Friday 19 February 2010

Simrad New NSE Multi Function System for Sailboats

Simrad have launched their ultimate NSE (North Star Edition) Multi-function Display System.

As we have discussed in earlier blogs it is difficult to keep up with the technological advances being made in electronic navigational aids. One day you purchase the absolutely, completely up to date and latest system, and the next day you discover it has already been superceded by the next leap in techno wizardry! What happened to the good old days when life was simple and we just used the wind and our sails?! The best you can do is resign yourself to this phenomenon and purchase the best system that suits your needs and pocket at the time. You can thereafter drool at all the new developments as they arrive and then replace your system at some future time of your choosing and necessity.

The following is an extract from the .au website, sailing category:

Building on the Simrad NSE's combination of best-in-class radar, chartplotter and sonar technology, the new NSE 2.0 software puts users in complete control of a range of integrated functions, making it possible to control and monitor almost every system on the boat through a single user-friendly interface.

Taking control of autopilot functions is easier than ever. NSE 2.0 software combines the world's best performing autopilot system with the brilliant NSE displays, allowing users to combine charting, autopilot and vessel pages for unprecedented vessel control. Additional screens can be simply added where needed.

The new software also integrates NSE with Navico's impressive new StructureScanT sonar imaging technology, which delivers life-like imaging of underwater structures. StructureScan incorporates SideScan and DownScanT imagery. The addition of exclusive DownScan Overlay over traditional sonar adds a new dimension to fishfinding, clearly separating fish from structure.

Using innovative Czone digital switching technology, it is also now possible to control and monitor almost any system on the boat from an NSE display. Lights, bilge pumps and tank levels are among the functions that can be operated, monitored and adjusted at the touch of a button.

The ability to monitor and adjust fuel and power settings from the NSE unit allows users to moderate energy consumption and reduces the overall running costs.

The Simrad NSE series of multifunction displays is compatible with some of the most powerful innovations in marine technology, including the award-winning BR24 Broadband RadarT, the HD Digital Radar, the BSM-1 Broadband Sonar Module and the GS15 High-Speed 5Hz GPS antenna.

Simrad HD Digital Radars and the Broadband Radar now support True Motion Radar Display, so moving vessels can be instantly distinguished from fixed objects and land, which can be highly-reassuring in poor weather conditions. In addition, Broadband Radar near-range performance and usability has been optimised with the addition of High-Speed Antenna Rotation. With increased target update rates, early detection and tracking of high-speed radar targets is a given.

Simrad has also added the capacity to show MARPA targets on the chart screen and added floating VRMs (Variable Ring Markers) and EBLs (Electronic bearing Lines) for more effective radar plotting.

These impressive new software enhancements will be available in May for download from or by contacting your authorised Simrad dealer.

Extract and images courtesy

In addition this system includes AIS, so in its entirety it can supply you with your total electronic navigational requirements.

For another independent review go to

You can read more about navigating the oceans of our planet in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Sunday 14 February 2010

ARC Rally for Sailboat Voyage Planners to be a Record for 25th Anniversary

The annual ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to St.Lucia in the Caribbean is as popular as ever, and, with ever increasing numbers entering every year, a cap of 215 sailboats is being applied for this years' 25th Anniversary event. It starts in November and entries to date are 150 confirmed - so any of you cruisers contemplating joining this adventure voyage should move quickly now.

Having 'done the ARC' twice myself, the first time as crew in 1990 and then in 1995 in my own yacht I cannot stress enough the fantastic experience it is to get you started on your world cruising adventure.

The organisation is excellent, with many seminars to attend in Las Palmas before the start covering all aspects of passage making, safety at sea, equipment, weather plotting and courses on astro navigation, all of which are essential for the serious world cruiser.

With crews from that number of boats numbering many hundreds, you can imagine that the social scene is rather hectic as well - and so it is.

But above all of that is the wonderful support and camaraderie that is built up among various crews and lifelong friends made as a result - this is priceless. I can clearly recall a few boats (cheapskate skippers) who chose not to pay the entry fee (a few hundred dollars) but set sail at the same time riding on the coat tails of the ARC fleet arriving in St. Lucia and feeling very much the outsiders - too late for their regrets at that point - it was all over!

Another indelible recollection of mine was following the unbelievable chaos of the start with 150 boats jostling for position just to get over the line and away. Sailing into a beautiful tropical evening in the company of such a massive fleet is unforgettable. Then being on watch that first night out and seeing all those many many other night lights surrounding our boat in the dark, and waking the following morning to be greeted by a completely empty blue sea - not a sail in sight - that was when it struck me that this really was ocean cruising.

Here is an extract from announcing this years rally:

It's still nine months from departure date, and Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) 2010 registrations are flying along as World Cruising Club signs up the 150th entry.

Since its inception in 1986 thousands of cruising enthusiasts have enjoyed crossing the Atlantic with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). This year, the 25th edition of the ARC is no exception, with entries racing ahead of previous years. Already, with 9 months before the start of ARC 2010 on 21st November, organisers World Cruising Club have 150 confirmed entries. Due to space restrictions in Las Palmas marina at the start of the rally, ARC 2010 currently has an upper limit of 215 yachts, which is likely to be reached in April.

