to check out Fugawi with a little travel in the ICW, out and in some popular inlets and during both near-shore and offshore navigation.

Do you use Fugawi Marine ENC for navigating?  If so, drop us your thoughts about the program in the comments.  We’ll keep them in mind while we evaluate the program and we may follow-up with you.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

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

Piloting a Freighter in New York Harbor

“All stop! Rudder amidships!”  The command from the pilot to the helmsman was loud, almost harsh, betraying the pilot’s anxiety.  The M/V Marina Star, a 400-foot freighter, was in the narrowest part of the New York Harbor ship channel, heading south toward the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

But a 40-foot sailboat was passing directly in front of the freighter’s bow, perhaps 100 meters ahead of the big steel ship.  Both the pilot, Capt. Rick Schoenlank of the Sandy Hook Pilots Association, and the vessel’s master, Dunceal Constantin, were on edge, their anxiety about a near collision blossoming into barely restrained anger.  The ship’s horn blasted five times in the international signal for immediate danger. 

New York Harbor is a busy place and the shipping channels are narrow.

New York Harbor is a busy place and the shipping channels are narrow.

This is why I was onboard: to sample life from the other side.  On assignment for Mad Mariner, and with the blessing of the pilot’s association, I had followed Schoenlank onto the Greek-built freighter to observe first-hand the challenges of safely conning some of the world’s largest ships in and out of one of the world’s busiest harbors.

Schoenlank looked over at me, his afternoon ride-along, and said, “Well, you wanted to understand our concerns about how the recreational boaters sometimes get in trouble out here with these big ships?  Here you go.”

The sailboat had been observed for the last several minutes through the binoculars by the pilot, the master and the navigator, and her course had not varied.  She was on track to collide with the freighter. With her bearing unchanged and range decreasing, something had to be done.

It was then that the pilot ordered the big ship to stop – a move not without risk in the relatively narrow ship lane leading out of New York Harbor to the Ambrose Channel and the Atlantic. There were vessels astern of us who would have to adjust their speeds, and if the tide or winds had been stronger the ship could have drifted out of the channel and quickly run aground or into an adjacent anchorage crowded with other vessels.

There was considerable discussion – I’ll spare the coarser details – between the pilot and the vessel’s master about what the sailor might have been thinking.

Ultimately, the freighter came nearly to a dead stop, and the sailboat passed safely in front of her at what must have seemed a comfortable distance to the sailboat’s helmsman.  But without or the freighter’s drastic maneuver, the sailboat would very likely have been run down.

A PILOT’S LIFE

The amount of large commercial traffic in and out of New York Harbor is staggering: more than 12,500 commercial transits a year.  That means the Sandy Hook pilots, with their fleet of 12 pilot boats based on Staten Island, handle more than 35 ship movements a day.  These ships range from small coastal freighters to the biggest ships in the world – supertankers and container ships more than 1,000 feet long.

Schoenlank and I boarded the Marina Star shortly before noon at her pier in the Port of Newark, where she had just finished loading a cargo of steel pipe bound for Houston.  Schoenlank went through a formal routine of introducing himself to the vessel’s master, asking permission to enter the bridge, and then setting up his own equipment and preparing to depart.  Sandy Hook pilots use a specially-configured laptop equipped with dedicated software – Wheelhouse II, in this case – and a portable DGPS receiver that the pilot mounts out on the bridge wing.  The laptop is then connected to the ship’s AIS system through a special port that is required by international maritime law to be installed on all commercial ships that require pilots. 

A sailboat forces the freighter Marina Star to stop dead in the water in order to avoid a collision.

A sailboat forces the freighter Marina Star to stop dead in the water in order to avoid a collision.

The laptop and its software allow Schoenlank and his fellow pilots to have their own reliable navigation system, customized for local conditions.  Schoenlank also had a wireless broadband Internet connection that allowed him to double-check detailed tide and current information online.

Some of the chaos of harbors like New York is minimized by the Vessel Traffic System, a monitoring and advisory service run by the U.S. Coast Guard.  The VTS takes advantage of fixed cameras, radar and AIS systems aboard commercial vessels to monitor the flow of ships into and out of piers and anchorages throughout the greater New York City area.  Harbor pilots talk to the VTS, who can give them notice of traffic in their area and assist with conflict resolution.

But when it comes to recreational boat traffic, they are all but blind. The VTS –- and consequently the harbor pilots –- have no reliable means of monitoring the recreational traffic in the harbor.  On a nice summer weekend, that can mean literally hundreds of small boats of all kinds moving in every direction, into and out of shipping lanes and often, in the case of recreational fishermen, sitting or even anchoring directly in the Ambrose channel.

‘OPTICAL ILLUSION’

Schoenlank said many recreational captains don’t understand how restricted large vessels really are.  “They look at this harbor and see a big open area, not realizing that this ship I’m guiding has only a 150-foot wide channel to maneuver in,” Schoenlank says.  “They also have a hard time judging the speed of an approaching ship.  They’ll sit here fishing in the middle of the channel until the last possible second, not realizing that the ship approaching is actually doing 12 or 13 knots.  There’s a kind of optical illusion that makes these big ships appear to be going more slowly than they really are.”

Marina Star is a smaller, lighter vessel with a top speed of about 7 knots, and she slowed more quickly when power was taken off to avoid the sailboat. B ut Schoenlank points out that a fully-laden supertanker will simply not stop in less than a half mile – and often it takes far longer.

