Boat Beacon now has all NOAA US RNC (Raster) Marine Charts available

Pocket Seamless_RNCs_chartMariner were invited to help NOAA with their new raster charts service. We met up with them in the US last year and have been working with them on the trial. NOAA’s Raster Navigational Charts (RNCs) are produced by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey (OCS) and are designed for marine navigation, but can also be used as a marine base map by GIS users, coastal and ocean planning staff, and the general public. NOAA raster navigational charts (NOAA RNC®) are full-color digital images of NOAA paper charts. They provide a consistent view of the marine environment, but with more than 2,100 individual chart and inset files available, finding the right chart at the right scale can be time consuming.

The trial aimed to create a map service of all 2,100+ raster navigational charts and their insets. The charts display as a seamless mosaic with the map collar or neat line—the information around the chart providing scale and notes—removed. Also, the map service displays only those charts appropriate for the viewing scale and map extent requested (from 1:5 million to 1:1,000 scale!). The seamless NOAA RNCs within the service are updated monthly and represent the most recent version of the RNCs and their respective Notice to Mariners at the time of the update.

The trial has been a great success and we are now busy rolling out the new service to use in our Boat Beacon, SeaNav and Boat Watch apps via a simple In App Purchase. This gives our customers access to all 2,100 charts including all updates. The charts for a region automatically download when you view an area and we cache them locally on your device so that they display instantly the next time you look at the map and will also display when you are not connected to the internet. This also means customers using Boat Beacon as a display for external AIS receivers like Digital Yachts or the new and very competitively priced dAISy one  ($59 – $41) can use Boat Beacon on their boat without needing an internet connection.

Boat Beacon on iOS is first out of the block with support for US NOAA raster charts. You can get it here :-

https://itunes.apple.com/app/boat-beacon-ais-marine-navigation/id494877039

Boat Watch iOS is next and we hope to have Boat Beacon on Android with US raster charts ready shortly following that. We can also add seamless raster chart options for the UK, Ireland, France, Netherlands and Germany – please let us know if you would be interested so we can raise the priority to get the work done – email us at support@pocketmariner.com or answer our quick 3 question survey here 

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/8CFCWD2

If you want to check out what the charts look like for your area before getting them in our apps you can use the Raster Navigational Charts Google Earth Tool. This is a Google Earth file of all the charts and insets available and is updated monthly along with the map service updates. Clicking on a chart outline gives you information about that chart, such as title, scale, and date updated. Plus, you have the option to overlay in Google Earth a collared or a collarless version of the chart by clicking on the respective preview link.http://nosimagery.noaa.gov/rnc/NOAA_RNCs.kmz

Here are some screen shots from Boat Beacon on an iPad with the US NOAA raster charts around Miami:-

Pleasure Craft Azura selected (note the track in red and our unique trip detail feature which includes departure point as well as the standard destination info - Fort Lauderdale to Key West).

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In this screenshot we have tapped on the mid channel Safe Water mark Aid to Navigation (AIS AtoN) on the approach to Miami (MIAMI LB M). All AtoN’s which have AIS available are selectable on the charts and will show distance and bearing from your location.

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You can instantly toggle the charts on and off:-

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dAISy AIS receiver with Boat Beacon on Android and Mac

daisy

 

We have been trying out the new and very inexpensive  dAISy AIS vhf usb receiver with our Android Boat Beacon app. It works great – straight out of the box. Just connect dAISy to an aerial and to your Android device via an android OTG cable, Boat Beacon automatically shows up as an app to pick to work with it, select Boat Beacon and make sure Local AIS via USB is turned on in Boat Beacon’s settings and receive local live AIS data straight into Boat Beacon. No need for an internet connection to see ships around you. I use an OTG cable with a power connector so that I can keep my device charged and use the external AIS receiver at the same time.

We have also tried using dAISy with our Mac SeaNav Marine Navigation app via USB and it also works very well.

dAISy is really well made in an amazingly small and durable aluminium metal box ( 63 x 44 x 23 mm – size of a matchbox )  and retails for the incredibly low price of  $59 (£41).  It is only single channel. It does channel hop but it will only receive half as many messages as a dual channel AIS receiver, so it can take twice as long to acquire a target or get an update to its position. But dual channel receivers cost at least double this and most are 4 to 5 times as expensive. It is available here:-

https://www.tindie.com/products/astuder/daisy-ais-receiver/

Here’s what Adrian, dAISy’s creator has to say about the range and sensitivity compared to other far more expensive AIS receivers:-

“dAISy did perform better than the RadarGadget AIS USB dongle and a cheap SDR dongle. One customer reported that dAISy’s performance is comparable to NASA AIS Engine, though I didn’t have an opportunity to verify that myself.  Range in the real world is hard to quantify as it relies so much on antenna, location and radio noise. In general, with a proper VHF antenna, line of sight works well. Boaters with the antenna on top the mast report a range of approx. 17NM, that’s also a typical range that I see from unobstructed shore-based stations. .”