Commenting on the continuing popularity of the ARC, director of World Cruising Club, Andrew Bishop, said: 'The ARC is special and for many cruising sailors it is the 'must-do' event on their cruising calendar, whilst for others it provides the inspiration they need to help them achieve their ambitions to set off bluewater cruising.'

The 25th edition of the rally has also created significant interest, with a number of skippers who sailed in the first ARC already entered to sail in the 25th. Moonshadow, a Deerfoot 62, one of the original ARC 1986 yachts will also be back in 2010, though with a different owner, American sailor George Backhus.

Whilst the ARC does not start until November 21, World Cruising Club has a busy spring and summer programme, commencing with the popular Ocean Cruising Seminar in early March. It covers a wide range of subjects associated with the planning and preparation required for an Atlantic Circuit or round the world voyage. Lecturers have been chosen for their wealth of knowledge in their specialist fields. Special emphasis will be on the ARC and World ARC and what to expect in terms of weather and equipment issues.

Entries are still being accepted for World Cruising Club's summer events; Rally Portugal, a trans-Biscay cruising rally held in June, and ARC Europe, the 'return ARC' which crosses from Tortola via Bermuda and the Azores in May.

Further information about all World Cruising Club events at

About the ARC:
ARC 2010 will depart from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on Sunday 21 November.
The finish destination is Rodney Bay Marina in St Lucia, a distance of 2,700 nautical miles from Las Palmas and it's a passage that will take most of the yachts between 18 and 21 days.

Whilst fundamentally a fun rally for cruising yachts, the ARC does have a more serious Racing Division, run under the auspices of the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC). Yachts in the Racing Division are not permitted to use their engines for propulsion (unlike the cruisers), although use of autopilots is allowed.

Extract and route image courtesy

You can read much more about world ocean cruising and route planning in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

Tuesday 2 February 2010

Climatology of Global Ocean Winds (COGOW) Updated for Sailors Voyage Planning

COGOW is an extremely useful weather tool for cruising sailors planning their passages. It has been around for a number of years, but recently updated with all QuikSCAT satellite data up to and including December 2009.

This means that all data available on global winds and currents over a period of five years is factored in to any segment of the globe you wish to look at.

It is quite simple to use and you can find it by clicking on 'COGOW' on your browser. The homepage pops up as per the screenshot shown.

You then click on your area of interest and a transparent blue window highlights it.

Then by clicking on any position of that map a 'wind rose plot' for any area in the segment of interest to you, pops up and gives you the average wind strengths, direction and percentage of time they blow for any month of the year. This is quite a cool feature as the 'wind rose plot' pops up to the right of the image and then changes as you move your cursor around.

Here's what Lee Bruce of Oceanmet has to say about the updated programme:

When passage planning, one needs all the help one can get to choose the right time to go, and the right winds to depart.

The good news is that the excellent Climatology of Global Ocean Winds (COGOW) website, which is of crucial assistance when planning a passage, has just been updated.

ALL the years of available data have been added to make the results more accurate, and the months have been broken in half, to show better the transition between seasons.

For all sailors planning a passage, the more information you have the better, and here Lee Bruce, of OceanMet (a division of Tactical Weather LLC) tells you why certain sites can so much improve your planning:

Traditional climatology records are based on decades of data, and can be useful as long as we understand the limitations. Because the data are averaged over long periods, we can lose a feel for the variations that may occur. Extreme events are masked, so we don't know how bad it could be in a worst-case scenario.

The problem is compounded over vast ocean areas because-until recently-there has not been a reliable data collection process. Ship reports are sparse and tend to be clustered near traditional trade routes. Extreme events may go under-reported because the crew is busy dealing with the problem at hand, and does not have the opportunity to report conditions.

But for several years now, a product has been available that uses sensors on a satellite to measure the wind over open ocean surfaces. The system (reading near real-time data collected by NASA/JPL's SeaWinds Scatterometer aboard the QuikSCAT satellite) scans the oceans twice each day, as the satellite revolves around the earth from pole to pole. Due to the footprint of the sensor, there is a shifting data gap with each pass that is widest near the equator. But overall, the information gathered is very good, and is a tremendous advantage over any previous data-gathering method.

Two of my favorite web sites that use QuickSCAT data can be used to review overall wind regimes for a passage. You can check wind observations on a daily/weekly/monthly basis for a particular year, or averaged over five years for a particular month. Each site has its benefits, and I recommend using both for passage planning.

Oregon State University's site is the one that has just been upgraded. It now shows BI-monthly averages over all the years that these have been collected, and also presents a wind rose to show the wind distribution. Cruising sailors should have this site bookmarked to aid in route planning. The maps are great, but they also need to review the wind roses for the real story.

Extract courtesy Lee Bruce

Here is the URL of the site:

You can read much more about plotting and reading wind and weather patterns in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship 'Tere Moana' downloadable from my website