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Archive for the ‘world cruising’ Category

It important to keep up with safety gear aboard your vessel. Discover the McMurdo SmartFind AIS-equiped MOB device.

YTM-Autumn-2015-cvr

Link to full Autumn 2015 issue of Yachting Times Magazine .

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Choosing the right navigation app is no easy feat. Some cost a few precious boat bucks just to download, and “free” doesn’t necessarily mean activecapt-screenshot“less” when it comes to features. With the recent news that NOAA will stop printing paper charts this April, iPads are fast replacing chart plotters on the bridge or in the cockpit.

As a former cruiser, I often relied on print cruising guides to learn about a new port or cruising area. As we all know, this kind of information is always in flux. And there’s the rub: How do we get the latest information, preferably from other cruisers? The answer: AC.

For the past few years ActiveCaptain (AC) has grown and expanded to include over 100,000 boaters who write reviews and updates on anchorages, ports, hazards, facilities and more, all around the world.

Sail with confidence with any of the five navigation apps below. They all include ActiveCaptain data as an overlay for members. (AC membership is free).

SKIPPER (Ver 1.2)
Trailerbehind, Inc. – Free

skipper-app-iconThe newest offering in the Apps Store is Skipper and the free version isn’t just a trial; it includes a handy NOAA online chart viewer for onshore planning and satellite imagery on shore. For the Pro version you pay an annual fee of $12/year and you don’t have to pay extra for the charts you’ve already paid the Government for in taxes. NOAA Charts are auto-updated (or choose Google Earth or Topo maps, including historic topos. What fun!). All is cached and displayed offline very seamlessly, except weather and Google Earth requires an online connection. It also does routes/waypoints and real-time navigation (which Garmin’s app doesn’t do). Your subscription syncs your personal data and routes, waypoints, tracks, etc. between your multiple devices. Raster charts (the best!) load fast and look great since they are mosaic-ed together and are only 1.8GB each for the smallest possible download size. Skipper’s creator, Andrew Johnson says that Inland Rivers Charts including all NOAA vector charts will be added soon and he is working on ways to integrate Open Street Map technology. Perhaps my dream of having one app that shows both Charts and Maps may soon become real!

garmin-iconGarmin BlueChart Mobile (Ver 1.4)
Garmin International – Free (Charts are available via in-app purchase and range from $30 -$70).

BlueChart uses vector charts with features such as search, routes, waypoints, weather stations (choose conditions overlay showing dew points, temperatures, wind direction and speed, water temp, visibility) GRIB weather with wave heights and period, celestial data, measuring feature, real-time tracking. Each icon gives great details when tapped. Lots of overlay features can clutter up the chart but choosing which ones to view is easy using the cool “radial chart object menu”.

charts-n-tides_icon

Charts & Tides (Ver 4.7)
Navimatics  – $19.99 *

The first full resolution, seamless charting iPad app. Charts&Tides uses NOAA and CHS vector cartography. Covers all of U.S. and Canada and cost $20-$40. New features include AIS support, Closest Point of Approach (CPA) computations and alerts, more connectivity options for GPS (WiFi, GPSD), new Dead Reckoning Mode and interface improvements.

*This just in… Now you don’t have to open a different app to chart a new area of the world. Navimatics has just added a newly developed chart engine to Charts & Tides for iOS and for Mac computers. Now the app is free and you can add  these two options:
– The entire US NOAA collection of charts: $19.99
– The entire US NOAA collection + CHS Canadian charts: $39.99

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PolarView MX (Ver 1.2.4)
PolarNavy – $3.99

From the folks who brought you affordable PC and MacOS charting. Their PolarView MX app for iPhone or iPad offers both vector and raster chart viewing combined with extensive instrument support that many mariners are seeking. Chart coverage includes U.S. and U.K. and world-wide charts are available.

