Track and record boat races with BoatBeacon groups

You can now track, record and replay races with Boat Beacon on Android and iOS using groups and the following web page:-

Where MYGROUPNAME is your group name. The group hashtag name is anything you like up to 20 capital letters (no spaces). Set your group name in Boat Beacon/Settings/My Trip Details.

The initial view shows the last know position of all boats in the group. Click on “Start race” to show and track live positions. A race timer displays how long the race has been running for. Click on “Stop race” to end and save the race information to a local file.

When you stop the race two timestamped files are exported to your local desktop, a .kml file that can be used to view the tracks in Google Earth and a .geojson file which can be re-loaded up to the web page to replay the race using the “Choose file” button.

When a previously recorded race is loaded the following controls appear

A slider to fast forward and back through the race and tracks. A Playback speed slider to set the speed of the playback and a Play/Stop button. Click the Play button to start replaying the race from the slider position. There is also a checkbox top right “GPS Tracks” to turn the tracks on and off.

Here is the PocketMariner YC page – currently both boats ashore.

There is a recorded track you can download to your desktop and load up to try here ( N.B this was a cycle test track with one “test” boat ):-


We are looking for early adopters to gather feedback on what other features or improvement could be made to make the new Group Race feature useful. Please let us know if you try it and how you get on by emailing with the subject “Group races”.

We are also looking at the possibility of tracking  yachts and dinghies during club races using inexpensive small GPS trackers like the one below as an alternative to having the Boat Beacon app and are looking for a volunteer Yacht club to try this with.

The basic  idea is for the tracker and sim card to be cheap enough for a club to have enough of these devices to hand out to all race participants who don’t have Boat Beacon so they can follow the tracks of all participating yachts and dinghies on screen at the club house and review the race afterwards.

Our tests of the trackers show they can run for around 12 hours on one charge with position updates every 5s (12m accuracy at 5 Knots). We have sourced non-expiring IoT data sim cards which work on all networks with enough data pre-installed for 5 million fixes. We are now looking to try with real races and need a volunteer Yacht club based in the UK. We will supply the trackers for the trial at cost and the service for free. The raw cost per GPS tracker device including the lifetime sim card is around £35. If you are interested please contact with the subject “Race Trackers”.

Aqua Map and Boat Beacon AIS Sharing

Get live AIS ship positions around you on the Aqua Map app with Boat Beacon’s virtual AIS receiver.
Boat Beacon can now share its real time AIS feed from our global AIS aerial network via NMEA with Aqua Map on the same device or on the same Wifi Network. Boat Beacon acts as a “Virtual AIS Receiver” and is the first and currently only app out there that offers this .
Aqua Map have worked closely with us with their app’s  AIS  & WiFi feature and have tested and recommend Boat Beacon in their  Wifi Connections Guide.
The new Boat Beacon AIS Share feature is free to try in demo mode.  If you find it useful you can use it any time when you are out boating for a small monthly or annual subscription via IAP.  The Aqua Map AIS feature requires their Master subscription IAP  for AIS and Wifi connections which comes with a 14 day free trial.
You can get the latest version of Boat Beacon from the Apple App Store here and Google PlayStore here. Aqua Map is available for iOS here  and on Android here
This is a step by step guide on how to configure Boat Beacon AIS Sharing with Aqua Map on iOS. The guide uses Boat Beacon’s demo mode so you can try for free at home away from the coast and without having to purchase an AIS sharing subscription.
1. Launch Boat Beacon and go into Boat Beacon settings and turn on “Demo Mode”, then turn on AIS Sharing. It will show the default TCP port number to use 5353 and will be orange ( not connected). N.B. If you are not in the UK the demo mode will be centred on San Francisco bay in the US or other locations.
2. Tap Done top left and go back to the chart view. This will position the map on a virtual boat in the Solent ( or San Francisco Bay). All the other boats in view are real and live. Tap the sailboat icon bottom left to start sailing the demo route.
3. Now switch to the Aqua Map app (on the same device) and position the chart on the Solent ( or San Francisco Bay) and then tap Settings wheel bottom right so you can configure AIS.
Scroll down to “Wi-fi connections”
You should then see the Connections screen*, tap “+” at the top right
(* If you already have a device set up you can add another by tapping the + at the top right on the device list screen.)
Select”Boat Beacon app”. This will automatically configure the settings
Tap “Save” top right and go back to the map view. You should now see live AIS boat and ship icons ( brown triangles and circles on the map) and even a SART Alarm in the screenshot below
Now every time you run Boat Beacon in Sailing mode Aqua Map will automatically connect and receive the live AIS data from around your GPS location out to 30NM.
Notes on setting up AIS Sharing:
  • When using Demo mode to try AIS Sharing out for free you have to position Aqua Map to the same  location as Boat Beacon is simulating at – e.g. the Solent for EU, San Francisco for US, Lübecker Bucht for Germany and Sydney harbour for Australian users
  • Boat Beacon must be in Sailing mode to maintain the AIS feed when it is in the background ( e.g. when you are viewing the Aqua Map chart) on your device.

