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From: Boat US News:

It’s over 70 years old, a thin magenta-colored line appearing on over 50 different navigational charts covering the Atlantic Coast and Gulf, snaking along the route of the Intracoastal Waterway. Now, thanks to NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and a public-private partnership with Active Captain, an interactive cruising guidebook, NOAA will be updating the “magenta line” on all of its newly-issued navigational charts to help keep boaters in safe waters. Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) submitted comments on the proposal to NOAA, who had initially proposed removing the line entirely. However, responding to BoatUS’ and other boaters’ comments, NOAA will tap into users of Active Captain to update the route in an on-going effort that will benefit the boating community.

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The thin magenta colored line marking the Intracoastal Waterway is like a yellow brick road for boaters transiting the East and Gulf Coasts. Credit: Boat US

“Some boaters had assumed the magenta line, which was last updated in 1935, was a precise route through safe waters,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Senior Program Coordinator David Kennedy. “However, over time the forces of nature made the line inaccurate as shoals shifted and underwater topography changed, leading some boats into shallows, over dangerous obstructions, or even into land. We thank NOAA for a change of course in keeping the magenta line, listening to boaters and coming up with a creative public-private partnership that recognizes the value of this important guide to navigation.”
The magenta line appears in charts covering all Intracoastal waters, and is essentially two distinct routes along the eastern US and Gulf Coasts totaling about 3,000 miles in length. Said Captain Shep Smith, chief of NOAA’s Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division, “Today’s decision to reinstate the magenta line is not a quick fix. It will take at least three years to fix problems that were 70 years in the making.”

Boaters may contribute to the updating effort by joining Active Captain at www.activecaptain.com.

Jeffrey Siegel, owner of ActiveCaptain said in his recent newsletter, “In September 2013, US/NOAA began asking boaters for feedback on the “magenta line” – the magenta colored overlay on US charts showing the recommended route of travel for the various US intracoastal waterways: New Jersey, Atlantic, Dismal Swamp, Florida West Coast, Gulf West, Gulf East, Okeechobee Lake, and Okeechobee Rim. The line first appeared in 1912, saw a major update in 1935, with only rare updates since then. This has caused many tense moments as the real channel has shifted away from the marked channel leaving boaters confused about the correct path. ActiveCaptain hazard markers have helped with those, “what do I do here?” moments.

The feedback from boaters was heard loud and clear by NOAA. They claim that 99.9% requested that NOAA maintain the magenta line rather than remove it.

How will they go about fixing the magenta line?

That was part 2 of the NOAA Coast Survey announcement. They have added ActiveCaptain to their “cartographic toolkit in the chart evaluation system.” Last year NOAA licensed the ActiveCaptain data for internal use. We wrote some custom software to make it easier for the cartographers to use the hazard data you provide to help update charts and fix the magenta line. The first part of the software has been delivered to NOAA for their use.

NOAA approached us because they were already using the hazard data to locate problems but had to manually search on areas of interest to see what needed attention. Now hazard changes are automatically presented to them so they can quickly go through the changes and determine whether additional surveys or chart changes are needed.”

 

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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”.

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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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old-navigation

Out with the old?

In a press release issued yesterday, October 22, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, which creates and maintains the nation’s suite of thousands of nautical charts, announced that it will no longer print traditional lithographic (paper) nautical charts. The release went on to say that NOAA will continue to provide other forms of nautical charts, including print on demand (POD) and for electronic charting systems.

“Like most other mariners, I grew up on NOAA lithographic charts and have used them for years,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “We know that changing chart formats and availability will be a difficult change for some mariners who love their traditional paper charts, but we’re still going to provide other forms of our official charts.”

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Plotting on paper

Since 1862, those lithographic nautical charts — available in marine shops and other stores — have been printed by the U.S. government and sold to the public by commercial vendors. The decision to stop production is based on several factors, including the declining demand for lithographic charts, the increasing use of digital and electronic charts, and federal budget realities.

“With the end of traditional paper charts, our primary concern continues to be making sure that boaters, fishing vessels, and commercial mariners have access to the most accurate, up-to-date nautical chart in a format that works well for them,” said Capt. Shep Smith, chief of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division. “Fortunately, advancements in computing and mobile technologies give us many more options than was possible years ago.”

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Is it best to have both?

NOAA will continue to create and maintain other forms of nautical charts, including the increasingly popularPrint on Demand (POD) charts, updated paper charts available from NOAA-certified printers. NOAAelectronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) and raster navigational charts (NOAA RNC®), used in a variety of electronic charting systems, are also updated weekly and are available for free download from the Coast Survey website.

The world of navigation is benefiting from advances in technology, Smith explained. He said that NOAA will consult with chart users and private businesses about the future of U.S. navigation, especially exploring the use of NOAA charts as the basis for new products.

The Bottom Line

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Electronic navigation is increasingly popular with recreational boaters.

It seems clear that NOAA isn’t making enough income off of paper. So they are moving towards more lucrative delivery systems.

