Panbo

ActiveCaptain route sharing: dangerous, useful, or perfection?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Nov 26, 2011
ActiveCaptain_route_share_cPanbo.jpg

When I first heard about ActiveCaptain's plan to enable route sharing amongst it users, it was via a group email from a very experienced bluewater cruiser "in absolute shock that a boat owner/skipper navigating a boat through unfamiliar waters would use somebody else's waypoints." I posted the whole note for discussion in the Forum, but only AC developer Jeff Siegel and I participated. Well, now route sharing is fully enabled at the ActiveCaptain site, as illustrated in the screen shot collage above, and I still don't understand why anyone would object, particularly given AC's careful implementation...

What you can see in the top image is how I searched a particular area of midcoast Maine for available routes by chart view and "start/end" -- there are several other search methods -- and then chose to display one called "Bath to Boothbay Harbor Inside."  I also chose to see the Details box, and I zoomed in to check the work of the creator. In fact, I made this tricky passage many times in my youth -- even in a 35-foot schooner without auxiliary power, as I once bragged about in an entry citing the strong currents thereabouts -- and I could see that Ron de Moraes had paid close attention to the nav aids and the dangers. Then I right clicked on the route so I could copy it to my own folder (My Card), and that's when I got that blue-background Conditions warning. I thoroughly agree; one does not copy routes without taking responsibility for the consequences.
  I also experimented with importing one of my own routes into AC for sharing, and that's when I discovered a fairly significant limitation. I like to name waypoints in a useful way, especially when using a PC charting program where that's relatively easy work. AC, however strips those names out. There may be a technical explanation for this limitation, but I did notice recently that EarthNC's new routing feature exported .gpx files to Coastal Explorer and Memory Map with custom waypoint names intact....

ActiveCaptain_routing_feature.jpg

On the screen above is my "Camden to Newport, delivery style" route that you can check out on AC (along with a couple of others that I've copied into my own folder and exported for further checking and possible use in the various programs and MFDs I test). But below you'll see the route's waypoint details that I created in CE which did not get to AC. You can download that Cam-Newport.gpx file here. It would also be nice to pass waypoint notes around -- so, for instance, you could warn a fellow Captain about where the serious current whirlpools can pop up along that Bath-to-Boothbay trip -- but I'm not even sure the GPX format includes notes.
   At any rate, I think that ActiveCaptain's route sharing feature is pretty slick, and that it makes you treat the act of copying a route seriously, but I would like to see sharing of even more details if possible. Have any of you tried it, and what do you think?

Coastal_Explorer_2011_routing_details_cPanbo.jpg

Comments

The implementation of routes and route sharing in ActiveCaptain views GPX files as the worst-case, least-common-denominator type of data transfer. Any time the user is forced to import or export to GPX, I considered it a failure of some part of the system. In this early beginning, GPX is all there is so the faults get exposed and amplified. I agree totally with Ben - none of the data should be lost when it is moved between different applications.

The upcoming route sharing API allows any third-party navigation product access to a user's personal routes providing a full mechanism for storing standard and proprietary data like waypoint names, projected leg speed, or anything else the nav product wants to add that only they use (icon, color, etc). I really wanted to see route creation live inside the navigation products with ActiveCaptain being the glue to convert and connect software and users together.

Much of the future direction is exposed by looking into the concepts of the upcoming ActiveCaptain Companion:
https://activecaptain.com/newsletters/2011-11-16.php

The Companion is software initially to be released on Windows, OSX, iOS, Android, and SmartTV that interfaces between legacy systems and navigation products while providing a new type of companion display next to a pilot's chartplotter. One of its main jobs is to provide route transfer from the cloud of a user's routes to any of their hardware and software products onboard. If that objective is met, no user should ever have to know what a GPX file is.

Posted by: Jeffrey Siegel at November 26, 2011 1:23 PM | Reply

Route sharing scares me. It seems that you put your boat into the hands of an unknown skipper (or worse) when you use another's route.

There doesn't have to be anything really wrong with another users route to put you into real trouble. For exampleI can think of several places on the east coast where one route has plenty of overhead bridge clearance and the other one doesn't.

Take the Julia Tuttle bridge near Miami. It is 55' high which is unusual along the Atlantic ICW. Any boat with an air draft above that needs to go outside and around it. But an unsuspecting skipper can pick that route and if he is lucky he will realize his problem getting under that bridge when he gets close, or worse.

I realize that we should all be aware of these problems and double check the route we plan to take, but isn't it easier to just plot our own route?

I do see some situations where being able to see another's route would be helpful. All the verbage in the world telling you to hug the starboard shore when entering Pelican Bay (Cayo Costa State Park) in SW Florida won't be as valuable as seeing a real route into that bay. But you need both- the written directions from a cruising guide that you (usually) can trust as well as some unknown skipper's route.

Active Captain is a wonderful resource for experienced and not so experienced skippers. But I wonder if the not so experienced skippers understand these risks.

BTW, I have had these conversations with Jeff Siegel by PM. I am sorry that I missed the interactive discussion between Ben and Jeff. I would have liked to have been able to add my two cents.

