Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nav Comparison

When sailing last weekend in Fort Myers Beach I was able to test the full spectrum of Nav programs available for the iPhone. The only program I don't have is Active Captain as they haven't ported it to the iPhone yet. I was able to compare iNavX with NOAA Raster Charts, iNavX version 2 with Navionics Vector Charts, Navimatics Marine Maps (Now Charts and Tides), and Fly to Maps Water Map Navigator. By far the best chart data available was the Navionics Vector Data.

As this product hasn't been released and Navionics is handleing the PR side of things I can't show you a full screen shot, but here is the chart portion of the screen shot. The raster chart above was usable, but due to the low scale of the Raster, the free chart was not great for navigating the narrow channel (not that it really mattered as we still bumped a sand bar heading out due to the unusually low tide even though we were dead smack in the middle of the channel). My understanding of the plans for iNavX are that when version 2 comes out (free upgrade) Navionics will have a method to purchase and download their Vector charts (in addition to the free NOAA Raster charts). No word yet on regional packaging or pricing, but if I lived up this inlet, I would spend the money for the Navionics Vector chart as it fills in nicely for the less than stellar Raster of the region.

I unfortunately forgot to load the correct region of the Navimatics charts, an inherent flaw in a system with separate programs for different regions. That said, you can load more than one region at a time and the icon shows the active chart region. Below is what the Navimatics chart of the region looks like.

Certainly workable, but not really as good as the NOAA raster let alone the Navionics Vector. It doesn't show all the Nav Aids that line the channel, just the larger Piles at the entrance. It does show the location of the channel with a different water color, but without the smaller posts shown, it would be harder to follow.

Fly To Map's product uses the free NOAA Vector charts (S57 format). Unfortunately, there are still ~30% of the raster charts that have not been converted yet. Also, they aren't the prettiest things in the world by any means. Clearly this is a region where the detailed charts haven't been converted to Vector format yet making the software completely un-usable in this situation. Sure it only costs $10, but if you lived or sailed in Fort Myers it wouldn't be worth 10 cents.

Overall, I am very excited about the partnership of Navionics and iNavX. The iNavX software is by far the most powerful, with the new features of waypoint and track import/export just adding to the functionality. They also keep developing with promises of eventual Grib weather overlays and several other features on top of the added support for Navionics Vector charts. The Vectors are sure to be somewhat costly, but hopefully they will be priced fairly and reasonably or at least in a way that you can pick and choose the charts you want to buy to fill in areas where the rasters aren't that great, or for international use.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Leukemia Cup Fantasy Sail Weekend

Scotty was kind enough to let me take the Rumours/Unplugged spot at this years Fantasy Sail Weekend in Fort Myers Beach Florida. Electronics problems delayed my Friday morning flight, so I missed out on my planned Friday afternoon by the pool and the opening cocktail party, but was checked in by 8:00 and walked into town for some wonderful oysters and garlic crab.

Saturday morning started in the dark as we had breakfast at 6:45 and dock call at 7:30 for the morning race session put on by Steve Colgates Offshore Sailing School in Colgate 26's. My boat only had 3 total (most had 4 and some had 5) which put us at a serious disadvantage in the steady 18 gusting to 22+ kts. Still, it was a blast and we were a very steady 5th in the fleet.

The afternoon was a sunny 72 degrees and I found a great spot by the pool to relax and read. I partook in a wonderful massage at four and took this shot just before leaving for dinner at six. Gary Jobson put on a wonderful show throughout dinner with a mix of old an new boat video and his excellent humor. Overall a very enjoyable and relaxing weekend. A real winter treat.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Fly to Map - Water Map Navigator First Look

Fly to Map was nice enough to let me test their new marine mapping program (Yeah Apple Promo Codes ... way easier than AdHoc distribution) for review. The program is cheap and simple (just $10) and displays NOAA ENC charts. I got the US Eastern region which covers the coast from Maine to Mexico although my understanding is that NOAA is not yet completed turning all the charts into ENC's yet so coverage detail may vary depending on region. The chart rendering is nice enough, although not nearly as pretty as the Navimatics Marine Maps, fairly similar to the Navionics charts on iNavX Version 2. Zooming and panning is quite jumpy, although smoother than Navimatics marine maps, not anywhere near as smooth as iNavX V2. Pushing the location button plots your position, and moves the chart to put you in view, but does not rezoom, so when you start the program and it shows the entire east coast, you must manually zoom in or search to your region to actually see any detail. The search function does work but is essentially the only function the program has. There is NO WAY this program should be used for navigation, or really even trip planning, but it does provide a fairly cheap way to view the ENC charts on your phone. For anyone serious about iPhone navigation, this isn't worth your $10, at least not yet. Better to save your money for iNavX or the upcoming iNavX Version 2 (with Navionics vector charts).