SEAiq (Ver 3.4.0)
Sakhalin, LLC – $9.99

SEAiq-Open_iconDeveloped by software engineer/live aboard world cruiser, Mark Hayden. SEAiq uses free NOAA vector charts. Try SEAiq Free first, then upgrade to SEAiq USA or Open for $9.99 with in app purchase to enable all features. SEAiq Open allows you to use your own vector charts. (S-57, S-63, CM93, iENC, BSB, and KAP) or you can purchase charts for anywhere in the world from ChartWorld. Also, with Inland ENC support, you can download hundreds for free charts for many rivers in Europe. Other features: Import/export waypoints and routes. NMEA data, AIS, Track recording, GRIB weather downloads, anchor alarm, instrument data, TCP/IP WiFi NEMA data.

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Star Clippers to Feature Overnight Call at 2014 Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez International Regatta in the French Riviera

My favorite Tall ship cruise line Star Clippers is offering an exciting opportunity for yacht and nautical aficionados in 2014. Star Flyer’s Sept. 27 sailing will feature an overnight call at St. Tropez, France, during the annual Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez international regatta.

starflyer-undersail

Star Flyer undersail. Photo: N. BIrnbaum ©2014

Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, which began in 1981 as La Nioulargue, attracts modern and classic yachts from across the globe that race for the coveted Rolex Trophy. In 2013 more than 300 boats representing 150 years of naval architecture and aesthetic participated in the event.

“We’re always looking for exclusive events, and the chance to attend Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez is an exciting opportunity for our guests who are largely yachting enthusiasts,” said Mark Carlson, director of marketing for Star Clippers Americas. “This international sailing regatta offers a unique blend of glamour, relaxation and adventure that we strive to provide on all of our itineraries.”

starclipper-capt-class

There’s always something to learn aboard a Star Clipper Cruise.
Photo: N Birnbaum©2014

In 2014 Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez will run from Sept. 27 to Oct. 5. Star Flyer will call at St. Tropez Oct. 2-3 during the event. Guests will have two days to enjoy the race and explore the most famous port on the French Riviera. Other calls on the seven-day, roundtrip Monte Carlo, Monaco, itinerary include L’Ile Rousse/St. Florent and Bastia, Corsica; Portoferraio, Elba, and Rapallo, Italy. Fares for the cruise start at $1,986 per person, double occupancy, including port charges.

Star Clippers combines the pampered lifestyle of mega-yacht cruising with the exhilarating thrill of sailing aboard an authentic clipper ship. Guests rediscover what sailing was like during the glorious age of tall ships while visiting intimate ports of call untouched by larger ships.

Star Clippers recently was named among the Top Small-Ship Lines in Condé Nast Traveler 2013 Reader’s Choice Awards as well as Top Small-Ship Cruise Lines in Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2013 World’s Best Awards. 

To request a brochure, call toll-free 800-442-0556 or email brochures@starclippers.com.

For information, call Star Clippers at 800-442-0551, email info@starclippers.com or visit www.starclippers.com to view a video about the line or take a virtual tour of the Star Clippers ships.

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The Danger Map of the World: Really?

If we didn’t know better, we might take a look at this map and decide to never leave the house. Or at least, never to venture outside of Europe, Australia, Botswana, the United States and New Zealand. Fine destinations indeed, but what a globe of missed travel opportunities. You mean to tell us that we should have never visited Bolivia, Iran, or Myanmar?

We’ve traveled to plenty of places under the ominous cloud of travel warnings (published by various institutions, so we’re not singling out any one governmental agency or international body) and found an on-the-ground reality that ranges far from what some misguided travel warnings convey. In fact, I recall early in our cruise on the west coast of Baja, when SAGA was approached by fisherman in a fast panga. We remembered warnings we had received before leaving California–to be wary of fast approaching fishermen, as they might want to steal from us. On the contrary, these unfortunate “banditos” had their cooler break down on the boat. Instead of  boarding us, they started throwing live lobster into our cockpit! Until I said, “Bastante!” (Our fridge was on the fritz too!).

danger-map-http://travel.gc.ca/

The problem with these sorts of maps is that they are perfect media for our times: they are infographic, they are reductive and they can be slapped together with a little bit of link-and title-bait to draw a nice argument. (If you click on the map and go to the original, it’s interactive. You can click on a country for the danger details).

But informative? Hardly. Real information does not come in the form of color codes, and rarely can it be comprehended in the blink of an eye.