David

Posted by: David Marchand at November 26, 2011 5:24 PM | Reply

The only risk with something like this is that a person (I won't dignify him or her with the title of Skipper or Captain) would simply take a route and follow it precisely without checking it out themselves. If they are stupid to accept a route from "a bloke on the internet" as OK for them to use then Darwin will sort the problem out I'm sure.

Perhaps another very good use would be copying actual tracks across so we can see where people are going in places where the channel shifts around a lot or you get a lot of silting. A course going up the Orwell or Deben with the yacht's draft annotated and a note saying "we saw at least 1 foot under the keel on the osunder all the time" which was dated very recently and had the exact time (so we can check the tides) would be very useful I reckon - but it's still only a source of data you use at your own peril. The great thing about sailing is that you are in charge and you are responsible.

Posted by: grumpy_o_g at November 26, 2011 7:59 PM | Reply

I'm a licensed captain and would find "local knowledge" helpful, be it in the form of a route with notes, a phone call or a post online somewhere. I've still got my own charts to look at, but it's hard to see where having more available information is hurtful. As others have pointed out, the responsibility still rests with me, and I'm a firm believer in keeping a sharp lookout over anything else.

This is like saying the prudent captain shouldn't use a GPS because it may be occasionally wrong. As in all things use the GPS, and make sure what you can see / hear / smell etc matches up with the picture you are getting from your gadgets. If it doesn't, slow down. Use the route, and run down it for notes / hazards etc.

Seems simple for me. But if at all possible keep notes and mark names... Honestly that is what I would find most useful (ie, "bottom has debris" or "strong eddy around this point").

I'm often on the water internationally, so GPS etc often is "wrong" near shore, but really, it's just the chart that is outdated. When reality isn't matching, I slow WAY down, which has saved me more than once.

Posted by: JohnD at November 26, 2011 8:53 PM | Reply

I don't see how this is materially different from publications of "Sailing Instructions" which have existed in various forms for centuries. Those publications in no way relieve a skipper from his singular obligations and responsibilities for the safe conduct of a voyage. Blind, unquestioned faith in sailing instructions, regardless of source, is just as bad as blind, unquestioned faith in charts, or blind, unquestioned faith in the indications of navigation instruments.

Given the general admonition to use all available sources of information for voyage preparation, one could argue that failure to be aware of recent experiences of other seamen transiting an area would constitute failure to exercise due diligence in voyage planning.

"Trust, but verify." -- Old Russian Proverb

-mo

Posted by: MIke at November 26, 2011 10:43 PM | Reply

The interesting "ActiveCaptain Companion" concept that Jeff links to above sounds a lot like the app he mocked up when the iPad first appeared, only now with simple outline maps instead of NOAA charts: http://goo.gl/LQnbz

Posted by: Ben in reply to Jeffrey Siegel at November 27, 2011 9:40 AM | Reply

Sailing Instructions or Directions where originally meant for tall ships and commercial shipping and not necessarily for small recreational vessels. I think we are talking about a whole new concept. Here is why I will never use someone else's routes.

For the amount of time it takes me to check out someone else's route I can layout, plan and double check a new route that I make. Besides this time issue involved with checking the route others have produced I can never know what level of risk another navigator is willing to accept for their vessel when their route was made. Does another captain with six foot draft think having one foot under the keel is ok? Or, threading between two rocks as safe as going the long way around?

For example, I have a shortcut route around Cape May that is perfectly fine for me if conditions are just right. Should a swell develop and someone from Active Captain has borrowed my route they could easily find themselves up on a shoal and in trouble. For the time it takes to layout your own route and assess the amount of risk you are willing to accept it is about the same time spent as looking over my risky route.

I appreciate all the local knowledge posted on Active Captain and feel Active Captain has enhanced the value and functionality of the software I use, Coastal Explorer. But, CE also allows me to pump out new routes that I'm responsible for in very little time. I would feel terrible if someone borrowed my posted route and got in trouble over a misunderstanding as to how and when it was intended to be used.

Posted by: Richard C at November 27, 2011 9:44 AM | Reply

I appreciate the effort people have put into loading the ActiveCaptain routes and I look at them to see whether there is something I missed in my preparations using charts, guides, conversations, personal experience, etc.

I first thought the ActiveCaptain Routes was for fools. Nonetheless, I looked at them and have found an occasional insight. Perhaps just looking forces one to critically assess one's understanding. I still feel I personally do not have sufficiently unique routing insights to share them with a line on the chart since every trip will have a new set of "initial conditions."

Posted by: Don Joyce at November 27, 2011 10:11 AM | Reply

"Route sharing scares me. It seems that you put your boat into the hands of an unknown skipper (or worse) when you use another's route."

I still don't understand this concept. There's absolutely nothing to a route that's hidden or mysterious. It's just a collection of linked waypoints that a navigator can check and edit as much as he or she likes. Why then is it better to start from scratch? Has no one ever made a mistake creating his own route? I'd argue that starting with someone else's work is actually safer, as what you focus on is double-checking it.

