Thursday, February 26, 2009

Review: Navionics iPhone Charts V1.6

Another update to the Navionics iPhone charts, namely V1.6.

In the previous review (see here) pointed out that it was hard to work out the scale of the chart shown on the screen and voila! - Navionics have listened and in V1.6 there is a little figure that gives the scale in the bottom right.

There is also a little arrow pointing North: hmmm... thought that was pretty obvious but I suppose there's no harm in making that absolutely clear.

A problem with V1.5 was the tidal charts showed strange anomalies with the height varying as if tsunamis were flowing through. These have been fixed, but there is still strange periods where there is no change in water depth followed by a jump up/down - look at the area around the blue box:

So a useful though not major update.

O'Docker's 4th of 4th Award Giving Ceremony!

Its a glittering night of celebrations here at Captain JP HQ. The red carpet has been reclaimed from the cleaners, the bubbly is super-market own brand cola, and the stars are waiting outside (literally - or at least would be if they weren't hidden behind the London mirk).

Yes, its the O'Docker 4th of 4th competition prize giving tonite!

First we must have a look at the three nominations, Annie, Ms Michelle, and Katinka (and very nice they are too).

So on to the prize giving. Drum roll if you please.......

In 3rd place we have Annie with the good suggestion of a jigsaw.

In 2nd place we have Katinka with the "Bellagio ceiling" - right artist, wrong installation.

So the winner is: Ms Michelle with the "Chihuly ceiling" that travels with the exhibition!! Quite right, it was spotted by O'Docker when the exhibition was in San Francisco's De Young museum.

For more examples of his work check out the web site here.

If Ms Michelle would like to get in touch with ol' Captain JP at she will receive her prize donated by O'Docker which is an animated slide show of Chihuly work.

Thanks to O'Docker for pic, competition, and prize :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The policemen, their blog, and the round the world sailing fraudsters

Still reading Liza Copeland's "Still Cruising" (review to come) but in the mean time here is a morality tale about how not to sail off carefree into the sunset.

Shashi Bacheta of Wales claimed she was so ill she was unable to get out of bed and needing 24 hour care in order to get about £40,000 of invalidity and housing benefits (for those non-Brits that's money the Government pays out of our taxes). But really she used it to fund the adventure of a lifetime, sailing off around the world with her partner in a 70 foot boat Kismet (above).

Alas just like the canoe couple (you remember, husband faked death in kayak accident, couple went off to central America with insurance money) that got caught out in a photo this pair also was snapped somewhere other than the sick bed, namely living a rather more energetic life sailing the yacht in the Canaries.

The cruising community being a friendly social bunch, they made friends with another boat also in the Canaries. Alas this was sailed by some retired policemen, and they mentioned meeting them on their blog which was spotted by council investigators.

Having spotted yacht on the blog, the investigators made contact with the retired policemen who dug up the photo and it was a case of red faces all round "its a fair cop, gov" as the couple pleaded guilty this week.

More on this story here and here.

They are facing jail and their yacht Kismet is now up for sale.

Update on March 20th: Today they were sentenced and Shashi Bacheta received 21 months in jail and Jeffrey Cole nine months. More here.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

O'Docker's 4th of 4th

Another 4th of 4th (picture tag thing, do keep up - see this post here), this time from O'Docker, who without a blog (heckler at the back "shame!") sent in by email instead.

Aahhh ..... isn't that pretty!

But what is it? Answer on a post card or failing that in a comment. The best answer (not necessarily the right one) might get a prize.

Or might not (as I've just made that bit up).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Where is spring?

Its about this time of year you start to wonder when it will get warm and when the sun will come out again. Right on cue Saturday was a lovely day and the Thames hummed with many happy to be mucking about on the river.

Of course today its cold and grey again. But I have just received Liza Copeland's Still Cruising so despite all appearances this evening I'll be found somewhere sailing the Indian Ocean (in spirit anyhow).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book Review: Pirate Hunter

Another book read recently was Pirate Hunter by Graham Thomas. Not to be confused with Richard Zacks's The Pirate Hunter (which is worth a read and suggests that Captain Kidd was a misunderstood victim - honest!) this has the sub-title "The life of Captain Woodes Rogers".

Woodes Rogers came from a Dorset and Bristol based family with strong nautical traditions who led the successful round the world raiding expedition in 1708 - 1711 that captured a Spanish Galleon and later went on to become the Governor of the Bahamas.

