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Old 14-09-2020, 11:58   #1
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Best passage/route online planning tool?

I'm new to sailing and am wondering---whats the best "google maps" for sailing--not necessarily for direction but all other pre-route planning sailing factors?

For example--I want to depart Northport, NY and arrive Annapolis, MD. Is there a website that I can plug these points in and am given recommended routes, cautions, notices to sailors, tide timing, depth, marina info, bridge clearance, distance, estimated duration (based on given speed ~5 Kts).

Understand when executing the trip factors change and relying on GPS, chartplotter/weather--but am looking for a preplanning tool to get a good "WAG"?

Thanks in advance!!

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Old 14-09-2020, 17:45   #2
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

The best tool I've found so far for planning a trip is a paper chart. It shows the possible routes, (don't go between Roosevelt Island and Queens, for example: low bridge), dangers from rocks, reefs and shoals, shipping lanes, buoys, lighthouses, depths, and places en route that might be interesting or more (or less) convenient to visit. Distances are easy to figure out since, unlike on computer maps, the scale is constant. Charts also show bridge clearances. After plotting out the intended route you can look things up online or in cruising guides for more detail. Others may know more modern tools, but you're not likely to program the next waypoint on a chart without noticing that it crosses a point of land that your autopilot won't tell you is there.
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Old 14-09-2020, 18:44   #3
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

Fast seas let’s you do a few routes per month for free.

The best value (not free but cheap) is Luck Grib. Let’s you download Gribs (wind and current), enter sailing and motoring polars, then calculates best routing. It is also a great learning tool.
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Old 14-09-2020, 18:47   #4
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

Navionics app, works on a tablet and mobile will enable you to plan the trip and then share it through your other devices running Navionics - if all are on the same account. It will not do the job for you in identifying automatically any hazard, but it has an option to automatically create your waypoints (I only use the manual option). As you click along the way, you may get further information apart from just the soundings, including marinas, bridges info and basically all you need except weather.
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Old 14-09-2020, 19:24   #5
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

I can see a need for an application that integrates all of that information. I suspect there's some that come close, if you're willing to spend closer to a boat buck for it. For myself, the basic planning is still done by hand and I actually prefer it that way. Where I'd really prefer a bit of automation is in the handling of current calculations for route optimization.

My workflow is to rough out the route on a large screen, zoom in to make adjustments, then follow the route to check for hazards. If the level of zoom is a concern, using raster charts will probably help you feel more comfortable. Overall it's much faster, adjustments are recalculated instantly, and I can then push it out to other devices. Note that a large screen with good performance is needed; I would hate to do this on an actual chartplotter.

Tides and currents are still a weak spot. If it's a simple case with only a single spot where that matters, then I can pull the data for that and adjust the start and end times to match. An example might be a bar crossing or a tidal race. OTOH, trying to optimize a route in tidal waters that doesn't have a clear choke-point feels a bit more complicated.

LNMs should be simpler to automate; I'd really like to see them in more machine-readable form. There's no need to hand-plot coordinates when a GPX-like format could allow for an instant chart overlay. Perhaps someone knows if something similar is in the works?
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Old 15-09-2020, 09:22   #6
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool? is a fantastic free passage planning resource that gives you a worldwide chart with a reasonable level of detail.

It has a passage planning tool that measures the distance between the destinations and routes you draw on the chart and it also gives you all the waypoints of any changes in direction en route. It also gives you aerial views of land and various other useful features. It's quick and easy to use too.

Just remember when you are drawing a route on the chart to click to start and double click to end the route.

I can't recommend it too highly. It's my go to resource for all initial passage planning.
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Old 15-09-2020, 10:26   #7
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

I agree with what psk125 said. There is somewhat of a debate whether paper charts are necessary in this age if technology. I believe they are essential for the reasons already noted, but also for peace of mind. I know most people who have suddenly lost power while on passage thought about this. You do yourself a disservice by not having paper charts aboard
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Old 15-09-2020, 10:41   #8
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

[Sorry. I just re-read your request for an online tool. I'll leave this info anyway in case it is useful to you or others.]

I used Navionics coupled with Predict Wind our our trip to the Bahamas and back when I wanted to factor in weather and currents. I found Predict Wind pretty good on wind but not very helpful/accurate for the Gulf Stream on our return trip from the Bahamas to North Carolina. I went with PW because of the easy integration with Iridum Go to get weather when out of cell coverage. Only when well offshore and in a few locations in the Exumas did we find Iridum weather helpful/necessary. The generally excellent cell coverage in the Exumas was a surprise to me.