Besides, as Jeff wrote above, this is version 1 of AC route sharing. I imagine that there may eventually be ways for AC users to rate and/or vet routes, and who knows what Navionics, C-Map, Raymarine, Garmin, etc. come up with eventually. Now that route syncing is a hot feature, I think route sharing will follow.

Posted by: Ben in reply to David Marchand at November 27, 2011 10:35 AM | Reply

"I can never know what level of risk another navigator is willing to accept for their vessel when their route was made."

Again, aren't these borrowed routes completely transparent? Can't you see exactly what level of risk the author was willing to take, and either accept it, edit it, or delete it?

Admittedly it's probably easier right now to make your own route in CE than find/export/import it via AC, but, but surely this will change. If CE and many apps can easily sync AC POI info now, why not shared routes? And if easily available -- and especially if shared routes become group-vetted and annotated routes -- won't it become quicker, and even safer, to double check those 55 waypoints from Bath to Boothbay rather than start from scratch?

Posted by: Ben in reply to Richard C at November 27, 2011 12:10 PM | Reply

I sail deep sea worldwide. We almost always start with routes someone else has created. It avoids the dumb mechanical part of voyage planning, saving time and effort for the more critical evaluation of the route. We rarely use canned routes "as is" and then often modify them based upon our experience.

The argument against seems to be that some people might not understand that a list of waypoints is but one component of voyage plan. Any tool can be misused.

Posted by: Capt.Kenn E. Beck at November 27, 2011 12:11 PM | Reply

Ben,

The routes are very transparent from a connect the dot perspective. I don't see how anyone can disagree with you. And the routes are a great starting point for planning as you mentioned. What I sense people are saying when they are "afraid" is that they hope routes are part of the initial setup for one's own planning considering vessel parameters, weather, tides and current, etc. I'm inclined to assume that almost anyone who has the brains to download a route will also think beyond just connecting the dots. After all, they already were inclined to study by looking to see how others approached getting between points.

Having said that, I've also seen lots of people religiously following "proven" lines printed on well regarded chart books. While pretty safe from the perspective of sufficient depth for most boats, such an approach makes me wonder whether there is any adventurous spirit left?

Posted by: Don Joyce in reply to Ben at November 27, 2011 8:03 PM | Reply

Ben, When I first started to cruise Georgian Bay, I used the GLCC (Great Lakes Cruising Club) guides. They did include some waypoints, but at the time routes were not available. But the big asset was the aerial photographs with circles and arrows, and a paragraph on the back of each one (sorry Alice) pointing out possible approaches, and notable hazards to look out for. They were, and still are an invaluable tool that provided info above and beyond what was available on the charts. The AC product is an excellent idea. I did check some of the routes in my area, and although I didn't think some of them were particularly valuable to me, I did note that AC does clearly label our shifting passes as "Local Knowledge Required". This is a tool, and other boaters experiences, and info can only add to the data base about someplace I have not been to. In the end I would gladly use this tool, and modify it as my experience sees fit to help go safely to a new destination. But I am always my own keeper first. As to the comment regarding the Garmin auto guidance feature, it is important to remember that it only relies on its existing chart data to calculate the route. If the chart is wrong, because a storm or tides shifted a pass, the route taking you out the pass will be wrong, to you detriment, keel, and or props. Good job on the product Jeffery.

Posted by: Bill Bishop at November 28, 2011 10:30 AM | Reply

Useful communication of local knowledge !

GPX, ugh.

Anyone find a way to get a route into an e-80 charplotter without using GPX ?

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at November 28, 2011 12:05 PM | Reply

> Anyone find a way to get a route into an e-80 charplotter
> without using GPX ?

It shouldn't be a problem. I send routes today over Bluetooth to Raymarine 0183 and it works perfectly - been doing that for 3 years using a ShipModul box.

What I want is an NMEA2K/183-to-Ethernet interface acting as a server. There are some products very close to making that a universal type of interface but no one has done it in a way that meets the real needs yet. I think there is a fantastic opportunity for this type of device on boats if it is priced right.

Posted by: Jeffrey Siegel at November 28, 2011 12:34 PM | Reply

Dave Marchand -
I know you are a safe and cautious boater, so I think I understand your reticence about route sharing.
However, I consider it this way -
When I plot my own routes, I ALWAYS have to go back over them and review them. Most of the time I am doing this just as I start on the route because my boat is a slow moving trawler (7kts). So I have lots of time to review and adjust routes.

I have to admit that I find mistakes in the routes I lay down sometimes.

If I were using someone else's route, I would be even MORE DILIGENT to verify it since I dont have the same confidence in anyone else that I have in myself.

Therefore, I see route sharing as completely beneficial. It allows me to quickly use a prescripted route to get me where I want to go but with less planning time.

Likewise, my routes could be useful to others - and I like sharing.

R.

Posted by: Ralph Yost at November 28, 2011 1:28 PM | Reply

To get back to your original question Ben, route sharing is only dangerous if it is the sole source of information, and I can't imagine a prudent skipper being that foolish.