One of my reasons for picking up this book was that the pilot of the circumnavigation was none other than the sailor, pirate, buccaneer, explorer, naturalist, writer, meteorologist etc, William Dampier who I've read and written about previously. It was the Woodes Rogers expedition that picked up Selkirk from what is now known as Robinson Crusoe Island.

Its an interesting and readable book which I enjoyed. It is basically in two parts - the journey around the world and the time in the Bahamas. One of the main reasons for this is also one of its limitations - it is heavily based upon just a handful of other books.

Firstly there is "A cruising voyage round the world" which sounds like it is something Liza Copeland would have written but was actually written by Woodes Rogers himself to describe his expedition and was the basis of the first half of the book.

Then there is Captain Charles Johnson's "A General History of the robberies & murders of the most notorious Pirates" (cracking title that one, note this book is sometimes attributed to Daniel Defoe) which describes how Woodes Rogers brought some of the Caribbean pirates to justice in the second half of the book.

If you want detail and authentic first hand accounts then it would be better to read these originals. However Woodes Rogers is not a natural writer and he tends to write long paragraphs like some early 18th Century stream of consciousness which is not easy to follow. If you just want an overview of his life this book is a good place to start.

It was an interesting period, when the wild buccaneers were giving way to govenors and merchants that would found colonies and create an empire from the Indies to the Americas. As Woodes Rogers was one of family of Woodes Rogers the author identifies him as "our hero" which begs the question was he?

He certainly did much to rid the seas of pirates and liberally spent his own money to build up the Bahamas to such an extent that at one point he was declared bankrupt. He successfully defended his colony not just against pirates but also against an attack from the Spanish in nearby Cuba. He introduced the rule of law and saw the first of many pirates to hang.

But what was most remarkable to me is he wasn't that remarkable, in the sense that at this time there were many English like Woodes Rogers heading out into the wilds to bring order out of chaos. There was much that was glossed over - like the slave trade - but it was a time of change of fortunes in Atlantic.

Woodes Rogers actions in the Pacific would no doubt allow the Spanish to accuse him of being a pirate himself. But this buccaneer turned pirate hunter helped clean up the Caribbean and end the so-called golden age of piracy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Book Review: Just Cruising

One of the books read while suffering from this winter bug was the wonderful "Just Cruising" by Liza Copeland. Ok, you've already guessed its not going to be a bad review.

Maybe there's something about being stuck indoors in London during a chilly February that makes one dream of sailing off into the sun and warmth of the Med, Caribbean, or Pacific isles.

I picked up the book at the London Boat Show when met Liza and had good chat about sailing in various exotic countries. The book is the story of the first half of the circumnavigation that she and her husband made with her three children, ages 2, 6 and 9 - the bit from the UK to Australia.

It was nice for me that they started their great voyage from old Blighty as of course that's where I'd start. But it wasn't actually that obvious a choice as their family home was in Vancouver, Canada.

From the Solent they headed across the Channel then south before spending almost a year in the Med before joining the Arc and heading across the Atlantic. So it wasn't a rushed trip by any means.

Its wonderful escapism - like the longest holiday that never seems to end. But as they went the kids would study using the British Columbia Correspondence Education Programme.

There must have been hard times too, though a lot of daily life is skipped over given the long period covered by the book. One key skill must be social - to get on with others onboard in the cramped cabin, and to make friends quickly where ever they went (which they did). And there's a village like community amongst those aquatic gypsies that are sailing their way around the world.

One bit I particularly liked was when during the Atlantic crossing they caught dorada (as we did) and killed them by pouring alcohol (e.g. vodka) down their gills (which we did also). After the trip several people said this was a really silly way to kill them (and not the least a waste of vodka) and it was good to see it wasn't just our madness but a good tip from a cruising expert.

The other story that grabbed my attention was the tides around Tahiti which apparently are at a neutral point wrt lunar tides so they only get solar tides which are hence synchronised with the day, so that high tide is always around noon and midnight.

Anyhow really enjoyed the book and recommend it to almost anyone. The only people would not recommend it to are those wondering if they should buy a boat and follow their example as it will only inspire you to start looking for yachts not tomorrow but today.

As for me - I've already ordered from Amazon Liza's second book, "Still Cruising", telling the second half from Australia onwards to complete their circumnavigation.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Three blonds in a boat - in a Ferrari

After the "How do they do it?" on C5 there was the car program "Fifth Gear" which had the three blonds in a boat who got the Gold in the Yngling class racing against each other in a Ferrari F430 Scuderia.

