Information/Reports

Training / Executive Officer’s April Update

On April 22, 12 boaters graduated from the Maritime Radio Course held at Lakeland. This is important for boaters since a certificate is needed when operating a VHF radio.

This is the time of year when boaters harass marina operators to get their boats into the water. Four or five calls per person is common. The local saying here is that the Sound is clear of ice within a week of April 21st. 2012 broke the belief with an early break up. Some boats were in the water on the first day of Spring. It looks as though 2014 will break it the other way.

So: Before planning on early season boating remember: The early bird gets the worm. The second mouse gets the cheese.

The early boater gets to boat alone. Silence and still water can be delightful but first boaters can be subject to the floating debris left after the ice is gone. This can range from planks and trees limbs to docks that have broken free.

The first mouse, the one who gets onto the bay before a strong wind has blown it clear of this debris, can have some dangerous experiences. Planks torn from docks, their four inch nails sticking up, can damage the smooth underwater hull of a boat. There is nothing like skimming along through an early Spring fog and having a tree, branches and all, loom out of the mist in front of you.

Then there is the ice. It doesn’t all melt overnight. An invisible skim of ice can do quite a number on a boat too. And if it does and your boat is sinking, who are you going to call who can possibly get to you any time soon? I do boat in the early season. My rules are simple. Carry the seven or eight items you must as demanded by law. Boat like you will never need to use them. Boat carefully, one hand for the boat – one for yourself, and make no mistakes. Or wait ’til things warm up some.

 Early Season ‘Boaters’ on the Big Sound – No WorriesParrySights-6905-2

 

 

State of the Sound Report – 2014-04-24

Not to be confused with the State of the Bay report (recommended reading) from the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve. As of yesterday evening, the Big Sound was icy white and thinning (much like my hair). The water is open from Parry Sound harbour to Three Mile Point in spots, but that’s about it. The photo below was taken yesterday evening from Monument Point on the North Shore Rugged Trail just north of Parry Sound looking west.

ParrySights-6842

December on the Big Sound

ParrySights-3374Looking out from the Smelter Wharf you can see Parry Island and Three Mile Point in the distance. taken December 23rd, the Big Sound is still wide open, while the Parry Sound inner harbour is iced over. I don’t expect that this will last for long. The nights have been clear and cold, and the Sound is rapidly losing its heat.

If you look closely you can see a sun dog a little left of centre.

Click on the photo for a larger image with more detail.

JB – Communications Officer

Charting Apps – An Informal Review, iSailor (5)

The last post covered the Navionics USA & Canada HD app from Navionics. In this post I will provide a concise review and opinion on the iSailor app for the iPad as applied to the Georgian Bay area. I am using this app with a 3rd Generation (Wifi+Cellular) iPad. To allow for a better comparison with the iNavX and Navionics apps I discussed in the last two posts I have included a short video demonstration of how the app looks and operates.

iSailor
Publisher: Transas Marine International (www.isailor.us)
Price: Free for app, $4.99 for Lake Huron & Lake Superior charts (together). In looking at other charts I’m finding that the prices for the other Great Lakes areas, i.e., Canadian Lakes Ontario and Erie as a package, and all the Canadian Great Lakes, are on the order of $24.99 to $39.99, more on the order of Navionics. The USA charts though are much less.

I really want to like this app. It has a very nice interface and uses vector graphics. It’s reasonably fast and how can you beat the price. But the charts for the Georgian Bay area are missing some critical market buoys that are on the small chart route. These buoys are in areas that we regularly boat and their absence is obvious. I worry then that there will be missing buoys in areas which I’m not familiar with which means I’ll need to double check with another app or paper charts. Not good. There is also a strange rendering issue where two adjacent parts of the displayed chart don’t match. I’m not sure what this is and suspect it’s probably only an issue when I’m working at my desk and scouting out a trip. I really like it, but ….

The video below provides a ‘slice of life’ regarding this app. The video covers many of the same topics that were discussed in the videos of the other two apps and highlights the pros and the cons of the Navionics app.

