Posts Tagged ‘safety’

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!).


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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WSI Launches Interactive Intellicast Boating Mobile App for Safe Fun On The Water

**Now available for a limited time at an introductory price!**

WSI (Weather Services international), the global weather authority, has released a new mobile app called Intellicast Boating. Being billed as the first application to integrate NOAA navigational charts with the most advanced weather data available in a rich interactive, customizable map environment, this one appears to me the latest must-have app for the more than 12.5 million registered boaters in the U.S.. Intellicast Boating is an essential tool to help ensure a safe and enjoyable boating experience on the water. 

The app cleverly combines sophisticated, meteorological sensing data, NOAA navigational charts and highly skilled forecasts. Intellicast Boating provides complete coverage for all those anticipating water-based activity in the continental US, Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean. The new tool is also the first professional marine application to include full North American Mosaic Radar with coverage throughout the United States, large sections of Canada and the Caribbean. 

The technology tools used to create the hourly forecasts for Intellicast Boating provide point-specific, localized, short- and long-term weather updates for all ports-of-call. In addition, all National Weather Service watches and warnings can be viewed either as text bulletins or overlaid within the marine interactive map.


Screenshot from my iPad showing the SF Bay Area
chart with precip.

“Blending state-of-the-art forecasting and leading-edge radar tools with the latest NOAA navigational charts, Intellicast Boating is an easy-to-use, always-available mobile app that enables all boaters — weekend fishermen, commercial ferry operators, harbor masters, water EMS personnel and all other on-the-water enthusiasts — to gain access to expert-level tools and stay a step ahead of changing or threatening weather,” said Jim Menard, WSI’s Vice President of Digital Initiatives. “Now boaters can receive marine forecasts, severe marine watches and warnings, tides, storm and hurricane tracking, buoy updates and C-Man (Coastal-Marine Automated Network) reports in a few simple screen taps. You won’t want to go on the water without it.”


I appreciate how well WSI designed the app for anyone to navigate easily. There are a number of icons at the bottom of the chart  (you can also choose not to view) that give you direct access to such things as Buoy information, Marine Forecasts, Tides and Small Craft Advisory in your area. You can toggle these to create various Map layers or overlays, including Alert overlays – handy for the SF Bay!

The Blog tab provides up-to-date weather info from around the world. Touching the CITY tab zeroes in on the weather in whichever cities you choose to view, including your “home” area. This is also where you’ll find the Moon phases along with sunrise/sunset times. 

Note: A cellular or Wi-Fi internet connection is needed, NOAA Navigational Charts are provided to reference weather and tide information and should not be used specifically for navigation. Over all, the new Boating Weather app from Intellicast/WSI is quite handy and worth the money, in my humble opinion. 

The new app, providing expert-level content without advertisements, is available from iTunes at special introductory prices for the iPad ($6.99) and the iPhone ($4.99) until August 10th*. Intellicast.com is WSI’s expert consumer web and mobile service.

The Intellicast Boating app provides:
– NOAA Navigational Maps

•       Current NOAA navigational charts integrated into a rich interactive map environment

– North American Radar Coverage

•       First marine app to include a full North American mosaic radar covering all or parts of:

–      CONUS, Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, PR, Bahamas, and Caribbean

•       Forecast radar for CONUS 

– Interactive weather overlays

•       Decoded buoy and C-Man reports

•       National Weather Service Marine forecasts

•       Marine and severe watch and warning bulletins and map overlays

•       Severe storm and tropical cyclone tracking

•       Tides

•       Several other layers including temperature, wave heights, and satellite imagery

•       Wind speeds

Highly Skilled Forecasts

•       Port-of-call observations and expert forecasts

– Additional tools for all the cities and ports on the selected route include:
  • Latest observations and almanac
  • UV forecasts
  • Sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times
  • Detailed short term nowcasts for locations within CONUS
  • Global hourly and 10-day forecasts
  • Textual National Weather Service watch and warning bulletins for the United States

*After August 10th, pricing for the Intellicast Boating iPhone app will be $9.99 and for the iPad app, $14.99.

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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


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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From the 2007 movie adaptation of DOA: DEAD OR ALIVE video game series – Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressly), a professional wrestler, is onboard her yacht in the South China Sea, when it is overtaken and boarded by a band of Chinese pirates. From http://www.220.ro – a Romanian Video Website.

View Here Blonde Fights Pirates

Move over Marine Security Services – I want Tina onboard my yacht!

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