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MaxSea TZ–Displaying weather data by received by email

This is the third post so far on the use of MaxSea TZ on passage.

Previous posts are:

MaxSea TZ – Downloading weather data on your sat phone 1 of 2

MaxSea TZ – Downloading weather data on your sat phone 2 of 2

Just so readers get my comments in context, please note that my critique is simply that – it is not a condemnation of MaxSea TZ – far from it, I hope to end this series by making sure I record what I think is so brilliant about MaxSea TZ and why I still rate it as the best planning tool on the market!. But like all products there is always room for improvement and I hope that my comments and observations will be received by the folk at MaxSea with interest.

Critique 3:

Having downloaded the MaxSea weather service Grib file all you have to do is click on the attachment to automatically load MaxSea (if it isn't already running) and the weather data is loaded up.. My comment here is simply that it all happens so fast I actually did it twice top make sure something had happened!. The problem is that there is no visual indication on the chart what weather data is actually being shown and in use by the software.

MaxSea Grib Download4 Just double click on the Grib file attachment to load MaxSea TZ and display the data…
MaxSea Grib Download2 But – you cant tell if the operation was a success or establish exactly what the date/time of the data is that you are viewing…

Looking at the wind speed here you can see why I am still in Falmouth using the MaxSea TZ software!

MaxSea Grib Download3 A simple enhancement would be to show the “as at” date time for the data being used by the planning software…

…er…wave height 5.49m – nice!

 

Suggestion 3:

MaxSea should display the “as at” date and time of the weather data being used in the two dialogue boxes  shown above. That is the date that the data was formulated by the modelling software in their weather service – not the date of the request or the date of the download or today's date etc….

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MaxSea TZ – Downloading weather data on your sat phone 2 of 2

Critique 2:

So having requested the weather file – remember you are at sea – you then log off your sat phone and log on some time later.

…lets hope the signal is clear.

 

SatPhone_Scr0
This is the credit I had before the call to download the email with the MaxSea grib file attached…..107 Minutes
MaxSea Grib Download4
This (above) shows the download of the email and the size of the attachment and the duration of the call…
SatPhone_Scr1This is the sat phone call in progress…the extra time is for the authentication … before the email download begins….
SatPhone_Scr2
This shows the credit I had at the end of the call above…I seem to have used 32 minutes (107 – 75)…how did that happen…? !

 

Suggestion 2:

MaxSea should trial the file sizes; compression; and times required to download weather data at sea using the very common Iridium and other comparable services. I really don't think I will be using the MaxSea weather service out side of a home, internet cafe or marina Wifi connection!

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MaxSea TZ – Downloading weather data on your sat phone 1 of 2

As  I mentioned in my previous post I am participating in the Rally Portugal 2012 – which is currently holed up un Falmouth!…We should haver left 3 days ago, crossing Biscay heading for Baiona in Spain – but extreme weather in the By has meant that "discretion has been the better part of valour”.

While in port I have had access to the internet and a variety of Grib file services (Ugrib and zyGrib) or the UK Met Office or the Magic Seaweed site. I can use either marina based Wifi or even my 3G Apple iPhone to connect up the laptop.

Critique 1:

But, what about on passage? Well, like many sailors planning ocean passages I have installed an Iridium 9555 sat phone which I intend to use for text only email – carefully screened by my airtime and email service provider Mailasail.com.

Using my MaxSea software I have easily set up an area of sea that I am interested in and downloaded up to date weather data to use in my passage planning.

But what happens when I use my sat phone.?…my request to access the MaxSea weather service using email is bounced by MaxSea servers !

I think this is an oversight by MaxSea.

When you buy MaxSea software you obviously use your normal email address to register with their service.But when you go to sea – and are at sea – you obviously would not dream of logging on to your normal email address using a sat phone! – Can you imagine the joy of paying to download junk mail from all those web sites who have your email address!….What you do is use a limited distribution email address such as the one I have at mailasail.com.

Unfortunately this email address cannot request weather downloads from MaxSea because it is not the one that you used to register the software.

 

MaxSea Weather1 Painting a sea area around two alternative routes for crossing Biscay..
MaxSea Weather2 Selecting data to download. In this case I have chosen Wind; Pressure; Waves and currents
MaxSea Weather3 Selecting a number of days projections to download – in this case 8 days
MaxSea Weather4 Selecting how you would like the data – here I have chosen email…hoping to get it on my sat phone
MaxSea Weather5 Selecting to get the data as a zip file
MaxSea Weather6 Being warned that it could take 10 to 15 minutes for a response from the MaxSea servers.

Suggestion 1:

MaxSea could easily allow you to change the email address that is eligible to request weather data from their servers – while still limiting it to one email address per user.

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Navigation Software Trials in Biscay 2012

 

I am starting a series of live trials of the latest MaxSea TZ software. I reviewed this software in 2010.This was a particular review to do only with the complex subject of routing. It was not intended as a general review of navigation software. In that review I came to the conclusion that the MaxSea TZ software was the overall “winner”. Now two years on I thought I would have another look at the MaxSea TZ software and see if they have come on in their design and functionality.

