Saturday, June 2, 2018

Aqua Map Tips - Make the Charts Look the Way You Want

Aqua Map Marine was the first app with support for the new Garmin Active Captain API and many are switching over. It can function as a full-time chartplotter but some have asked for help on personalizing the map display so I thought I would write a short guide. The app is available for both Apple and Android products with the Apple products fully supporting Active Captain and the Android version not far behind (June). This article will focus on getting the charts to look the way you want.

When Aqua Map is first loaded, you have the choice of either Colorful or Standard map style. In Colorful, the colors are very saturated but in Standard, the colors are not as bright. Most in the US prefer the Standard display but you can choose either. I've also included screenshots of Garmin Bluechart Mobile since it was a favorite of many cruisers for the chart display. The charts are based on NOAA ENC digital charts and are updated every three months at no further charge for the US at a one-time payment of $20 (lifetime updates).

Let's compare the map styles. First up is Aqua Map with the map set at "Colorful." It's popular in Europe I hear but it's a little too bright for me.

Next up is the "Standard" setting, more along the lines of what I'm used to.

Finally, the "Standard" setting with 11 ft "Safety Depth". If you stay in the white, you'll have at least 11 ft of depth. This is Ann's favorite setting. She likes the clear display of where we spend most of our time traveling, in waters deeper than 11 ft. Note the display of tides and currents on the chart.

Let's compare the last Aqua Map style selection with a popular format from Garmin Bluechart Mobile.

They have a similar look when the Aqua Map selection is on "Standard" with 11 ft safety depth. They both use the same Active Captain symbols but the buoy numbers on Aqua Map are easier to read and you'll notice that the tide and current symbols are not shown at this magnification.

We will now take a higher detail look at the exit from Charleston Harbor to Isle of Palms. First up, "Colorful" from Aqua Map.

Next up is the Standard version of the map display. There is a different shade of blue for every 6 ft of depth.

Finally, the Aqua Map display with the safety depth set at 11 ft. This looks very similar the Garmin Bluechart Mobile display of the same area. At this higher zoom level, the tide icons show the tide level and whether it's increasing or decreasing. The current icon shows the speed of the current, the direction and whether it's increasing or decreasing. Tapping on one of the icons brings up more information and the ability to vary the time.

Here's the Garmin Bluechart Mobile display.

I've sent the last 1200 miles using Aqua Map at the helm of Fleetwing. I like the change of blue tint for every 6 ft of depth but Ann likes the safety depth set at 11 ft (the last of the three Aqua Map examples in each group of charts). So most of the time, the safety depth is set at 11 ft and as long as you stay in the "white" of the charts, you have no worries about depth (except of course at famous shallow areas where the depths change from day to day). Here's a screenshot of the settings page for the 11 ft safety depth.

While we're at it, let's cover the other settings. You can download a satellite image overlay if you have internet access with a slider control on the transparency of the overlay. First, set the "Online satellite images" to On.

Here's the first overlap with the satellite image confined to just land. The area in the graphic is the exit from Charleston Harbor to the Isle of Palms.

The transparency is set to 1/2. Some satellite detail can be seen on the water. It's an easy setting to see both the chart and the satellite image so you can correlate the two.

Here's the satellite overlay with no transparency. It's useful in seeing the layout of a marina and moorings. Note how the slider was used to vary the transparency to your liking.

You can vary the safety depth to your tastes to get the chart to look the way you want. In future articles, I cover:
- Getting the most out of the advanced tides and currents capabilities of Aqua Map. You can vary the time for a group of tides and current stations with one slider which is great for seeing the ebb and flow of tides up Delaware Bay.
- Enter the rate of fuel usage and Aqua Map will tell you how much fuel a route will consume.
- How to easily download GPX routes and export them too. This is very handy for downloading GPX routes from my blog site for shallow areas.
- How to create and edit a route with just finger touches on Aqua Map. I plan my next day's route in about 5 minutes using the routing tool in Aqua Map.

Stay tuned, Aqua Map is going to add some exciting enhancements over the next few months.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Back at Poughkeepsie YC - That's All Folks!

The rising moon at Atlantic Highlands
I went up top last night to check on the anchor and found the rising moon so I tried a shot with my Canon point and shoot. It was a beautiful night and calm too. It was a good thing since when we looked at the tides, we saw that it would be a flood tide in the morning. With an early morning (5:00 am, off the anchor by 6:00 am) it was possible to get all the way to PYC, 90 miles north. As I've related in the past, you can ride a flood tide if you can maintain 7 kts which is just what we did. We caught the tide at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and it was with us all the way north until we were within 5 miles of PYC.