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National Coastwatch Barry now provides live AIS service for Mariners

Pocket Mariner and Digital Yacht have sponsored a new AIS receiver for the National CoastWatch Institute ( NCI )  station in Barry. Terry Ewington, the station manager, and his team helped us with the installation today and we now have a live AIS internet feed providing greatly improved real time coverage for the Bristol Channel from Bristol City centre across to Newport and down through Cardiff and Barry to Ilfracombe on the north Devon coast. The real time AIS data is available instantly for folks using our Boat Beacon, SeaNav and  free Boat Watch apps.

The NCI perform an increasingly important “eyes on the ground” role for marine safety, especially with the loss of many of our regional Coastguard stations due to centralisation by the MCA in the UK. The NCI have also recently been assigned VHF channel 65 as a dedicated  VHF channel to provide information and assistance on. Call them up on channel 65 if you are passing in the Bristol Channel or phone them on 01446 420746.

The Barry NCI station is in a wonderful and beautiful location at Nells Point with excellent views and a coastal path running past it. It is very well worth a visit if you are in the area or call them up on VHF Channel 65 if you are sailing in the area and need local information or help. You can check out the live data using this web link or on any of our apps.

http://boatbeaconapp.com/station/7039

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http://boatbeaconapp.com/station/7039

 

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New NAVTEX App for iPhone and iPad

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 16.30.45One of our AIS contributors, Duarte in Portugal, has recently written an interesting and unique marine navigation app that we thought we should let our readers know about. It allows you to view Navtex information directly on your iPhone or iPad without needing  an HF radio on board.  NAVTEX  provides navigational and meteorological warnings and forecasts, as well as urgent maritime safety information to ships.  You can download Navtex for free from the App Store here:-  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/navtex/id1065285995 . You can also try out all the features for free for a week.

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There is a short video clip showing what the app can do here:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx-um26WoDE&authuser=0

and here is what Duarte has to say about his app:-

Navtex should be a requirement to any mariner, hobbyist or professional, regardless the type and size of vessel as it offers important Navigation Warnings that are safety-related while at sea.
Nearly 200 NAVTEX Radio Stations across the world form a global coverage network transmitting messages either in 490kHz, 518kHz, 4209.5kHz, 424kHz and 486kHz. 

At sea, safety is everything so our Navtex App will fetch the latest NAVTEX messages issued by the several official entities and present them to you whenever you want. 
You don’t need to connect your iPhone/iPad to any HF Radio. Only an internet connection is required. Synchronize and within seconds you have the worldwide updated Navtex information in your pocket.
You may select any of the available NAVTEX stations in the App and check their transmission schedule, frequencies, local data and latest important transmitted messages.

The Navtex Navigational Warnings will be collected from the internet and will be stored on your device, so you can read them even if you are off-line.

In Brazil, Australia and New Zeeland Navigation Warnings are not broadcasted via NAVTEX. However, this App will still fetch the latest Navigation Warnings from those regions and show them to you.

Additionally, you can also subscribe to APRS weather that is broadcasted by ham radio enthusiasts all over the world. It is a good backup system to gather weather information in case of failure of the vessels’s primary systems.

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Zeus, Simrad and B&G GoFree settings for Boat Beacon

Here are some instructions on how to connect to GoFree on Boat Beacon Android to use AIS from your own boat’s AIS receiver.

On the B&G: Settings Page –> network –> nmea0183  –> Ethernet , take note of the IP Address (e.g. 192.168.1.109)  and Port  (port is usually 10110) . See screenshot below

 

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In Boat Beacon: go to Settings –> scroll down to AIS Sources. Tap Local AIS and select TCP. Then tap Local AIS host and enter the IP address you noted from your B&G device. Then tap Local AIS port and enter the port number – e.g. 10110. Boat Beacon should then see the AIS data from your B&G instrument and the Local AIS light on Boat Beacon should go green,


Be sure your Android device is connected to the GoFree wifi networkIP. If GoFree on your boat doesn’t have a full internet connection available there is also a setting in Boat Beacon to allow you to use your 3G connection at the same time as connected to GoFree to get internet data (like email and the map overlays).
 
