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Apps and Computer Programs

Chandlery: August 2011

Practical Sailor Chandlery: August 2011. This month reviews a tiller, tool toter, and smart-phones.

GoFree: Simrad Nav Goes Mobile

Being natural-born skeptics, Practical Sailor testers are always pleasantly surprised when we test gear that meets-or almost meets-the hype from its makers and marketers. And that was just the case with Navicos GoFree WiFi wireless networking device for Simrad products. We recently field tested it, and found that aside from a few niggles, the GoFree lives up to makers claims, is easy to install, and works well-straight out of the box!

Local Loft Versus Web-based Service

Not every sailor has a selection of local sailmakers to choose from. He or she must instead rely on Internet research and phone conversations to find the best sail for the best price. As most of the world’s sail production takes place in a handful of high-volume production lofts abroad (China, Sri Lanka, and Africa), U.S. sailmakers have taken on the role of sail designers—rather than sailmakers.

Route-planning Software Review

Practical Sailor editors evaluated Digital Waves Visual Passage Planner software, which is based on the U.S. Pilot Charts and lets users plan a voyage based on historical weather patterns. Testers used the software to recreate the 1888 historical passage by Joseph Conrad. Conrads passage from Bangkok to Singapore, aboard the iron barque Otago, took an excruciating 21 days. By plugging in waypoints, location and time of year, testers were able to see wind, current, sea state, water temperature, and air temperature along Conrads route. Visual Passage Planner showed the average wind speed and direction, as well as the number of days of calm, for the area and time of year. The software is an interesting tool for passage planning, but because it uses historical rather than real-time data, it shouldnt be compared to true weather-routing software like the weather-routing module from MaxSea, which uses a boats polar data to evaluate real-time routing.

Wireless Multiplexers

Before we plunge headfirst (again) into the world of multiplexers with this test report, heres a quick review of what exactly were talking about. If you have older instruments or a GPS networked to send information to other devices (a multi-function display, laptop, etc.), the information is likely in NMEA 0183 format and is sent in sentences in a set order. For example, the NMEA sentence $GPAAM,A,A,0.10,N,WPTNME*32 is an arrival alarm sentence sent by a GPS to various networked devices upon arrival at a waypoint.

Top 10 Products for 1999

Our annual selection of outstanding equipment, headlined this year by the Spade anchor, Nexus instruments and the Isotemp water heater.

Chandlery: 04/15/04

Suunto M9 Wristop ComputerIn the trend towards miniaturization in electronics, there's a fine line between true utility and whiz-bang cleverness for its own sake....

Signal K and the Sailboat

For nearly 50 years, our boats electronics systems have operated according to standards developed through the National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA). Today, our onboard electronics communicate using either the older NMEA 0183 or the current NMEA 2000 data-the digital language that our marine devices speak. Sadly, this is not the same language that our personal electronics or the wireless Internet speaks-leaving the door effectively closed to app developers who might want to create new apps based on that data.

An Experiment in Boosting Wi-Fi the DIY Way

In November 2010, Practical Sailor posted a Reader Workbench article written by subscriber Ed Mini of Mystic, Conn., on a do-it-yourself Wi-Fi booster/antenna assembled from parts ordered primarily from Data Alliance and Home Depot. The system did a good job of boosting the distance users could connect with onshore hotspots, and the cost was under $100, not counting labor. About a year later, PS tester Ron Dwelle decided to put together a similar system, but he used the components that commercial vendors use. Heres a rundown of his system, which has stood up well for three years.

Simple Tips for Maintaining Stainless Steel

When applying a paste cleaner, a toothbrush is useful for buffing tight spots and working into the pores of welds; follow by buffing with a cotton cloth. A green 3M scrubby pad helps for removing more aggressive stains. Continued rusting in welded areas might indicate a developing failure, requiring replacement. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water and mild soap when done buffing.