West Point on the Hudson River is always an impressive sight
However, going through New York Harbor was interesting. We had a dense fog and there were lots of big boats moving around. What saved the day was AIS. I could see all the big boats and ferries (there are a LOT of ferries) complete with a vector of where each one would be in 10 minutes. Comparing that vector to a similar one projected out from my bow on the screen, I could tell if there was any chance of a meeting. We had radar too but AIS is much better. The radar was useful for small boats but almost all the sailboats and cruisers over 30 ft broadcast AIS. I looked at the radar but the AIS screen told the real story.

The Clearwater sailing on the Hudson. 
The fog cleared and the sun came out, a great welcome back to PYC. We really have mixed feeling about leaving the boat. It's been our home for 9 months of the year. Our house in Lagrangeville is really just our temporary home, our real home is on Fleetwing.

Our two resident eagles at our club
Now it's a whirlwind of doctor appointments, vet visits for Hoolie, getting a new dinghy, visits with family, PYC functions, a two week cruise with our grandkids on Long Island Sound, one week with all families at Ocean City, hauling Fleetwing for the prep for returning to the ICW in September, and writing the 2018 edition of my ICW Cruising Guide. It's going to be a busy, busy, busy time. I'm sure I left out a few things.

Fleetwing needs a cleaning but we're back safe and sound
This entry concludes the blog for my ICW trip in the spring of 2018. Mark your calendars for a resumption of the blog on September 15 for our next trip down the coast to Key West. There will probably be a few entries here and there, especially when we sail to Long Island Sound with four grandkids so you might want to check in from time to time. Otherwise, I'll see you in September. I hope you enjoyed the blog, I sure did in writing it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Atlantic Highlands - at anchor

Our dinghy, worn out by a Brittany
Today was predicted to be a perfect day to go north to the Atlantic Highlands. Every weather app agreed that it was going to be a good day and for once every app was right! What wind there was came out of the south at around 10 kts for most of the trip but it was a little sloppy from the swells hitting the boat broadside when there was very little wind to steady the deck. We made the trip in 11 hours, 15 minutes.

It's a nice, protective anchorage, recommended
We need a new dinghy. The AB marine dinghy we have is 16 years old! Hoolie has worn off all the Hypalon coating on his side of the dinghy. Now it's down to fabric and that's starting to spring multiple leaks from his claws as he excitedly leaps over the side for land. It's tough toning a Brittany down so he calmly leaves his dinghy - he all excitement as he comes to a sandy beach or dock. New dinghies have shot up in price. What used to cost $1800 is now $4500, such is inflation. With that, we're now looking for a used dinghy but those are few and far between but that's our assignment for the next month. We really do need a reliable dinghy for Hoolie.

Max flood tide under the Narrows is around 8:30 AM which provides us with the opportunity to ride the flood tide all the way to PYC. You can ride a flood tide but you can't ride an ebb tide. The peak flood tide moves up the river so it's in the direction you're going which is not the case if you're going down the river. So with the tide in our favor, we hope to reach PYC with the tide still behind us with a plus 1 to 2 kts of current. That makes a big difference for sailboat what only moves at 7 kts. It will involve an early morning departure, not one of Ann's favorites things but necessary to catch the tide this time around.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Atlantic City - Last Day at a dock

As always at Atlantic City, the boats just keep getting bigger and bigger
The winds subsided and, hopefully, the seas calmed. The high here today was only 73 and then only for a few brief moments when the sun forgot it was supposed to be cloudy all day. We thought we were bringing the southern warmth up north with us but it left us at Atlantic City.

I completed Rounds 2 and 3 of the Weather App Shootout but it's up to Waterway Guide when they will be published. It's rather frightening how tenuous the apps' grasp on reality is. Some are really no good at all but some are much better. I will do Round 4 based on our Delaware Bay experience and Round 5 based on Tuesday's ride up the Jersey shore.

