Why we won't be purchasing Captain In A Box.

This weekend is the Annapolis Boat Show — perhaps the biggest yearly boating event on the East Coast. Essentially every boatbuilding company and boat product has a presence there, and Jon and I have been nerdily been looking forward to it for months, making a long list of boat-show discounted purchases we were ready to make in the next few days.

One of those purchases was Captain in a Box. I’ve been eyeing the online course, which certifies you as a professional captain, for more than two years. As a woman, I’ve noticed that the ratio of female captains to male captains that I’ve met is woefully low. I’ve also noticed that even though Jon and I are learning how to sail together, people often ask him if he’s working toward a captain’s license, and almost never ask me. The course has been on my gift wish list and a captain's license on my bucket list, for awhile now. 

So I was pretty excited to see Captain in a Box, also known as the Mariner’s Learning System, at the show. (Little did I know Jon was not — he had emailed the founder a while back with a few questions that were never answered, even though he was auto-subscribed to the company’s newsletter. Gross.) 

Anyway, the creator of the course, Bob Figular, gave us an admirable sell on the course and we were ready to throw down. But something was bothering me. 

First, he was only selling Jon. He didn’t look me in the eye, not once. He didn’t even acknowledge that I might be interested in the course too, until Jon asked about buying two courses at once. 

This is a cardinal sin of boating sales to us. We’ve passed on making huge purchases, like our sails, simply because the salesperson didn’t acknowledge me, one half of our boating unit, and half of our purchasing and decision making power, while making a hard sell. Apart from being personally insulting, my theory is that if you don’t see half the market in front of you, you’re not good at your job. And if your company doesn’t train or encourage you to see a woman as an equal purchaser and partner, they’re going to miss other things and deliver an inferior product. 

I’ve also noticed that, with this particular product, there were only guys — old white guys — on their coursework and marketing materials. In more updated imagery, there are one or two photos of women, but almost always accompanied by a man or in groups, or wearing copiously large life jackets like they can't handle themselves. Since Bob wasn’t trying at all to engage me, I began to flip through his brochures as he talked to my husband, and I noticed something even more concerning — there wasn’t a single photo of a person of color… anywhere. 

It sucks that he included visuals of women as almost solely in the role of “helpers”. But at least women were represented in his materials. I'll take it! However, there were only white women. Only white people. Not a single image of anyone of any other race, for a course that touts itself to be geared toward “recreational boaters, educational institutions and corporations and professional mariners.” 

This seriously pisses me off, because boating is, in many ways, on the precipice of dying if it doesn’t make itself available to a wider, younger, more diverse group of people. People don’t pursue things if they don’t feel welcome or see themselves reflected in it, period. 

And I don’t want to see boating, something I love, disappear. 

We can fix that by consciously opening up opportunities and marketing to a wider audience, outside of old white guys. By making recreation and careers with boats feel accessible and welcoming. By waking up to the fact that the narrow mindset of marketing to rich old white guys excludes a huge group of people, who have purchasing power and career investments to make. 

I understand the narrow marketing of multi-million dollar yachts. I don’t like it, but I understand that for a variety of entrenched socio-economic reasons, it’s likely that it’s going to be a white, CEO-level dudebro who can afford a very expensive boat.  

What I don’t understand is consciously limiting the audience and marketing of products, especially this product, that serves as a gateway to a lifelong love and income. Especially when your product is geographically independent and flexible. Your product can literally be used by anyone and could make the difference between locking in a new generation of boaters or not. 

So, as he wrapped up conversation with my husband, I piped up (he looked almost startled, like he forgot I was even standing there.) 

“May I make a suggestion for your marketing materials,” I said nicely. “Next time you make a run of these, you may want to consider including a more diverse group of people, especially people of color.” 

He became immediately defensive. “I have all kinds of people in my catalogues. Men, women, young old…”

I didn’t even point out the misogynistic way he pictured women in his materials and instead said, “Yes, but they’re all white.” 

“I’m a marketer, I'm going to market to my customer base,” he replied.

