In preparation for moving the new sailboat on May 20th, I purchased some handheld electronics to help with the navigation and passing the time. Before departing Jacksonville for the final time I’ll have installed a full boat-wired electronics suite. But I’m still taking this 5-day trip seriously and wanted to make sure the electronics side of things was good to go (so I could focus on any issues as they may arrive. So this is how we’ll be rigged for the trip:
Garmin Inreach Satellite Location Device
In the past, these were just satellite tracking devices with a built-in SOS notification system. Really simple and limited on features, but nice because you weren’t reliant on cell phone towers. The new devices really have a ton of features. Besides having a GPS mapping system and SOS messaging system (hit the SOS button and a message with GPS coordinates are sent to rescue services), you also have the ability to send short text messages/emails which automatically contain your GPS coordinates. The keyboard on the device is really clunky (small screen and have to “arrow right” through a keyboard) so you can either build a series of pre-made messages or using Bluetooth you can use a mobile device (phone or tablet) to type in messages. Kinda dorky but you can also post to twitter or facebook if you want.
Also, Garmin provides a shareable map page with your tracking on it. I’ve set this page up here on the website. I’ve been watching a couple of travelers like this and it’s really interesting to log in each morning and see where they are on their passage.
I think a device like this is a must for anyone doing an offshore passage. While I’m a big fan of unplugging from the wired world, it’s nice to be able to shoot off a quick message to let people back home that all is good to go. Plus I’ve seen a lot of postings on message boards and mailing lists from people that are worried about people overdue only to find out they just had to stop somewhere isolated to wait out weather or do a quick repair.
Fiios X3 MP3 Player
I’ve amassed almost 300GB of music files broken into 3 genres. It’s been hard to locate an MP3 player with an aux out-line to plug into the radio that could handle that much music. The Fiios X3 takes 128GB mini-SD cards. So I’ve gotten the 3 genres broken down onto 3 cards and we’re set for music… for months.
Garmin 78sc GPS Device
I had bought this device earlier to use. It’s nice enough but the screen is small and going through the Florida Keys (I’ve changed my route to stop by Key West) I’ll need to see more details so I’ve made this my backup device (triple redundancy in place, 1-Tablet, 2-78sc, 3-Satellite Tracker). One feature that it has that is nice, is an Anchor Alarm. You set the allowable distance to move and an alarm will go off if the boat moves past that circle. This will allow for minor changes in boat position for wind and tides, but let you know if the sailboat has gone walk-about. You can adjust the distance for the alarm, so you can be more sensitive in tight anchorages and have fewer false alarms in larger anchorages.
Nexus 10 Tablet
I bought a refurbished Nexus tablet to serve as the primary navigation device.
I’m using the Navionics navigation app to use on the table with the maps for US and Caribbean. This is a really nice feature loaded application. Beyond displaying digital maps at any scale and tracking your route, this application will also build routes for you. You input your boat details such as the draft, cruising speed, and fuel consumption. Enter the starting and end points and it will route you around land, shallow waters and obstructions. The final output will show your travel time, fuel consumption, highlight any marginally safe areas, and nearby facilities to your destination. The only feature I wish it had was the ability to import waypoints (as you’ll see in the next section about PredictWind.
I’m using the Standard Version (there are 2 versions below this and one above) of Predict Wind as my weather planning tool. It offers weather predictions based on 3 different weathering models in a ton of different formats (maps, grids etc). It also has a routing tool based on winds which are nice for sailors. You enter the starting and end points along with a date/time. It will figure out a route based on each weather model showing tacks to handle the winds. The router has a little bit of difficult of time making routes with lots of land decisions between points. But it provides you a table of waypoints that you can input into your navigation system (which is why Navionics needs an import function) and then fine tune for entry into bays and anchorages.