Boat Beacon – “Your app may have saved our lives”

 Captain Ian Engelbrecht and First Mate Ibolya Palko from Worldwide Yacht Deliveries  sent us a report today on how Boat Beacon helped them when they were caught in fog 4NM off the South African coast. They were sailing a Jaguar 36 Catamaran on a 900 mile, 12 day voyage from Cape Town to Durban, South Africa. There is a map showing their planned route to the right. They had just passed Hamburg on their route up the East South African coast when they lost visibility.  Their primary AIS system had failed.  They did the right thing and diverted in close to shore to find shallow waters and avoid any commercial shipping (see the  track map below). They were hoping there wouldn’t be  anything else so close in. They decided to power up Boat Beacon on their Android smartphone and leave it running to keep a look out.

Boat Beacon alerted them to a container ship, also close in, going in the opposite direction!  At a range of 21 NM ( well over the normal VHF AIS horizon) Boat Beacon gave them plenty of time to assess the situation and take the necessary avoiding action.


They also had some very useful feedback. Having no visibility and due to the specific courses involved, they weren’t too sure on how the Closest Point of Approach (CPA) would pan out. In other words what would the CPA be in relation to their vessel – port or starboard? That made it difficult to decide on the correct avoiding action to take. Captain Iain Engelbrecht asked if we could add a new feature to Boat Beacon to give the bearing of the closest point of approach with respect to one’s own boat (e.g. 0° is dead ahead, 90° to starboard, 270° is to port etc.).

Captain Engelbrecht was impressed by Boat Beacon’s real time performance – that may have saved their lives – and our immediate response to his suggestion.  We are now adding the new CPA Bearing feature, continuing Pocket Mariner’s commitment to providing useful, professional and affordable aids to navigation and safety.



Compass Eye and the iPhone 5 Camera

The iPhone 5 had a nice surprise up its sleeve for Compass Eye.  The camera on the iPhone 5 has a 4 fold increase in low light ability (iso 3200). Unfortunately Apple did not make this available to existing apps out of the box. You have to specifically request the function to be enabled within your app on iOS 6. Yesterday I did just that and tested a new version of Compass Eye on the iPhone 5 against the iPhone4S at dusk – and the results speak for themselves:-

I was trying to take a bearing on the Dovecot (white with pointy roof) – bit like a North Cardinal 🙂

 

This is pretty much what it looked like to the naked eye too.
iPhone 4s

This is pretty close to how the scene looked to the naked eye too (admittedly non-light adapted). Can you see the Dovecot?

Below is the same scene taken on the iPhone 5 , 28s earlier. Bearing acquired!

 

iPhone 5

I continued taking photos with the iPhone 5 until they matched the iPhone 4 photo at 17:13:59. Even 10 minutes later the iPhone 5 was better than the earlier iPhone 4S photo and I could still just about take a fix on the Dovecot. This could be a real advantage.

A new version of Compass Eye (2.0) is now available in the iTunes store that takes full advantage of the  new camera on the iPhone 5 and also has an automatic night vision mode to help maintain your dark adaption.

 

Boat Beacon AIS in the North Sea

We recently received an excellent review of Boat Beacon in the German Yacht magazine including some great screen shots. It generated a lot of interest with German boaters.

 

 

I wrote to the author to ask if we could use his screen shots in the iTunes store. We received a lovely reply:-

“I am the author of the review at yacht.de. I bought and tested the app on a voyage from Emden (western Germany) to river west of Hamburg – and I was very impressed by the app. We sailed the whole night through with a lot of wind and high waves. My father was with me on board, his first time on the north sea – and he got seasick the moment we left sheltered water. So I sailed singlehanded and Boat Beacon was a great help. As the boat has no AIS-System attached to the plotter, it was very helpful to have it on the iphone. Also to be able to find out in which direction the other ships were heading when I saw us on collision course. The friends and family followed our progress at home on the computer. One friend even followed us sailing up the river Oste and sent me the phonenumbers for the bascule bridges the moment we reached them.”

PocketMariner at the Southampton Boat Show

We popped down to the Southampton Boat Show to share our wares and look for new App ideas. We also got a chance to take Boat Beacon out for a spin on a $1M Speed boat and test at high speed!

 

 

Here are some real time screen shots from the boat and of Boat Beacon’s display. All lined up in real time perfectly. We are on the purple boat in the centre of the screenshot doing just over 20Kts overtaking Red Falcon which is to port.

We chatted with McMurdo about their new and very popular S10  and Kannad R10 Personal AIS Beacons (see Panbo’s article) – flying off the shelves like hot cakes. They appear on Boat Beacon when activated and in test mode, but were showing up as unknown ships! Time to add some proper support. Show them with the correct AIS SART symbol (red cross) , show the Safety message sent by the device and alarm if one appears within range. The typical range quoted for these beacons at sea level is 4 miles. With Boat Beacon using shore based receivers we should be able to see them further away at upto 10 miles out! Any volunteers for testing?
The latest Android version (1.2) of Boat Beacon now has AIS SART support and it will be included in the next iOS release.

We met up with Yachting Monthly Editor, Keiran Flatt and he is going to publish our Marine Apps survey on-line and in the next print edition and he also had some ideas for new Marine Apps he would like to see. He is thinking of setting up a photo shoot and story about our company with a trip down the Wye to the Severn from our offices on Sarita.

A fantastic day and some great new ideas and opportunites for Boat Beacon and for some new Apps.