By the way, iNavX V2 is coming along nicely. The search that I love in the Navimatics marine Maps is finding its way into the software. If you want a sense as to what this will look like, you can download the free Navionics viewer and roam around south Florida or Italy. Picture those charts with iNavX's instruments, waypoints, etc and you have a pretty good idea of what is to come. I haven't gotten a clear sense of what will happen to the raster version of iNavX when the vector charts become available. I generally prefer raster charts, but the ability to search for a harbor by name when dealing with the small screen of the iPhone may be enough reason to favor vector charts.

--UPDATE-- from iNavX -- Apparently both the raster and vector charts will be able to exist side by side within iNavX Version 2 when it is eventually released. Thus far the alpha version I have been playing with doesn't have access to the raster charts (which makes sense at this point as he is working out the vector parts of the program) so no word yet on exactly how this will work, but if past performance is any prediction of future results, it will be a smooth integration from the folks at iNavX.

Reading through the iNavX forums I found this bit of useful info:

"All current owners of iNavX will receive version 2.0 at no additional cost. iNavX version 2.0 will add these features to iNavX..

- Download purchased Navionics charts & maps in addition to the free NOAA US waters
- Navaid inspector
- Waypoint upload/download (GPX and KML file support)
- Pinch zooming (Easy to use zoom slider will still be available)
- Available on ALL iTunes iPhone app stores

Prices have not been finalized on the top quality Navionics cartography, but I understand they will be very reasonably priced. Even with the additional features, iNavX will remain priced under US$50. "

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Eight Bells

Photo Credit -- Morris Yachts

We are sad to learn today that Tom Morris, founder of Morris Yachts, and builder of "Visions of Johanna" lost his fight with Cancer last Sunday. Bill and I last saw Tom at the Pre Marion-Burmuda race dinner in 2007. We both commented that night that Tom didn't seem to be himself that night and our fears where confirmed the next morning when he and his doublehanded partner pulled out of the race. I believe he was diagnosed soon thereafter.

He will be in my mind this coming weekend when I travel down to Florida for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fantasy Sail Weekend -- reward for the impressive fundraising I headed for the Leukemia Cup Regatta earlier this year where we raised over $56,000 in less than two weeks.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

New Wifi and Computer System Update

I finally got all my tools and parts back from Shane in Florida and got a decent day on Saturday to finish the wifi install. The new WiFi antenna is the white one on the right (furthest outboard). I ended up needing an antenna extender since there was just no way to get the LMR-400-UF SMA connector down inside the hoop. Luckily West had all I needed in stock so I was able to finish before snow flew last night....thank god. I sure wouldn't have wanted to be climbing on my rather precarious ladder arrangement in the snow. It is quite difficult finding a location in a cockpit to place a 8' stepladder. In the spring I will need to re-rig my ladder in order to install a GPS antenna opposite the WiFi antenna on another Edson Rail Mount for the AIS unit we plan to install.

The Port Networks MWB-250 system by Alan Spicer Marine Telcom is working superbly. Looking at the site survey on the left (click for bigger), you can see signals about 1.5 miles away (Sail Newport) in a rather "Noisy" environment of downtown Newport.

Further long distance testing will have to take place in the future when there aren't sooooo many signals, but my initial reaction is that the system works quite well and is very easy to use. In the few minutes I played last night, I was able to connect to several access points around town, most of which aren't visible on my laptop even when in the pilothouse or out on deck.

The MWB-250 unit which is located in the pilothouse with a Power over Ethernet (POE) equiped Cat-5e cable connecting it to a POE injector and then to the Linksys WRT54GL router running an open source firmware DD-WRT. A LED equiped switch is located in the back of the desk flip-top to allow turning off the WiFi reciever to save power offshore as it runs on the same circuit as the Cell Phone Booster and Globalstar SatCom.