Normally the main reason for watching is Vicki aka VBH (funnily enough a friend of a friend) but it was quite fun watching Sarah Ayton, Sarah Webb and Pippa Wilson go round the race track.

You should be able to watch it here.

How clean is the Thames - on TV

I'm still fighting a rather irritating little bug so have a bit of time on my hands to check out the on-demand TV services of UK channels. I don't often switch over to Channel 5 as it's known as the home of the "When Celebrity Nazi Sharks Kill!!!" sort of program, but there were two watchable shows on Monday.

First up there was a "How do they do it?" about how they keep the Thames clean, by which they mean clean of rubbish. Its actually relatively unpolluted (for an urban river) and there are some 120 types of fish living in it.

But there is a lot of junk (above). So the rather hyper-active presenter Robert Lewellyn goes out on the aptly named Driftwood III (below), to pick up some of the 600 tonnes of waste in the river. On the river they took the rubbish out of the 9 passive driftwood collectors to dump in land fills.

They also went along to shore line at low tide picking up the non-floating rubbish such as one of the 250 shopping trollies found each year. Apparently they find about one car a month (some dumped and some "mis-parked") - once even an Aston Martin!

You should be able to watch it here - and also find out how they make bullet proof cars and Ikea makes and stores its flat pack furniture. The Thames bit is in the middle after about 7 minutes of bullet proof cars.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Safran pips Sam

It was just by 79 minutes, but it was enough for Safran to get 3rd place, pushing Sam into forth. After ninety odd days that's a difference of just 0.06% over the entire race.

But kudos to Marc - sailing the last 1,000 miles with no keel. And kudos indeed to all the finishers, including Dee and Brian for finishing what has been an amazing Vendee Globe.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Who's the ugly?

Just seen this wooden statue drift passed on the Thames. Not sure who it's meant to be - jolly ugly anyhow

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sam 3rd across the line!

Many congratulations to Sam Davies for sailing a brilliant Vendee Globe and to be third to cross the finish line this morning at Les Sables d'Olonne.

She has done it in style, sailing safe and fast while enjoying the good times and reporting on the bad. Her blog has been a big hit - indeed it is currently out of action due to "Too many client tasks".

Despite being back safely on dry land, the tension will not be fully released for another 50 hours or so as she discovers whether Safran can arrive in time to grab the final podium position. Current projections are it will go down to the wire.

And she even achieved her final goal - to be back by Valentines Day :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Quotation for the weekend

Feeling not that great at the moment, so spending a lot of time with feet up reading books and magazines. Within Yachting Monthly there was a flyer from a yacht builder that had amongst the talk of "inspired design" and "superb performance" there was this quote from Mark Twain:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Of course Mark Twain can't spell harbour correctly, but that's certainly something to think over this weekend, especially those wondering if they should sail off around the world.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Natural Navigation on Radio 4

My sailing chum Tristan was on the radio recently talking about Natural Navigation. He was on Radio 4 and very interesting it was too - the web page to hear it can be found here (not sure if it will work outside the UK so good luck).

To get an idea about the principles of Natural Navigation what you see above is a good example: it is a snow compass.

So which way is North?

To get an idea of the principles involved check out his web site here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Review: Navioncs iPhone Charts Update

Previously I blogged a review of the Navionics charts app for the iPhone and noted it was more a chart viewer than a navigation tool.

Well one of the good things about iPhone apps is they are constantly being updated - and the update is available for free to existing users. And Navionics have released a new version V1.5 and its got some useful tools in it.

One of the biggest problems with the old one was the lack of scale - if you went to an area you didn't already know there was no way of knowing whether the charts on the screen covered an area of 1, 10 or 100 square miles.

However there is now a distance tool that allows you to place pins and it will tell you how far apart they are. The pins (which are rather nicely rendered and have a 3d like shadow) can be dragged and dropped to new locations. However you can't enter their locations as lat/longs directly.

There's also access to tide information with diamonds on the chart you can click on to get tide HW/LW times, rates, and directions.

But not sure I'd rely on them for a passage. Look on the picture below of the tide prediction in Weymouth harbour. I know the tide around there is strong, but the water height won't have discontinuities like this unless there are tsunamis on the way:

But its a positive sign that Navionics are working on it. The markers could be the basis of waypoints and from that all sorts of useful goodies could come.