Pros:
1. Smooth vector graphics make the chart easy to see and understand at my desk and on the boat. The response time is very good in terms of pinching to zoom and scrolling. (Note: we are required to carry, and do carry, paper charts with us.)
2. It does a very good job of identifying the boat’s location and recording a traveled track.
3. It allows for the simple plotting of a course.
4. Permits the setting of markers for depth areas.
5. The separate charts are priced on the order of $5.00 each which is a real bargain considering the app is ‘free’. I could easily purchase the necessary charts for the Great Lakes for $25.00 or less, but I really only need the Lake Huron charts which includes Lake Superior and cost $4.99 (plus tax). This pricing makes it a ‘no brainer’ to buy updated charts annually. (Note: I’m not sure if prices have gone up but it seems other Canadian Great Lakes charts are on the order of $25 to $40, perhaps not so much of a no-brainer.)
6. The iSailor app takes about 57.6 MB of space on the iPad versus 180 MB for iNavX and  115 MB for Navionics. Note that our iNavX installation only covers Georgian Bay, and our iSailor installation Lakes Huron and Superior, while Navionics covers all of the USA and Canada.

Cons:
1. There are missing buoys in our area (Snug Harbour / Franklin Island).
2. The chart display misalignment is very annoying.
3. There is little else to knock them for but of course we really don’t use all of the features of the app. There may be issues specific to the east and west coasts (tides, etc.) that aren’t apparent to us.

Here’s a video that shows the iSailor  app in action (in the office).  I’m not equipped to do an on-board demo. It performs similarly when used on the boat. There is an HD icon in the top right area of the video, click on it to see a better resolution version.

Note: electronic charts are not a substitute for up-to-date paper charts. You should carry paper charts in addition to electronic charts. Stuff happens and devices can fail when you need them most. Always have a backup.

Links:
Post #1 (Introduction)
Post #2 (Overview)
Post #3 (iNavX Review)
Post #4 (Navionics Review)

Charting Apps – An Informal Review, Navionics (4)

Update: Since the original post I received a message from Navionics to upgrade the charts for $54.99, essentially I am buying the app annually to get access to the updated charts. This seems to be a bit unreasonable to me. Yes I get all of the charts for Canada and the USA, but I really only need and want the charts for Georgian Bay. They are forcing me to pay for more than I need. I’m not crazy about this. Perhaps $9.99 for the updated Great Lakes charts would be reasonable. I’ll just stick with the 2012 version. It makes the iSailor app look like a real winner in comparison.

The last post covered the iNavX app from GPSNavX and the Georgian Bay charts from Fugawi X-Traverse. In this post I will provide a concise review and opinion on the Navionics app for the iPad as applied to the Georgian Bay area. I am using this app with a 3rd Generation (Wifi+Cellular) iPad. To allow for a better comparison with the iNavX app discussed in the last post, and the iSailor app that will be presented in the next post, I have included a short video demonstration of how the app looks and operates.

Navionics, USA & Canada HD Details
Publisher: Navionics (www.navionics.net)
Price: $54.99 for app including the charts for the USA and Canada. Annual updates are also $54.99.

This has become our ‘go-to’ charting app when heading out on the Big Sound outside of Parry Sound, Ontario. It just works and the interface is pretty simple to figure out. Because I don’t use it every day, I’m not out everyday and there are times I’m boating in areas I am very familiar with, I sometimes need to poke a couple of the icons to remind myself with what is what. It’s really excellent when used at my desk to plot a course and to figure out where to go with clients. I can pinch to zoom and scroll everywhere in Georgian Bay without needing to load another chart.

The video below provides a ‘slice of life’ regarding this app. The video covers many of the same topics that were discussed in the previous iNavx video and highlights the pros and the cons of the Navionics app.