Instead, when we’re on the ground, we meet people, we face the ogre of hospitality and invitations into people’s homes for tea and food. Even in places with a bright red, “Avoid all travel” label like Iran. We didn’t venture into these countries blindly. We made informed decisions based on multiple sources, then mustered a little bit of courage to go and find out for ourselves.

The upshot? Consider stepping back from the government travel warnings, take them with a pinch of salt, then do a little bit of research that puts you in touch directly with someone who can provide firsthand time-relevant impressions – all with the goal of reducing your degrees of separation from the on-the-ground reality. After all, the Danger Map was produced by the Government of Canada, where there seems to be no danger what-so-ever! But we know better, right?

For cruisers or those traveling by other unconventional means (such as by bicycle, like my friend Bob), we have to do our best to get all the info, from those whose wake we follow or from recent blogs. We can’t always rely on governments to tell us where we can go safely, yet we have to be concerned about pirates in certain parts of the world. Fortunately there are some good sources of safety information available online for cruisers, such as Noonsite.com, SSCA.org and the CruisingWiki.org.

Going abroad? Here’s some good tips from the folks at Uncornered Market:

Informed Travel Decisions 101

1. Look around you and ask. Especially if you live in a diverse city (more and more places qualify by the day), there is likely someone in your personal or work circle who knows someone from the country you are considering visiting or someone who has been there recently. You could always pose the question first on your Facebook page and go from there. You might be surprised by who comes out of the woodwork if you just ask. And don’t give up after the first inquiry yields silence. This happens sometimes.

2. Contact a blogger. Do a search and find a blog post or two about the country/region in question and send the blogger a quick email with your concerns or questions. Even better, find a local or expat blogger with lots of recent experience there. We get loads of emails on all sorts of topics and we are always happy to respond to people who have safety or travel concerns. We know how reassuring it is to talk with someone who has been there and how that perspective goes a long way to assuaging fears and informing decisions.

3. Find locals or expats on Twitter. Go to Twitter and do a search for a specific city or location under the people search. You’ll likely get a long list of people living there. See who perhaps has a blog or who is actively tweeting about that place and send them a quick note publicly via Twitter (you’ll have to set up an account if you don’t already have one) asking about safety or other issues. Avoid travel or tour companies at first, as they clearly have an economic incentive in your visit. Here’s the bonus when you go personal: you’ll likely get good local insider information for when you do go, and you might even gain a new friend.

4. Ask in forums. Post a question to an online forum asking for advice on whether a destination is safe or if there are certain areas to avoid as a visitor. In addition to travel forums (e.g., Lonely Planet ThorntreeBootsnAll), many cities have expat forums where English and other foreign languages are understood.

5. Check other government travel warnings. We know we’ve been bashing government travel warnings, but sometimes it’s reassuring to get a second (or third) opinion. If you’re from the United States, consider checking out the UK or Australian government travel warnings. Be sure to check the date when the last warning was posted to be certain that it’s still current.

6. Ask about areas to avoid. While the majority of a country might be safe for travelers, there may still be certain areas that are best avoided because of environmental disasters or violence. This does not mean, however, that the entirecountry should be avoided. Mexico is a perfect example of how a few areas addled with drugs and violence manage to tarnish the reputation of the whole country in the eyes of many. Our long walks across the town of Oaxaca well after midnight serve as proof that the entire country of Mexico is not under siege.

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12 Apps – On 12:12:12 – to Make Your Time on the Water Great! 

(Just updated!)

By Nancy Birnbaum

best of apps-screen

It seems like there are five times as many apps for boating enthusiasts than there were when I wrote my first annual “Best Boating Apps” review, back in 2009.

Boaters are catching the wave and diving into the App Store for everything from navigation & charting to basic communications apps for their iPads, and Apple says that they’ve sold over 100 million of them since they first hit the market. With over 12,175,900 registered vessels in the U.S. alone, I wouldn’t be surprised to find that a few million boaters now use a mobile device of some kind. Fortunately for those who have climbed onboard the mobile tech boat, there are some terrific new apps ready to make boating even more fun and safe.

The biggest change over the past year for handheld devices is the number of apps now available that connect to NMEA data via WiFi and TCIP.  Which reminds me of the top question readers ask me, “How can I interface my boats’ systems to my iPad?” Some great news for the techie-types who want to virtually “run” their boat from the palm of their hand.

