Lessons Learned – by Pat Carson

Lessons Learned

There Is An App For That – Part Deux

In the November issue of the Bay and Delta Yachtsman I shared seven of my favorite apps that I regularly use. From finding the tide and current at any time to checking the weather forecast, planning a voyage, requesting vessel assist, tracking other ships (AIS), how to select and tie a knot for any application and reviewing the navigation rules of the road, there is an app for that. This month I’ll round out the baker’s dozen of my favorites with answers to other questions we mariners always seem to have.

What are the lights on that ship telling me?

There are several apps that will show you the various vessel lights, a few that show vessel day shapes and one that I use does both – COLREGS Lights and Shapes of Vessels by madeof.blue. This app has a visual search engine and references COLREGS rules 20 through 31. It also covers lights for non COLREG vessels such as ships involved in escort duty, ice breakers and vessels carrying dangerous cargo. The view of each vessel can be changed from the front, port or starboard side, and from the stern.

Are you feeling good with your light identification skills? Take the various tests. The app is free, but you need the paid version for some of the content such as the hard tests.

How fast am I going?

There are times where I will be on a vessel that is not equipped with a method of determining GPS speed or my location. The best app I have found is GPS Status & Toolbox by MobiWIA Kft.

The best feature of this app is that it will provide GPS data in a matter of seconds while other apps take a significant amount of time before any useful data is provided. You will quickly see the position and signal strength of the satellites, speed, acceleration, altitude, pitch, roll and battery state of your device. There is also an indicator for data accuracy.

The premium version of this app provides a wealth of other useful features such as storing waypoints and utilizing the RADAR screen for navigation.

I need to arrange for berthing, who do I call?

This is a question that comes up often. Frequently I need to arrange for overnight berthing while transiting various ports. In the past I had to look up phone numbers for marinas in the area that I wanted to stay at. Well, that is finally changing with the app Dockwa by Dockwa.

This is the best app that I have found for reserving slips or moorings at marinas, yacht clubs and boatyards. I use this app almost every time I am in Southern California and find that it is much easier to simply click and reserve than it is to call around looking for a berth.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, you can make reservations at many marinas including Vallejo, Ballena Bay, Stockton, Owl Harbor, West Point Harbor and Emeryville. Want to make a reservation at the Napa Valley Yacht Club? They use Dockwa.

The app is free, easy to use and there are no booking fees or markups.

I am on my way from Mexico to the United States, how do I clear customs?

In the old days of maritime customs clearance in San Diego it was a challenge and always required stopping at the customs dock there. Now, with the CBP Roam app by the Department of Homeland Security I have not had to stop for customs clearance in years. Just keep going north and do it all online.

This app allows us and other eligible travelers who arrive at remote locations to report their arrival online, most of the time without stopping. In addition to submitting a report of arrival, pleasure boaters who are not currently enrolled in a Trusted Traveler Program, Local Boater Option or I-68 program who are currently required to report in person may be eligible for a video inspection.

After you create the voyage and request clearance, you will get a notification to start a video chat with a customs officer to complete your entry into the United States.

Ok, so the app is a little buggy and only works in limited areas, but it has worked well for us West Coast boaters entering from Mexico or Canada. The app was recently updated, so perhaps some of the bugginess has been addressed.

How do I convert miles per hour to knots or meters to feet?

There is a long list of converter apps, and I have found ConvertPad by MathPad to be one of the most comprehensive and easiest to use converters for just about anything.

This is a full-featured unit converter and calculator that has over 1300 units, including a currency exchange rate. The app can be customized for unit preferences, and you can save user-defined categories.

I find this app useful to convert just about any measure that I can think of.

What is the barometric pressure at my current location?

Accessing the various sensor data that is available on your mobile device is easy with the Sensors Toolbox by CA40.

Barometric pressure is just one of the many sensors available on your device, and you might be surprised at the amount of information that is available from your mobile phone. This application displays both static and real-time information about each sensor available, and it allows real-time logging of sensor data to a file stored on your device.

Of the data that is available, some can be useful for us such as acceleration, light level, sound level and relative humidity. Check it out and you might be surprised.

How do I get a bird’s-eye view of the marina that I am about the enter for the first time?

Google Earth of course.

Explore that marina from above with satellite imagery and 3D terrain of the entire globe. Zoom in on the assigned berth or anywhere else, then dive in for a 360° perspective with Street View.

Google Earth has been around for a long time, and it still proves to be useful with more information than our fixed-mount chart plotters, even with the premium chart data cartridge.

That is it, my top 13 apps that I use most regularly. Since I always have my Samsung phone with me, some of these apps only run on Android. However, most of them are available for my iPad as well. I hope that I have introduced apps that are new to you and that you will take some time to check them out for use in your boating adventures. If you have a beneficial app you are utilizing, please send me the link. I will compare it with my favorite and may include it in a future update.

Until next month, please keep those letters coming, even the ones where you slam me for my oversights. Remember, I love a good story. If you have a good story to tell, send me an email at patcarson@yachts manmagazine.com