Pros:
1. Smooth vector graphics make the chart easy to see and understand at my desk and on the boat. The response time is very good in terms of pinching to zoom and scrolling. (Note: we are required to carry, and do carry, paper charts with us.)
2. It does a very good job of identifying the boat’s location and recording a traveled track.
3. It allows for the simple plotting of a course as you can see in the video.
4. Permits the setting of markers for depth areas. In our case we highlight in darker blue the areas that are 6 feet or less.
5. All charts for North America are included in the base price. This offers a real savings for the boater who likes to cruise longer distances when compared with the ‘area by area’ map charge with iNavX. The pricing is very reasonable for what you get, even if you only use a subset of the provide charts. iSailor similar to iNavX offers a la carte pricing for North American charts.
6. The Navionics app takes about 115 MB of space on the iPad versus 180 MB for iNavX and 57.6 MB for iSailor. Note that our iNavX installation only covers Georgian Bay, and our iSailor installation Lakes Huron and Superior, while Navionics covers all of the USA and Canada.

Cons:
I’m really at a loss to point out any cons. It just works. Sure it could be cheaper, but it still is a relative bargain in terms of what it does and its utility. We don’t need to deal with tides in Georgian Bay so perhaps it could be better in that regard, but perhaps it’s already pretty good, I just haven’t assessed it for this.

Here’s a video that shows the Navionics app in action (in the office).  I’m not equipped to do an on-board demo. It performs similarly when used on the boat. There is an HD icon in the top right area of the video, click on it to see a better resolution version.

Note: electronic charts are not a substitute for up-to-date paper charts. You should carry paper charts in addition to electronic charts. Stuff happens and devices can fail when you need them most. Always have a backup.

Links:
Post #1 (Introduction)
Post #2 (Overview)
Post #3 (iNavX Review)

Charting Apps – An Informal Review, iNavX (3)

In the last post I provided a short overview of the three apps that I have purchased and used on my iPad (3rd Generation/Wifi+Cellular) for navigating in and around Georgian Bay. In this post I will provide a little more detail about the iNavX app including a short video demonstration of how the app looks and operates.

iNavX Details
Publisher: GPSNavX (www.inavx.net)
Price: $49.99 for app, $70.00 for electronic charts (Tobermory to Little current). The subscription allows for one year of chart downloads to as many as two separate devices, thereafter updates are $70.00.

I worked with this app for most of last year before discovering the two other apps that are included in this Informal Review. It should be realized that the effective cost to use the iNavX app on the iPad is about $120 plus taxes. The basic app provides no charts as part of the purchase price. The charts are purchased separately from Fugawi X-Traverse (www.x-traverse.com).

The video below provides a ‘slice of life’ regarding this app. In general this is not a navigation app that I use despite the relatively high price I paid for it. This of course is a personal opinion and I’ll share my thoughts on what is good and not so good about the iNavX app.

Pros:
1. Charts basically replicate the paper charts. (Note: we are required to carry, and do carry, paper charts with us.)
2. It does a very good job of identifying the boat’s location and recording a traveled track.
3. It allows for the plotting of a course, but this is not very practical as one needs to determine what chart to load next when plotting a course when in port or at home.

Cons:
1. The raster graphics are pretty rough to look at. The charts are basically an image of the paper charts. As you zoom in everything gets larger, it’s much like looking at the paper charts with a magnifying glass.
2. The charts are all in separate files/folders, there are about 90 individual charts for Georgian Bay. The labels used for the different charts in some way relate to the labels used with the paper charts, but not exactly, and not intuitively. This can make it tough to figure out what chart you need to look at to see the continuation. For example the edge of one chart may indicate that the continuation is on Chart 2242, but it isn’t included in the package. In other cases the chart may indicate a chart number but it is not the same number as used by the X-Traverse charts.
3. Not all the interesting areas of Georgian Bay are covered by the charts that are provided. For the most part the charts seem to cover the small boat routes. If you want to head out further there are no charts. And further out isn’t that far, for example I can’t easily find a chart that shows the Umbrella Islands, or the Snakes or the Limestone Islands. In most cases the provided charts with iNavX and X-Traverse just show the small boat routes and not all of the islands. You could not use this app to travel directly west across Georgian Bay from Parry Sound to the Bruce Peninsula.
4. The charts don’t scroll as you look at them when you are at home, or in port. To plot out a route or just check on where you might want to go you need to figure out what chart you need and then load it, and then the continuation chart. It really is not very easy. This is a very big issue with me as there are some 90 charts to select from. Once you are traveling and iNavX is plotting your location it will automatically scroll from chart to chart, so this is good news.
5. There doesn’t seem to be any way to set custom depths. In our case we like to have the six foot and less areas highlighted. Others might like the limit set to 8 or 12 feet. The iNavX charts do offer the standard paper chart colouring for shallow areas.
6. At $120 they are the most expensive by far.

