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Sorry to carp on about this…

I am pretty sure it isn't April 1st today – but this video just took the biscuit, and I had to share it – why don't the fish do this off the coast at Brighton !

If you take your boat along the Spoon River, which is tributary of the Illinois River, you may get more than you bargained for but watch out because the fish can weigh up to 45kg.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency said that boaters have suffered broken bones, black eyes, cuts, back injuries and concussion as a result of being hit by the fish.


More support for Active Captain…

ActiveCaptainTo my knowledge ActiveCaptain was the first to build a UGC (User Generated Content) product independently of any mainstream supplier of maritime chart plotters or related product. Using this platform you can record local data like Rocks, Wrecks, Obstructions, Buoys, Beacons & Signs, Lights, Shops & Repairs, Ports & Marinas and Anchorages, Moorings and even upload your recommended routing and waypoint data.


I believe that ActiveCaptain is also the most successful. Although there is a preponderance of Stateside data, I and many other UK sailors have been uploading data for our local marinas, routes and other useful info about sailing in UK waters. I encourage you all to participate in this platform – it is cheap and you can only gain from the wealth of local knowledge that is already, and will continue to be, stored on this platform.

Obviously to make it easy to benefit from the UGC layer, it is essential that you can easily integrate access to ActiveCaptain from within your chosen chart plotting software and that the data remains accessible when you are offline or unable to connect to the internet.

One of the most important products to do include such integration to ActiveCaptain was the MaxSea TZ product that I reviewed extensively here.

Many chart plotting software products have followed suit and included integration to ActiveCaptain. The list of products includes software for PC, Mac, Linux, iPhone and Android  – here is the list so far…

I jumped in and bought the iPhone app from Navionics pretty early on because it was the brand I used on my fixed Raymarine chart plotter and because they had a UK chart version available for only GBP14.95.  The chart plotting software is  Navionics Gold UK/Holland and it works perfectly well on my iPhone, but unfortunately for me it has its own UGC layer (User Generated Content). Strangely you have to submit additions to their UGC layer using an online form on the Navionics website and it is not integrated with another product other than Navionics own chart plotting software  – so why bother with their own, limited, UGC community!

If you are interested in the UGC concept … which one should you use? – well surely its a a case of the biggest UGC community combined with good integration with a wide range of chart plotting software wins. I would put my money on ActiveCaptain – so sign up if you have not done so already, and start exploring the user content stored there – more importantly if you have UK or European local knowledge – be community minded and type it in !…


My Top Yachts

Before long every sailor starts to dream about a long blue water adventure…and then the never ending discussions start about which is your "dream boat". Perhaps you have it already, but perhaps you are like me and have a lovely coastal cruiser, but perhaps you know in your heart that it probably is not the one to carry you across oceans, or out run a storm for days on end.

Of course if you are the next Robin Knox Johnson these matters would not concern you – but if you have spent most of your life behind a desk earning the money to even contemplate such an adventure, then you will probably need a vessel that is far tougher than you!.. and will look after you when your strength, and perhaps your nerve, are beginning to fail.

This set of pages represent my research into trying to assess which boat that may be “The One”. The one that I could afford (!), and the one that will keep me and my wife safe when we are far from a safe haven…

I have selected boats that have the following characteristics:

  • They can be bought in reasonable condition for about GBP150k (or less)
  • They are around 40ft LOA
  • They are already, or could be, cutter rigged
  • They have the load capacity for a blue water cruising
  • They could be handled by 2 people (husband and wife)
  • They score less than 1.99 on the “Capsize Ratio” see page on Ratios to see a full explanation.

There are two exceptions – I have included my current 32ft sloop (a Compromis 999) and the Discovery 55 – just for the comparison of two worthy “outliers” – both are classed as CAT A in the CE classification. The Compromis 999 I have included just because it is a great coastal cruiser – well built – and I already own it! The Discovery I have included because it is meant to be a “dream” blue water cruiser for 2 people and it is made in the UK…and it costs GBP650k !

I am in the process of redoing all this information. I hope to incorporate comparative ratios that can be used to indicate the relative merits of one boat over another in the context of blue water sailing. …your contributions are gratefully received just email me

I used two comparative ratios for my assessment – the Displacement/Length ratios and the Sail Area/Displacement Ratio. I used the sloop and cutter rigged configurations for sail area, to see the impact on these two ratios. I also used the manufacturers quoted figure for displacement and then an estimate for a “fully laden” displacement by adding 10% to represent the extra weight of equipment; spares; water; fuel; etc… needed for blue water cruising.

I have then listed all those boats that “qualify” within the optimal settings for blue water cruising as defined by leading yacht designers. Check out the sub-pages on Designers and also Ratios to see the full set of research that relates to this quest.

The summary of the results is set out below. The 4 criteria are

  • D/L (unladen)
  • D/L (cutter rigged + laden)
  • SA/D (unladen)
  • SA/D (cutter rigged + laden)

So boats that score “4 out of 4” have hit the optimal ranges for D/L and SA/D whether they are cutter rigged or not, and whether they are fully loaded or not.

