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$10 app puts Navtex on your Android Phone!

Now and again you see a really good bit of programming.

Check out DroidNavtex.

DroidNavtexThis brilliant little app can decode NAVTEX messages from any SSB, amateur radio, or shortwave receiver.

So you need two things – an Android smartphone and an SSB receiver.

Smartphone – At the moment there is only an Android version of the app so good news if you have an Android smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy Note, Samsung Galaxy SII, or an Android tablet like the Asus Transformer TF101

SSB receiver – I have a Tecsun PL660 on board – but judging by user feedback, people have also used the Sony ICF-SW100 and the Sony ICF-SW7600 successfully.

NAVTEX (Navigational Telex) is an international automated medium frequency direct-printing service for delivery of navigational and meteorological warnings and forecasts, as well as urgent marine safety information to ships. It was developed to provide a low-cost, simple, and automated means of receiving this information aboard ships at sea within approximately 370 km (200 nautical miles) off shore.

NAVTEX broadcasts are primarily made on the Medium frequencies of 518 kHz and 490 kHz. The international NAVTEX frequency is 518 kHz, and these broadcasts should always be in English. Regional transmission of NAVTEX uses 490 kHz specifically for broadcasts in local languages. In the USA NAVTEX is broadcast by the U.S. Coast Guard District Broadcast Notices to Mariners affecting ships outside the line of demarcation, and inside the line of demarcation in areas where deep draft vessels operate.

DroidNavtex is able to decode NAVTEX messages from your receiver through the phones/tablets microphone or through a connected interface. Special audio filters even decode very weak signals through the microphone and make DroidNavtex a very affordable alternative to high priced decoders.

Even if you already have a dedicated Navtex receiver on board, you can use this app with your smartphone or tablet while in the marina cafe, or at home when you are planning – brilliant.

  • An “Auto mode” finds the frequency and the sideband of the Navtex signal automatically. With “Auto mode” turned off the frequency and sideband can be adjusted manually
  • Special audio filters decode very weak signals
  • A built-in database stores the received messages which can then be filtered, sorted and shared. Messages can be deleted individually, in groups or by age
  • To save battery power 7 timers can be set to start DroidNavtex at a given time to decode messages. All timers can be set in local time or UTC

I hope they bring out an Apple OS version they really deserve to sell a million! Smile

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Weather Underground New Marine Service Plus ActiveCaptain!

WUN_1WeatherUnderground has created a new sailing and boating section on their website.

Live and historic weather radar is displayed over maps, satellite images, and nautical charts (NOAA vector and raster).

Integrated with the charts and weather radar is every ActiveCaptain marker with all the details, reviews, and hazard comments you've come to depend on.

We've been working with wunderground.com for a while. They asked us how we made our own cruising weather decisions and we showed them the handful of websites that we use – buoyweather, windfinder, passageweather, swellinfo, magicseaweed, etc.

What WeatherUnderground wanted to do was create a single place where all of this data could be integrated together along with ActiveCaptain to provide the information in context for the places boaters were going.

This capability was just announced by WeatherUnderground.

 

  • Weather Underground and ActiveCaptain

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WeatherUnderground serves a lot of people every day. Alexa rates them as the 151st largest website in the entire United States. They don't have a server like ActiveCaptain has. They have a farm of them. We can handle about 5,000 users every day. They handle upwards of 1 million users during that same period. So integrating with them had to be done in a special way because they could easily swamp our server in the first hour of availability.

ActiveCaptain worked out the technology needed to replicate our data on-the-fly to use a small amount of resources on our server while making the full ActiveCaptain data available to millions of people simultaneously. It's been working for the last couple of months and you haven't even noticed it.

Having such a large site, always available, and adding new types of data is a huge advantage to the boating community. There is the obvious advantage of many more boaters contributing to the ActiveCaptain data and the slick new capability of integrating our data with the WeatherUnderground data. But in addition, this relationship brings their massive data and computing capabilities to bear providing an unparalleled additional free source for the ActiveCaptain knowledgebase. You now have complete access to every review and every detail on either our website or WeatherUnderground.

Providing ways that the entire boating community can access and contribute to the knowledgebase has been what has made ActiveCaptain successful. It is what has given ActiveCaptain the critical mass of data and reviews that makes the knowledgebase useful. It's having the community, you, with easy access in a variety of environments that wins. And we've learned that there is no better community than the boaters who are using ActiveCaptain today. And now that data will remain free and always available.

