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Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly May 2012

The Good... Active Captain.  This site is of great benefit to the cruising captain.  There are first hand experiences from other cruisers on anchorages, marinas and other need to know information.  I could ramble on for days and still not convey how good the information is so I posted a review.

Tom Lochhaas of about.com.sailing here writes a review of 'Active Captain' a website that covers a range of valuable information that your electronic charting system does not provide: 

Tom Lochhaas of about.com.sailing here writes a review of 'Active Captain' a website that covers a range of valuable information that your electronic charting system does not provide: 

Of all the websites and apps providing cruising sailors and boaters with information about marinas, anchorages, and local features, ActiveCaptain is the best. 

All information is easily searchable and integrated with NOAA charts as well as street maps and satellite views to make trip planning easy on your computer or on your iPhone or iPad once underway. With over 100,000 boaters writing reviews and updating information, ActiveCaptain provides the most accurate and current data to make your cruising life easier and happier. 

1. Best online information and independent reviews of marinas and anchorages 
2. User-friendly, intuitive design makes it easy to find desired information 
3. Online searches are fast, with seamless zooming and scrolling of charts and maps 
4. Instantly updated information - always accurate and current 
5. Much better information than other online sites such as Marinas.com and Marinalife.com 

1. Some areas have light coverage and need more user reviews 
2. Less data than printed cruising guides for some anchorages and for facilities and attractions ashore 

*The Guidebook screen for any given location shows icons for information available for immediate access 
*Extensive information about marinas, anchorages, navigation, and hazards 
*Includes growing numbers of locales in Canada, the Caribbean, and other international areas 
*Data integrated in apps for smart devices and in popular navigation software for use underway 
*Website includes additional articles on cruising topics, such as use of mobile devices for navigation 
*Free registration provides newsletters on key cruising topics, such as protecting yourself against the risks of open wi-fi 

Guide Review: 
Cruising used to involve elaborate advance research and stocking the boat with expensive heaps of cruising guides providing information that was often already outdated upon publication. 

Just as chartplotters and electronic navigation over the last two decades replaced navigation by dead reckoning and the need to carry hundreds of expensive charts (except now as an essential backup), online resources have begun to replace printed cruising guides for essential information about marinas, anchorages, and other data needed by cruising boaters. In only a short time, ActiveCaptain has become the best online source of this information. 

The Interactive Cruising Guidebook is the heart and soul of ActiveCaptain. You locate your area of interest via base charts or maps or by a location name search. The chart/map/satellite view then shows information available according to color-coded markers for marinas, anchorages, local knowledge, and hazards - showing all or just those you choose. Just click for the details in pop-up windows. 

Marina and anchorage descriptions include both the essential data boaters need and user reviews and ratings that provide substantial additional information. Local knowledge and hazards information comes from multiple sources, including NOAA Coast Pilots, current Local Notices to Mariners, and boaters familiar with the area. Although this extensive database doesn't (yet) provide as much information about isolated areas and things to do ashore as in popular print guidebooks, it does provide virtually everything a boater needs for both advance planning and last-minute decisions while underway. 

The real strength behind ActiveCaptain is the participation of tens of thousands of boaters who take the time to submit reviews and update locale information. This 'crowd-sourced' data is verified by both the administrators and other boaters, who offer corrections when needed. 

While reviews do include some personal opinion, the sheer numbers of reviewers for most locations result in trustworthy information. Captain registration is free and offers benefits and free products for those who earn points by submitting reviews and updates - but the quality of the reviews suggests most captains share their knowledge from a love of cruising more than these incentives. 

Originally available only online, ActiveCaptain has been integrated into apps for the iPhone and iPad that are downloaded and provide the data even when offline while boating. With the Charts & Tides app, for instance, you can navigate in real-time on your iPhone and access the ActiveCaptain data directly from your live chart view. 

