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Boat Software

  • Electronic Charts

    CMAP - Vector Charts for THE WORLD.. NOTE: use all charts with caution, always assume that they are off, always use your eyes until you get local knowledge. Most CMAP charts are VERY accurate where there is main shipping traffic, but who wants to sail there?

    OziExplorer – Raster Charts. We use OziExplorer to create our own charts (from CMAP) so that we can adjust them as needed (adjustment was NOT really necessary until Eastern Fiji, Tuvalu, Kiribati etc). This forces us to really evaluate the charts, and our routes ahead of time, like they did in the old days with paper charts.It’s amazing to hear people talk about not realizing the channel was like blablabla until they got close enough that the chart showed them, instead of knowing about it earlier because they reviewed it.
     
  • Our GPS/Electronic Chart usage

    Our general plan is to use our chart program ahead of time to set up waypoints and routes throughout a general area (giving at least five mile clearance around shoals, islands, atolls etc). Since the winds never does what exactly what you want, we also mark clearance zones (via waypoints) around banks etc that are near our course window, so that we don’t have to keep checking the computer if we are allowed to be 10 miles off course due to a wind shift or because we wanted a more comfortable ride in the swells. We write notes and save a printed copy of the chart-lets along with the waypoints for backup to the computer and for reference in the cockpit underway.

    Once we get close to an entrance we use eyeball navigation, I stand on the bow while KT follows my directions via hand signals. It is helpful for me to have a small print out of the chart (and route) so that I know roughly what we “planned” to do, so that I can make local corrections as needed. I use either a small chartlet in a waterproof protector and/or a handheld GPS so that I know what KT is planning to do next so that I don’t have to repeat exactly what the GPS will tell her, if there are no corrections. Eyeball navigation is the key to success; consider the charts as a rough guide only, as they can be shifted and usually have missing or outdated data (especially in cyclone prone areas).

    If the visibility is horrible or the coral is very tight, we usually anchor out in a safe spot (or motor around), launch the dinghy and use the Hand held GPS along with our hand held depth sounder to find a good route into the lagoon. Your track INTO an anchorage is your escape valve if you ever need to exit it in the middle of the night especially in unlit areas or anchorages with reefs and you don’t want to be below with your eyes glued to the computer. Most GPS allow you to save the track and recall it later if needed, however we like to back it up on the computer and a spare GPS; plus it’s fun to document exactly where you’ve been in Google Earth.
     

    NOTE: I did have a change to check out the latest Nobletech charts on Convergence, they were spot on in Fiji where CMAP was off by up to 8/10 of a mile.

  • Weatherfax


    • Google National Weather Service for Samples from Pt Reyes/Hawaii/NZ/Australia, figure out what you want and practice downloading before you leave.
    • Use MeteoPro (You just need microphone input jack on computer and HF receiver) to get fax

    • Use EzWind  converts Isobars or streamline to wind barbs on weather faxes (without wind information)

  • Saildocssee saildocs.com they provide email based weather data including GRIBS for your custom position. Gribs are small binary files that contain wind and isobar information extracted directly from computer weather models. Gribs don’t show fronts and convergence zones so we use them in conjunction with weatherfax and fleetcode files (another format for fronts etc). Saildocs will also tell you how to get viewfax which allows you to view the GRIBS. With saildocs you can set up subscriptions so they’ll automatically email you everyday at a specific time.


  • We use a Iridium Sat Phone (9500) – bought used for $500 and a data kit to get email. Use either Skyfile (free) or UUPlus (~$30 a month) for service provider. UUplus has lots of additional features, such as on the fly web fetch (get a web page converted to text) and mail fetch (allows access to any POP mail provider- like gmail). It also integrates with standard email tools if you want to use the email software you are familiar with. They even have an internet mode that allows you to use a faster direct interconnection if it is available (just to show you how slow you've been living). A typical day with a couple of emails in and out and a grib file download typically takes less than a minute. We had some serious connectivity problems with Skyfile (you get what you pay for) and I actually installed the software and signed up with UUplus while at sea. We don't have an external antenna and use the 12 volt cigarette lighter to charge. Sometimes it can be a pain to hold the phone, so you might want to use the Data kit phone holder into a nice mount, but I store mine in a pelican case.


  • Buoyweather  $69.99 a year with 365 email-able forecasts
  • or $9.95 a month

    • Virtual Buoy 7 days for winds with either thunderstorm activity for convergence zone areas or swell height and direction for lower latitudes. Can also set up a subscription similar to saildocs.

    • Voyage forecast for 5 days - give estimated positions and it will return a weather summary at those locations for a 24 hour window around your estimated arrive time.

    • They also have great web based info - including historical data which is useful to watch before you leave to see the trends. It is very helpful to get you trained for south pacific weather.

  • NOAA
    Also contains ways of sending noaa faxes and text, via email
  • .

  • Pangolin

    • Yotreps reporter - send positions reports/weather information keeps track of your position so others can view it on the web.

    • Physplot-weather plotter for pressure, fronts and convergence zones – very helpful for south pacific where there are migratory highs that effect weather.
       
  • Viewfax- Grib file viewer (saildocs explains how to get free versions)


  • Visual Passage Planner – VPP2
    Historical weather data and route planner for your specific boat.
    Create boat polars, pick your month of travel, enter route, and you get reports on trip timing and weather conditions based on historical pilot data.


  • Cmap viewer – routes don’t work but good for finding chart boundaries and talking screen shots.


  • Nobeltec Tides and currents – good tide information for the world. Get the extra files for get Admiralty tides for South Pacific. Tide data was lacking in Indonesia.


  • Utilities


    • InfraView good general picture viewer allows you to quickly look at weather faxes

    • Snagit good for taking screen shots- print hard copy versions of your charts/route

    • Wrar- Like winzip but good for un-packing certain types of grib files

    • Google Desktop- helps search all your files etc- make sure you exclude all the cmap and Oziexplorer files because there are so many. Set preference to work without internet connection.

  • Use Noonsite to gather latest info on countries/facilities/rules etc. It also has text only version available to receive over email. I save the web pages of interest for reference on the boat.

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