The Golden Nugget was as crowded as I've ever seen it, but then it was Memorial Day weekend
All the apps and NOAA agree that Tuesday is a perfect day to return to NY along the New Jersey shore. That alone should give you pause. Nothing is every that open and shut. I'm sure we in for a few surprises along the way but barring a major about-face overnight, we're leaving at first light Tuesday morning, probably around 6:00 am. The outlook for Wednesday is favorable to catch the flood tide at the Narrows and ride it all the way up the river to our home, the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Atlantic City - At the Golden Nugget docks

The Golden Nugget is nothing if not full of glitter
The forecast was for a lazy ride north to Atlantic City with winds maxing out at 10 kt behind us all the way. You all must know the outcome since I'm mentioning this. All was well for the first couple of hours then a rain storm came through and everything changed. The south wind of 10 kts became a north wind (on the nose!) of 15 kts! Gradually the wind increased and by the time we were docked safely, it had risen to 27 kts (in the marina!) That sounds like another Weather App Shootout article for Waterway Guide, I'm behind in my writing by three articles. I'll work on them Monday since it's a layover day waiting for weather.

This is in the marina! One wonders the strength outside
We celebrated getting past Cape May with a dinner out at the Charthouse Restaurant in the Golden Nugget. Since we seem to make a habit of passing through Atlantic City on the Memorial Day weekend, the place was packed - and the rates were higher than normal for the docks too. The meal was good and now we're back in our warm boat. The temps have dropped to below 60l in a couple of hours and I guess we've finally run out of warm weather. It was 85 yesterday in Cape May.

Ann loves Grand Marnier desserts, she got her wish
All the apps agree that Tuesday is a good day to travel north along the New Jersey coast. We hope they are right. It always seems that the best weather is a day away. Once that day arrives, it somehow turns out not to be what was predicted, at least by most of the apps (but not all...) Stay tuned for the weather shootout articles.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Utsch's at Cape May - at a dock, last day

They are installing new bulkheads and in the meantime, there are no height boards.
I bought Ann the 2018 iPad which has the same chip as the more expensive iPad Pro but only costs $325 for the least expensive model with 32 GB of storage. However, it can use the Apple pencil and she tried touching up several photos today. Ann paints in pastels but she still enjoys modifying photos with the pencil on her iPad. Welcome to the digital age!

It seems like the middle of summer here with temps in the high 80's. I hiked over to the nearest convenience store to pick up some small items and it felt like a heat wave. I guess we didn't wait too long after all to come north. We see that there's a storm brewing in the Gulf and we would like to get home before that unleases rain and wind along the coast.

Utsch's Marina is a popular place to get props repaired from hitting things in the water
With that in mind, we are leaving Utsch's on Sunday for Atlantic City with the hope that we have good enough weather on Monday for the trip north. I'll take Ann out to the Charthouse at the Golden Nugget Sunday night to celebrate our moving north (we'll celebrate anything...) I have enough data for two more rounds of the Weather App Shootout and I'll get another round of data when we finally move north from Atlantic City. The only problem is finding the time to put all the articles together. We will take a last look at the forecasts Sunday morning and then it's decision time.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Utsch's Marina at Cape May - at a dock

A large convoy of Loopers came in after we arrived
We were afraid of missing low tide at the two 55 ft bridges in the Cape May Canal so we left early at 5:45 am. That was really, really early for us. The sun was rising as we left the anchorage. Last night was not a quiet night. The current runs through there at 2 to 3 kts which is no problem for holding for us but it's noisy and the boat swings from side to side. The main problem with the anchorage is the depth, it's too deep. Once you round the corner, the bottom drops out and the farther in you go, the deeper it gets, all the way down to 50 ft! You could wonder how in the world such a place could exist behind an island but it does. We anchored on the side before going in all the way at 25 ft, deep enough. We have a chain-nylon rode combination and with that depth, the nylon slips in the wildcat which requires pulling the nylon up by hand until the chain is engaged. A really fun exercise in 2 kts of current and a little wind. I can't recommend the anchorage and we only took it because of Hoolie relief nearby.

The docks are floating but the slips are shallow
For once, the forecast was pretty good with winds out of the west around 10 kts so they were on the beam as we headed south. In fact, we made too good a time and got to the bridges too early so I had to idle forward for a while to let the dropping tide catch up. They are redoing the bulkheads by both bridges so there were no height gauges. We had gone through the canal so many times that we didn't need them by just paying attention to the tides. We passed under both bridges without incident.

On the approach to Utsch's, we plowed mud at low tide. We saw the depth meter bottom out at 4.4 ft (we draw 4 ft, 9 in.) so we just powered through the mud. The marina itself was fine at around 8 ft MLW. However, we once again bottomed out at the fuel dock. Ann got us in as far as the depths would allow and we filled up.

The same thing happened again at our slip for the night. At low tide, we are stuck in the mud. Now it's time to start looking at weather reports for a window to reach the Atlantic Highlands. That will be tomorrow's project and perhaps another round for the Weather App Shootout1