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MaxSea TZ – Route planning & re-planning….repeatedly….

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

Previous posts are:

Navigation Software Trials in Biscay 2012

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

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

MaxSea TZ – Displaying weather data by received by email

As I have said before, 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.

I and 15 other boats on Rally Portugal are stuck in Falmouth – waiting for the elusive break in the weather that would allow  a trip to Baiona. As a result I have been updating the weather data using MaxSea TZ weather service on a daily basis, and then remodelling the planned route within the parameters that I have chosen.

So below is a glimpse of the two routes that I have planned – Inner and Outer – for crossing Biscay.

In this respect I must say MaxSea is the best software I have used to date. If you have not used it yet it is hard to describe what a pleasure it is to be able to zoom out and in repeatedly so smoothly and without losing your place on the chart. To be able to see obstructions; dangers; currents; winds; wave heights; bathymetric data and any permutation at will so that you can make the complex  decision of what route to take long before you use the “Launch Routing” function that computes the optimal route using the isochron model.

Remember I have access to Neptune Cmap Planner and the very latest Raymarine e125 Plotter. But neither of these options holds any temptation at all when I am trying to plan and figure optimal routes according to the latest weather updates.

The Neptune Cmap Planner comes close to being “very good” since it can calculate optimal departure times; routes; and take into account the latest Grib file data from one of the free services such as Ugrib or zyGrib. But the interface is so clumsy that it becomes exceedingly tedious to use it and just makes you want to shut the laptop and have a good strong drink.

As for the Raymarine e125 Hybrid Touch – well its next to useless for the task at hand. It does not interface to any useful weather service. Yes, yes, I know about the US based Sirius System – but what use is that to me? In any case that requires extra hardware from Raymarine and an expensive subscription based data service from Sirius – very old school thinking! Even if you were in the US and had all the hardware and data at your finger tips the Raymarine software does nothing to help you plan or optimise your plans using the weather data – its all up to you. What is the year?…is it 1912 ? !

So…. back in the real world where good programmers make software actually do useful things….

The following is a screen shot of the two routes that I want to consider in the light of weather data.

MaxSea Route Planning1 The screen shot shows the two routes I am considering across Biscay.

The task every day is to download weather data. This is very simple using the MaxSea free weather data service – so long as you have Wifi…

Then to calculate the impact of that data – wind speeds; wave heights; dangerous routes and so on – on my particular planned route…

 

So the result of running MaxSea TZ “Launch Routing” function is that you get a blow by blow, step by step assessment of the wind, waves etc. on the route….and a suggested better route…

MaxSea Route Planning2

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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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