I love this router and firmware for its low cost, high power, and extreme flexibility. There is a great community providing support and sample scripts to allow many customizations such as multiple WAN ports and data shaping. I can certainly recommend Alan Spicer and Port Networks to any interested in a high powered WiFi system with a remote radio. If you are very savvy, you could probably buy direct from Port Networks and put together the antenna, cable, connectors, etc yourself, but if you want some direction, Alan's services and in particular his service contracts (which he is supplying to my client Shane) can be indispensable. With the service contract, he was incredibly price competitive on the parts.

I am also in the process of upgrading our computer system with a new Nav computer, moving the Nav computer over to Communications work and moving the 8 year old Com computer off the boat for Home Theater use. I will update on this and our entire onboard computer system in the near future.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Virtual Volvo

I have reached the difficult doldrums in the Volvo Ocean Race Game and had to make a dramatic detour as the weather modeling was off by a bit. Rather than beat into light air I decided to bite the bullet, bear off and sail around the high.

I am doing much better in this leg thanks to not spending the first weekend aground like last time.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Navimatics Marine Maps First Look

Bill Zissimopoulos from Navimatics was kind enough to send me an AdHoc copy of his Marine Maps iPhone Navigation program to test in follow up to this Panbo article. It took me far to long to get around to loading the program and looking into it, but that process has finally started. Overall it is a very pretty program, with very good chart detail at least in the regions covered (not sure on completeness of coverage, but my understanding is that these are based on NOAA ENC charts which don't have complete coverage yet). The chart rotation feature is pretty cool and they have added the compass lock button (2nd from left) to lock onto north up if preferred. Zooming and Panning are fast, but the chart display reverts to the base raster (read very jagged with no detail) when you are panning or zooming, so it makes it hard to home in on what you are looking for. I will try to make a video of that sometime soon and post it so this complaint becomes more clear. Several of the other comments that the iNavX developer brought up on Panbo have been addressed as well as there are now waypoints and a goto feature, but you have to go to an info screen to see the waypoint bearing and distance info.

By far the best feature is the Search bar at the top of the screen which allowed me to quickly move down to Newport. It also gives the chart scale at all times in the lower right corner. My initial impressions are that for general marine reference or rough trip planning, this program has a LOT OF MERIT, but it doesn't seem to compete with iNavX for actual navigation. For many users, the ability to search for a location and quickly jump there would be an overriding decision maker, especially if you already have a portable GPS plotter, or a plotter display in the cockpit.

I will continue to play and will try to test this and the two versions of iNavX side by side when I head down to Ft. Meyers FLA for the Leukemia Cup Regatta Fantasy Sailing Weekend in December. Stay tuned.

Also note that I added a mapping feature from mapdaze. I am hoping they come up with a way to add map markers via e-mail as then this could be a VERY cool and easy to use feature. Otherwise I will just have to post date locations when full internet is available.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pinch Zoom Coming to iNavX

I loaded the latest Beta of iNavX last night and played around with the main new feature, PINCH ZOOMING! Apparently Apple doesn't include an API for pinch zooming meaning that every coder must write it themselves, but iNavX's version is actually the most responsive pinch zoom I have seen thus far, so many of my frustrations with google maps are relieved. Best of all, you can shut off the pinch zoom and the current zoom bar comes back if you prefer that for single handed operation.

In other news, we got all the sails off Visions and winterized the engines last weekend. The wifi install should be finished this coming weekend and I will write about that soon, and as soon as I get my new clamp ammeter I will finish my LED bulb testing and will start writing that article.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Living Aboard

I spent last weekend moving out of my apartment and onto the boat (not much fun) and most of the week trying to find homes for all the stuff I want access to over the winter. Note, it is difficult to fit a winter wardrobe including business attire into a closet and drawer space designed for warm weather cruising, but I managed to fit everything other than sweaters and by suit which ended up in the Master Stateroom.

This weekend was much more enjoyable, starting off with a beautiful sunset, followed by a boat-warming dinner party. I got most of the way through the wifi install on Visions. I just need the right coax connector (damb sexual confusion of reverse polarity connectors...who would have though the part with a nut like hole would be referred to as "male") and my tools back from Shane who is waiting for the same part before he can send them back to me and I can button up the laz. I added a power strip for laptop charging to the Nav station desk, a second power strip behind the entertainment center for expanded entertainment and wired up the x-box media center to stream videos from my laptop (or any other computer on the boat network). Who needs a DVR when you have a modded x-box and torrent downloads of the shows you missed that week.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend Electronics Install

I spent the weekend helping Shane with his MAJOR electronics wiring upgrade project on Volare. Ben Wilcox ( who was recently laid off by Hinckley and has set up his own shop in Providence doing boat and high end house cabinetry rebuilt the pilothouse and com station dashboards and also built a few cubby-holes for personal electronics storage and charging. With panels removed we took advantage to lead new video, audio, and a few antenna cables through the boat. I also set up the AOpen mini-PC that I had built for Shane a few weeks ago (right).