I began to explain that he literally makes his customer base by opening up boating as a viable career option for an affordable price. He interrupted (ugh) and said, “this is for people who have spent 300 or more hours on the water for a professional certification. There aren't people like that who need my product.” 

And this, my friends, is what’s currently wrong with the boating industry. 

I told him respectfully that he had lost us as customers and we walked away. He yelled a loud "FUCK" after us.

Despite two years of wanting this product, I will not, nor will I ever, support Bob Figular by purchasing it, and will be pursuing other coursework for obtaining my captain’s license. 

I hope that if you’re considering his product, you take a second thought before financially supporting his entrenched small-mindedness.

I also encourage you, if you’re at the boat show this weekend, to drop by and suggest he include more women and people of color in his marketing. If you’re a woman, make sure he meets your eye. Maybe if enough people speak up to vendors like him and others, we can see a stronger, more diverse boating community in the future. 

8 Books and podcasts that will help you build your remote business

It's taken me a long time to admit that I'm a read-about-it-first learner. I've always admired tactile learners, who learn by just jumping into things and figuring them out as they go. I, on the other hand, find that stressful and decidedly un-fun. When I want to learn something completely foreign to me, it comforts me to hear stories about how other people have done the thing I want to do. I'll read every book, article and listen to every story about the thing that interests me until I feel ready to make an educated move. Colleagues and friends often comment on how decisive I am to take action. In reality, I take quick action on new projects because I've secretly spent weeks or months researching the best way to move forward.  

Are you like me? If you are, I've pulled together the list of books, articles and podcasts that I used to teach myself how to logistically convert my skills into a business, manage finances and otherwise figure out how to pay for my adventuring.

What do you love that I'm missing here? I'm always looking for new things to dig into! 


I'm fully aware that starting this list off with Tim Ferriss' classic is a cliche, and since I hate being a cliche, I waited YEARS to read this book. Don't be like me. If nothing else, swallow whole the message of working smarter, not harder, and start thining about ways to outsource your life. The mental calculus of how much time I was spending on small tasks that were keeping me from doing big things vs. paying someone else to do them for me was a game-changer and allowed me to build up my personal projects and business while maintaining a day job. 

Berkun's breakdown of his year working at the distributed tech company, Wordpress, is an excellent primer for remote work technologies and structures, especially if you already or want to work closely with other team members. His breakdown of holocratic work structures and rules for asynchronous work management are thought provoking and worth a read, even if you're an IRL manager. This book is best for people who have to keep working and managing people on the road, but definitely a peek in to the future of work for anyone who's curious. 

Part memoir, part Pixar business manual, I found this book an essential guide to building a business where employees have autonomy and a sense of self-fulfillment that will allow bosses to step back and be more hands off. 


There's a podcast for literally every interest. I find podcasts about business-building, marketing and detailed descriptions of how people financially have made big things happen totally engrossing. I am, however, allergic to the sound of loud bros and gushing women, who oddly make up a large contingent of this kind of podcast. There isn't much middle ground between "get off your ass" and "reach your dreams!" so what you listen to comes down to your personal tolerance for those kinds of diatribes. 

Pat Flynn's Smart Passive Income

Ultimately, the goal of working while traveling is always in some part to increase passive income, so that you can spend more time doing what you want... even if that's working on something else. Pat Flynn has a weird, nichy empire built on the topic, and I found his podcasts to be interesting, well-edited and without the hyperbolic broeyness of many of his counterparts. He has a blog as well, but I preferred to listen to his interviews with business owners. Start with his three-part intro series and then go from there -- the people he interviews all basically have taken his advice and adapted it to the things that they're good at. I love the frank money discussions here, which really break down where to spend your time per dollar.  

Sail Loot

Specific to sailing in content, but helpful for working while adventuring in general, Sail Loot interviews cruisers on the gory financial details of what it took to ship off with cash in the bank. Part financial podcast, part gossip fest with bloggers whom many cruisers may recognize, the podcast is useful in the way that it shows a hugely wide variety of ways people have gotten to their lives aboard. For some people it took a year, for others it took 20. I give a lot of credit to podcast host, Teddy, who's trying to set sail himself, and thusly asks crazy specific financial questions of all his guests. 

