Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey
There are a number of threads discussing specific software packages including the much publicized openCPN
, but its difficult to find a current
unified source on what cruisers are using everyday
in the journeys, and the information there is a bit confusing. Software tastes also change quickly. Therefore, I'd like to get a survey
of what people are actually
using in their sailing laptops today. Here are my questions:
- What main application software do you use everyday for route
planning, weather display, and onboard live navigation
etc. - professional, freeware, or opensource?
On the business side:
2. Transas 3000
On the personal side:
12.6 but I'm looking at upgrading to Time Zero
2. Looking at openCPN and other programs because I don't want to be locked into one chart database
It's been my experience that 90% of boaters use 10% of the features of a navigation program. On the big boat with all the integrated systems, we have access to a huge amount of data. I use probably 40-50% of the features and capabilities when we're on charter
On my personal vessel, I use 20-30% of the capabilities. I want accurate and bulletproof operation of the basics, a few niceties like (crumbs, GPS
uploading and downloading, route data saving and offline viewing), and the ability to use whatever software I deem most accurate.
I want the software to be able to compensate for chart age (as in making them accurate to WGS '84 which my GPS
supports), be reasonably quick about moving across the track, and give me lots of choices of data display so that I can make sure the XTE on the GPS matches the XTE calculations of the nav software for example.
- What additional utilities and command line applications do you use to support these main applications?
Weather forecasting primarily on the business side, and possibly on the personal side depending on cost, currency, and effectiveness
- What external services do you subscribe to or use with these products (iridium, sailmail, GMN, Predictwind, charts? etc etc)?
We have a Fleet 77 on board for calls but generally rely get additional info from a weather routing service
(Commanders Weather or Weather Routing Intl. for example). This info comes via email
on a daily basis. We also use pilot charts and grab gribs from either the satphone or if the boss's using it, the SSB
- What is your workflow with these applications - for example you may have multiple sources of GRIB or weather files using different applications, and you have a specific workflow to derive your forecast and plan.
Nobeltec Admiral and Transas 3000 have the option of weather downloading for direct display on the screens. So does MaxSea
. We tend to augment this with second source GRIB files, NAVTEX, or wefax via SSB
Route planning starts as far ahead as possible by determining the best route based on time of year and pilot chart histories. Then we augment this with weather forecasts. I call the routing service
with the particulars of the voyage (from, to, boat speed, max wind
and sea conditions, planned departure date,...) and they tell me if there's a weather window. Since any weather forecast longer than 3 days is not reliable, we tend to look for a window on the departure end that gives us the best departure conditions, then as we receive data, modify the route to accommodate the changes.
We log lots of weather and sea conditions and compare them to what the forecasts or routing services say. We offer direct feedback to the routing service so they get a better idea of what it's really like out there.
I really like the overlays that MaxSea and Nobeltec
provide. You can view your projected track and put the data into motion, giving us all a better idea of what's forecast. We also can loop the wefax data and overlay the grib files.
We collect data 4x a day, get the routing report daily unless they're way off the mark on what they're forecasting and what we are experiencing. We keep a big file of data so that when the trips over we can go over the data and see if we could have learned a bit more (hindsight being 20-20, it's not always obvious when you're in the middle of it). I tend to scan the hard copy printouts and save them in the route file so we have a long history
of trip info.
If we're going coastal then we get much better weather data than if we're crossing the pond or going oceans. Some folks who cruise
near coastal in US waters have found that the XM weather is pretty good at giving them weather they can believe in. We listen to local radio
stations if we're close enough and try to get their weather forecast. AM seems to have a longer range (especially at night) so we'll tune the band looking for reasonable signals as far ahead as we can and wait for their forecasts. Terrestrial TV isn't much good 20+ miles offshore
so we're back to AM/FM and satcom alerts.
- Which are your favorites and which ones do you just keep around and use occasionally?
NOAA Weather, coastal and offshore
navigation software specific grib and data files
National Data Buoy Center
Ocean Prediction Center
- Finally, how do you use these applications or your laptop to interface with your hardware chart-plotter and/or instruments - assuming you have these?
On the business side, we have full instrumentation (wind speed (T/A), wind
direction (T/A), recording barometer, and guides for observed wind speed, sea height, cloud cover, and current
conditions). These are recorded hourly in the ships log (we have a very large ships' log) along with the navigational data.
Overlays for the navcomps are always available but we tend to look at that data when we change bridge watches. The thinking is that the crew coming on gets a chance to see whats forecast and what we saw in the time since they were last on the bridge. Before going off watch, the watch leader has the option to request modification of the standing orders (with my approval) I've posted. This generally happens if we get an interim update from the routing service, the conditions don't reflect the forecast, or there's a problem (loose items that need securing, a smoother course so the crew can get some sleep,...) or if we need to slow down to either reduce possible damage to the vessel, pass through an active front, or have to change course to avoid a nasty bit of weather on our projected track.
On the personal side:
I have the basic instruments along with wind and baro. I grab the "perfect Paul" voice forecast, grib and wefax files 4x a day via SSB to my laptop so I can review and loop them. I compare what I see forecast to what's going outside, and after consulting a weather book or two, make a decision as to my track for the next 12 hours.
I'll jump on the SSB if I know a boat's ahead of me and see if I can get an idea as to what s/he's seeing. Since I'm speeding along at 6-7kts, I know I'm going to be overtaken or spend a lot more time breaking through the front than on the big boat, so that moderates what I do. And since my personal boat's a lot smaller than the big one, I have to make prudent decisions sooner than on the big one.
I overlay the MaxSea weather files and compare them to what the wefax forecasts, try to make sense of who's the more accurate, and go with that. One of the nice things with MaxSea (and the other weather modules) is that you an turn certain features off and on and see whats affecting what.
As on the big boat, I log lots of data hourly. Twice a day I look at the numbers and decide what I need to do for the next 12 hours. Unlike the big boat, I may not have experienced crew nor comfortable conditions, so I have to conserve my energies.
Finally, I'm amazed at the crew's reaction when I actually step outside of the air conditioned bridge to get a sense of the weather. I can learn more in 10 minutes of smelling, feeling, observing, and tasting the weather than hours pouring over a screen
, looking through tinted glass, and basking in 70F weather.