After a day of wiring on Saturday which included adding the Port Networks MWB-250 from Alan Spicer which was fairly easy to install except that the LMR-400 to RP-SMA crimp connectors didn't show up on Friday as promised. I bought these connectors to facilitate fitting the junction from the low loss cable to the antenna pigtail in the rail, so we couldn't quite finish putting the wiring away. I had a bit of frustration with the Belkin Router onboard due to limited adjustable settings, but a quick e-mail and return phone call from Alan Spicer later and we had it all squared away. Internet is now pulled in with the high powered radio and antenna and then spread around the boat to 3 computers, iPhones, and any guest computers. Photo of NAV screen with Nobletec to the left.

This shot on the right shows the NMEA boat data (including AIS via a Smart Radio Dual Channel Receiver operating with an active antenna switcher also from SRT) being used by iNavX. Data comes in to an 8 port Serial to USB adapter five of which are used (GPS, Backup GPS, B&G, AIS, Depth). Nobletec combines the data and outputs a combined stream back to the Autopilot as well as a virtual com port which then gets served over the on board wifi network via Fransom GPS Gate. That NMEA stream (including AIS) can then be picked up by onboard laptops or an iPhone. I think iNavX is limited to just a few Targets, but it is still quite helpful iNavX then shows the AIS targets and supports waypoints as well and an amazing bit of Tech if you ask me (confusion came from some "lost" targets shown in red in my other screen shots that Nobletech was still remembering). Still not as amazing as Virtual Computing.

I set up REAL VNC, a Virtual Network Computing program that allows viewing and control of the NAV (or Communications) computer over the network. I could theoretically set this up to work over the larger internet, but don't really want to do that, so it is only available over the on-board intranet network (LAN). The pic to the right is Shane's laptop viewing and controlling Nobletec on the Nav Computer over Wifi. I had only played around with this software a bit before and was amazed at how effective it was when working over a local network (as opposed to over the internet when it tends to be a bit sluggish). Operating the navigation or Radar was fairly seamless, and there are even some free programs for the iPhone (Mocha VNC light and Jaadu VNC light) that allow viewing of the Nav screen or Radar on the phone's screen. We had better luck with Jaadu by the way as Mocha was fairly unstable at the high screen resolution of the Nav computer.

Overall a very successful weekend and Volare now has a state of the art network and computer system with some neat integration features. It also provided me with practice for Visions which will undergo a similar, but less severe upgrade in the coming weeks. Feel free to contact me if you are interested in more information about any of these systems.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

WiFi Take 1

I quickly set up the new WiFi system in the apartment last night so that I could start to play with the system and see how it works. Short answer is quite well. To the right is the list of wifi AP's in the neighborhood, over twice what either my Linksys WRT-54gL (quite the powerhouse really) or my laptop sees and I was able to connect via the open "motorola 491" network with a rather weak -91 signal strength. Other handy features include a live signal meter that is meant for use to aim a directional antenna, or quite helpful to determine how viable a connection really is instead of the snapshot of a site survey.

More once I get the chance to set it up onboard...hopefully next weekend.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Winter Plans

Bill will be sailing Visions down to Newport on Monday where she will be staying for the winter again. This time she will have my full time company as I will be living aboard. Besides a nice place to stay and savings of rent and utilities, this will allow me to get a fair amount of projects done.

First will be to install a WiFi system. I have already purchased a Port Networks WMB-250 through Alan Spicer Marine Telcom who has been very helpful in specifying a coherent system for Visions as well as Volare', a 76' Humphries Sailboat which is captained by my friend Shane Vowels who I have been helping with his computer and network upgrades. I will certainly update all once the install is underway.

Other winter projects include preparations for install of an AIS B unit which are finally approved by FCC and went on sale in the US this week. Final install probably won't happen till the boat gets hauled and rig gets pulled in the spring as we want to put the antenna on the masthead for best range. This does bring up some interesting delemas including too many antennas. Discussions of Panbo have gone wild with regard to a "magic" flat panel antenna that may prove to be the answer to our dreams with the ability to combine multiple antennas, but technical data is sparce and Ben won't get to testing a working unit till next week. I may end up with a temporary wifi install for a few weeks till the antenna question gets answered.