Many developers like Digital Yachts, Zapf, Ocean Equipment and ShipModul, have brought this capability to the world of iOS, thereby allowing data from instruments like wind and speed, as well as AIS and radar to be streamed to a laptop over WLAN or over WiFi to an iOS device. Note: You must have a device (such as Digital Yacht’s iAIS or SeaMate1A) that will get your NMEA data from your boat’s network to your various i-devices. But the good news is that it’s getting easier to integrate and the new apps are really well designed.

Here are a few for your consideration:

NAVIGATION

Garmin BlueChart Mobilegarmin-icon
Garmin International
Free (Charts are available via in-app purchase and range from $29.99 -$69.99)

Just released in November 2012, BlueChart Mobile is the next level of Charting for boaters with iPads. It does what most of the top Nav apps do, like use the same BlueChart data available for Garmin chartplotters right on your iPad, but that’s where the similarities end and the amazing design takes you on a whole new voyage to charting heaven. The first big new element is the download interface. With BlueChart Mobile, once you’ve got your chart (via the easy in-app purchase), you’re offered a large-scale view of the area (say North America), with a simple grid overlay. By clicking on a specific box you can choose which areas to download—a great space-saver for your device. Zoom into to see chart features and overlays for weather conditions, (temps, wind direction/speed) grib info and ActiveCaptain content overlaid on the chart data.

One drawback: The new Garmin app does not support NMEA or AIS or any of the WiFi units mentioned here. Plus, you’ll have to buy iPad charts even though you may already have charts for your Garmin chart plotter.

BlueChart Mobile has ActiveCaptain inside! For those of you not already using it, ActiveCaptain is a web community that provides real-time content generated by mariners, for mariners. It’s a virtual cruising guide that never goes out of date. Read and write reviews about marinas, local boating knowledge, anchorages and hazards. More than 100,000 boaters write reviews and update the information on ActiveCaptain—with more users joining all the time. Best Feature: It’s seriously difficult to pick just one favorite feature on this terrific app, but it may just be the cool info wheels that pop-up when you click on any icon from the ActiveCaptain overlay or hazard. It’s just a really fun interface!

garmin-screenshots

RayControlraycontrol-icon
Raymarine UK
Free

If you’re lucky enough to have Raymarine electronics onboard you’ll want to have this handy app on your iPad that lets you display everything from you e-Series or c-Series Multi-function Display (v 315 or later).

Even better than RayView, RayControl puts your iPad in the driver’s seat. Use it just as you would your Multi-function Display, with touch screen interaction and a virtual slide-out MFD keypad. Chart plotting, depth/Fishfinder, engine systems, radar, even view video from any installed cameras. Uses onboard WiFi network.

raycontrol-screenshots

SEAiq Open/ SEAiq USASeaiqUSA-icon
Sakhalin, LLC
Free (Charts are available via in-app purchase). The USA version is $9.99 with free charts from NOAA

What makes one Nav app stand apart from all the others? In the case of the new SEAiq, it’s the ability to view always up-to-date vector charts of the USA; however the free versions do limit you to only displaying charts of scales greater than 1:50,000 until you purchase the upgrade.  Vector charts offer more detail and faster scrolling than Raster.  SEAiq Open is unique for allowing users to install their own charts, including S-57, S-63, and CM93 charts, which means that you don’t have to purchase the same charts you’ve already bought a few times over. Though the interface is less than ideal (transfer chart files via iTunes), it is another great benefit not found in other nav apps.