This is good news for trailblazers like ActiveCaptain, the first to market with a crowd-sourced, electronic navigation product and the only Interactive Cruising Guidebook online. Since then, ActiveCaptain has been integrated with top e-nav systems across all platforms, like Garmin’s BlueChart Mobile, Navimatics Charts & Tides, Polarview, SEAiq, Jeppesen’s C-MAP, MaxSea, Nobeltec, and more.

Stop the Presses!

With all these choices available to everyone’s price-range, it’s no wonder NOAA has made the decision to stop the presses.

Paper charts will ultimately go the way of the Newspaper. As the developer of ActiveCaptain put it, ” I think that’s a big announcement and is just one more of a series of nails in the coffin of paper charts. It acknowledges what has happened in every other industry which has experienced similar technology changes. In this case, it’s the chart image, not the media, that’s important.”

It probably bodes well for cruising guide publishers like On The Water ChartGuides. Publisher Mark Doyle learned early on that if you’re going to compete in the digital navigation market, you’ll need to update often. His Intracoastal Waterway CruiseGuide and other guides come with free daily updates and alerts via Facebook, Twitter, RSS, and even text or email. As people find it too expensive to purchase charts Printed On Demand, they will want to turn to these comfortable chart books for detailed information and charts of US waterways.

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PDF Chart of San Francisco Bay from NOAA.

FREE CHARTS! (For a Limited Time)

For a limited time, NOAA is offering its entire suite of charts in PDF file format. For the three-month trial period, you can download about a thousand high-resolution printable nautical charts – almost the entire suite of charts. These PDFs are exact images of the traditional charts we have come to love, currently printed by lithography. They are available now! Go to: http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/pdfcharts/ for info and to download the PDF charts. You’ll need to have their Chart Viewer to choose which numbers you want.

So whether you decide to give up your paper charts and go solely digital or hold out for another year, keep in mind that if you are using paper, you’ll have to check Local Notice to Mariners for updates – a time-consuming job, for sure!

Check out the discussion (it’s a lively one!) on ActiveCaptains eBoatCards Discussion Group. It’s free to join.

http://www.eboatcards.com/the2ndmostdangerousthing

Lastly, if you’re thinking about tossing your paper charts, consider giving them a second life by donating them to a local sailing group. Or send them to me and I will up cycle them into something very cool!

-Nancy

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Easy-to-use & Affordable Navigation for America’s Boaters

simplecharts-icon

ORLANDO, Fla. – Aug. 27, 2012Derek Trauger & Associates, LLC (DTA), announced the release of their updated boating app – Simple Charts, now the easiest marine navigation app available to the nation’s more than 12.5 million registered boaters.

First released in August of 2011, Simple Charts provides seamless high resolution marine charting on either the iPhone or iPad without advertisements. The new version includes popular user-requested upgrades such as access to current NOAA Weather data; Aids to Navigation including obstructions based on both NOAA and USCG data; Current track export to Google Earth and Google Maps; plus additional charts for Mexico (Sea of Cortez) provided by Blue Latitude Press) and Social Media Integration.

Simple Charts combines an always-available mobile chart plotting solution, regardless of whether you have an Internet connection (charts must first be pre-cached), with a truly clutter-free interface. This handy navigation app offers full resolution seamless marine charting and is compatible with both the iPhone and iPad. With just a few simple screen taps, boaters can view all NOAA Raster Navigational Charts (RNCs) that automatically load no matter where you are in the U.S. Using the handy in-app purchase users can now add charts of Brazil, with more areas to be added.

Simple Charts is available as an iPhone/iPad app download for just $9.99, still the most affordable, full-featured charting app currently offered. Now available for Android phones! Simple Charts can be downloaded through iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/simple-charts/id451093694?mt=8#

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About Derek Trauger & Associates, LLC

 

Derek Trauger & Associates is an Orlando-based design and development company specializing in the development, customization and implementation of custom software applications. Derek Trauger & Associates believe that their products should be easy to use, natural and create an intuitive experience that help people accomplish those everyday tasks easily. They have produced many well-known boating apps including Dive Spots, the BoatUS “find me” app, and Boat Ramps, which received the Boating Industry’s prestigious Innovation Award.

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ActiveCaptain, the world’s first interactive, user-supported, cruising guide, has announced a new partnership with Garmin International.

In a press release dated February 15, 2012, Jeffrey Siegel, Owner/Co-Founder of ActiveCaptain, announced that Garmin has become the first officially -licensed company to integrate ActiveCaptain into their BlueChart Mobile app for iPad and iPhone.

Siegel wrote, “As the first major marine electronics manufacturer to publicly license ActiveCaptain, the stage is set for another doubling of AC users to over 200,000 members.”

