Lessons Learned – by Pat Carson
There Is An App For That
Of all the questions I get regarding various boating subjects, some of the more common ones are:
How do I find the tide at a particular time and location?
What knot do I use to tie that?
How far is it from here to there?
What is the weather like offshore if I want to go to Monterey for the weekend?
In many instances I will refer to one of the dozen or so apps that I use on a regular basis. Here is my favorite baker’s dozen.
How do I find the tide at the Golden Gate Bridge next Thursday?
There are many tide apps for Apple and Google, but the one I use most often and find the easiest to use is My Tide Times by jRustonApps B.V. This app provides just about all the tidal information you will ever need and has over 9,000 locations across 30 countries. In addition to tide heights, you can also see the moon phase, rise and set for up to 30 days. If there is a current station nearby the location you are searching, you will also see slack, max ebb and max flood current times. Since the data is stored on your phone, you can still view the information if there is no internet connection. The free version is ad supported while the pro version is ad free.
What knot do I use to tie that fender to a rail?
My favorite knot tying app is Useful Knots – Tying Guide by Neptune Apps.
There are hundreds or even thousands of knots out there and they all have their specific uses, but in everyday situations we mariners have no time to learn or look through all of them and pick the best one. Useful Knots offers a selected list of the best knots for most practical situations, broken down into categories such as loops, hitches, bends, lashings, bindings and friction knots.
Each knot has a description, as well as step by step instructions with pictures and guides on how to tie it. This app is a useful and quick reference for the majority of practical knots we use around boats.
How do I track a vessel that has AIS?
There are many ship tracking apps to choose from, but I have found FindShip by Marine Toolbox to be one of the best.
With this app you can find any ship anywhere in the world and continually track vessels that you have added to your “fleet,” overlayed on a selection of charts including NOAA charts. For commercial boats using AIS A, you can see details such as AIS information, tonnage, builder, owner/manager, Inmarsat communication, photos etc.
The free version is ad supported with in app purchases.
What does the weather look like for a voyage to Monterey this weekend?
One of my most used apps is Windy by Windyty SE.
There is a reason this app gets 4.5 stars on Google Play. Windy is a great tool for weather forecast visualization. It is a fast, intuitive, detailed and accurate weather app that has everything a mariner needs for weather forecasting including weather RADAR, wind, waves, rain and fog. If you are interested, the app is fully customizable. For example, you can also select temperature, barometric pressure and doppler RADAR, among a host of other information.
Windy uses several different forecasting models such as global ECMWF and GFS, plus local NEMS, AROME and ICON (for Europe) and NAM (for the USA).
The free version is good, but the paid version is great adding a customizable list of favorite spots (with the option to create e-mail alerts for upcoming weather conditions) and nearby weather stations showing real-time observed weather with reported wind direction, wind speed and temperature.
What do the Navigation Rules tell me in this instance?
We should all know the navigation rules, but sometimes we just want to confirm that we are operating our vessel properly.
For a quick read in almost plain language, I refer to the USCG App.
In addition to reviewing the most common navigation rules of the road with the U.S. Coast Guard app, you can also check state boating safety laws and the list of mandatory safety equipment that should be on your vessel, file a float plan with your friends, access the nearest NOAA weather buoy, report a navigational hazard with the USCG or report pollution or suspicious activity.
While the U.S. Coast Guard app will help you better prepare for your time on the water and may help you contact the Coast Guard in an emergency, it is not a replacement for a VHF marine radio, EPIRB, safe boating classes and common sense.
The U.S. Coast Guard app is a self-contained mobile application that resides solely on your mobile device. Information about yourself, your vessel and your current or past locations is only shared with the Coast Guard when you choose to do so.
I have broken down; how do I request a tow from Vessel Assist?
Although not a substitute for hailing TowBoatUS on VHF Channel 16, the BoatUS app has the ability to send a request 24/7 for marine towing assistance.
In addition, the BoatUS app also has the ability to check current tides, weather and marine conditions for up to five days in advance. It also allows you to select your favorite tide and buoy stations.
Additionally, there is a tile for the BoatUS discount finder that identifies local marinas, bait and tackle shops and boatyards that offer you savings and discounts for being a BoatUS member. Save on dockage, fuel, repairs and more, and when you arrive use the app to display your membership card to receive your discount.
If you want to know the location of the nearest West Marine store or the closest life jacket loaner, the app makes it easy. If you need to manage your BoatUS membership, you can do that directly from the app as well. If you aren’t a BoatUS member, you should seriously consider joining. The cost is minimal for the basic membership, and this organization has been delivering time, money and lifesaving services to recreational boaters nationwide since 1966. Join 600,000 of your fellow mariners now.
How far is it from here to there?
Another one of my most used apps is C-MAP: Boating. The C-MAP app provides high-quality nautical maps, along with navigation, traffic and weather information to help you plan your next trip on the water.
The charts can be used online for free, but with the paid version you can download offline charts so you can create and follow routes when no internet connection is available. One subscription can be used across several mobile devices. The presentation looks just like your ship’s chartplotter since the charts that you load on the system are the same. All of the same tools are available such as customizing your charts, creating auto-generated routes and saving waypoints and tracks. You can even save photos and notes from the day’s voyage.
The paid version displays AIS data of vessels within 50 miles or so, and will provide their speed over ground, course and predict your closest point of approach (CPA) and time to closest point of approach (TCPA).
Should you wish to help fellow mariners discover the best places with this app, you can share places, routes, tracks, reviews and photos.
That is it for this month. Look for the rest of my 13 favorites in part two in the December issue of the Bay and Delta Yachtsman.
There is an app for it that can answer just about any question.
Until next month please keep those letters coming, even the ones where you slam me for my oversights. Remember, I love a good story. Have a good story to tell, send me an email. Have good an app that you use often, please send me the information and I will check it out and may include it in a future update. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org