The Sailing Podcast

Not a financial blog, per se, The Sailing Podcast is basically an open space for hosts David and Carina to have long, winding conversation with people who have sailed the world. By default, those conversations often devolve into "but how can you afford it" territory. It's a fun listen for the wild yarns. 

Keep Your Daydream

In this sometimes winding podcast, adventurers of all kinds are interviewed about their crazy life stories leaving behind 9-5 jobs and how they were able to afford doing so. I appreciate the broad array of guests but take note that the podcast tends to be heavy on the inspirational takeaways. 


Perhaps the most well-known of the trying-to-make-it podcast set, Startup chronicles a journalist's effort to break into the startup tech industry. While not directly applicable to funding a way to escape, it's a solid introduction into the startup universe if you've never worked in it. 


Interested in reading more? While it's not about money or business per se, I also found that a book on decluttering helped me rearrange my financial goals.

You can also read the first and second part in this series about working remotely:


A beginner's guide to working full-time while cruising.

It’s been almost exactly two months since we set sail away from New York and some days it feels like we left two years ago. We have quickly found a routine for working and play, just as we did on land. And we’ve slowly eked a path up the east coast to Maine, bay by beautiful bay. 

A few nights ago, as I sat in the cockpit of the Scallywag, waiting for meteors to streak the sky, I felt deeply appreciative of the luck and persistence, as well the ability to work from anywhere, that got us here, under a carpet of stars in Boothbay Harbor, with our dog obsessively licking my arm. (Way to kill the romance, Honey.)

Sometimes when I wake up I can’t imagine what our old life feels like anymore. This new one has surprises and challenges for us every day, both personally and professionally. As I’ve calibrated to life as a full-time cruiser, I’ve also had to make some significant adjustments to how I work. 

I thought I’d share what works for me and how I manage my business so that it might help anyone else out there that’s wondering if they can hack it professionally while sailing. 

A remote working preamble

I’m not new to remote working. In fact, I'm somewhat of an expert in it. Part of what I do for a living is help advise other companies on how to structure and manage remote teams. In years combined, I’ve traveled while working in some form for the majority of my career — from my apartment in LA and from tea houses in Iraq. On my best days, I’m an easygoing and flexible person, which makes working in a different place every day fun, if not always easy.

But working while traveling isn’t for everyone. As a manager, I’ve run remote teams throughout my career, including growing a remote editorial team of 4 to more than 50 people, and saw all kinds of ways that working by yourself from weird locations can wig people out. I also became an expert what kind of behaviors created great remote professional relationships and what didn’t. I'm also pulling together a list of further reading that I'll post separately. 

Get into a groove before you go

While this work style isn’t different for me, I am a new small business owner. Three months before we set sail, I opened my own company, which was the culmination of content strategy work I’d been doing for years. So while we were prepping the boat for launch, I was also locking down contracts, incorporating the business, setting up its digital infrastructure, contracting freelancers and delivering actual work regularly. 

To put it lightly, I don’t recommend that timeline. For those three months, I worked 14-hour days and then went home to boat work. Sometimes I worked in the middle of the boat work, asking Jon to stop sanding something so I could jump on a conference call. 

When we had to go on the hard for a couple of weeks and our boat was on blocks in a signal dead zone, I had to commute to a coffee shop by climbing down a ladder with my laptop and walking 20 minutes just to check email. I thought I was going to die. Don’t be like me. Give yourself more time to get your boat and business ducks in a row before you leave. 

Change one thing at a time

There’s an old piece of advice that says you should never move, get a new job and get married at the same time. Funny enough, Jon and I did just that when we moved to New York, and we survived. But the principle remains true. While those last three months before taking off were murder, our overall timeline for cruising was unintentionally a much longer one. We bought our boat three years ago, without knowing how to sail it. In that time we’ve almost always lived on it half the week, and spent plenty of time learning how to operate and care for it. 