We are also looking into the Iridium OpenPort satphone system as a possible addition to Visions as data costs become very competitive when looking at a per MB cost. Time will tell as real world pricing becomes available. This and an eventual install of a dive compressor top our winter lists. I should also finally have the time to compile my NMEA rebuild information and finally post that long promised info for others reference.

Last thing....I got version 1.0.4A of iNavX last night with the addition of a scale % dialog on chart rendering. A nice improvement that at least gives you a clue as to where you are. Rich is looking at my suggestion below, but isn't sure if he can do it within the programming language of the iPhone in a reasonable way.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

iNavX 1.0.3

iNavX 1.0.3 was officially released on Monday. I got a the final version for testing the previous week so I got to play around with it over last week and the weekend. I set up an AIS simulator and fed about 1min of AIS data on a loop via Wifi. It was pretty cool and seemed like a nice addition to the program.

The Main change with 1.0.3 was the change in zooming. Zooming is now controlled by sliding (or just tapping) the circle to the left or right on the "Zoom Bar" which then re-centers when the chart re-renders. This is a LOT easier than moving the zoom dot around very small amounts for minor zoom changes. The disadvantage is that there is no longer an indicator of you zoom level. Richard is working on this and has one solution in mind to display the scale as the chart re-renders, but I prefer a constant visual signal.

My idea (crude photoshoping) is to the left. Basically a zoom indicator in the form of a triangular pointer would be rendered left to right on the zoom bar to indicate how far in the chart was currently zoomed. Not sure how easy or possible it would be, but ideal would be some way to drag this triangle in order to make gross changes in zoom level (ability that was lost in 1.0.3). Overall, 1.0.3 is an improvement in zooming and luckily Rich is going to continue developing his methods.

In other exciting iphone navigation News, Panbo announced Navionics Mobile which is essentially a Vector chart version of iNavX (also known as iNavX2). I am alpha/beta testing for iNavX, but am under an NDA, so nothing more until I am told I can talk. The most promising potential for the raster based system partnered with Navionics is the worldwide availablility of detailed charts. Amazing what a little phone can do.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

You too can be a "Whitbread" Sailor

When I was a junior sailor and instructor at the Camden Yacht Club we would spend at least one rainy day each summer watching old videos of the Whitbread Round the World Race. My favorite boat was the bright red Steinlager ketch. These were videos from when these were essentially amateur sailors, in fact some of the boats were pay to sail vessels. While luxury vessels compared to the modern day "Whitbread" -- Now Volvo Ocean Race, they were still far from comfort and I will never forget the video of the guy who had to get his hands stiched up in the southern ocean after he slid down the wire rigging (how low tech were these things) to arrest his fall from up the rig. We all would have loved to be on those boats for a day... just a singular day mind you as it looked torturously uncomfortable for any longer.

The modern incarnation, the Volvo Ocean Race starts October 11th for the second time in canting keel Volvo 70's. I will be rooting for the local Puma Ocean Racing Team which called Newport home all summer and has several locals onboard.

I was excited this morning to read that I can partake in some of the action from the comfort of my office chair or couch by playing the Volvo Ocean Race Game. It is free to play, with additional features (such as autopilot to enable steer to wind or scheduled course changes) at what is promised to be moderate fees (not sure how moderate yet), with all proceeds going to charity. Basically you get to be the weather router (which I have had moderate success with). I am curious to see what they end up using for "actual" weather data to determiine how you do, an whether it will pay off to use other weather models to try to win the race or if it isn't that "smart". Still, should be fun, so join in....and join my group "Newport" if you want to. In any event, add me as a friend (ibsailn at gmail dot com). See you on the virtual water.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Leukemia Cup

Our Fundraising was an amazing success! We pulled in an extra 12k or so on Saturday to bring our total to over $53,000. I was hoping to be able to raise 10k to put together with the 10k Scotty thought he would be getting. I would never have expected anywhere near this success. I missed the regatta to go camping with Nick, Anthony, Corey, their wives, and Ryan, but I was there in spirit as Rumours/Unplugged sailed to victory both on the water and where it really matters in the coffers. Instant karma kicked in as Scotty who was so nice to donate use of his boat to our efforts won the raffle for the Rolex Watch. Thank you to all who donated. We all appreciate being able to do this in Woody's name and honor.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fighting the Big "C"