4 out of 4 3 out of 4 2 out of 4

Ovni 385

Rustler 42

Bowman 42

Valiant 42

Regina 38

Oyster 406

Cambria 40
Bruckman 42
Christina 43
Moody 42 CC
Discovery 55
Nautor Swan 40
Gozzard 41
Sweden Yachts 41
Nordship 40 DS

Cabo Rico 40
Pacific Seacraft 40
Pearson 40
Najad 420
Malo 42
Jeanneau 42 CC
Southerly 42RS
Sabre 402
HR 42
Hunter 450
Saga 409
IP 420
Tartan 4100
Cambria 44
Morris 45


I will be publishing the full data on my pages “My Top Yachts” shortly….


Fugawi .v. Volvo…?

What have these two companies got to do with each other …you may ask!

Well, my buddy the “oil baron” took me out on his brand new Sealine F42 recently. The F42 is a fantastic motor boat, but of course one of the issues of owning such a boat – even if you are an “oil baron” – is that you want to be able to gauge the fuel consumption as you speed along at 20+ knots…

The F42 has a planing hull, and 2x Volvo Penta Diesel IPS500 370hp (or 435hp) engines…. you really would want to know the optimum speed (for the sea conditions) and also the trim tab setting for the sea conditions and the speed that you are doing. If only you had some sort of dial that would show you the impact on fuel consumption, as you adjusted the trim tabs up/down or, as you powered down or up on the throttles.

Volvo_EVCWell – as you may suspect – the F42 comes with a system to do just that. It’s the Volvo EVC system. This is composed of the panel shown here plus the engine control throttles and associated switches. There is a very good video showing the Volvo EVC system being used at BoatTest.com. What struck me – and the oil baron – as strange was that there was only one fuel consumption gauge even though there were two IPS engines. This may be because the software in the EVC system is so clever that it automatically adjusts the fuel efficiency of both engines such that a combined reading is the only sensible one to show (?) – I don’t know – more digging around required!

In fact the Volvo EVC system even has a cruise control and auto trim assist button the former automatically keeps the speed you set, the latter adjusts the trim for optimum fuel efficiency – job done!


Murphy_HelmViewThe Murphy HelmView is a plug-and-play system that works with J1939 and NMEA 2000 protocols to allow the sharing of information between onboard electronic devices. There are three CAN (Control Area Network) inputs that can integrate engines, gensets, NMEA devices, and GPS. On a display at the helm, you can view everything from speed, engine rpm, and fuel burn to waste-tank level and rudder angle. You can even view trim tab levels.

The 6.4-inch colour VGA LCD flat-screen display can also act as a backup chart plotter since it is compatible with Navionics chart displays – the same one that you would use in your Raymarine chart plotter. Murphy have been in partnership with a number of companies to supply their engine and engine-driven controls and monitoring systems e.g. Nautique LINC digital display system.


Fugawi_Avia1Both these systems are pretty much aimed at the power boat owner – but what about sailors?

Well there is a system that is interesting since it is aimed at Microsoft Windows users – and could be used in either power or sail boat systems and it comes from Fugawi. The Fugawi Avia software receives data from onboard sensors via the industry standard NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000® protocols, and presents the data as analog and digital instruments on your Windows® PC, netbook or tablet.

If you click on the image and look at the enlargement you will see that each engine is monitored separately on a twin engined power boat. Of course this is instrument data display – it does not provide the logic and the control of the Volvo EVC system.

As I mentioned in my previous post on the virtualisation of instrumentation on boats…the Avia system is actually produced by the Avia Design Group and is part of their range of virtual instrumentation products.

If your are using other software on your laptop you can have the instruments that you want to see overlay the screen so you can watch both at the same time – neat idea.

The title of this post is a bit tongue in cheek of course – if your boat is not drinking 100+ litres of fuel per hour – then a cheaper system than the Volvo EVC may be more up your street. However, if you do have a boat such as the Sealine F42 – then the Volvo EVC is an essential item – and knowing how to use cruise control and auto trim is a good technique to master!


GPSGate Express for Windows

BluNextGPSOn a recent delivery trip from Liverpool I had the chance to use a small piece of software called GPSGate. This enabled my bluetooth GPS (BluNext 65 Channel Dongle ) top connect to my laptop correctly when all other attempts had failed. The problem was the useless bluetooth software built into Windows XP – it may be different with Windows 7 I haven’t tried. But I encountered all sorts of problems trying to get my MaxSea software to recognise the virtual comm port that the GPS data was streaming in to from the GPS dongle.

The built in communications port wizard in MaxSea was of no use either and I even had MaxSea tech support guiding me through editing various config files using notepad – all to no avail. Finally GPSGate fixed the problem and even allowed me to share the GPS data with two different chart plotting programs.

GpsGate Client Express lets multiple applications share GPS data simultaneously on a computer with a single GPS device. GpsGate Client Express supports built-in GPS devices, Bluetooth GPS devices and GPS devices connected via serial and USB ports. It also adds stability to the GPS connection, with automatic re-connection when required.

The free GpsGate Client Express can:

  • Split one GPS to two virtual COM ports
  • Handle most GPS devices, Bluetooth, Serial and USB
  • Stabilize Bluetooth GPS connections
  • Automatically re-connect lost connections
  • Support Garmin GPS devices
  • Connect standard GPS to nRoute with Garmin protocol
  • Show GPS position in Google Earth
  • Make GPS position available to web browser
  • Connect to a GpsGate Server for GPS tracking
  • Run on 32 and 64 bit Windows (7/Vista/XP/2k/NT/98)

Why not give it a go if you have problems connecting your GPS or any other bluetooth device with your laptop – its free – download here…