However, route sharing is not something that I would find useful. There are places where I cruise, the ICW, that the shoals change so quickly, than none of the printed or on-line sources are accurate. Only the floating markers (frequently moved by the C of E) can be used as a guide. Then there is the well known story of the go-fast that ended up on a two foot deep shoal at the mouth of the Alligator River because the skipper was following the charted magenta line. I hope he has not posted that route on AC

So I guess the bottom line is that I am happy that AC has come up with this innovation. I am sure that it would be useful to some skippers under some circumstances.

Posted by: Rick R at November 28, 2011 3:01 PM | Reply

Oh Rick - you need to try this - just experience a little taste of it. I think there are some things you might not be aware of.

The Alligator River mouth still shows the magenta line incorrectly on NOAA charts. But ActiveCaptain has a hazard marker right at the point of concern. It has 25 comments by boaters who have been through it - some who grounded there. The latest one from a couple of weeks ago is from a captain who provided his own route showing the safe water locations. And that route, of course, is shared. Here's a link to it all:
https://activecaptain.com/X.php?lat=35.940907&lon=-75.990543&t=n&z=13

Even better are confusing areas in Bogue Sound where the CG put in new temporary aids this fall that are not on the charts and are confusingly close to the channel. Follow them by not noticing the small yellow ICW marking and you'll surely go aground - the comment of a captain on the marker warns others:
https://activecaptain.com/X.php?lat=34.672146&lon=-77.094497&t=n&z=15

We were just through there - you can't tell what to do without prior knowledge like this. The little yellow mark is impossible to see and is often twisted out of view. Even pre-knowing the issue at this location, I pulled my transmissions out of gear when we got there because there was no way to know how to proceed visually. Thankfully, I knew because I had been alerted by the hazard marker.

Then the infamous Cumberland Dividings in Georgia where following the magenta line will ground my dinghy. The correct route is to actually bring the boat over the charted island on all paper and electronics charts I've seen. The 16 comments from other boaters help give confidence that it's the correct route to take:
https://activecaptain.com/X.php?lat=30.850708&lon=-81.480306&t=n&z=15

Some of those examples now do have other temporary aids. But that's 3 of the 400 on the ICW documented by thousands of boater comments. Draw over 5' and you really want those comments to tell you that there's 4' on the red side and 9' on the green at a particular location. We draw 6' and just reached Florida. The hazards made the trip delightful, knowing when each shoaling or confusing section was coming up along with suggestions and advice.

The reason routes and shared routes are so important is because it allows us to provide incredibly practical information to the skipper. What comes next is the ability to merge a route against the latest hazards, and bridges, and fuel prices...and on and on. And just like your Garmin Nuvi will tell you that there's a left turn coming up, the Companion will tell you that there's a hazard approaching. All of this plays together.

And that's just hazards. Play this video from a rendezvous in September and you'll get an understanding why 30% of our users are women. It's the data...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bABNN1mCzfU

You're right Ben. The design for this all started when the iPad came out and I created that example screen shot that was in Yachting. It has taken a couple of years to turn that concept into something real.

Posted by: Jeffrey Siegel at November 28, 2011 4:29 PM | Reply

Sharing routes have been a long accepted and passed down tradition among mariners. At one point we have all sat down with a another Skipper over a beer, a chart and a pencil and marked out routes that we have taken, dangers along the routes and an odd tide.

One of my favorites is Farewells Hansen Handbook which has way points via observations and not Lat Long. It has taken me north more times than I can count.

However, the Idea of loading routes to your nav computer and asking your autopilot to execute them exactly from a buddy is insane. Even when we had a route drawn out for us via a pencil on a paper chart, I always used it as a reference and never as the word of a master navigator.

The Master of the vessel is ultimately responsible for his/her vessel, cargo and passengers if they are for hire or pleasure. It is up to the the Master to decide the path / route the vessel should take against the risk of the tides and dangers along it.

Happy Holidays,
Devon J Liles
M/V Sofia

Posted by: Devon Liles at November 29, 2011 12:20 AM | Reply

What Skipper Liles said.

You know when you buy ring-bound flip books of elderly charts (there's a company called "Richardson's" that makes these here), and they clearly state "NOT FOR NAVIGATIONAL PURPOSES", but people use them to avoid buying charts anyway?

This...is like that. It's faith subbing for experience.

I agree with the concept of using these waypoint lists as "study aids"; I could see this function, especially with the ability to annotate the waypoints, as is "Waypoint 4: Port X to Y Bay: Here you should have a bearing of 050T to the Z Lighthouse nav aid in clear conditions" or "Waypoint 8: At lowest tide, rock shelf here is within two metres of the surface; consider a generous offing in any kind of a sea".

That's basically a "personalized" sailing direction replete with local knowledge. But you know and I know that the real use will be to have the plotter and AP slaved to run the route so that the modern skipper can go back to watching '60s sitcoms on his iPhone...instead of keeping a proper watch.