As I have mentioned before my friend Tim (pictured on his Thompson 35 Rumours) is fighting the big "C". Leukemia to be specific. He just went back in for his second and more intense round of Chemo this week so Rumours has been put away for the season. It is difficult to sit around and watch a friend fight such a terrible fight feeling like you can't help, so when I looked at the calendar and saw that the Leukemia Cup was coming up I had a great idea. With the help of Rob we decided that the Rumours Crew should do the race (on whatever boat we could wrangle) and try to win the donation race (the real competition at this regatta). This weekend we finally got off our asses and are making it happen. Scott Murray from NEB has offered us the crew spots on Unplugged so now we have a boat. The last, most important, and hardest part is still to come together.

WE NEED TO RAISE A BUNCH OF MONEY! I won't be able to make the regatta as I am going camping with a bunch of college friends, but am organizing the effort I want to show that a bunch of "kids" can make a difference in honor of our friend.

Tim is one of the nicest boat owners I have ever sailed with. He is extremely competitive and gets VERY heated on the water. In fact, the first time I sailed on Rumours, I wasn't sure if I could continue, but as soon as the finish gun sounds all changes. He wants to hear your stories, your troubles, and he truly cares. He is known as Uncle Woody to the crew of mostly twenty somethings and we know he would do anything he could to help us if we were in trouble. We want to return the favor. If you would like to support our effort, please DONATE to the Leukemia Cup Regatta on our donation page (click "Donate" above) or e-mail me and I can send you info on where to send a check. Obviously any amount is greatly appreciated and will help the foundation in its goal towards a cure. Thanks!

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Good Start

Last night was J-24 racing and boy was it a good one. Summer like weather allowed swim trunks and a T-shirt to be the attire of choice even in the strong 12 kts diminishing wind. We set up mid line and had room to bear off and accelerate. At 20 seconds I warned Rob to stay down as long as possible and we listened intently as four boats got called back. Had a slight fright when they called back 33...88 not our 3360. Our great position on the line and good speed shot us out in front. Mookie tacked early, got good breeze on the right and came back in a righty to cross easily ahead, but otherwise we were nicely nose out in front. We played the middle left, getting some current relief, but not getting into the lighter air along the shore. A VERY quick jibe at the mark put us in clear air and we were able to hold 2nd place all the way around. We thought for a few seconds we might have a chance to catch Mookie at the leeward mark when they jibed inside the layline, but they were just too far in front to get an overlap. A great score after a below standard second half of the season. Luckily our first half was excellent and we are probably very close to 4th place again. Two more weeks to get that spot.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I'm a Weeeener!

Sunday provided much better weather for sailing and the 6m class competed in a single 14 mile windward-leeward course. We had a great start on Alana and legged out to an early lead. A bad tack caused by the stbd J-lock coming undone (mental note to check that locks are rotated in the future) allowed Madcap to get inside of us along the Jamestown shore where they made a HUGE gain (good on them) and brought Belle and Flapper up close at the windward mark. Downwind, Madcap's huge sails and light displacement launched her, but we held off Belle and Flapper who were bringing down the puffs. Unfortunately Tom must have misread the course board (or neglected to) and sailed right past the leeward mark and headed into the harbor. Our first upwind tack to cover Belle went badly due to a knot in the sheet which allowed them to get inside at the windward "Island". Flapper continued to Newport to allow Nick to make his flight (who schedules a flight for the afternoon of a regatta anyway?). We caught Belle downwind due to the nice move masterminded by Michelle, but couldn't quite finish the pass. A desperation jibe at the next mark didn't make enough of a difference, but 2nd place was enough to clinch the Olin Stevens Cup for the Summer Series. Toby finally gets to take home the cup his father donated which has been in his family for 50+ years. He was truly happy and should be quite proud of the advancement he has made over the summer. We put the boat away, so that was my last weekend regatta of the summer. An early end, but a great season. I missed the trophy full of Dark & Stormy at Harbor Court to have dinner with Corey (read his blog for more details of the weekend) and Jenelle, but I hear it was a very entertaining evening. We may need to send the cup around like the Stanley Cup so I can have a chance to enjoy as well.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Wonderful Day For Sailing

we have been drifting around since about 11:30 and they still haven't abandoned yet at 2:15. Luckily we still
Have plenty of beer. Update... AP over A at 2:45 so we try again tomorrow