Lifestyle-wise, splitting our time between boat and land was a luxury of our apartment’s amazing rent control, but the idea of easing into things is one that I think can be applied universally. Eleven months ago, we moved onto the boat full-time, worked out the kinks of full-time life aboard when the boat was forcibly docked until spring, and had a chance to play around with alternative sources of power and internet while having access to electricity and wifi close by. 

Even the dog had a chance to settle in and figure things out. 

By the time we shoved off, the only things we really had to nail down were our pace and our routine, as well as what life was like primarily at anchor or mooring ball. 

A photo posted by Sail Me Om (@sailmeom) on

Consolidate your schedule and your days

Even before leaving and as soon as you do, start thinking about setting blocks of time for work and calls. It helps to hold days adjacent to the weekend in particular, so that you can have time to catch up between sailing days. Set your calendar availability accordingly, so that you know you’ll be truly “off” when you’re out sailing, and that you won’t have to put out any last-minute fires. It can help to put an away message up for particularly long sails or for weekends when you’ll be more likely to be off the grid. Don't feel guilty about not always being immediately available. I’ve found that as both manager and managed, being clear about your availability and doing your work accordingly is way more important than the number of hours you’re perceived as being available. 

Plan your work around your internet connection

This goes for daily work, and the type of work you do. When I started my business, I moved the focus of my work away from daily people management even though I loved it, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to be as hands-on with employees as I am when in one place. The people I do hire as contractors are mostly people I’ve worked with before and have a proven track record of reliability and autonomy. I pay them more so that I can set them free and not worry. That’s a really valuable investment in itself. 

Professionally, I pick clients and contracts that have predictable timelines for turnaround (so no more breaking news work), and while I prefer to do video chats instead of conference calls, I’ve found that video is almost impossible to support without advanced planning. So choose your communication methods wisely. 

Blocking chunks of time for work and sailing will allow you to get to a strong internet connection for things like file transfers and heavier usage tasks, like video calls or video editing. I like to plan these things for the morning, so that I have a chance to work a little more loosely in the afternoon, but also most coffee shops are open early and can close as early as 3 pm. That coincides nicely with my energy low periods, so if I work 7:30-3, basically all my work is done and I can get a change of pace when I can't stare at a screen any longer. 

This sometimes means you have to choose to drop anchor in more populated locales than you'd like, so you can be sure to get a signal. Hardcore cruisers might scoff at this, and it's true, I've mourned the deserted islands we haven't been able to hang out on for days on end. But to us, being able to cruise and dropping anchor in a slightly busier port to get work done is way better than staying home. So we save off the grid cruising for weekends. 

Learn the coffee shop circuit

The digital nomad’s coffee shop usually isn’t the trendiest one on the block. You’ll need open tables, open wifi, and open wall sockets, so that you’re not constantly draining your boat battery. Picking one a bit farther from the main drag and ordering a large order early in the day with a generous tip will ensure that you’ll be able to sit for hours undisturbed. If you're on calls, avoid cafes that specialize in smoothies and other blended drinks. Seriously. Starbucks, with its Google internet and Frappuccinos, is a blessing and a curse. 

When arriving at a new place, I always check the internet connection on my phone while waiting in line, so that I don’t end up ordering a full breakfast for goodwill credit and end up without a connection. 

Perfect your mobile office

Invest in your gear. It is the difference between work-life happiness or not. I’ll get into this in a later post, but my must-haves are a super fast, souped up computer, noise-cancelling headphones as well as headphones that cancel background noise for calls (Apple’s seem to be the best at this), an a/c and d/c charger for my laptop, a waterproof phone case with an extra battery built in so that I get twice the normal battery life, and extra internet via iPhone tether and separate hotspot. When coffee shop wifi clunks out during a conference call, I’ve swapped onto a backup method seamlessly enough that no one even notices. 

Transportation is important too. We have foldable bikes that pack up so small I can ride to a coffee shop and tuck my bike under the table while I work so I don't ever worry about it getting stolen. Being able to carry my "car", and my "office" with basically no hassle in and out of a cafe makes me feel like a real badass. 