Then, the trick for the prudent skipper will be to discover the most popular waypoint "journals" in a particular area in order to avoid the clown parade.

Posted by: Marc Dacey at November 29, 2011 9:47 AM | Reply

I never used anybody else's routes until we wondered into areas where charts are iffy or even plain wrong. Now, the routes you plan yourself based on those charts are unreliable too and routes from those who went there before you become much more valuable.

cheers,
Nick.

Posted by: s/v Jedi at November 29, 2011 10:43 AM | Reply

It's not for me. Tides change, winds vary, visibility comes and goes as fog rolls in, transit times vary according to a vessel's speed and so on. Not good to chase another persons' route if you ask me.

Posted by: Rob Beebe / SY Acorn at November 29, 2011 1:54 PM | Reply

This is not a good idea because it is TOO EASY for someone with little experience to just take someone else's route and plug it into a machine, and let the machine take over. There are books full of routes, from Jimmy Cornell's world cruising routes, to local cruising guides that show you how to get thru the narrows/shallows/rocks, but those require someone to actually read what is said and then enter the route by hand and look at it, and maybe even look at the chart and depth-sounder as you follow it.

It is a good thing for mariners to share their experiences of dangers on the water. It is NOT a good idea to make it easier for the inexperienced to make mistakes.

Posted by: rxc at November 29, 2011 6:39 PM | Reply

One point I always make is the importance of "homework" each night for the next days--or series of days--passages. Active Captain makes this much easier for the "on the water" part of this homework. The land based (history, POI off the water, etc still take some book and internet digging).

I can see this route sharing as making it easier and safer. However I will still always plan my own routes, put in my own waypoints. I have never relied on the waypoints printed on a chart or in a guide, and am not about to start doing that at this stage of life. But I see this as a great opportunity to double check my route. Look for those comments and make life more interesting.

Consider we took a sailboat drawing 7 feet with a 62 foot mast up and down the AICW long before chart plotters and GPS were even a glimmer in someone's eye!

Thanks to both Ben and Jeff (as well as all of the others) for their contribution to this technology and thread!

Posted by: Bob Austin at November 29, 2011 6:47 PM | Reply

Sorry, but I reject the "hair shirt" school of navigation. A central tenant seems to be that "if it isn't hard than you're not doing it right" and that's silly if not downright pompous.

Is it rational to ignore useful new technology because someone else might misuse it? Is a person who would take a 60 foot mast under a 55 foot really more in danger because his or her more experienced brethren are sharing routes?

There are some great new tools for navigation -- crowd sourced cruising info and routes certainly among them -- and I believe that most of our forebearers would have embraced them because they were, in fact, practical navigators. Of course there was probably a cohort who disdained the compass -- hey, that's too easy, you've got to understand the changing wave and cloud patterns! -- and the backstaff, etc. etc.

I've actually navigating long offshore passages with nothing more than a compass, a taffrail log and a depth "flasher". And I've charted barely known breaking reefs way off the Dominican Republic with one Loran A LOP and a sextant. There are better ways.

Posted by: Ben at November 29, 2011 10:44 PM | Reply

Skipper Dacey,

Fair Winds, Calm Seas and Happy Holidays

Devon

Posted by: Devon Liles in reply to Marc Dacey at November 29, 2011 11:54 PM | Reply

Ben,
The comment posters are both experienced and prudent navigators. I don't see anyone advocating "a hair shirt" approach to navigation pre Loran and any of the modern chart plotters.

However, many of us have seen less experienced boaters (or in some cases experienced boaters) put their craft on rocks and reefs because of poor planing or not paying attention. One case comes to mind where several years ago a 40 foot Willard sustained serious damage when she hit a rock in Dundas Bay, AK. The skipper felt that the rock was not properly charted on his chart plotter. I happened to be nearby and had the same brand of chart plotter/chip, so I investigated. The rock was exactly where the NOAA paper chart and chart plotter indicated. The shoal water around the rock was visible under the same lighting conditions that occurred when the boat hit the rock.

There are no comments on this area in Active Captain--and it would be helpful if there were, and mariners were to look at a route, along with the caution about this rock. But let us say that this skipper had put up a route, ignoring the rock if he had missed it--and someone did not check the exact route--and hit the rock. The people who read this forum and are Active Captain are the minority, unfortunately. There are many foolish boaters out there who do not do their "homework"--and this is evidenced by the many boats which ground or wreck on a routine basis.

I believe that many posters have the same feeling that I have, we still want to confirm the waypoints, hazards and routes using all modern methods. However we would not solely rely on a set of routes from Active Captain--instead it would be another adjunct.

Regards

Posted by: Bob Austin at November 30, 2011 2:30 PM | Reply

Ben, I do not wear a hair shirt while sailing. Frequently, and if sufficiently offshore, I don't even wear pants.

Nor do I find the way I use a combination of paper, electronic and eyeball navigational aids in any way "hard".

I would, however, submit that recycling someone else's routing into a linked GPS/autopilot is too easy by half. It is not rational to ignore new technology, but it is rational to evaluate its implementation in light of the potential not to solve old problems, but to create new ones.