Engelhard (Al) Sundoro, Garmin’s Senior Director, Marine Sales and Marketing said, “We’re proud to partner with ActiveCaptain to make the boating experience even more pleasurable. The content provided by the ActiveCaptain community is a great complement to Garmin’s BlueChart Mobile application – now, not only will mariners have the latest charts and service data from Garmin, but they’ll also have access to a wealth of information directly from other captains.”

Garmin’s new app isn’t available yet, but will be after the formal announcement at the Miami International Boat Show, this weekend – Feb. 16-20. It will debut at the Garmin booth (#1689) and ActiveCaptain support will be demonstrated with live data.

BlueChart will be free of charge through the iTunes App Store, but users will pay to download various charts regions as needed. It provides integration for route planning and totally integrates with the real-time, synchronized data from the ActiveCaptain servers. It does not require Garmin chartplotters but has extra capabilities if you also have other Garmin hardware.

Up-To-Date Cruising Information… In the palm of your hand

Most cruisers would agree that having a member-updated cruising guide is the best way to get the most accurate, useful information about anchorages, ports and even hazards.

“Bringing more boaters to the ActiveCaptain community is a huge win for the entire boating community, especially outside the U.S., where Garmin’s support for international chart data will merge perfectly with our international content.”

Currently the scope of the data is focused primarily on the U.S., but that will surely change quickly as more international users come onboard. As more boaters share their local knowledge and cruising experiences with others in the boating community, everyone benefits. One of my favorite aspects of ActiveCaptain is the ratings system where cruisers can share their knowledge of any particular anchorage by assessing aspects like holding, wind protection, wake protection, shopping and access to shore – all important to those visiting for the first time. Printed cruising guides tend to become inaccurate as soon as they hit the stores, so interactive guides like ActiveCaptain are more useful whether one is out for a daysail or cruising the world.

Anyone can become a member of the ActiveCaptain community. It’s free to join and begin posting information. There’s also incentives to contribute. Members earn points for entering information on marinas and fuel pricing and then exchange those points for logo-wear, products and occasional special promotions by marinas.

ActiveCaptain is also available as an overlay on another charting app for the iPhone/iPad, namely Charts&Tides by Navimatics.

ActiveCaptain’s press release:
https://activecaptain.com/news/2012-02-15.php

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new cigarette boat

A New Cigarette boat at Miami International Boat Show

Day One: I’m off to the Miami Beach Convention Center for my first take on the show. I’ve got a couple of hours to kill before the Marine Marketers of America meeting.

Making my way through the acres of huge outboards and insane power boats is always a kick. It’s amazing that folks are still buying these behemoths. Here’s a look at a new Cigarette boat. It’s HUGE! I guess it looks better on its side.

navionics iphone search

Navionics iPhone Charting - NEW! lat/long look-up

On my tour of the latest and greatest gear and tech goodies, I came across Navionics new version of their popular iPhone Charting app. I got the quick tour from Shawn Ruge (Product Mgr) and we did a side-by-side comparison using my older 3G and his newest 3GS. There are some significant changes and all for the better. They finally added all the things that they should have put into the first version,but didn’t, in their infinite wisdom. Let’s be honest, the first app had issues; charts took forever to load and the refresh time was l-o-o-o-n-g! Good news!

“Recent recipient of the 2009 NMMA Innovation Award at MAATS, Navionics mobile is ideal for boaters, fisherman and watersports enthusiasts of all kinds. You can plan your on-the-water adventures anytime and anywhere….check tides, set your routes and markers, and search marinas. While on the water track your navigation, capture geotagged pictures, and create a virtual travelogue of your entire trip that you can share with your friends and family on Facebook.  For those friends not yet on Facebook, simply email them your adventure log and let them view it overlaid on Google Earth and Google Maps”

Navionics iphone app maps

Google Overlay on Navionics iPhone app

navionics iphone apps

Side-by-side comparison: New version of charting for iPhone

The new version, which will be out sometime this year, has all the right bells and whistles. There’s the fact that you can download maps on the fly and that they now come with Google Earth overlays – Very Cool! And, they’ve added features to the settings that I really like: the Search function includes Lat/Long look up.

Use the handy scroll wheel to enter your lat and long and it magically appears on the Map. US Maps are still free downloads too.

raymarine sea trial

Virtual Sea Trial from Raymarine Shows off the Touchscreen

Next, I dropped by the new Raymarine area. These guys have taken Trade Show Displays to an art form. They had a spectacular Virtual Sea Trial set up complete with simulated ships helm, the kind you’d find at the STAR Center’s Simulator! It did everything but what it did best was to show off their new e-Series Touchscreen technology. The new E-Series Widescreen multifunction displays with HybridTouch technology. The E-Serries is the most advanced and easy-to-use multifunction displays, and the next chapter in Raymarine navigation technology.

Speaking with John Hartnett (OEM Accts Mgr), I found out how useful this new touchscreen can be, even on a bouncy boat. You can lock the screen so that you don’t accidentally hit something. You can change the format and layout of any screen in the customization area.

Check it out at the Show.

More to come…

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