Editor’s note: This excerpt is from the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s January 2020 Cruiser’s Bulletin newsletter, and is written by Ed and Sue Kelly who voyage aboard Angel Louise, a Catalac 41 catamaran. Ed Kelly is the current president of SSCA.
We often love to read what other folks find to make cruising safer or easier. One of the most fun discussions on any is “my favorite gear.”
The study of this topic can save a cruiser much money and significant wasted time. Since time is of the essence, I thought maybe we might share some of my ideas for favorite things.
We have 13 years’ experience cruising high seas and inland waters on Angel Louise, both under sail and power. Our current vessel is a Catalac 41-foot cat.
Our favorites in the gear category
Jordan Series Drogue: We would not leave home without it. Captain Sue and I call ourselves “The Chicken Sailors.” There is a reason for that. We are safety conscious. No vessel that deployed a JSD ever has been lost in a survival storm. We put safety as our highest priority. Ours was constructed with a kit sold by SSCA sponsor Sailrite in only three days of light work. Highly recommended.
Fujinon TS1440 anti-shake binoculars: These binoculars have been our go-to solution for 13 years on our vessel. The anti-shake technology lets you hold usable 14X power binoculars with a wide focus area. Most binoculars are half as powerful, as vibrations make it too hard to focus on a target on the water. With the Fujinons, you will be able to clearly read text on vessels, buoys, mooring balls and signs that would otherwise be unreadable. They increase visibility at night by gathering more light as well. Recommended.
Power wand high-pressure washer: Used at our front deck and available for less than $20 at most hardware stores. We learned about this wonderful device from Jeff on Garmin’s ActiveCaptain. It is made for use with your home water hose, but even with a 12-volt front deck wash pump it increases pressure from your deck wash hose so much you will blast and cut mud off your anchor and chain in a jiffy. Highly recommended.
A few electronic favorites
Apple iPad, iPhone and software: First, if you are buying, purchase only an iOS device that has the ability to accept a phone company SIM; even if you do not buy a phone service SIM, the unit uses a GPS chip that will work offshore. We would not leave home without it! Highly recommended.
Charting apps: Aqua Map, iNavX, Navionics Boating. Competition in electronic navigation apps has improved all the products! They now all have capabilities that exceed the functionality of the stand-alone units available when we started cruising. Here are a few of my favorite features: the Navionics unit’s ability to construct an intricate course for your vessel instantly, covering large distances, and their “SonarChart” feature that shows connected depths from user-submitted depth sounder data in areas highly traveled; Aqua Map’s use of new “perspective view” and all new charts, inclusion of Army Corps of Engineers depth data charts, and Aqua Map’s most up-to-date charts that allow you to update data much more frequently than competitors. Highly recommended.
AyeTides: This app has been used by us the last 11 years on Mac laptops and then on iOS devices. Its display of currents and tides worldwide has been excellent. Recommended.
Anchor!: Draws a map of your position and surrounding chart. Records track of movements while you swing at anchor and warns you with a loud alarm if you go outside the circle distance you put in.
MarineTraffic and OnCourse: These two apps are both put out by the folks that make Marine-Traffic. The first tracks all AIS signals picked up by folks who transmit the AIS back to the folks running the site, who then post it on their website. Marine-Traffic also allows you to track a “fleet” of any 10 vessels with AIS and will report to your email when one of them goes into or leaves any monitored port worldwide. The OnCourse app, courtesy of the MarineTraffic folks, lets you start the app anywhere you are in range of a Wi-Fi or SIM device you are hooked up to and shows all movements of the device. You have to turn it off when you take the iOS device from your vessel.
East Coast Trip Planner: I first learned of this app at an SSCA cruising conference and gam last year. It allows you to time any trip and see various effects of tide and overall speed as well as time between destinations. Recommended. Find it in the App Store under “East CST Planr +Currents+Tides.”
Ship’s Clock: You can now put ship’s bells on your iPhone or iPad courtesy of Weems & Plath’s app. It lets you silence it at night on its menu. Otherwise sounds one to eight traditional ship’s bells throughout watches. Fun.
PhotoCard: This is a most favorite app! It allows you to send by email or through postal mail a beautiful glossy 8-by-5-inch photo of any picture in your photo gallery to any person with an email address (for free), or a hard postal card to their street address (costs only $2 to send photo postcard to U.S. address and $3 to England or Europe address). Highly recommended.
NOAA Hi-Def Radar Pro: We rely on this to monitor visible weather. You can get high-def weather radar and tracking anywhere you get cell coverage or Wi-Fi. Recommended.