ActiveCaptain is similarly integrated in the MaxSea TimeZero & Coastal Explorer navigational software packages for those using a PC. Together, ActiveCaptain and its navigational partners are changing the way many boaters find their way around the water. 

ActiveCaptain's Interactive Cruising Guidebook has become a valuable resource for changing chart data such as buoys that have been moved, shoaling in formerly navigable water, etc. Information that can be very difficult to access in the Coast Guard's Local Notices to Mariners can be seen overlaid on the NOAA chart with an icon that brings up the detail. 

A yellow Hazards icon differentiates this info from other types, such as marinas, anchorages, etc. Boat captains can also add their own notes and comments on navigational hazards. This is a terrific free resource for those cruising unfamiliar waters. 

As I am starting a sailing cruise into Downeast Maine, I checked ActiveCaptain and discovered a particular channel I transited a decade ago is now choked by lobster pots. Since the boat I'm on has an unprotected prop and spade rudder, I think I'll follow the suggestions of the captains who recommend an alternate route through that area. This is a good example of online 'crowdsourcing' at its best. 

If you sail but don't yet know ActiveCaptain, well, you should! 

In summary with Active Captain being free and Charts and Tides only being $24.95 for each Gulf and East coast you can have all the information on your iPhone for $50.  This would give you access to the data base without needing connectivity!  Just update it before you go.

The Bad... Calcutta fishing gear.  I was lured into the Calcutta brand by marketing and packaging. I have always loved the black and yellow combination.  I think this was due to Body Gloves fleshy marketing in the old Skin Diver Magazines.  The skull and cross bones was the clincher.  With the cruising coming quickly I needed to make a commitment to some fishing gear.  This was the wrong commitment.  I'll start by saying that the high tech shirts have been as expected.  Sized correctly and the stitching has held up.  Now on to the remaining line.
First the 4 fillet knives, stone, apron and wrap just flat out suck!  The stone isn't tethered so a friend sent it to Davy Jones.  The zippers have lost their pull tabs and have broken.  The four knives are very prone to rust and I have gave3 of them away hoping someone with more patience can deal with them.  The apron is still in it's plastic on the way to the trash.
Second are the tools:  A pliers and cutter set that just keeps rusting daily.  If you go for more than a couple days without bathing them in WD-40 they lock up.  We both started out with a set and a spare but most of them have gone out as artificial reefs.  I also have a CNC set and the case is showing the fact that an eighty dollar pair of pliers has be sold with cheap non stainless rings and even cheaper retaining leash.

Third is the fishing gear  it tends to rust much faster than the Yo-Zuri and Williams stuff!  Much faster!  I included a pic of two rod tethers, one from BPS and one Calcutta.  The BPS is still color fast and the stainless caribiner is still working unlike the aluminum one from Calcutta.
Fourth the tackle backpacks are useless as a backpack!  The material rips at the seams either letting go of the zipper or opening to the next compartment inside the pack. We actually saw the Calcutta rep in Marathon and told him his packs sucked but as expected he didn't care!
Fifth is their web site was almost always having issues when I was shopping.  I think it is better now.

The Ugly... Davis Rocker Stoppers.   I purchased these last year when I was new to the boat.   It was a big expense at the time (7*$15.49=$108.43 plus 40 feet of 3/8 line plus two 5 pound weights which all together broke $150.00).  I have used them in several situations ranging from no tide to fast tides.  From multiple boat wakes to wrap around waves I have not found an instance that they were worth the cost.  I did find out they are great tide catchers...meaning they will help to point the boat into the tide.  This is often counter productive to catching the cooling breeze or even worse, being side saddle to the on coming waves.  I currently have 3 in deep storage and 4 on the coach roof waiting for someone to ask "would you like to sell those?"  Problem is they are cheap plastic and have become full of cracks over the last year.  I may just end up tossing them out as they take up too much space.   I would trade all 7 and the line for a couple of cheeseburgers in paradise.  I may find a good use for them yet.


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