I’ll be giving a talk about some of the ins and outs of keeping in touch while cruising. We’ll start by looking at the most common options to maintain reliable internet access on a boat and going over the history, operation and future of Skipr.net.
The venue is the monthly meeting of the Coastal Cruising Club of Australia (CCCA) on Thursday 21st November at the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club, 1 Green Street, Cremorne.
Here are the presentation slides:
This month’s Track/Boat of the Month is Windflower, the lead boat of the Western Pacific Rally which has now been underway since late April. John Martin, skipper of Windflower, heads up the Island Cruising Association out of New Zealand. Their regular track is around the islands (Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu etc.), but this year a longer cruise takes them North to the Solomons and then West to Australia via the Louisiades.
As John cruisies down the East Coast of Australia, he intends to give a series of seminars about Pacific Cruising, not to be missed. In the mean time you can follow along on the Windflower page as it makes it way to Australia.
John uses the Skipr Plus facility to update his position regularly via email. He says it’s a snap to use together with the UUplus service.
We’re all familiar with Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacons (EPIRBs). Yachts venturing further than 2 NM off the coast are obliged to carry them on board. In addition, some of us may also carry Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), attached to our life vests to help find us in a man overboard emergency.
Both EPIRBS and PLBs send a signal to overhead satellites to set off an alarm at the Rescue Authority, in Australia that is AMSA. While these beacons have a proven track record in saving hundreds of people in emergency situations, they still suffer from some limitations. For example, EPIRBs can only send an “all out” Mayday message, with no possibility of indicating the level of emergency, nor can rescue authorities acknowledge or establish return communications. PLBs will only send a mayday and position to the rescue authorities, rather than to those closest to the incident, usually surrounding vessels, who are in a position to provide immediate assistance.
A variety of alternative beacons and Man Overboard devices have come on the market and I thought it would be interesting to highlight two new types which overcome some of those limitations. [...]
For those interested in tracking technology, we’ve launched a sister site to Skipr.net at tracknsend.com. Over the next few years, we’ll see a whole range of interesting devices designed to facilitate reliable communication at sea and letting others where you are at any time. These might be dedicated tracking devices or satellite phone with additional features.
Some even propose that a new generation of satellite communicators may obsolete EPIRBs. No doubt there will be much debate before that is accepted! So, if you’re interested in communications technology and safety gadgetry, join us at Track & SEND. By the way, SEND stands for Satellite Emergency Notification Device !
Prepaid Mobile Broadband
Internet at sea has become an essential part of cruising. Some of us might like to get away from emails, but easily accessed weather information and the ability to keep in touch with friends and family sways most of us. On our boat, Te Moana, we have a permanent Wireless Broadband installation, with which we’re very happy. However, not everyone is prepared to spend $1000+ or have a permanently installed system.
[This is the online version of an article in the May 2011 issue of the Mainsheet, the monthly magazine of the Coastal cruising Club of Australia. This month it is a bit self-referential, but I thought I'd put it up here anyway - MC]
This month, we’ll take a look at skipr.net , a Website which some friends and I especially built for cruising sailors, their friends and family.
Skipr was originally conceived on a cruise to Hobart (on Belage, the yacht of CCCA member Peter Style) in 2006. A friend had helped me build a Google map which showed the boat’s position. Having Internet access on board made it practical to build a Web based service which let others know where you were and what was happening along the way.
Today, it has matured into a popular service for cruising sailors who like to keep in touch with family and friends. I’m keen to “fold” that experience back into the Coastal Cruising Club. For those who haven’t used it, here is a quick overview of how you can have your boat displayed on the site: [...]
Skipr.net is providing infrastructure and integration software for the 2011 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour race. The RPAYC is installing Yellow Brick Satellite tracking systems on all participating yachts.
The race starts on 2nd January 2011 and you can follow progress of the yachts on the Pittwater to Coffs website.
Nick Jaffe just cleared customs in Coffs Harbour after a 2 year solo sail from Europe. Apart from being an accomplished sailor, Nick also worked out how to make the Internet work for him along the way.
And not just by getting regular weather reports via a Satellite…
I guess it had to be a 27 year old to show us how it’s done…
I’ve been exploring various tracking options as part of an exercise to move Skipr tracking up ” a notch”. Here is the track which we created using an iPhone, taking Te Moana from Iluka to Camden Haven recently.
GPS tracking powered by InstaMapper.com
The iPhone reported positions via the boat’s wireless broadband connection. Because of restrictions by Apple on the way applications may be developed, the phone needs to be devoted to reporting GPS positions, rather than report “in the background”. If a phone call is received, the iPhone stops tracking, but will resume after the call is finished.
I’m very interested in the use of AIS on yachts, and not just as an aid to navigation, but also as a way of tracking boats. There is now a proliferation of websites which “aggregate” AIS transmission from boats and plot their position on a map. Probably the most popular of these is MarineTraffic.com, which I have written about earlier. At first glance, that would make a terrific way of tracking cruising yachts along our coast. But is it?
Last weekend’s Sydney to Gold Coast race provided an opportunity to see the difference between class A (commercial shipping) and class B (leisure vessels, work boats) versions of AIS as a couple of the boats in the race carried AIS transponders. Here is what I found….