One suggestion that might be the case is actually one of the criticisms of this release - the waste of space of the A-B button on the lower toolbar. If it was the only additional button you'd put it on the top next to setttings. If however you can foresee a whole list of buttons for call up new features then you'd design in space on both the top and bottom of the screen.

Here's hoping.

But it would be nice if there was a left/right or top/bottom edge scale that showed distance in the selected units, with maybe a switch on/off grid.

Update: Update V1.6 released and reviewed here.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Sam slows down

Oh dear. Again Roxy and Safran take alternate routes round a weather system and again alas Sam comes out worse off.

At least now she is heading in the right direction - a recent update had her VMG negative.

I guess she is being philosophical about it (above)

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Putney Sculpure Trail - in the snow

Last year I posted pictures of the Putney Sculpture Trail, nine works by local artist Alan Thornhill along the Thames path.

Then it was a sunny autumnal day, and for a bit of a contrast here are photos of the sculptures in the snow (which alas has now mostly melted) and in the same order.

The one above is called Fall and the one below Pygmalion.

Dodging a couple of snow ball fights and drudging deep into the snow managed to get to Nexus:

Then on to Motherfigure:

By a sight familiar to Greg and Kris was Punch and Judy:

On Putney High Street, which was packed with non-moving buses, you could find Turning Point:

Across the other side of Putney Bridge were some snow boarders and Load:

Then by Adam's favourite haunt of the Duke's Head you could find Horizontal Ambiguity:

Finally in the park-where-Adam-used-to-get-bacon-sandwiches, the final sculpture of Exodus:

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

4th Folder 4th Picture Tag

Been tagged by Bonnie to post the 4th picture in the 4th folder, so here it is!

Actually it wasn't as simple as that as the way I store photos is year/event/photos, so have to choose which year to take the 4th of the 4th from, and this is from 2004 (appropriately). I went through the other years and this was the most interesting - 2008 was the runner up with a night time view of Putney but think have posted previously it.

I was in Paris on business and got some free time so went for a wander and saw Notre Dame, the Seine etc then went to the Musee d'Orsay, and then up to Montmartre - lovely time.

Anyhow it should be a familiar sight for Greg, which makes one of the 4 to tag in return simple.

So who next? Lets try Kat from Signposts and see what pops up and where.

Hmmm.... who next? Well O'Docker manages to duck all this hard work by not having a blog (shame) and Tillerman has done his fair share of work on stimulating group blogging tasks so gets a reprieve (and anyhow everyone will want to tag him back).

However Adam has no excuse so Messing about in sailboats can be number 3

As to the 4th? Well how about Jolea on Adventures of Gypsy Pirate Wench. She has just had a very horrid experience and I hope this can distract her from some very bad memories.

Hope no one minds :)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Snow Picture

Ok, just the one picture of the snow before clean the kitchen get down to work!

Why Sam could be third

Just as Elaine Bunting on the Yachting World web site says that Sam can't get third as Roland Jourdain will never give up, he promptly does.

So Sam is currently third and on track for a podium position.

However the 2nd obstacle Elaine mentions is unfortunately a more serious one as Marc Guilemont has a redress of 50 hours more than Sam and so she would have to arrive 2 days ahead of him to keep that position.

Currently she is about 2,400 miles to go with about 100 mile advantage over Marc. While he seems to be going faster, he is also going in the wrong direction: if you check her VMG she is doing 2 knots better.

If that were to keep up (and its a very big if) then the times to finish would be:
Sam: 2372 miles to go VMG 9.2 knots implies time to finish in 258 hours
Marc: 2486 miles to go VMG 7.5 knots implies time to finish in 331 hours

Hence he would be 73 hours behind her.

Alas if only offshore racing was simply linear as that! I wouldn't like to bet either way, but she can still do it.

No wonder she is working on her trim so much!

Snow in London!

Strange weather forecast for London this morning - what looks like white flaking rain? What could this be?

Yup, the worst snow for 18 years or something means that London has ground to a halt and JP is currently "working from home". So been out admiring the scenery camera in hand and will post some pictures shortly as really should be doing some notes for a presentation.

Though of course there will be those in countries like Canada that will wonder why it is that 15cm of snow and temperatures of 0C should cause so much trouble to a modern city but that is all part of the joys of London - we get the odd day off working from home and can blame the non existent transport network.