To try the new section on WeatherUnderground you'll have to enter your ActiveCaptain email and password to log on in order to access the ActiveCaptain part – you'll see.

  •   Weather Underground and Marinas

If you're a marina, the WeatherUnderground announcement effects you too.

With the ActiveCaptain data available on such a large site with so many new users, other non-cruising boaters will now start to see your information as they make their travel plans. Whether it's an afternoon out on the bay, a weekend off to a new place, or a cruise for an entire season, every boater will use this new weather section to access your facility's data. Make sure it is correct. Keep your fuel price current because dayboaters, especially, use that information. We have some important changes coming in 2013 with fuel pricing and some new capabilities that boaters will use. Start keeping your price information correct or it will cost you business.

We have an entire guide to help marinas get the most out of ActiveCaptain.

If you want to attract more boaters, you need to read the guide to learn how to take advantage of all the services available. It's easy and now is the time to get involved:

http://activecaptain.com/sponsors/marinasGuide.pdf

  • Weather Underground and other services

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The WeatherUnderground marine service also displays current wind, wave, and tide information along with predictions.

The wave predictions are quite nice putting height, direction, and period all together on a scrollable display.

The best example of this date being animated is currently the MagicSeaweed site – but WeatherUnderground are a force to be reckoned with. It will be interesting to see how their offering develops over time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We'll write more about WeatherUnderground in the future. There's a lot of new things there. For now, try it out. Send them feedback (not us) about their site.

They want to hear from you and are dedicated to making their new boating section incredible.

They want to provide the information you need and have the weather and meteorologists on staff to help.

 

By Jeff Seigel

Guest Author & Founder of ActiveCaptain

ActiveCaptain

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Make an iGoogle “Sailing” tab your home page

A number of fellow loafers at the marina showed interest in using the tab that I have created within iGoogle to gather together items of interest for sailing. If you havent yet created an iGoogle page of your own I highly recommend doing so – have a look at this video to see how easy it is.

After you create your iGoogle page then you can create “tabs” which house different collections of widgets. For example I have a “tab” called “Local” where I see all the local entertainment and news. Similarly I have created a tab called “Sailing” see screenshot below.

iGoogle page

Why bother? – well if this is your default home page then you have in one place almost all the info you want from tides, to hurricane warnings, to news to weather info and of course links to your favourite blogs and web sites. The service is free and there are no adverts…

If you are interested in which widgets to add I would be happy to “share” the sailing tab that I have created just use the contact form to request the tab – once you have downloaded it it is entirely yours with no connection to me:-)

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Cyclonic storm Force 12 !

17Jan swellIts not often we hear the BBC Shipping Forecast start with the words “There are warnings of gales in all areas except Trafalgar…” as I write this the wind is howling around the South Downs and the coast around Brighton…but look at this for the …for a weather forecast..

Rockall Malin Hebrides:
Cyclonic storm 10 to hurricane force 12, becoming west or southwest 7 to severe gale 9. High or very high. Rain or wintry showers. Moderate or poor, occasionally very poor.

The screen shots here are from the excellent Magic Seaweed site…who 17Jan winddo a really good job of showing wave heights and near shore effects for surfers and of course therefore for coastal cruisers. The wave heights in mid Atlantic are shown as 50-75ft and the wind speeds up to F12 of the north coast of Scotland.

I really would not want to be fishing off the north coast of Scotland tonight!

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Its all about VMG :-)

The Vendee Globe is such a tremendous test of seamanship. It is fascinating to see how the navigation diecisions make such a big diferenece even at the early stages.

As ever, it is about speed versus the most direct route, what sailors call VMG, or velocity made good.

Sébastien Josse, on the British-built BT, was back in the lead at the time of writing, but the first 14 boats are within 70 miles of each other as they race south downwind towards Madeira. Mike Golding, on Ecover 3, was the leading British boat, 57 miles behind. Josse was further east of the fleet, touching the high-pressure system in the Azores, and should be able to gybe before those closer to the coast of Portugal, who are sailing the more direct route.

This video is from the VG site and shows the preparation that is made in terms of thinking through weather systems, loading weather profiles for each region into the onboard laptops, and even designing the hull shapes to take advantage of any prevailing tendencies in the weather systems.

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