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.

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.

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