“If that fisherman can’t get his motor started on the first pull,” Schoenlank says, “he’s in trouble.” 

The Master watches the Harbor Pilot navigate busy waters into port.

The Master watches the Harbor Pilot navigate busy waters into port.

In recent years, the Sandy Hook Pilots have worked with the Coast Guard and with some of the bigger fishing tournaments to try to reduce the hazards to both commercial and recreational boats.  A program called “Clear Channel” uses Coast Guard launches to clear the waterway ahead of the ships.  But Coast Guard resources are limited and they are not always available to run interference for the commercial ships.

As the sailboat passed off to starboard, Schoenlank ordered the ship to make headway again and we passed uneventfully then under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and down along the Ambrose channel toward the pilot rendezvous area, where incoming and outbound ships pick up and drop off their pilots.  The rendezvous point is a little farther offshore than the old Ambrose light tower, damaged last winter when a tanker rammed it.  It was recently removed for good and the ship channels and pilot rendezvous zones re-aligned.

As we headed southward toward the rendezvous, the windy afternoon had kicked up the seas offshore and whitecaps were everywhere.  Schoenlank tapped me on the shoulder and pointed in the distance off the port bow where the sun glinted harshly on the rough water.

“Do you see a boat out there?” he asked.

I strained to see, even through polarized sunglasses, and eventually saw a fishing boat glinting in the sun every few seconds, when it wasn’t hidden behind a wave.

“Yeah, I see it,” I replied.

Schoenlank smiled. “Yes, but do you see all three of them?” he said.  “Now imagine they were directly ahead of us, or that the whitecaps were just a big bigger.”

THE JACOBS LADDER

For the harbor pilots of New York, “local knowledge” seems an insufficient term to describe the depth of their understanding of the waterways where they work.  And it is not obtained quickly.  The training and apprenticeship of a harbor pilot involves more time on the job than many doctoral programs. 

Bridge crew of the tanker Sichem Onomichi monitor the vessel's approach to a pier. The tanker was assisted by a tug boat.

Bridge crew of the tanker Sichem Onomichi monitor the vessel's approach to a pier. The tanker was assisted by a tug boat.

Each candidate arrives as a licensed Master – itself an accomplishment – and begins a five and a half year apprenticeship, during which the trainee will operate under the direct supervision of a full pilot.  During these years, the apprentice will gradually move from smaller vessels up to the largest supertankers.  The long apprenticeship ensures that each candidate has plenty of opportunity to experience all the waterways New York City has to offer, in all kinds of weather, traffic and sea conditions.

After that, the apprentice is ready to become a deputy pilot.  As a deputy, the candidate still has seven full years ahead before acquiring the title of Full Branch Pilot.  And even after gaining the full pilot designation, there will be continuing education and training requirements.

At the pilot rendezvous station, our outbound Marina Star was met by one of the Sandy Hook Pilots’ new “America-class” pilot boats, a 53-foot, diesel-powered all-weather vessel built by the Derecktor Shipyard. The rendezvous is coordinated by one of two large, pilot-relief ships: either the 182-foot New York or the 145-foot New Jersey.  In our case, the New Jersey was on station, manned by a crew of apprentice pilots who spend as much as two weeks at a time offshore.

The pilot boat came along the port side of Marina Star, carefully matching our speed and staying as close to the big ship’s hull as possible.  Schoenlank and I said goodbye to the master on the bridge and made our way down to the main deck, where a Jacobs ladder – a rope and wooden slats – had been rigged for us to climb down to the pilot boat.

Sichem Onomichi approaches a pier in New Jersey, where its diesel fuel cargo will be offloaded.

Sichem Onomichi approaches a pier in New Jersey, where its diesel fuel cargo will be offloaded.

While the helmsman of the pilot boat deftly controlled his vessel in the heaving, confused seas between the two boats, another apprentice pilot stood on the foredeck of the pilot boat and helped us time our final steps aboard.  It’s a physically demanding evolution, and not without risk.  Pilots and crewmembers can be injured or killed if things go wrong.

Once aboard the pilot boat, we were quickly transferred to the New Jersey, where we were able to grab a quick cup of coffee and regroup before getting right back on the pilot boat for transfer to an inbound tanker. The New Jersey has a special hatch well down her hull side to ease the movement to and from the smaller pilot boats, but it can still be hairy when the seas are rough.

We pulled along the starboard side the Sichem Onomichi, a brand-new 400-foot Korean-built tanker.  Schoenlank had taken Marina Star from pier to sea; now he would be charged with getting Sichem Onomichi from sea to port.  The apprentice pilot on our boat cautioned me to step onto the Jacobs ladder only when the tanker was rising relative to the pilot boat. To step aboard on a downward cycle would put me between the two vessels and in danger of being crushed.

Sichem Onomichi is a chemical and petroleum carrier and, like most commercial ships these days, she had an international crew that included an Indian master and Singaporean and Filipino mates (all are supposed to speak English on the bridge). Sichem Onomichi was bound for an oil company wharf along the New Jersey banks of the Arthur Kill, where specialized equipment ashore would unload the ship’s diesel fuel cargo. Because of the tightly-constrained waterway there, the vessel would require the additional services of a tugboat and tug pilot, who would take over from Schoenlank for docking.

It was time to do it all again.

Copyright ©  2008 by OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in People