Have backup internet

Aboard Scallywag, both our phones have enabled tethered hotspots, we have a Verizon hotspot, a wifi booster to make any open signal stronger and a cell booster to get better reception. We cycle through all of these on a daily basis. Internet needs are different for everyone, but I highly recommend this kind of system if you have to make sure you're always connected. Even then, you have to pick your ports carefully, the more off the grid you go.

Our friend Kim takes care of business at the wheel while I practice awkward hand gestures.

Be wildly reliable

This goes without saying but I’m saying it. Working remotely does not give you license to be less professional. Once, I had a newly hired employee that decided her first three weeks of work at a remote company should also be when she took a three-week road trip across the U.S. Her job lasted two weeks before I fired her. This is also why, when managing teams, I put a ban on moving cities during the first two months of employment for my employees at the distributed company I managed them at. If anything, you have to work twice as hard and communicate twice as well to achieve the same result while working remotely.

Luckily, If people trust you, you’ll be surprised at how overwhelmingly supportive they will be of your unusual lifestyle. But you have to build that trust. If you do it well, your cruising life will become its own marketing tool. Every professional call I have starts with the person on the other end asking where I am and how I work on a boat. I’ve gotten business referrals from people in back in New York talking about us pulling this off. If you do it well, this lifestyle will do you well.

Apply your hourly rate to your own time

I’ve met a lot of cruisers who go out of their way to save money by investing huge amounts of their own time or inconvenience. But there’s a break even point where, when focused on your work instead of your schemes, you’ll make more money by picking the more expensive or easier path. If it’s a choice between a mooring with a strong internet signal or a free anchorage way across the bay with none, it makes more sense for us to pick the more expensive option because we have more time and ability to work effectively, and our hourly rates are higher than the cost of a daily mooring ball. This applies too, though less often, with boat work. We fix almost everything ourselves, but we will invest in someone to teach us something new or do a menial task for us if it will take us an insane amount of hours to do it ourselves. It is more cost effective for us to spend that time working our real jobs to pay for someone else's help and have money left over. 

Have “a guy”

Following that principle, sometimes, when you’re in the middle of nowhere, you just need someone to handle stuff for you. I employ regular contractors, for the most part, so there aren't many moments where I don't have the time to handle my own work, but I do have go-to contractors I know can turn things around in short notice, and one amazing guy who can do preliminary brainstorms for my business or research how to handle mail delivery on a boat, without qualm. I have an apartment manager who handles any issues in our apartment back in LA and friends I pay to jump in, in a jiffy, if I don’t have the time for a quick-turnaround data analysis. Figure out which things in your life are most vulnerable to last-minute needs and know who your people are to turn to before you go, both professionally and at home. This'll save you from ruining your day or your plans and make sure that your clients and your crew stays happy with you. 

While we're at it, get used to the fact that you will need help professionally and personally but as mentioned above, if their hourly rate is lower than yours, it makes sense for your sanity and pocketbook to ask for help every once in a while, even if the help you need is more personal errand than professional. 

Set expectations with your crew

There’s nothing more stressful than trying to finish work on a trip while everyone’s waiting for you to go do the fun stuff, right? That’s what cruising while working is like all the time, if your crew doesn’t understand how you need to work to be effective.

Share your schedules, have open and frank conversations when things are working or they’re not — for example, I get super anxious if Jon wants to sail to a new destination before a block of conference calls later in the day, because I like to make sure I have a strong cell connection and a quiet place to talk. After a few close calls, I asked that we always have several hours between our estimated time of arrival and those calls, so that I’m never trying to do work on the run.

Jon and I are often asked if we drive each other crazy, since we work and live all in the same small space. The answer is, thankfully, no, but that’s because over time we’ve developed tactics like this for being able to be alone, together, especially while working. 

Like on the high seas, respect your crews’ requests or concerns when they voice them. 