You’ll need a fast connection to set it up the first time. SEAiq Free and SEAiq Open are among the few navigation apps with a useful free version. All the versions offer some good bells & whistles including ActiveCaptain, WiFi NMEA, AIS, and night color modes. You’ll need a fast connection for the set up. I found it took quite some time to download charts or transfer ActiveCaptain data and wished that it could have done it in the background while I went on with other things.  Best Feature: ActiveCaptain interface and support of external NMEA/AIS over WiFi. In fact, according to the creator of SEAiq Mark Hayden (a sailor and delivery captain), it is the ONLY charting app of those reviewed here that supports NMEA and AIS over WiFi and TCP. “The SEAiq AIS is good enough that professional pilots that board 1000ft freighters use it,” says Mark.

seaiq-screenshots 

SHIP’S SYSTEM INTEGRATION

On-BoardOnBoard Icon
ONboard Solutions
Free

It used to be that your ship’s library held all your various manuals, cruising guides and any “fun” reading took up whatever space remained. Thank goodness that ONboard came to the rescue with a great app that organizes all your boating-related reading into one really small digital space. On-Board gives you the ability to integrate and display your boat’s documents, photos, videos- both personal and from your yacht’s manufacturer, dealer or mechanic.

Get real time info from your boat’s manufacturer. Need to search for how to prime your fuel system? You can search your manuals and find it fast. Manage all your important records like maintenance, registration, insurance, financing, warranties and claims. Plus you can even manage your online subscriptions to your favorite boating pub right from the app. Best Feature: Getting your own unique email address at yourname@yacht.com!

 on-board_screenshots

SAFETY

iAISiAIS-icon
Digital Yacht
Free

This is the newest AIS plotter in the App Store and it’s by a UK company that seems to be putting out some pretty good onboard interface apps. AIS is great for anyone boating in crowded areas or for those curious about who’s out there. Any vessel that has a registered AIS device will show up with their name, vessel details, course, speed and direction which can be helpful when you’re in high-traffic anchorages or bays. Best Feature: iAIS also can be used as an overlay with iNavX. Now that’s handy!

 iAIS-screenshots

 

Float Planfloatplan-icon
Big Tuna Apps
$0.99

Everyone responsible boater knows that it’s always prudent to file a Float Plan before you depart on your trip no matter how long you expect to be out. This new app, which runs on most Apple & Android devices, will save you time due to the easy interface and ability to email a pre-filled plan to anyone you choose. Though, I found it a little clumsy in my test of the app, specifically when trying to check off selections in lists like Safety gear. One improvement would be to have a default save New Trip, so you don’t have to check that (something I didn’t see until it was too late!).

floatplan-sample

A sample floatplan that can be sent via email to your list.

 

WEATHER 

PocketGribPocketGribButtonIcon
Nicko Brennan
$5.99

It’s one thing to be able to get good weather info while you’re out there on your boat, but knowing how to interpret that info is an entirely different thing. With PocketGrib you can access, view and analyze global weather data (with a connection of course) and then display that info even when you’re offline.

See wind speed, direction, precip, air temp, waves, current, and forecasts. Grib data is supplied by NOAA’s GFS model and is updated 4 times per day or every 6 hours. Best feature: GRIB files can be downloaded to your PC via iTunes, which means that if you’re cruising with a personal forecaster service, you can view your Gribs using PocketGrib! Best Feature: This app is very well designed, easy to use and super fast.

pocketgrib-screenshots 

 

 

Intellicast Boating for iPadintellicast-icon
WSI Corporation
$4.99

It now easy to get the best weather info right on your chart with Intellicasts’ Boating for iPhone/iPad. Integrates NOAA nav charts with advanced meteorological data just like their website offers. Lots of overlay options from Radar to Satellite, Wind Speed to Temps, and NWS Marine Forecasts (Offshore) and Tides. Even track Hurricanes. Best Feature: Very handy and easy to see on the iPad’s retina display. Note: a cellular or WiFi connection is needed.

 IntellicastBoating-screenshot

COOL TOOLS & FUN, USEFUL APPS

Dropboxdropbox-icon
Dropbox, Inc.
Free

Not too many years ago, you either had to take your laptop with you ashore to send or receive email or better yet, take a tiny thumb drive, like we did in remote ports in Baja. Now there’s Dropbox. This handy app runs on any device and allows you to keep files of any kind in the “cloud.” That way you can access them from anywhere, either via the app or via your account on their website. The free account comes with 2GB of storage which you can add to by inviting others to join by sharing your files with them. The more you share, the more free space they give you. Or you can get a Pro plan starting at $9.99 for 100MB. Once you download those files, your space is freed up for more!