Here’s a video that shows the iNavX charts in action (in the office).  I’m not equipped to do an on-board demo.

Note: electronic charts are not a substitute for up-to-date paper charts. You should carry paper charts in addition to electronic charts. Stuff happens and devices can fail when you need them most. Always have a backup.

Links: Post #1 , Post #2

Charting Apps – An Informal Review (2)

Note: this is Part 2 – please refer to the previous post for an introduction to these reviews.

Since starting to draft these posts I have come across a comprehensive review that pretty much covers all of the charting software available for the iPad, here’s the link. It’s a nice review, broad and not too deep with examples that will perhaps provide you with a better sense of how the apps will meet your needs. I’ll still carry on with what may be a more detailed look at the various apps.

1. iNavX (iNavX)
2. Navionics Marine & Lakes (Navionics)
3. Transas iSailor (iSailor)

I have purchased all three and have use the first two extensively both for planning a trip and while on the water. I haven’t used iSailor while boating for a reason that I will explain when we get to it. I will review each of the apps in the order listed above, with additional details, some comments, screen shots and videos as appropriate. Before we start there are a couple of details worth mentioning.

1. I am solely interested in how these charting apps work in an around the Georgian Bay 30,000 Islands. How they might perform elsewhere was not considered. And we typically travel at about 25 mph/knots when not dinking around the outer islands trying to avoid the uncharted rocks.

2. The charting apps come in two flavours: raster and vector graphic based. iNavX uses raster graphics, while iSailor and Navionics use vector graphics. Rather than provide a detailed description of the two types of graphics, I’ll use three images that should help you understand the difference, as well as a short video of how they look on the iPad.

All three of the images below are of Parry Sound Harbour, and show the app’s default view. They can be expanded as we’ll see later but these screen-shots basically show you what you would see if you turned on the three apps and took a look at this location. One more note: I don’t read manuals until I get to the point of not being able to figure out how to get what I want, and I figure I really do need help. This approach reflects reality for most boaters, these are apps, you turn them on and use them. If they require too much reading and remembering to use the basic functions they probably aren’t what you want. (I’m not an IT person but I’ve had a computer since about 1980, and I’m currently working with a software company to make their interface (nothing to do with charts or apps)  more user friendly, so I wouldn’t consider myself inexperienced. If I can’t figure it out ‘by pushing the buttons’ it probably isn’t that simple to use.

Her’s the iNavX view of Parry Sound Harbour (raster graphics).

IMG_0501

Here’s the Navionics view of Parry Sound Harbour (vector graphics).

IMG_0503

And finally the iSailor view of Parry Sound Harbour (vector graphics).

IMG_0502

In the video below I provide a brief look a the apps and how they perform. I’ll go into more detail as I discuss the apps individually.

The next installment, Part 3, takes a look at the iNavX app in more detail.

Charting Apps – An Informal Review (1)

As a small company (www.redrockeco.com) providing adventures in the Georgian Bay Biosphere we are regularly out on the water either with clients or working out new adventures. Operating with a 21′ foot Scout Dorado (the Beagle) equipped with a 150 hp Yamaha we have the ability to cover a lot of water quickly and still get onto the small islands that provide for unique perspectives of the area.

Our knowledge of the local area is good, and getting better, but we still rely on charts to keep off the rocks and help us find our way. If you have ever boated in the 30,000 Islands you will know how similar, yet unfamiliar, the many islands and inlets can seem. Having good charts is absolutely critical unless you have been on Georgian Bay for years or limit yourself to a few routes.

