Panbo

ActiveCaptain.com, the POI bomb!

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 26, 2007

ActiveCaptain cPanbo small

My column about the sorry state of marine Points of Interest (POI) info is now out in the February issue of Power and Motoryacht (and now online). At the end of it I make note of a cool new Web service that was about to go live and that could go a long way toward solving the POI problem. Well, ActiveCaptain.com is really here, and it’s even better than the alpha version suggested. The site was created by the talented Jeff and Karen Siegel, and its goal is to let all of us contribute details of marina services and give them ratings. Other useful POIs, like anchorages, will be possible soon. The Web interface, using Yahoo maps and sat photos, is wicked slick, and totally free. And it will remain free, as the Siegel’s business plan is to develop and sell software that will enable mobile devices like cell phones to easily access ActiveCaptain, while leaving regular Web access free, even of advertising, so that hopefully a critical mass of “captains” will contribute to it. Smart!
   But there is an ironic twist to this story. My secondary objective with the POI column was to promote my home harbor of Camden, Maine, which has a largely undeserved reputation as a tough place to find a good and reasonable berth. Well, wouldn’t you know it, Jeff Siegel himself was the first person to rate a certain Camden marina and apparently it’s the only negative one he’s written so far! But that’s how it works when when conversations gets real. I’ve already detailed and rated Camden marinas myself (full size screen shot here), and am confident that even what’s there now, week one of ActiveCaptain.com, is more accurate than what you’ll find on any electronic chart or in any guide book. Now there’s probably another dreary winter weekend ahead, so take some time to register at ActiveCaptain and add your two cents about Camden or any other harbor you’re familiar with. The more, the better.

PS, 1/27:  Oy, some of the cynics at rec.boats.electronics and rec.boats.cruising have gone paranoid about how ActiveCaptain’s sinister purpose is to “harvest” e-mail addresses. Ignore them! I am absolutely confident that the Siegels will not misuse anyone’s e-mail. By the way, much as I appreciate those newsgroups, they certainly can be sources of misinformation. Interestingly, the ringleader of this particular nonsense is a regular poster/windbag named “Larry”, whose asinine rants about NMEA 2000 already made Panbo. Always ignore Larry! 

PS, 1/28: Oy again; the righteous moderators at SailNet even axed a simple announcement of ActiveCaptain. Isn’t it ironic that if the Siegles had included an obvious revenue source like Google ads on the site, these paranoids would probably be excited about it? Haven’t they noticed business models that include a significant ad-free element, like, say, GoogleEarth?

Comments

that is a really neat website! Thanks Ben! My only complaint: it would be nice if it could somehow export a POI file to upload to a GPS. I will definitely start using this website when I go cruising!

Posted by: Bob Mueller at January 27, 2007 9:54 AM | Reply

I know Jeff through a trawlerfest, and the Trawlers and Trawlering list and can also vouch for him and his ethics. I can not believe that someone was accusing him of harvesting emails. Also, as one of the Alpha testers I can't wait until some of the other features start to get rolled in that he talked about. Already a great product will get much better.

Posted by: bigjohn at January 27, 2007 8:50 PM | Reply

This is excellent! I already contributed a correction and a fuel dock. If this reaches critical mass an incredible amount of data can be collected in short order.

I certainly hope this will not be limited to US ports, since those are the best documented already. What we really need more info about are foreign ports.

Posted by: Russ at January 28, 2007 12:39 AM | Reply

I was one of the alpha testers and it never occurred to me that he might be harvesting emails. And, even if he is, (which he isn't) who cares? Don't we all have spam blockers anyway?

The paranoid miss out on so many good things.

Posted by: kirwood dirby at January 28, 2007 9:43 AM | Reply

Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time. There are a few other cruising guides that are online (their addresses escape me at the moment) with similar objectives to ActiveCaptain, and I think it will be a great thing to watch these services mature and become indispensable. I am a big fan of good cruising guides, even really old ones, but in many cases I have found that some authors have been a little bit too careful when describing certain harbors for fear of offending the locals. Having access to unvarnished cruising experience online should bring things into balance nicely.

Posted by: Eliboat at January 29, 2007 9:02 AM | Reply

I am very impressed, and have become a quick fan and frequent contributor.

I can see how active captain is going to quickly put an end to me shelling out $100+ a season for updated marine facility guides which contain mostly outdated information.

I am a software company owner, to impress me is saying a lot. This web-site is done very well in every respect. Especially in that it is very easy to be a contributor. Click and grab a map to get to your area of interest, zoom in, click on facilities that already exist, and see recently updated information and reviews.

Want to enter your own information, it is really simple. See a mistake someone else made, that is simple to fix as well. Suddenly we are all editors of an on-line pilot guide. I am going to suggest to the authors that they create a category for "notice to mariners", and maybe people in each local community could take responsibility for reading and posting them in active captain so we can have them appear in on active captains view of google earth!

Some things I like about active captain:
- When other people make an entry that is wrong, you can change it, everyone is an editor and the accuracy and relevance of the information goes way up! The marina owners are going to hate this � ask Microsoft, who is unhappy with their Wikipedia entry, and cannot get their view of themselves into the Wiki database to stick, because the community controls it. Likewise if a Marina or local restaurant provides high prices or poor service, it will be on-line for all to see, if they improve things, the same.
- Support � I have been very happy with the support I received over the last two weeks. Granted virtually nobody needs to get support, everything is pretty self explanatory, but as I tried to push the limits of the web-site I found some inconsequential things (e.g. in an anchorage suppose to be depth, or a comment), I got responses the same or next day. This is far above the call of duty.

Enhance your marine experience, save a tree, and get honest information about your destination, and go to www.activecaptain.com and be an editor to what has unarguably established itself in two short weeks, the ultimate on-line marine guide that is open to all of us being the editors!

Posted by: b393capt at February 1, 2007 6:58 PM | Reply

Hello Blog Master - Have you seen the site where boaters can shop and compare real-time prices at fuel docks in the US & Caribbean? (FL, Bahamas & Carib have real time prices now, and more states will come on as the season opens). Info is free w/Basic Membership (aka, registration) and advanced services are avial through premium membership. Please check it out - we'd love to know what you think. http://marinefuel.com

Posted by: Christine McKenna at March 5, 2010 12:11 PM | Reply

tried marinefuel.com. We have a halfway decent connection here at Boqueron, but it was like trtying to load cold molasses. finally gave up.

Active captain is better, but still has this problem. sites are mostly useful to ditch-crawlers who have high bandwidth connections, not to serious cruisers.

Michael

Posted by: Michael Porter at March 6, 2010 7:59 AM | Reply

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