 

America’s Cup/America’s Cup HD (for iPad)AC-icon
America’s Cup Event Authority, LLC
Free

Just in time for the 2013 finals! The app gives you the latest news, event schedules and great videos. Enjoy the races anytime using the Virtual Eye 3D viewer including historical races. Listen to live commentary and onboard audio feeds streamed directly from the racing yachts when the finals start up in August/September. In the meantime, you can follow along as the teams wreck (er, I mean – race!) their yachts in practice events.

AC-screenshots

EasyMeasureeasymeasure-icon
Caramba Apps
Free

Easily measure the distance from your stern to that yacht that anchored right on top of you! Uses your iPhone’s camera to measure with a great 3D grid overlay. Just set up once (an easy task) and measure away! (Also a great golf aid).

easymeasure-screen 

Whale Alert – Ship Strike Reduction for Right Whaleswhalealert-icon
EarthNC
Free

You may have noticed more news about whales trying to jump on boats or boats running into whales. As more of us venture out into their world, chances of running into them increase. Now there’s even an app for avoiding whales by the good folks at EarthNC (makers of Marine Charts with ActiveCaptain!).

Whale Alert was designed to assist in the management of right whale conservation areas and to help reporting in shipping lanes in and around Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Whale Alert can help reduce the likelihood of ships colliding with these endangered whales, which can injure or kill them. It is not meant to be used alone but to compliment existing protective measures. Whale Alert is the first mobile application to take advantage of the transmission of environmental data over the AIS protocol. The system takes DMA and real-time right whale observations and displays that data graphically, directly within the app.

whalealert-screenshots

Happy Holidays!

Tell us your favorite Boating App! Like us on Twitter.

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I thought it might be fun to do one of my own memes that folks put on Facebook. So here’s my take on “What People Think I Do.”

what-others-think-i-do-NBirnbaum

 

 

Truth is…it’s all true!!

Photos by Nancy Birnbaum © 2012

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New Online Seminar – Safety at Sea with Marine VHF Digital Selective Calling

Marathon, FL, (March 21, 2012) – Capt. Marti Brown and Cruising Companion Publications are proud to release the first in a series of online seminars geared to boating safety entitled, “Safety at Sea With Marine VHF Digital Selective Calling.”

As the Coast Guard’s new marine radio network, Rescue 21, becomes operational throughout the U.S., rescue centers will have the ability to receive instant distress alerts from commonly used DSC-capable VHF marine radios; however, approximately 90 percent of VHF DSC distress alerts received by the Coast Guard do not contain position information, and approximately 60 percent do not contain a registered identity. The Coast Guard cannot effectively respond to a DSC distress alert sent from such a radio.

As a result, search and rescue efforts may normally be suspended when:

  • no communications with the distressed vessel can be established;
  • no further information or means of contacting the vessel can be obtained from other sources; and,
  • no position information is known.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Mariners are encouraged to invest in a VHF-FM radio as their primary means of distress alerting on the water. Communication via VHF-FM radio provides superior alerting capabilities over cellular phones.”

VHF-FM radios are manufactured today with DSC which provides the mariner with an emergency feature that will send a distress with the vessel’s information and Global Positioning System (GPS) location at the press of a button. The new safety course describes what Digital Selective Calling (DSC) is, how DSC fits into the US Coast Guard’s Rescue 21 Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, how to program your DSC capable VHF radio and how to use its lifesaving and fun features.

The course can be accessed 24/7, can be viewed at the convenience of the student and is reasonably priced at $24.95.

To access this new and important information and to take the course, go to: http://www.idiyachts.com/online_seminars.htm

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About Captain Marti Brown: Capt. Marti’s widely acclaimed books include three easy to read textbooks on marine communications – Marine SSB Radio For “Idi-Yachts,” HF Radio E-Mail For “Idi-Yachts,” The ICOM M802 Radio Manual for “Idi-Yachts.” Capt. Marti’s books help make sense of marine electronics and keep the fun in boating! Don’t miss her newest book “Murder At Stacy’s Cove Marina,” – a nautical murder mystery.

For More Information Contact:
Capt. Marti Brown – captmarti@netzero.com,  www.idiyachts.com, 1-305-731-7315

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