This technology, at this time, does not solve anything for me that a cruiser's guide or sailing directions or asking a fisherman and keeping a good watch won't. Part of the appeal of being a cruising skipper is figuring out stuff by myself, frankly.

If I absolutely *had* to enter a lagoon at night in fog with zero nav aids and a storm approaching and the only coral-head free passage had eight dog legs, three wrecks and a minimum depth of seven feet, I could see the value of following the routing of a guy drawing a foot more than me, and who did it in a dead calm at 1 PM with four kids hitting the "mark" button.

Damn straight I would. Given that I would strain mightily, however, to avoid such a dire and hazardous course, I think the odds of trying to download a safe routing for Laguna Obscura is vanishingly low. I'd stay outside. It's a sailboat I have: I'm almost never, by definition, in that much of a hurry.

But the prudent mariner uses a variety of aids. All of 'em, if one can. I see this sort of thing as a large, if potential, step away from what I see as seamanlike prudence. If that's wearing a hair shirt, I'll take two.

Posted by: Marc Dacey at November 30, 2011 2:46 PM | Reply

It's funny to me to see the comments about shared routes. So many are identical to the early ones made when anchorages were first added to ActiveCaptain. "No one will trust the anchorages of someone else" was the common cry. "The prudent mariner finds his own anchorages." "This will result in the good anchorages being over-crowded".

All of those cries turned out to be untrue.

Today there are about 5,000 anchorages documented by about 20,000 entries. While there are many 4 and 5 star anchorages, there are also some 1 star ones which I consider to be the most valuable data in the entire system. You see, a 1 star anchorage looks reasonable on the charts but has become unacceptable and possibly dangerous. Here are some great examples:
https://activecaptain.com/X.php?lat=32.836183&lon=-79.729928&t=n&z=15
https://activecaptain.com/X.php?lat=42.216568&lon=-73.867006&t=s&z=16
https://activecaptain.com/X.php?lat=59.360708&lon=10.466022&t=s&z=11

Note that the last one above is in Norway - it's not just the Atlantic ICW.

Bob, here's Dundas Bay, AK:
https://activecaptain.com/X.php?lat=58.347682&lon=-136.327484&t=n&z=12

Press-and-hold the mouse at the point where that dangerous rock is located, create a hazard, and it'll be documented for all to see. Routes in proximity will give a warning in the future. The whole process should take about 2 minutes. What a wonderful legacy to leave for others - personal experience. You even earn a hat by doing it!

Here's what I don't get about the argument whether it's shared routes or anchorages...

Since the first native put the first log on the beach to float across the water to another place, local knowledge has been the accepted gold standard for navigation information. Today I trust good local knowledge much more than any nautical chart or the information provided by a government agency. The problem is that there hasn't been a good way of collecting local knowledge across all areas in a way that allowed you to evaluate the person, biases, and motivations of the creator. That's all I've been trying to accomplish over the last 5 years - to capture the conversation that was happening already at docks, on forums, and in other ad hoc places. We try to record and save those conversations instead letting them vanish. And it turns out that having multiple conversations about the same area exposes things that wouldn't come up interpersonally.

Is it all perfect? No way.

Am I done? Not even close.

What I'm dedicated to is learning from the mistakes I make, modifying and enhancing the system, and keeping it free for all boaters to use.

Posted by: Jeffrey Siegel at November 30, 2011 4:09 PM | Reply

Saying you only are going to use information you have collected yourself implies you think of yourself as some kind of modern day Capt. Cook. If you are using government issued charts however you are in fact using information sourced elsewhere.

When I sail in an area I've never been before the first thing I do is check the BA pub "Ocean Routes of the World" then I order the charts and pubs for that area. I am not about to play Capt. Cook and try and determine depths by the color of the water and so forth. Not with a large commercial vessel.

In fact if you look at your government issued charts you will see that it includes information to help evaluate the accuracy of the chart. First it's labeled, I have in front of me "Monhegan Island to Cape Elizabeth". It is stamped with the NOAA logo, and so forth. It also has a "Source" box with shows the year a type of survey used for the soundings. I see that the entrance to Portland harbor has "full bottom coverage" as opposed to the the partial coverage elsewhere.

Point being that all information has a source which can be evaluated.

Local knowledge in particular is very useful. I made a trip into San Lorenzo Hondurans a few years back. The mate and I spend considerable time pumping ballast, trimming the ship and studying tide tables as according to the BA charts and pubs we thought we were going to have draft problems but when we got there and I asked the pilot about the depths he laughed and told me that BA charts of the area were not correct. I watched the depth sounder and the way in and sure enough there was 2 or 3 meters of water more that what was shown on the chart. Had I known that I would of saved myself and the mate a lot of headache.

Posted by: Capt. Kenn E. Beck at December 2, 2011 12:22 PM | Reply

I wonder if the Portland ME fire department would not have grounded their expensive new fireboat (twice no less) had they consulted the charts and AC. Perhaps if they had shared a "DO NOT follow this track" after the first grounding they would not have grounded the second time. Many boat bucks to fix that pilot to wheel linkage problem.