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ActiveCaptain with SeaNav and BoatWatch


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The latest versions of our SeaNav and BoatWatch iOS apps now include the fabulous ActiveCaptain database providing on and off-line access to information on tens of thousands of marinas, anchorages, hazards and local knowledge (bridges, locks etc.) , as well as reviews from other boaters, shown geographically on marine charts, satellite images, or street maps. The ActiveCaptain coverage is global. There is information on Marinas and Harbour side restaurants etc. from around the world including the US, Canada, UK, France, Spain  etc. . If you aren’t already signed up for ActiveCaptain you can do it for free in a few seconds here:-

https://activecaptain.com/register.php

We found Jeff at ActiveCaptain really supportive and helpful on the integration with his data and had some lovely comments back from him on how well we did it too “The Pocket Mariner developers have been exceptional to work with. They are real boaters who get out on the water with their own tools.” Jeffrey Siegel, ActiveCaptain.

We look forward to adding more features and the ability to post reviews from our apps too in the near future.

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Boat Beacon and SeaNav Apple Watch App tips

Here are some tips/pointers from our initial experience of using the Apple Watch with our Boat Beacon app.

1. By default the Apple Watch shows a watch face when you raise your wrist to look at it. If you want to see your nav data on Boat Beacon you have to press the crown and select Boat Beacon. This is really annoying when you want to see your navigation information at the flick of your wrist. Fortunately there is an option in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone to ensure the Boat Beacon app (or whichever app you were using last ) stays on top – its in My Watch/General/Activate on Wrist Raise/Resume Previous Activity  - make sure this is ticked.

2. You need Boat Beacon on your iPhone/iPad to be in Sailing mode (Sailing button bottom left selected) to get  SOG, COG , Heading and CPA/AIS information on Boat Beacon’s watch app display. The same applies to our SeaNav Watch app which also has a Waypoints display.

3. iPhone Battery is draining much faster when SeaNav or Boat Beacon app has been run on  my watch even though it is no longer being displayed on the watch and I am not running the apps on my phone/iPad.

The problem is that when you launch the SeaNav or Boat Beacon watch app (or in fact any app that needs gps) on your watch it stays running even when its not showing on the watch face and/or another app (e.g. the clock) is showing. As it is running it will keep asking the iPhone for gps info which will eat battery on your iPhone. The solution is to “Force stop” the SeaNav app on your Watch when you have finished using it. Here’s how to do this:-

With the SeaNav/Boat Beacon app showing on your Watch screen press and hold the side button below the Digital Crown for a few seconds. The next screen you see features buttons for Power Off, Power Reserve and Lock Device. When you see this screen press and hold the side button again until you see SeaNav disappear and be replaced by the home screen.  There are more instructions for how to do a force stop here

We need a way to exit the SeaNav app on the watch more easily – either from the iPhone or more directly from within the SeaNav app running on the watch. This appears to be a mistake/oversight by Apple (a lot of folks with fitness and cycling apps are complaining to Apple about battery drain) and hopefully they will address it in a future release.

Just remember to force quit it on your Watch when you don’t need it running.

4. The wrist torch mode doesn’t work – looks like Apple won’t let the watch show a blank white screen (it worked in the simulator). We will take a look at how to get this working. For now you can use the AIS Map display to shed some light in the dark.

5. The watch screen is polarised to reduce glare and visibility is good on a bright day.  Apple have got the polarisation right – just like on instrument displays on aircraft -  it works fine with Polarised sunglasses. We tested with a pair of my son’s Ray-Ban Aviators and we could see the watch face fine. seanav-watch

 

 

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Independent trials of the Pocket Mariner AIS Dual channel receiver.

With the help of a ShipPlotter user in Finland we have been able to run side by side tests of our Pocket Mariner Dual Channel AIS receiver with a mainstream commercial brand AIS receiver costing over 3 times the price. We are very pleased with the results, with the Pocket Mariner Dual Channel AIS receiver achieving almost exactly the same coverage/range/data rate of the well known commercial brand. Here are some stats comparing our Pocket Mariner AIS receiver on port 7018 (blue) and the other on port 5378 (red ) and screenshots at the same time of the coverage from the same aerial in Helsinki.

Rate of data received (bits/s)

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We also found that the coverage/range for both the commercial AIS receiver and ours was significantly improved using a relatively in-expensive AIS frequency (162MHz) tuned filter and pre-amp on the aerial feed. We used and would recommend the VHF Pre-amp from Spectrum Communications (formerly known as the Garex pre-amp). They start at around £15 for the pcb built one and around £50 for a boxed version. The ship ranges in the screenshots below is approximately 150km (100Miles).  The tropospheric conditions were good.

7018 Pocket Mariner Dual Channel AIS Receiver coverage snapshot

 

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5378 Commercial AIS Receiver coverage snapshot

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N.B. The buoys at the top of the screen (North) are over 350km away and most likely Synthetic Aids To Navigation being broadcast by a shore based station nearer our aerial.

