Google Latitude disappoints

Google Maps We went out on Te Moana yesterday to check out the Sydney to Gold Coast fleet as they passed Broken Bay. It was a gorgeous day apart from the fact that there was no wind. So we parked ourselves near the race rhumb line, killed the Volvos and just waited for the fleet to crawl towards us.

I kept myself entertained playing with various yacht tracking technologies. I’m eagerly awaiting the day when we can use ‘off the shelf’ economical systems to track yachts, rather than clunky, expensive satellite transponders or cheap but error prone manual systems.

Every since the 2nd generation iPhone was launched last year, users can determine their location through the built-in GPS (the blue dot marks our position off the coast on the Google Maps iPhone display),

Recently, Google has been promoting its “Latitude” service, where you can share your location with your friends. This works by allowing your phone to transmit its location to the Google service, but…

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Tracking your boat just got even easier

skiprlogo.pngWe’ve been tracking yachts on this site for almost 4 years. Over the coming year, we’re expecting to introduce more ways to conveniently track your boat. Most of those features assume internet access while at sea. But we’re not forgetting internet deprived boats. From today, we’re starting a trial allowing users to submit position reports by mobile phone. You’ll still have to register your boat as per usual (here’s how), but to submit a position report, you can send us a SMS text message in the following format:

date time latitude longitude comment

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Introduction to AIS

AISboatinfo.pngAIS stands for Automatic Identification System, a marine system which identifies a ship to others in its immediate vicinity. It does that by continually  transmitting a ship’s position, course and call sign on dedicated VHF radio channels. 

The information of adjacent ships is picked up by the receiver section of an AIS transponder (or dedicated AIS receiver) and can conveniently be displayed on a chart plotter or other display device. The system has been mandatory on commercial shipping (over 300 ton) since 2004. In recent years,a version (AIS class B) has become available for leisure craft and other non-SOLAS vessels.
When venturing into major shipping lanes or passing busy ports, it ranks as essential safety equipment for cruising boats. With lower cost class B equipment, it is now practical to equip cruising yachts and fishing boats with AIS transponders. That will be invaluable when visibility is poor and at night. And, as adoption increases, there is a real opportunity for wider applications such as keeping track of a cruising boat by family and friends through the use of repeater stations and tracking websites like Marine Traffic
Rather than explain AIS in all its intricacies here are some links which describe most aspects of AIS.
  • This PDF by Digital Yacht  has an excellent overview of AIS
  • The Wikipedia entry for AIS describes much of the detail, although it is a bit “light on” regarding Class B systems for recreational vessels.
  • The US Coast Guard has an excellent set of AIS pages explaining most aspects of the system.
  • Bosun’s Mate provides a concise technical description.