Posted by: MaineFog at December 2, 2011 4:37 PM | Reply

I do hope that this never makes it to the UK.
The MCA (Coastguard) Navigational Safety Branch are completely against it. They consider it highly dangerous that someone halfway round the world could put an erroneus or misleading route in. The modern equivalent of "lighting vessels on to rocks" It is also against the Passage Planning Requirements in most of Europe under the merchant shipping act.
Then there is the whole question of Liability if something goes belly up or God forbid someone should be seriously injured or lose their life because of a misleading route.
It would be impossible for any one person let alone Active Captain, to verify these routes at such a distance. The whole thing is extremely dangerous IMHO


Steve

Posted by: steverow at December 12, 2011 8:52 PM | Reply

Oh Steve, your rants against ActiveCaptain are legendary. First it was the name. Then it was the data. You warned that no one in the UK would use it. Now you don't like shared routes.

There are already routes for the UK ready and available for copying and use. I particularly like the 757 nm one starting in Liverpool and ending up in Lowestoft. It's quite interesting to see some of the cruising areas I've haven't been to yet detailing the places where you Brits like to meander.

Since the beginning of time, sailors have provided information to each other with guidance about what was around the further shore. No matter how you try to paint it, shared routes is the same thing. If it's not your cup of tea, don't use it.

It's funny how you believe your MCA considers it "highly dangerous" and are "completely against it." A US Coast Guard division chief traveled up to Maine last summer with a consultant to see how they could license and use the ActiveCaptain shared route data for some interesting projects that probably haven't been considered. It's remarkable that the word "dangerous" never came into that conversation.

I eagerly await the call from MCA to tell me to stop. I have a feeling that I'll be waiting a very long time.

Posted by: Jeffrey Siegel at December 12, 2011 11:28 PM | Reply

Just as I thought you would reply Jeff, you are so conviced of your own infallibilty, that regulations and laws regarding passage planning in other countries mean nothing to you. Marine Insurance is mandatory in the UK, and using one of your routes would certainly be a get out clause for the insurance.
As for the name, well I did try to tell you but as usual you wouldnt listen. Active here means "physical or outward bound", and the term Captain is never used unless you have four bars. It is universally in Europe "Skipper" The term Active or Aktive also has another meaning as the male dominant in a single sex relationship. Therfore the term Active Captain conjures up images of Mariners doing physical jerks on the aft deck whilst messing with cabin boys down below. The name here is at best a joke, if not sinister.
The MCA realise that they cant stop it because it is on the internet, but if there were ever to be an accident I wouldnt want to be in your shoes. If you wish me to send you a copy of the MCA advice on passage planning which is a legal requirement here, then I would be happy to do so.

Posted by: steverow at December 15, 2011 1:07 PM | Reply

Strange how a major UK developer (Chersoft) didn't have the slightest issue creating a UK version of their product with our data integrated. Even odder, when asked about the ActiveCaptain name, they didn't have the foggiest idea what you were talking about - instead, the logo is visible on their website and inside their navigation product.

Searching "Aktive" on Google with Safe Search off found absolutely nothing about your fantasized perversions through 10 pages. What it does show is the large number of European companies with the word Aktive in their name.

The real questions is, Ben, should postings like the previous have a place in a marine electronics blog?

Posted by: Jeffrey Siegel at December 15, 2011 1:44 PM | Reply

Jeff, there will always be ignorant people that are afraid of change. Steverow's posts say more about himself then they do you or Active Captain. Thanks for a great product!

Posted by: David McDonald at December 15, 2011 2:29 PM | Reply

A reasonable question, Jeff. I'd like you both to be more polite to each other and, Steve, personal invective of the "convinced of your own infallibility" type is definitely out of bounds.

And, Steve, please send me a copy of those MCA regs, because I am dubious about the illegality of sharing routes. I also doubt your assertion that an insurance company could use route sharing to get out of a claim. Isn't that ultimately decided by a court, as in this country?

I'm wondering you've actually tried AC route sharing and seen how a "Captain" has to take ownership and responsibility for a route before using it?

Posted by: Ben at December 15, 2011 2:34 PM | Reply

Jeff, there will always be ignorant people that are afraid of change. Steverow's comments say more about himeself than you or Active Captain. Thanks for a great product!

Posted by: David McDonald at December 15, 2011 2:34 PM | Reply

Here's why the whole "XYZ official organization isn't going to accept shared routes" doesn't make sense...

Garmin's Auto Guidance feature has been around for a few years. With it, you pick 2 points on the water and it creates a route for you. No other human ever touched it. A CPU goes through some logic to create a route. With our shared routes, at least you get an indication that someone said they actually used the route along with a way to evaluate their experience.

