Tuesday, 30 April 2013

AIS Boat Beacon, Marine Traffic and Shipfinder Smartphone apps for Cruising Sailors, Part Two

Last week we looked at the usefulness of AIS (Automatic Identification System) apps for smartphones. The smartphone has become such a ubiquitous tool in our everyday lives it is not any wonder that a rash of apps to assist with navigation of a sailing vessel should arrive on the scene.
Marine Traffic iPhone sample window

Once again we have to caution, as the suppliers of these apps are quick to do, is that they are not navigation systems in themselves, but they can assist with navigation of your much smaller sailing vessel when in proximity of much larger commercial shipping. 

And for such information to be contained in a portable device that can be slipped in and out of a pocket with simplicity, they definitely serve a useful purpose and no doubt more sophisticated versions will become available in the future. 

Cost wise, either free or a few dollars, ($9.99 is the most expensive), they are a very modest investment when compared to the price of a full chart plotting/AIS system. I stress again though, they are in no way to be considered as a substitute for a AIS installation.

There appear to be three main contenders at present and they are:

Boat Beacon:Android and iPhone: http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/iphone.aspx  

Marine Traffic:Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.marinetraffic.android&hl=en

                         iPhone: http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/iphone.aspx       

Shipfinder: Android and iPhone: http://shipfinder.co/about/
Marine Traffic iPhone sample window

Shipfinder and Marine Traffic have free versions and Boat Beacon is the price mentoned above.

Marine Traffic app for example is the same content whichever one you choose except the free version contains ads. 

For more detailed look at the three systems, Tom Lochhaas, sailing editor has posted his appraisal of the three apps and you can find this at:

http://sailing.about.com/od/SailingApps/ss/Comparing-Ais-Boating-Apps-Ship-Finder-Marine-Traffic-Boat-Beacon.htm

Check out the websites for yourself to see which one suits your purposes the best. 

These are great apps to have in your pocket to check what shipping is occupying the same area of water you are, what size they are and what course they are on - and could certainly assist in avoiding a possible collision course incident.

However, apart from the 'NOT FOR NAVIGATION' caution we should also note that smartphones as we know, are very attention getting and good at making us 'look in', it is well to remember the old adage that there is NO substitute for a good pair of eyes keeping a sharp 'look out'!  

You can read much more about navigation when cruising on passage in my ebook 'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' downloadable from my website http://www.sailboat2adventure.com/ 

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