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Routing 2b of 7 : Routing planning and optimisation an extra brain as well as a pair of hands...

In my previous posting I listed those systems which were clearly aimed at the racing sailor. This is not meant to be a drawback – it depends what your objectives are as a sailor as well as your capability and skill level. They very accomplished pieces of software and provide at the very least a source of information to the cruising sailor about the higher art of race tactics, tuning and performance.

The next group are NOT inferior to the the first (TableA) in any way –  but I feel that they are less likely to be underutilised by the normal cruising sailor than the ones in the racing stable above. I feel that they may be operated in more of an amateur manner with less fine tuning than the top racing packages. This is a backhanded complmemnt to SeaPro and MaxSea – systems which are very well accomplished on the racing circuit !

It may seem strange to put MaxSea in this table since there are dozens of race wins attributed to it… but it is included as testament to the ease of use of its interface that I believe makes it more intuitive than the race packages above. It is truly a race class piece of software but it can easily be used by a cruising sailor with its elegant “TimeZero” interface.

Routing 2b of 7 : Routing planning and optimisation an extra brain as well as a pair of hands… → Click here to continue reading →


Routing 2a of 7 : Routing planning and optimisation an extra brain as well as a pair of hands...

For the experienced sailor – and the world’s best sailors and navigators all use sophisticated routing and route planning software – this software is a critical source of information , while for the less experienced (like me) it is an education as well.

In the course of this research I have corresponded and talked with a number of the developers of this type of software, and I have been impressed not only by their sailing credentials, and their skill at software development, but also at the care with which they have struggled to meet the challenge of creating viable and trustworthy systems that can add value to the cruising and the racing sailor – without taking away any of the responsibility of a skipper.

It is a very exciting area of sophistication for systems aimed at the leisure sailor and is bordering on the class of systems that are truly ECS/ECDIS systems for commercial vessels – and I certainly feel that using this type of software – and putting effort into understanding it – will make me a better sailor – I will never be a  Michel Desjoyeaux – but I may benefit from his and other expert’s experience because it is sailors like these that are being consulted in the design and logic of the routing software. I will use the phrase ECS/ECDIS in  this series of articles to keep in mind that the systems being looked at are a class above the normal chartplotting systems availble to leisure sailors, and are in fact already sold to the commercial market or are capable of being sold in that market.

I will be posting my findings in a variety of sections relating to:

Routing 2a of 7 : Routing planning and optimisation an extra brain as well as a pair of hands… → Click here to continue reading →


Routing 1 of 7 : Planes, cars, boats and autopilots...

921G_Autopilot I have been reflecting on the ever increasing complexity and sophistication of electronics in general, and computer software in particular, in use on the average cruising yacht. It appears that the more we have the more we want and expect. In line with more functionality we also expect better reliability!

There appears to be a small but growing trend to move away from dedicated electronics with embedded software on board – like the dedicated Raymarine or Furuno chart plotters, to consumer electronics – laptops and even smart phones. If you look at some of the conversations on the forums some people admit that there laptop wasn’t made for a marine environment – but nevertheless expect it to work – and expect it to be responsible for critical if not life and death operations.

I am as much to blame – I love to see increasing functionality in software and to experiment with it and use it. The difference is attitude and expectation. I know the technology is fragile, and I am not surprised if it doesn’t work – and when (not if) it fails, I just get on with “plan B” – may be its my age 🙂

Routing 1 of 7 : Planes, cars, boats and autopilots… → Click here to continue reading →


Update your Wiley Almanac - great, but could it be better?


If you are an English Channel sailor and you haven’t already downloaded the Wiley Almanac application then I highly recommend you do so straight away! The application is based on the Adobe AIR technology so it will work on most laptops and PC’s with very little fuss. The Wiley Nautical Almanac is a free being supported by some reasonable and relevant advertising. It contains a comprehensive directory of harbour, tidal and weather data for cruising sailors. You can refer to the almanac while off line and it currently covers the South and East Coast of England from Lowestoft to Padstow and the continental coast from Vlissingen to L’Aber-Wrac’h.

Update your Wiley Almanac – great, but could it be better? → Click here to continue reading →


What's your Magnetic Variation - the compass not you !

Mag1Sitting at home staring out at the rain on a wet and windy Sunday in East Sussex while planning our trip to the Channel Islands this summer, it occurred to me that I dont really pay that much attention to magnetic variation since the variation is so small that it normally doesnt make much of a difference especially when you factor in all the other ways in which either my navigation, my estimation or the various real vagaries of wind, tide and so on affect a course and an eventual landfall. I guess it would make a real difference on an ocean passage but that wont concern me this year – unfortunately:-)

What’s your Magnetic Variation – the compass not you ! → Click here to continue reading →