Long time cruising sailors Ley and Neil Langford are sailing their yacht Crystal Blues on the coast of Thailand. Here Neil talks of the difference that iPad has made to their lives, both navigational and family, and how this tech-savvy cruising couple manage their communications systems:
Many cruising sailors have PC's installed onboard, running navigation applications such as Fugawi, C.Map, MaxSea, OpenCPN or other programs. Then along came the iPad and muddied the waters somewhat.... well quite a lot actually !
The iPad is great for reading e-books, handling email, web viewing, skype calling, music listening, video replay and a million other tasks. It connects simply to our PC and has changed the way we communicate with others.
Like many other sailors, we use the excellent Navionics HD charting application on our iPad - it's a great tool. Intuitive and simple to use, it keeps getting better with every upgrade. I understand that Navionics sales via the Apple iTunes store are enormous. Of course with the Navionics app the iPad is not linked to the boat's instrument systems, so it won't display ARPA or AIS targets, wind, depth or any of the other NMEA data relating to the boat or its environment. But the mobility of the device is attractive - we can use it anywhere on board, subject to prevailing weather.
However there is a simple way to have the best of both worlds - the mobility and convenience of the iPad and the complete suite of information that is already displayed on your PC screen. You have two options ........
1. Upgrade to the very capable iNavX iPad application, adding appropriate hardware and NMEA converters. Its a great application, but the overall cost is not insignificant, and of course you have to buy new charts again.
2. Use a simple 'remote desktop' application to connect the iPad to your existing PC chart plotting system.
We've been using the Splashtop remote app on the iPad and can now view our PC screen from anywhere aboard Crystal Blues. The iPad app costs only $4.99, though you do also need a wifi router onboard. We have a small one made by D-Link, that runs directly off our vessel 12vdc power supply. To use the system you download and install the Splashtop app on your iPad (or iPhone!) and also download and install a small software module to your PC. Both processes are simple, and the applications well mannered. Then the fun begins - with the iPad connected to the boat wifi network, simply tap on the Splashtop app, select your computer and your PC desktop will appear on the iPad screen. Its very simple.
A range of controls are also available, so you can manipulate the PC software from the iPad screen, though this does take some getting used to. The image at left shows our Transas Navigator PC screen, viewed on the iPad. You can see the AIS target displayed.
Splashtop automatically controls your PC screen resolution to exactly match the iPad screen, so on the iPad the image is perfect.
This app also works over the cloud - if your boat PC is connected to the internet, Splashtop can display it from anywhere you have a network connection on the iPad. Of course it works with all of your PC applications - not just the navigation suite.
We now routinely use the iPad as our cockpit information tool, and can swap back and forth easily from our master Transas charts and information screen, to the Navionics screen. We can also simply swap to other apps - last week our grandson Harrison called in on Skype video - we were able to walk the deck and show him the boat under sail, moving north up the Thai coast. Quite a thrill for him and us.
To learn more about Crystal Blues and her crew, go to their website.
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by Neil and Ley Langford
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11:18 PM Sat 9 Feb 2013GMT
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