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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

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