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Proud Brother

My brother Zak, who is way better at designing such things than me, has a website and a blog as well. He wrote a nice article this week describing why he likes Obama and why kids his age tend to agree. I think he misses the point that most kids his age are fairly liberal, but hie does make some points I wouldn't have thought about....scary that he doesn't remember any politicians before Clinton. Click here to read his post

Monday, August 25, 2008

iNavX 1.0.2 & a Week of Use

Version 1.0.2 came out today and adds the much sought after and promised overview zoom. I think this will do a lot for usability of the software as a near primary navigation solution at least for short trips. I was surprised to see that the link to ayetides has disappeared, but since it quits iNavX and launches Ayetides I guess it probably doesn't need a link on the main chart page.

I also got the chance to use iNavX extensively on our cruise last week. Even with the pilothouse just steps away, I found I used the iPhone a lot in the cockpit for a closer look when coming into or leaving harbors (or when passing through restricted channels). When entering The Basin, I used it while standing on the bow looking for shallows and pointing out lobster pots to see were we were on the chart as well as to have a remote depth meter using the boat instruments over wifi. I think the iPhone will find its home in the cockpit while sailing Visions. Hopefully they will figure out how to deal with international charts for cruising to further points.

With extended use, I did discover one fairly minor annoyance. If you let your iphone fall asleep, the wifi doesn't come on fast enough and iNavX looses the wifi instruments and reverts back to the built in GPS. On the other hand, I found the onboard GPS to be better than I had previously thought. I did find that the jumpiness of the chart recentering as the COG shifted around with "keep ship in view" on was distracting so I found myself shutting that on and off a lot. It would be nice to be able to zoom around and then center on the boat with a single click of course I am not sure you want to give up the screen space for such a feature. Also, in 1.0.1 the download speed when downloading a chart was removed which is a bummer. Not sure if this was a request by Apple or not, but it was nice to get an idea of just how fast a connection you were really getting when trying to download a chart. This was especially missed when trying to download then next chart with a very weak edge connection when sailing up Blue Hill Bay.

1.0.2 also supports some new NMEA sentences and AIS targets. Now if the FCC can just approve Class B so we can all have affordable AIS transceivers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Perfect End to a Perfect Week

The beautiful wedding of my cousin Erica was the best possible way to end a glorious week cruising in Maine. The ceremony on the beach was a true family event and then the party and subsequent camp out on Erie's new husband's family land was a blast. Weather was perfect...sunny, nice light breeze, not a cloud in the sky and the fog even held off to the east on Sunday morning. Back to Newport for me and the boat is back to Northeast.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Monday started with a nice hike around Monhegan island, then a beautiful sail to Mitinicus. Tuesday started with promise, but quickly gave way to a steady drizzle. The Pilothouse once again was the favorite place to be on our way to Swans Island where we are meeting up with friends from Camden, Sandy and Polly Wakeman, and John and Lisa Priesely who we overheard talking on the VHF. Tomarrow's forecast is beautiful, so hopefully we will get to do some swimming.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Beautiful Cloud of Sail

It was a glorious downwind sail to Monhegan with barely a cloud in the sky. We got some good use and practice with the new Spinnaker/Whisker pole.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day 1 - The Basin

Day one brought better than expected weather for a nice short sail to The Basin then a glorious swim in 70 degree water - almost unheard of in Maine. The weather forecast is for improving weather so we are looking forward to a great week. On the technical front iNavX was great when coming through the Amal cut as I could still have a chart while standing on the bow looking for the shallow spot.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ahhhh! Vacation

This is the view from the porch of the Portland Yacht Club were I sit waiting for the 'rents to come back from a run. Weather outlook looks promising for a nice week cruising Maine.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Otterbox Armor Waterproof iPhone Case Mod for 3G

One of my favorite comedy lines is from Dennis Leary, "No Cure for Cancer" when talking about saving the animals wants to have animal auditions:

"What are you?"
"I'm an Otter."
"What do you do?"
"I swim around on my back doing cute little human things with my hands."
"Your free to go! What are you?"
"I'm a Cow."
"Your a baseball glove, get in the f*cking truck!"

