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.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

iNavX Update on the Way

It feels good to make a difference. As I hinted in the comments to the Day 1 Review, Rich Ray, developer of iNavX contacted me about my reviews and the zooming issue which was my only major hangup. Build 1.0.2 has been submitted to Apple (1.0.1 available any day now) and should hopefully be available by August 15th. Included in the update is the ability to zoom out to 10% 20% of the actual chart pixels (much further than before as you can see from the image on the left). This is a little different than the treatment he was considering yesterday, so he must have figured out the performance problems he was having. You may also notice that he seems to have added some sort of tide function. No details on that yet, but it seems like it is on the way.

As mentioned before, I will be testing with networked instruments over the weekend (ran a desktop test with a simulated GPS stream yesterday with success) and will let you all know how that goes.

I was also contacted by the developers of Active Captain. They currently have a mobile program available for Palm smartphones and are developing versions for Win Mobile as well as the iPhone. It sounds like the Win Mobile version will come out first with the iPhone version to follow. He was interested in having me beta test the software which I will be happy to do and let my readership (all three of you...I hope more than that) know what I think. There is an ad-hoc iPhone distribution scheme for beta testing, but it is rather untested at this point. In the mean time, Ben at Panbo has a copy on his palm and we are going to try to find a time to get together and compare. Might happen sometime mid to late August.

Update with Wifi Instruments

Rating Frustrations

We got our PHRF-NE rating yesterday in prep for the Monhegan Race this weekend and little did we know Visions has been turned into a full on Race Machine (at least according to the raters). They gave us a Base -3, Cruising +9. I don't even know what that means as all our sails are Dacron and we don't have any spinnakers....which would we even use? I had been expecting somewhere around +50, meaning we are leaving about 1:30 at the dock this weekend unless I can get it amended in time. I did hear back from the rater this morning and it has been pushed up the line, so I do have hope. Why they didn't look at the ORR rating (which was listed as available on the Cert) I can't understand. Our main competition is a Class 40 Ahmas which has a PHRF rating somewhere between -10 and -3 and an ORR Time on Time rating of 1.064. Our ORR rating is 0.899 meaning that the Class 40 is about 18% faster than us, yet we potentially have the same rating....RIDICULOUS. This unfortunately is why people dislike PHRF and get turned off by its sometimes arbitrary ratings. It takes a really diligent committee to get ratings right the first time, but gosh, a blind squirrel would have realized this nut was rotten.

UPDATE -- apparently my complaints were founded. New PHRF-NE cert just arrived at 42/54 ... just about where I thought we should be. MUCH BETTER.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

iNavX Day 1

I did a bit of iNavX testing yesterday. During the morning, I set my iPhone to not sleep and tested the battery life running iNavX. With about 30% screen brightness and 3G on but not used other than 15min e-mail fetching (my default for normal use) I got about 3 hours 10 minutes of operation running iNavX before the 20% battery warning came up (with the occasional interruption for about 2 or 3 phone calls that came in). I am sure this could be extended by turning 3G off but it is still not too bad considering the screen size. The one downside of the operation of the iPhone is that when the screen turns off, apps stop operation and therefore the GPS will stop tracking in iNavX. The program comes back up right where you left off, but if you care about your track, then you need to leave the phone on the whole time.

I took my iPhone in Otterbox case out on Rumours last night to give it a more realistic workout. With the bright sunshine and sunglasses I had to bump the brightness up to 100% which dropped the battery life down to about 2:40 before the 20% warning. Everybody onboard was fairly impressed. I still wish I could zoom out further, but it isn't quite as bad in operation as I thought it might be. I still couldn't see the entire course on one screen which is kind of ridiculous for such short course racing.

It also becomes obvious that the iPhone's GPS just isn't that good at determining a speed even when the low "HPE" suggests it had a strong fix. I have read that the OS 2.1 developers beta has some added location features to improve this, so I have hope, but the speed would regularly read between 5 and 21 kts when we were really going 7 to 8 kts. Positioning heading seemed better but you can see from the screen-shots that it doesn't show us actually rounding the gong and can that were our race marks. This won't be an issue if using a real instrument system over wifi (more on this Monday or Tuesday assuming I can figure it out on Visions over the weekend).

Update with Wifi Instruments

In other news, Woody was doing much better last night. He seemed fairly strong without the wobbles he had last week. If it wasn't for his shorn head, "F*ck Cancer" hat, and actually healthy weight loss, you might never know. Except of course he wasn't smoking like a chimney and went home after racing as opposed to the IYAC for drinks.

Monday, August 4, 2008

iNavX Initial Impressions

iNavX, a Marine Navigation Program was finally released for the iPhone over the weekend. I downloaded it this morning and have played a little. Obviously the screenshots are from the I didn't run aground REALLY hard. Although a bit more expensive than I was hoping (I believe the developer said "cheap" on panbo, it is still reasonable at $50 and overall, the program seems pretty awesome. It uses the internal GPS or an optional NMEA stream over wifi (available from MacEnc, Expedition, as well as several others). It apparently can even display AIS data although I won't be able to check that till we install AIS on Visions (PLEASE FCC give us AIS B like the rest of the world). I do plan on using this with my recently aquired Otterbox Armor Waterproof iPhone case (modified to fit my 3G as they haven't released a new one yet) that will be the subject of a future post when we race Visions in the Monhegan Race this weekend. I may even bring a wifi router along to play with that instruments feature.

Navigating around the screen is easy and the chart tile load time is reasonable. Downloading new charts takes about 20 to 30 seconds on a good 3g connection and shows ~100 kb/sec on the download screen (nice feature). I am guessing edge will take about 4 times that long at least, but still not too bad. Charts are stored locally, so you can download when at home on 3g or wifi and with 8 or 16 gb on an iphone, storing the charts isn't a problem. Taking ranges & bearings is easy with a double-tap, and displays the data nicely on the top of the screen (see image above). My only real complaint is that the zoom doens't go out nearly enough. The pics are both zoomed all the way out, and you can only see a very small fraction of the chart (similar with larger scale charts as well). Also, the difference between zoomed in and zoomed out is only about a factor of 2 or 3 (not nearly enough). Zoomed in is probably closer than it needs to be and zoomed out is WAY too close to get a sence of where you are and what is coming up (probably only 10 mins ahead if moving at 8 to 10 knots). Waypoints are easy to create, name, move around, and "steer to" (see screenshot below).

Unfortunately, I have yet to see how to have instruments or waypoint data overlaid on the chart (maybe they can do this in a future version). It does have the ability to display a wide range of instrument data and can even list a single item in large text on the screen if you want to use it as a portable depth readout or VMG or whatever.

UPDATE Day 1 Actual use Review
Update with Wifi Instruments

Friday, August 1, 2008

"It was the suckyest suck that ever sucked"

Thusday night J-24's was an exercise in futility as the wind shut off, bit the current ripped like I have never seen before. Barely finnished before dark and were very deep, but did manage to pick up a few boats on the last leg. Better luck next time.