If you are interested in having a Pocket Mariner Dual Channel AIS receiver please get in touch with us at . support@pocketmariner.com

 

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AIS Coverage

Our ship tracking network uses a global network of shore and ship-based radio stations, which receive signals from the AIS system that ships use to broadcast their positions as they travel. Our receiver stations share the ship positions with our cloud-based data server, which pushes them onwards and out to our apps and web services.

We are continuously working on increasing the coverage of our real-time AIS receiver station network. During the last two months we have added more than 50 new AIS stations across 5 continents bringing our live ship coverage to over 35,000 ships. We have supplied the AIS receiver for free for many of these sites and are now deploying our own Dual Channel AIS receiver which we have successfully had independently tested and proved alongside other manufacturers AIS receivers at a test facility in Finland.

Here is a  list of the most recent stations we have set up  and a snapshot of our global coverage on 14th May, 2015.

New volunteers are always welcome to join our AIS Network.

Africa

Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Asia

Chiba City, Japan
Singapore
Indonesia

Europe

Helsinki, Finland
Turku, Finland
Maasbracht, Netherlands
Ijsselmeer, Nethrlands
Ust-Luga, Russia
St Petersburgh, Russia
Edinburgh, Scotland
Over 30 new stations in and around Sweden.
Scilly Isles, UK
Isle of Man, UK
Lowestoft, UK

America

Prescott, Canada (St Lawrence Seaway).
Miami, Florida, US (2 new stations)
Antioch, CA.
Stockton,CA
St Bartholomew (Caribbean)
Dominian Republic.
Buenaventura, Colombia.

 

If you are interested in adding coverage for your area, please read our Cover Your Area information - we can often provide the equipment free of charge.

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Nautical Apps for Apple Watch

Sailors and boating enthusiasts now have nautical apps on Apple Watch

Wales, UK – Pocket Mariner has launched Apple Watch versions of its popular nautical apps, Boat Beacon, SeaNav and Boat Watch. These apps put powerful real-time navigation and boat tracking maps on the wrists of sailors and boating enthusiasts. With the Apple Watch being splash-proof and water-resistant, it makes a great companion device for boaters when combined with the new apps by Pocket Mariner.

“Fast access to key information and tools has been our philosophy when designing the new Apple Watch versions of our nautical apps,” said Steve Bennett CEO of Pocket Mariner. “Our goal is for boaters and boating enthusiasts to be able to quickly access information directly on the watch without fumbling for their phones.”

Boat Beacon

Boat Beacon is an app that allows sailors to monitor other boat positions, receive alerts for potential collisions and share their own position via internet AIS.

Boat Beacon for Apple Watch adds a wrist view of the user’s boat position, collision alerts and a handy set of navigation and boating tools. Boat Beacon on Apple Watch has five top-level screens: A Map screen, showing the user’s boat position and those of nearby boats; a Navigation screen showing speed and course, and which offers an emergency “Man Over Board” button; a Race Timer screen; a Compass screen; and a final screen which operates as a useful mini-flashlight, with day and night modes.

SeaNav

SeaNav is Pocket Mariner’s popular marine navigation and charting app. The new Apple Watch screens in SeaNav include waypoint navigation tools, compass, AIS and collision avoidance and a race timer.

SeaNav uses the latest Digital Vector charts, providing a wealth of benefits and advantages over raster charts. The app provides details, distance and bearings of buoys, lights, bridges, depth contours, depth soundings, rocks, anchorage areas, and NOAA weather buoys. Other useful information available in SeaNav includes tides, moon and sun times and weather.

When at sea, SeaNav provides features for navigating the course. The app alerts sailors when they’ve reached each waypoint, plus provides auto-routing to the next waypoint. SeaNav also keeps sailors safe at sea by providing collision alerts.

Boat Watch

Boat Watch, a leading “ship tracking” app, allows users to follow movements of ships and vessels anywhere in the world. The app has grown increasingly popular with people visiting coastal or river ports, who have friends or family at sea, or who rely on catching a ferry or boat as part of their daily routine. Boat Watch has been enhanced with an Apple Watch map display showing boat movements in real-time.

On the Apple Watch, Boat Watch will display a list of boats they are following, and users can tap for details on the boats with a full color photograph. The map region matches the parallel maps in the Boat Watch iOS app, so that users can follow boats either locally or anywhere of interest around the world. Users can also follow a list of favorite boats, and check on their watch where they are.

Having access to this information instantly on their wrist will make it very easy and convenient for a user to see if their ferry is on schedule or where a loved one’s cruise ship currently is. Users have the option to receive alerts on their watch when their tracked boat arrives or departs port.

All of Pocket Mariner’s nautical apps with free Apple Watch support are available now for download on the App Store.

For more information, visit PocketMariner.com.

 

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