What does this have to do with Sailing and an iPhone case modification....very little, but I think of it every time I see Otterbox's Logo. Since Otterbox has yet to update their waterproof Armor Case for the 3G iPhone, I saw it upon myself to do it for them. I managed to find the 2g version fairly cheap on Amazon so I bought the yellow version. The case is waterproof to 3 feet for half an hour. Apparently after that, water starts leaking through the paper like barrier that covers the speakers and microphone which allows the phone to be used in the case. It is fairly bulky, but I only intend to use if while sailing so that isn't a concern. The problem is that due to some small design changes, the 3G iPhone will not fit in the 2G case. The big problem is the headphone jack. For some stupid reason Steve Jobs thought it would be a good idea to recess the headphone jack in the original iPhone. He wised up for 3G, but the recessed jack requires a longer jack in the Otterbox Case. "Fixing" this problem was as simple as grabbing the male plug in the box and ripping it out, then cutting the wires that connected it to the external female connector. The headphone jack no longer works in my Otterbox case, but the phone basically fits.

I then took out the dremel to make it fit a bit better. Supposedly the width did not change between phones, but from this case it seems to have slightly. I ripped out the grey rubber bumpers on the right side as well as two of the back dots (the new phone is slightly thicker in the middle) and then ground back a bit. I also ground back at bit in way of the silencer switch as that was easily switched by accident when installing or removing the phone from the case. Overall the mod took about 5 minutes and works beautifully. When Otterbox gets around to producing a real 3G case I may buy it so I can listen to tunes at the beach with a protected phone, but I might not bother as this one does 99% of what I want the case to do which is protect my phone and allow me to use it for Navigation with iNavX.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm Popular

I am sure my traffic spike will be short lived as it is largely based on my iNavX reviews being linked to from Panbo and Sailing Anarchy, but it is cool to have an audience. I can see that some of you might be more long lasting viewers, coming from Corey's blog or searching for the boat, not the software I have been reviewing. No matter where you come from or how long you intend to stay, welcome. I hope you find some of this interesting and come back for more.

Monday, August 11, 2008

iNavX with Wifi Instruments

During the early morning motor back to Portland, I managed to figure out my wifi network problems (hardware issue, not iNavX) and got the boats instruments beaming happily to my iPhone. Once I got the network squared away, I was able to output the instrument data with either Expedition or Franson GPS Gate which we use anyway to split our instrument data to various programs. Pulling it up in iNavX was easy.

I must say, I was fairly impressed. We were using the "steer to" command in the Capn on our Nav computer and the iPhone picked up the temporary waypoint and did the same. Operation with a "real" gps was much better. I can't blame iNavX for this because I think it is an iPhone firmware problem, but I do have hope with future OS upgrades.

Here you can see the instrument data with the compass across the top, boatspeed and magnetic heading added.

It automatically gave distance and bearing to waypoint, time to go and cross track error. Depth, Water temp, and Wind data were also displayed.

Having a small chart up in the cockpit was quite nice when sailing out "The Hussey" at the beginning of the race, but I hadn't figured out my network problem yet, so it wasn't as good as it would have been with wifi instruments. Also, the zoom out feature that is still a few days away was much needed. Ultimately, with a 15" screen just two steps down into the pilothouse, that proved easier, but I was pleased with navigating on the iPhone and with the new zoom feature think I will use it more. Also, if I didn't have a computer screen so close like we do I would find it even more useful.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


After way to long a weather beat, the wind died and went west instead of east. Flopping around going three knots in the wrong direction didn't seem that fun especially since there was almost no way we would finish anyway. We decided to call it at about midnight so we can at least have half a night sleep.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Almost there

It is 6:40 and expedition has us 56 mins from finally rounding the windward mark. Hopefully the wind will hold so we can reach down to monhegan before it shifts to the east.

Gentlemen go inside when it rains

Get set, GO!

My oldest friend Noah at the helm about two hours after the start.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Race Prep

As I have mentioned, we are racing in the Monhegan Race this weekend on Visions. Apparently they will have LIVE SCORING as rounding times are called in. Right now it is looking like a rather SLOW race with light air, but the good news is that this mornings models show less beating then yesterday did.

I will also try to update the blog via e-mail as cell service is available. The formatting tends to be a bit crummy this way, but I can fix the posts when I get back on land. It may be a bit "stream of consciousness" but it should be interesting anyway. Probably most interesting to my apparent readership will be that I will get the chance to test iNavX with wifi instruments over a much longer period of time. I loaded StatCounter yesterday and was very glad to see that I am not just talking to myself.