Email at Sea

Thunderbird emailIn recent years, it has become pretty easy to enjoy full fledged Internet access on boats. Much of the coastline is covered by mobile broadband and most of us have learnt to take advantage of that in coastal waters. Dedicated wireless broadband “dongles” are economical to use or we can take advantage of the data-plans which are included with modern smart phones.

Further offshore or on a cruise to the islands, the options narrow. While various companies offer dedicated internet access via Satellite Transceivers, their cost is a barrier to most of us, particularly for casual cruisers.

Thankfully, there have long been economical options for email at sea. Here, we’ll look at a two such solutions, using HF radio and Satellite telephones. And with the introduction of Skipr Plus, it is now possible to  report a position on the Skipr system with just email access. Continue reading “Email at Sea”

Tweeting all the way home

Nick Jaffe Nick Jaffe just cleared customs in Coffs Harbour after a 2 year solo sail from Europe. Apart from being an accomplished sailor, Nick also worked out how to make the Internet work for him along the way.

And not just by getting regular weather reports via a Satellite…

Check out his Website, Blog, his Flickr photostream, his Video and his Tweets. And of course, there is a tracking page.Well done, Nick!

I guess it had to be a 27 year old to show us how it’s done…

Sailing with an iPhone

Regulars will know that I’m a fan of the iPhone at sea. Even without specific iPhone apps, the ability to adequately browse standard websites make so much sailing related information available at sea and with the built-in GPS (and now a compass), the iPhone is a great backup to other systems on a boat. And it makes phone calls as well…

Panbo, “the Marine Electronics Weblog” (an excellent source of marine geek news) just published a survey of current iPhone apps which extends the functionality of an iPhone on board even more. But wait….can you get Australian mapping for all these nifty chart plotting apps? Not likely.
You see, there is no copyright on US charts, as the US statutes prevent their Government claiming copyright on works which were created by Government employees. That’s why software makers can include (raster) charts at no charge.
I think you could make a good case for abolishing copyright on Australian Hydrographic charts.  Having free raster charts available  would encourage more boaters to have up to date charts and encourage the use of low end systems such as those in the survey above as standby systems and on small craft. How about it, Kevin?
And Caroline, next time you talk to Mike Prince at the Australian Hydrographic Office, ask them why they don’t freely license Australian charts which we, in effect, have already paid for through our taxes.

South Pacific Cruising Communications

by David McKay

[Feb 2009 -This is an updated version of of the item originally published in November 2008]

Andrea and I have just completed a six month cruise through the south west Pacific Ocean in “Diomedea”, our 48 foot steel Van de Stadt. We sailed from Sydney to New Zealand and then onto Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia as part of the Island Cruising Association Pacific Circuit rally. We returned to Australia. During that time we were able to use a variety of communication mediums to keep in touch with those nearby and those far away.

Radio and Satphone

We maintained a blog, which was created using either email or internet. About 99% of the time it was done by email as internet access was very infrequent.

Email entries can be done anywhere and anytime so long as you have either HF/SSB radio with Pactor modem and computer, or, as we did, Iridium satellite phone and computer. One can upload text easily via email but pictures are much slower and more expensive on the satphone. We found the Iridium to be excellent.

We used two ISP’s for email: Sailmail and UUPlus. The former was good to start with but it became increasingly difficult to maintain connections as time went on. The latter was very reliable. The Iridium phone was used extensively to obtain weather information, mostly in the form of GRIB files but also in text forecasts in various countries. Of course, regular emails were sent and received. Occasional voice calls were done as well.(One can also take the phone into the liferaft as the occasion demands.)

Continue reading “South Pacific Cruising Communications”

Keeping up with cruising sites

email.jpgThe observant among visitors to this site will have seen the email subscription option in the right hand column.

Every day the system sends an email which lists newly posted items on a number of relevant Australian cruising sites. It makes for a very convenient way of keeping up with local cruising news.

If you know of other sites which should be included, leave a comment with the site details.

Here are the sites currently “monitored”:

as well as the following weblogs of Cruising boats and their owners

For those “in the know”, this is a “mashup” of Feedburner‘s email subscription service, the Planet aggregator and the sites listed above which all provide”feeds”.

Tracking boats with Google Maps

It’s been a two years since I built the “Where is” map service to allow others to follow along, when I was a crew member on Belage, sailing to Hobart. Since then, Google has made it much easier for mere mortals to mark up a map and sharing it with others. Also, the resolution of satellite imaging on Google has much improved over that time.

So here is a short tutorial showing how simple it is to build your own “Where is My Boat” page. The only thing you’ll need is a Google login (a Gmail account), which is easy to get and free.

Step 1

Go to and click on My Maps


Continue reading “Tracking boats with Google Maps”