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

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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. .”

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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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.

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