  • Make sure you have Location sharing for Boat Beacon set to “While using” in your device Privacy/Location settings. Please note Boat Beacon will only use your location when it is running ( foreground) or in the background when in Sailing mode.
  • You do not need to have a WiFi connection to your device to use Boat Beacon and Aqua Map on the same device.  While Aqua Map will run completely offline you must have an internet connection though (e.g. Cellular/Mobile) to receive Boat Beacon’s AIS data. 
  • You can share to Aqua Map on other devices too if they are on the same local WiFi network using the IP address shown in Boat Beacon’s AIS Sharing setting instead of in the Aqua Map Connection setting.
  • iOS14 has introduced a new privacy permission if apps want to use local network resources which Aqua Map needs to have set to yes. The OS will prompt you the first time either app tries to use a connection. You can manually set/change the permission in your device’s Settings/Privacy/Local network
  • Might sound obvious, but it has caught a couple of people out. You need to subscribe to the monthly or yearly Boat Beacon AIS Sharing feature via IAP ( tap the AIS Sharing row in Settings to bring up the IAP screen) to use Boat Beacon with Aqua Map when not in demo mode. Also Aqua Map needs their iAP (Master subscription) for using AIS and WiFi Connections.
  • If you have any questions or problems getting it working please email us at
Collision Avoidance

The primary purpose of AIS is monitoring and alerting for potential collisions. Boat Beacon’s AIS service has two key advantage, instant ship details and over the horizon detection ( out to 30NM).  With VHF AIS only the MMSI number, position and speed appear initially and it can take up to 6 minutes for the ship names and type details to be received. With Boat Beacon the names, size and type are available instantly with position so you can call them up by name over VHF radio and check their intentions.  VHF AIS receivers can only see as far as the visual horizon which is typically about 12NM whereas Boat Beacon’s multiple shore antennas at high elevation can provide coverage out to 30NM in popular areas.

Boat Beacon has configurable options for collision detection distance, time and alerting in Settings. 

You can also configure collision avoidance alert parameters in Aqua Map’s settings:-

  • Collision avoidance: to enable the alarms related to the Collision avoidance (red flashing color for the colliding targets, AIS box red flashing, sound alarms, …).
  • Minimum allowed CPA: to select the CPA (Closest Point of Approach = minimal distance 2 boats will be if following same direction and speed) below which a target is considered colliding. This calculation is done for the time specified in the “Time to CPA” field. In the example above this means that an alarm will be fired if any boat will be closer that 350 ft to our boat in the next 10 minutes.
    NOTE: the collision is calculated considering the GPS position received and a hypothetical boat size (size of the boat in AIS data is frequently unknown or unreliable). So for big boats  this could lead to undetected collisions.
  • Time to CPA: to define the maximum time in the future for which you would search a possible collision.
  • Alarm sound: to select the type of sound alarm you would receive each time a new collision is detected.
  • Volume: to select the volume for the alarm sound you selected.

SeaNav – Portuguese charts

SeaNav now has vector charts available for Portugal, The Azores and the Madeira islands based on the latest official Hydrographic Office data. These work seamlessly together with the existing charts for Spain and France. The charts include the full range of scales down to harbour approaches.

You can download the new Portuguese charts now by going to Settings in SeaNav and selecting SeaNav Chart Store/Portuguese Charts.

Lisbon Harbour entrance

Improving Compass accuracy on iOS devices

The internal compass of your iPhone is a very useful tool. Unfortunately, it is very easy for the compass to become unaligned, particularly when indoors. The following are a few solutions to help improve the compass accuracy of your iPhone or iPad device.

Remove all Magnetic Material from your device

Your iPhone contains a Magnetometer that is used by the internal compass. Any interference from a nearby magnetic source may affect the compass readings. Make sure to remove any nearby magnets. Keep in mind iPhone cases and pop sockets often have magnetic parts built in. If your device becomes unaligned due to the magnet then removing the source will help but you may need to restart your device.

Rotate Your Phone in a Figure 8 Motion

One of the calibration methods your compass utilizes includes motion over time, whether you are walking around or pulling your phone out of your pocket. One trick to help re-align the compass is to shake your phone or rotate it in a large figure eight motion. For a small misalignment this will often help fine-tune the accuracy of your compass.

Enable Compass Calibration in the settings app

In iOS 13 and later there is a privacy setting to allow your compass to use location services to help calibrate your devices compass. By default, this setting is disabled. Enabling this feature is highly recommended for good compass accuracy.

  1. Open the “Settings” app
  2. Tap “Privacy”
  3. Tap “Location Services”
  4. Tap “System Services”
  5. Enable “Compass Calibration”

Disable and Re-enable Location Services

Refreshing Location Services can help your device clear any GPS errors from previous readings. Another trick to improve compass accuracy is to simple disable and re-enable Location Services.

  1. Open the “Settings” app
  2. Tap “Privacy”
  3. Tap “Location Services”
  4. Disable and Re-enable “Location Services”

Restart your iPhone

When your compass becomes misaligned sometimes the fastest method of realignment is to simple restart your device. This may seem tedious, but it is the quickest and most reliable method for restoring your compass to provide optimal readings.

How to Restart Your iPhone

Disable True North in the settings app

By default, your device will utilize True North for all compass readings. Depending on the compass reading you are trying to get it may make sense to temporarily disable True North and use Magnetic North for a while.

  1. Open the “Settings” app
  2. Scroll down and tap on the “Compass” app
  3. Disable “Use True North”

Hopefully some of these tips help you attain accurate compass readings from your device. If your device continues to have issues, there may be an additional software or hardware problems with the phone itself. Please contact Apple Support for any questions about calibrating your compass or to determine if your device may need repair.

AIS coverage additions for Spring 2021

We are constantly working to increase our real time AIS coverage for our apps and services. Over the last month we have added over 30 new areas adding an additional 5000 live AIS targets to our global total of over 75,000 per hour.

Number of ShipsArea
30Firth of Clyde, UK
50Faroes, UK
20SE Ireland
20SW Ireland
100Aegean Sea, Greece
100Valencia, Spain
200Gibraltar and Southern Spain
100Antwerp, Belgium
200Caspian Sea
300Persian Gulf
600Japan, multiple areas.
200River Plate, S.America
150Sao Paulo, S.America
20Salvador, S.America
31SE Australia
30Avalon Beach,Australia
27Sutherland, Australia
21Gulf of Mexico – Matamoros