Until last summer we had been working with the approved commercially available Small-Craft Nautical Charts covering the area from south of the Massasauga Park to north of Pointe au Baril. They were effective but often proved difficult to use in practice. As an open cabin boat the charts would flutter when opened at cruising speed, they constantly needed to be ‘flipped’ over, and with time they were getting worn. But perhaps the biggest problem was that they did not tell you where you were. If you went exploring you needed to keep a sharp eye on where you had come from and where you thought you were. What seems easy in the introductory Power Squadron courses becomes a challenge at 40-50 kph, especially when the area is unmarked and there is the real prospect of hitting a rock.

So with that background you can understand why we started to investigate electronic charts. There are a few ways to go when it comes to electronics. One option is a dedicated GPS and plotter combination, much like the GPS units that come factory installed in cars and trucks. A second option is a handheld device like an iPhone, an Android phone, or a mobile GPS unit. These devices come with a GPS function built-in that can be used to plot your trip. When used in an automobile they connect with cellular towers to access maps that not only tell you where you are and display the roads, but also tell you how to get there. This is also an option when boating, but its really not practical, the screen is too small for boating at any type of speed, although it might be practical if canoeing, kayaking or sailing. And the ‘free’ mapping options don’t provide marine charts with water depths and navigation markers.

The third choice, and the one we will discuss in these articles, is using charting software on an Apple iPad. While the charting applications (Apps) we will review can be used on all iPads it’s only the GPS equipped iPads (not the less expensive WiFi-only models) that permit real-time location capabilities. These iPads typically cost about $100 more than the comparable WiFi-only models.

In our case we have a 3rd-Generation 32 GB iPad that is used for navigation, as well as credit card processing and the usual business email type activities, it also provides us with a real-time shore connection (texting and social media). It’s a very portable multifunction device that provides us with remarkable flexibility. The larger screen makes it much easier to see both details and the ‘big picture’.

But it would not be very useful on the Beagle without it’s GPS and charting capabilities. A fixed GPS and plotter would not only be considerably more expensive and require professional installation, it would take up precious space and not provide as much functionality.

In terms of charting Apps we used one package last summer with rather indifferent performance. It was, as a former colleague of mine would say, “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”. But it was far from optimal. Over the winter we looked into a couple of other options, one of which has become our go-to charting App. But your needs may be different. We’ll review our experience with the three Apps in the following series of post that I’ll try to get out on a weekly basis.

J. Bossart

Next Post (2) – Introducing the Three Apps

Disclaimer: all comments and opinions are the solely mine and not those of the Parry Sound Power and Sail Squadron. If you find an error or want to provide your perspective please post a comment. I’ll review them for appropriateness (there are too many spam bots out there) and make sure it gets posted up as soon as possible.

Flags Over Sail Parry Sound

Flags Over Sail Parry Sound

Low Water Meeting Reports

Provided below is a list of the many documents that were prepared before and after the low water meeting that was held February 6th in Parry Sound. This meeting involved the Mayors, Chiefs and Reeves of Parry Sound and the surrounding communities. I was unable to attend because the meeting was closed to all but participants and the ‘official media’. But the North Star did a nice summary of the meeting, here’s a link to their article if you haven’t seen it already.

The Town of Parry Sound has, since the meeting, posted up the meeting report, the agreed meeting resolution, and the various presentations. You can access the town’s webpage through this link. Or you can open the individual documents through the links below. The Parry Sound Power and Sail Squadron has ‘inventoried’ these documents on this site to ensure continued access to them. Also note that the Town of Parry Sound webpage has a very useful link to the Township of the Archipelago’s website where there are associated documents on the low water issue.

Here are the links to the individual documents hosted on this site related to the low water discussions. They are also available on the Town of Parry Sound’s website through this link.

Mayors, Reeves, Chiefs, Meeting Notes
Mayors, Reeves, Chiefs, Meeting Resolution
Archipelago Presentation
Georgian Bay Association Presentation
Owen Sound Meeting Notes
Midland Meeting Notes