The context of this review is of interest. I am taking part in the Rally Portugal 2012. A rally organised each year by the World Cruising Club which is aimed at people like my wife and I who have never done any ocean sailing or any passages that really require a disciplined watch keeping rota i.e. over 100 mile non stop passages. The plan is to cross from Plymouth, UK to Baiona, Spain (550 nm) and then cruise down the coast of Spain and Portugal to Lagos. This I thought would be a great opportunity to compare and contrast software and navigation software.

On board I have a number of chart plotting devices – probably far more than most cruising sailors:

1 – Dedicated Plotter : A brand new Raymarine e125 Hybrid Touch plotter with Navionics Platinum charts

2 – Dedicated Plotter : The old Raymarine RL80C Plus with CMap NT charts

3 – Laptop (Windows7) software: MaxSea TZ v1.9.7 with MM3D charts

4 – Laptop (Windows7) software: Neptune v5.0.5 with CMap NT charts

So quite a number of opportunities to compare what these systems have to offer.

The other interesting thing is that it is now June 6th. The Rally should have started on June 3rd. But rather extreme weather in Biscay had lead all the participants and the Rally organisers to delay the start. This is hugely disappointing but it did mean that every day and sometimes more than once I have had to use what facilities I have to re-route and download weather updates using a variety of services.

Weather services being used:

1 – MaxSea TZ – built in weather download (by internet download or by email)

2 – UGrib

3 – zyGrib

4 – Magic Seaweed (using WifI or 3G on my Apple iPhone)

It has been very interesting to see how software helps or frustrates the task of re-routing and re-planning over and over again – so I hope to have quite a bit to say about my experiences in the posts that follow.

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Iridium 9555 mounting for a fiver

I have installed a new sat phone in readiness for the ocean passages that my wife and I are planning. The phone I chose, after much deliberation, was the Iridium 9555. I will be posting my impressions of this phone and the real experiences and costs  of using it soon, but this post is simply about the fact that Iridium sell you a £1,000 phone – but they do not supply a mounting bracket so you can actually mount it securely!

I think this is a really disappointing omission. I realise they want to sell the mounting kit separately and at huge cost – but really – what an omission for such an expensive device.

 

Iridium9555VMDS_web Docking station Iridium Holder
Docking station for $649 Many more expensive options.. My solution for £5.99 from eBAY

You have to remember most of us are buying this phone to use on a boat on the high seas not in a marina cafe. We are not interested in “hands free” we are interested in robust and resilient designs.

There are some realities to take into account when using this phone on a boat:

1. The phone will just not work effectively unless it has a very good signal i.e. 5 bars. I will justify this in a later post – I am collecting more data….but just trust me – on a boat you MUST connect an external antenna such as the Iridium Tough AD510 .

2. To connect the external antenna cable –which is  a very stiff RST933 cable – you MUST put the phone in its adaptor. This adaptor is a wafer thin piece of plastic with a very thin piece of wire coming out the back and terminated in a TNC connecter.

3. Screwing this fragile cable on and off the very stiff external cable is virtually guaranteed to break the cable… what were Iridium thinking when they designed this !. Is this how you design a rough, tough, satellite phone for use in remote and challenging situations… never mind on a rocking boat far out at sea ?

4. Once the phone is connected by its tiny life line to the thick external antenna cable – there it lies – rolling about the nav table.

Your £1,000 does not get you a cradle that you could fit to a wall or a dashboard – incredible!

So here is a solution that I created for £5.99 plus two screws….

 

Iridium9555-AntennaAdapter This shows the Iridium 9555 with its adaptor.

The adaptor is well designed to connect the phone’s antenna jack to the supplied desktop antenna….

BUT, it is also the only way to connect the phone to your boats external antenna …

Iridium Holder After some hunting around, I found a car phone holder that could hold the Iridium, without obscuring any of the controls or sockets on the side or at the base of the phone.

Don't forget you will want to connect the mini USB socket to the USB on your laptop to do emails and download GRIB files.

The holder is actually designed to hold the Nokia 5800…but it turns out to be a perfect fit for the Iridium 9555 sat phone…and very cheap…

buy it on eBay for £5.99

E-HOLDER-2 You will need to dismantle the arm from the base in order to drill two holes in it.

This is done easily by taking the knob of the lower part of the arm…just make a note how it comes apart … it took me 15 minutes to work out how to re-assemble it….another senior moment Smile

IMG_0738 …having dismantled the arm

…drill two holes for self tapping screws

….I decided not to glue the holder to the side of the nav table in case I ever wanted to move it or replace it…

IMG_0741

…simply fit the holder to a convenient surface at or near your chart table….and your laptop

IMG_0739 this shows a another cable I had made up so that I could avoid connecting the stiff external antenna cable to the phone directly thereby reducing the strain on the cable and the cradle, and allowing me to be able to lift the phone out and operate the keyboard if I wanted to ….

This shows the whole installation

A = the very stiff external antenna cable that runs to the Iridium Tough AD510

B = Short extension cable, shielded, but thinner and flexible, so I can pick the phone up but still have it connected to the external antenna

C = Fragile, thin, cable connecter that comes in the phone adaptor

IMG_0740

 

Final handy tip – buy yourself a spare Iridium antenna adaptor from eBAY for £35…. you are definitely going to break the one that ships with the phone !!

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