For my cruising in New England I canceled my PW subscription though I can still get the wind data from them with a free account. Mostly I use SailFlow, Windy, or Weather Underground for my wind forecasts. I am interested in looking at some of the websites noted above. I also sometimes used as another check against PW when I had cell coverage. It has some other interesting data like sea size estimates.

If you are always / mostly within cell range, I think using Windy or a free PW account to inform you about upcoming wind and weather to help with an estimate on likely tacking angles, along with Navionics for actual route planning, is a good way to go.

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Old 15-09-2020, 10:50   #9
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

I used MaxSea but once my license expired I have been using QtVlm.

I think OpenCPN does that well too.

And off course the paid Apps.

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Old 15-09-2020, 10:51   #10
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

Active Captain is available online for free to get the anchorage / marina info that is integrated in Navionics and Aqua Map.
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Old 15-09-2020, 11:06   #11
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

For me, passage planning a route that is new to me has multiple steps:
First I start with weather routing (I use Predictwind). This shows me how the winds and currents might affect my journey and I can start departure planning. If I am doing long range planning, e.g. planning next season, then I will check Jimmy Cornellís World Cruising Routes and pilot charts.
Second, informed by likely conditions, I will create a route on my PC chart plotter and sometimes Iíll do the same on my paper charts. I use Timezero Navigator and it has a nice feature that when you fly over your route it color codes it to show if there are any hazards. At this stage I am just creating a route from and to a waypoint in open water close to my start point/destination. I will usually plan to drop the sails at the arrival waypoint and motor to my final destination.
Then I look at how much sea-room I have along the way in case the winds make some of my passage legs difficult to sail. I put waypoints in places where I know I must be exact, channels, rocks, headlands etc etc.
Finally, I will create a detailed arrival route that starts at my arrival waypoint in open water and ends close to where I want to anchor/dock. For this I use cruising guides, google earth images etc.
Then, I go back to weather routing and departure planning as the day of departure approaches. For departure/arrival planning I will check tides to see if I need to apply any constraints there.
When I actually start sailing, I can transfer the route from Timezero to my chartplotter which will direct the autopilot when I want.
I hope this helps.
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Old 15-09-2020, 13:14   #12
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

I cruised pacific for over 19 years solol.....vessel passage planner really did the job for me...look at or, dont remember which it is. It is free and you can buy to help developer for a very lo9w fee if you want.

try it out...also is a good source of info. but vpp cant be beat
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Old 15-09-2020, 20:58   #13
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

I am using Raymarine Voyage Planner. I have a E125 series chart-plotter and all the instruments that go with her. I know Raymarine discontinued the Voyage Planner but it still works fine and allows me to use my computer and the wirelesly transfer my routes from the computer to the MFD. I have been going up and don the ICW from NYC to Key West then off to the various islands for the last 6 years. My wife and I have a Contest 38S ketch equipped with a linear drive autopilot. Most of the time we just relax in the cockpit and let the autopilot fo the steering. Using the routes over and over with some minor adjustments due to shifting bottoms and day-markers we have only run aground 2 x in all this time.

I am hoping Raymarine produces a new version. Maybe if they were bombarded with phone calls requesting it that might help. (800-539-5539).

OLh yes, you can use Navaonics and NOAA RNC and ENC charts. Navionics charges for their vcarts every year but the are worth it. NOAA are free
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Old 16-09-2020, 03:08   #14
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

I"ve done that trip many times and just don't know if there's a simulator for it. It'll be interesting to see what others know.

However, here's the "old school": I'd begin with a Chart Book and run my pencil over the route(s) as there are options: you can either go West through NYC and then out and down the NJ Coast...... or East and then around Montauk and then over to somewhere on the NJ Coast. Atlantic City has bright lights -- or beeline it to Cape May or Lewes. Pick a time when there's not a lot of SW wind !

I don't leave the dock without an Eldridge's for NYC current and tidal predictions and a Waterway Guide of some kind. I have Navionics in my Iphone and its very good as long as there's Wifi.

A woman called me a few years ago and wanted to be "trained" on doing just this kind of trip. She hadn't much experience so I suggested that it might be more cost effective to have me aboard and she agreed to have me as captain. It was a great great trip ! GOOD LUCK
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Old 16-09-2020, 03:15   #15
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Re: Best passage/route online planning tool?

Fast seas weather routing. Used it many times and very helpful and accurate. Get weather and routing updates daily with garmin inreach. Cheap and very useful. May take a bit to get polars/ sailing speeds correct but itís dead on when you do. Happy sails
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