Now I could be wrong but I'd bet that Garmin's UK legal department alone has 5 times the employees of ActiveCaptain (Karen, me, and maybe the dogs). I also think that Garmin has slightly deeper pockets than ActiveCaptain making them a much more attractive target if there were any potential for litigation. Not only that but surely one of the UK marine insurance companies would have issued warnings to their clients about not using Auto Guidance. If not that then Garmin competitors would have done it.

And yet, no warnings, no lawsuits, and no competitive comparisons. Lloyds of London? I doubt they care if their clients are using Auto Guidance or ActiveCaptain shared routes.

The whole argument doesn't make sense. Tell me that shared routes end up taking more time than creating a route from scratch (they don't). Tell me that you can't find a shared route that's of interest to you (possibly, give it time). Those are argument. Dreaming up the-sky-will-fall goblins are designed to cause doubt and fear. The real thing to fear are the messengers of such fear for they hurt recreational boating.

Posted by: Jeffrey Siegel at December 15, 2011 3:45 PM | Reply

Let's not forget that C-Map and Navionics are now each offering auto-routing algorithms to the plotter manufacturers that support their charts: http://goo.gl/3uOpn

Posted by: Ben at December 15, 2011 4:48 PM | Reply

Steverow did send me the UK regulations that supposedly make it illegal to share routes:

Voyage / Passage Planning

Regulation 34 - Safe navigation and avoidance of dangerous situations

1. Prior to proceeding to sea, the master shall ensure that the intended voyage has been planned using the appropriate nautical charts and nautical publications for the area concerned, taking into account the guidelines and recommendations developed by the Organization.*

2. The voyage plan shall identify a route which:

2.1. takes into account any relevant ships' routeing systems

2.2. ensures sufficient sea room for the safe passage of the ship throughout the voyage

2.3. anticipates all known navigational hazards and adverse weather
conditions; and

2.4. takes into account the marine environmental protection measures that apply, and avoids, as far as possible, actions and activities which could cause damage to the environment

*Refer to the Guidelines for Voyage Planning, adopted by the Organization by Resolution A.893(21)

The MCA Guidance Notes for this regulation state: For small vessels and pleasure-craft the degree of voyage planning will be depend upon the size of vessel, its crew and the length of the voyage. The MCA expects all mariners to make a careful assessment of any proposed voyage taking into account all dangers to navigation, weather forecasts, tidal predictions and other relevant factors including the competence of the crew.

RYA Note: Skippers should note that this regulation changes the status of passage planning on small boats from simply good practice to a requirement under UK law for vessels proceeding to sea. "Going to sea" is defined as proceeding outside of 'categorized waters' (most of the Solent area counts as categorised waters, as do many estuaries). See MSN 1827 for full details.

The MCA (Coastguard) Navigational Safety Branch are completely against it. They consider it highly dangerous that someone halfway round the world could put an erroneus or misleading route in. The modern equivalent of "lighting vessels on to rocks" It is also against the Passage Planning Requirements in most of Europe under the merchant shipping act."

As I told Steve, I read these regulations as prudent seamanship but certainly not a law about where routes originate. A skipper can meet these regulations whether he starts with a shared route or starts on his own. A skipper can also fail to meet these regulations if he starts with a shared route or starts on his own.
Am I missing something here?

Steve also sent an email from an MCA staffer that is supposedly confidential so I can't quote it. But again I don't think it means what Steve is convinced it means. Besides it's certainly not a statement of what the MCA thinks; that would be public. So until I see some actual evidence to the contrary I have to conclude that Steve's very strong statement claiming official condemnation of ActiveCaptain route sharing is at minimum highly exaggerated:

The MCA (Coastguard) Navigational Safety Branch are completely against it. They consider it highly dangerous that someone halfway round the world could put an erroneus or misleading route in. The modern equivalent of "lighting vessels on to rocks" It is also against the Passage Planning Requirements in most of Europe under the merchant shipping act.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Ben at December 17, 2011 9:25 AM | Reply

I don't think you are missing anything Ben.

My reading of those regulations is the same as yours - "A skipper can meet these regulations whether he starts with a shared route or starts on his own. A skipper can also fail to meet these regulations if he starts with a shared route or starts on his own."

Moreover, any reasonable person cannot claim that a shared electronic route is "The modern equivalent of 'lighting vessels on to rocks'". I say that because a captain can review and if necessary modify a shared electronic route. That can't be done if someone is "lighting vessels on to rocks".

Posted by: David McDonald at December 17, 2011 9:38 AM | Reply

Thanks, David, and you make a very good point. "Wreckers" were criminals and they succeeded because they fooled mariners. Besides the fact that criminals are unlikely to share routes in ActiveCaptain -- what's to gain? -- a route copied is completely transparent to its new owner.

There is no mystery or act of faith involved in AC route sharing. But there is the disclaimer you have to agree to, which begins "By copying this route you agree to take full responsibility for the use of the route." I can't put my finger on why route sharing really bothers some people, but the rational always seems to come down to "some fool will hurt themselves using a copied route." I think that there are many more obvious and easier ways said fool can hurt themselves with a boat.

Posted by: Ben in reply to David McDonald at December 17, 2011 3:56 PM | Reply

Leave a comment