Find time for reflection

Let it be said that cruising and working is not a working vacation. It’s exhausting, especially in the beginning as you’re figuring everything out. It’s easy to pack every single day with something to do — emailing, fixing things on the boat, sightseeing — and in our case, several weeks can go by without us taking the time to pause and consider what it is we’re doing with our lives and appreciate it. 

Reflection can come in a variety of ways — a blog, a logbook, a conversation of highs and lows over dinner, but make space to keep a record of your journey and your thoughts, and don’t let that fall to the least important thing on your list. Years from now, you’ll thank yourself for it. 

Do you have a strategy or tip for how you handle working remotely, or have a question? I'd love to hear more. 


How to build a DIY smart LED system for your boat, RV or other 12v setup.

One of the things I miss most about apartment living are my Philips Hue lights. These lights can change color, intensity or turn on or off at the command of my phone. By changing the bulb colors, I could completely change the mood of a room. They also served as an morning alarm in our basement bedroom. They were our favorite splurge of last year.

Unfortunately, my Hue lights had to go into storage when we moved onto the Scallywag because the boat’s primary electrical system -- and all its lights -- run off of 12V electricity.

I started looking for alternatives to Hue that run off of 12V and are designed for marine use, but there really just aren’t any good consumer-level contenders out there. That left me thinking about how to recreate the system from scratch...

Welcome to our space boat. 

Initial research had me believing that I could get the system functionality I wanted extremely cheaply. I thought that a few Mi-Light units would be all that I’d need and I'd be able to build the whole system for less than $100. While these do work to some extent, I’m also a big proponent of good build quality and that you get what you pay for. These Mi-Light units are so cheap that I can’t imagine them making it through more than a season or two before becoming a headache. But, if you want a cheap, quick win — they’ll probably work.

Instead, I opted to go with the more expensive LED wifi control hub and LED controllers from LEDENET. They are a little more pricey at $140 for the hub and about $50 per controller, but the build quality is excellent and they give me just about everything I want in the system.

Tory and I are now able to control lights in the v-berth, cabin and galley from apps on either of our phones. Pre-programmed lighting effects, like our  favorite tone of light for reading at night in the v-berth, also sync across all our devices — something even Hue couldn’t do. If our phones die, there is also a physical remote with customized groupings and zone control so you can do more than just turn all the lights on and off at once.

After installing everything, I added a last final touch. I have always been slightly disappointed with the lighting in our locker. We had an old light fixture on one side that requires me to open both locker doors to get to and leaves my half of the closest poorly lit. To fix this, I decided to take the project to the next level and install a motion detector switch to control a warm white LED strip at the top of the locker. The closet is now perfectly illuminated  and turns on the second either door opens. It’s also set to turn off after one minute, so no more forgetting to turn the light off!

Here is a list of what I used to make this whole system work.

Total cost: $576.69

Total time: 8 hours

Skill level: Beginner to Intermediate

Cabin, V-Berth and Galley

LEDENET® 2.4GHz WiFi Lighting Control System Bridge Hub Wireless Support 12 zones RGB RGBW CT DIM CCT LED Strip Bulb Ceiling Spotlight Lamp Controller for iOS iPhone iPad Android Smartphone Tablet - $139.99 -- Master control to connect everything and sync with mobile app.

LEDENET® V8 4-Zone 2.4G LED RGBW Controller Remote Control RGB RGBW LED Strip Lighting Panel Lamp (V8 RGBW Remote) - $21.99 -- Master remote control. Amazon says that the item is currently not available, but keep an eye out because the quality of this remote blows all the others out of the water.

LEDENET® 2.4G Wireless Remote receiving Controller RF Constant Voltage Receiver DC 5V 12V 24V 20A for Single Color RGB CW/WW RGBW RGBWW LED Strip Tape Lights (5 Year Warranty) (R4-5A CV Receiver) - $53.99 x 5 -- You will need one of these for each strip that you want to individually control, including if you want to be able to control the port and starboard sides separately. You can always group strips together to control at the same time through the app or remote. I opted to include on for every individual strip I wired to have maximum control.

SUPERNIGHT 16.4ft 12V 5050 RGBWW Warm White LED Strip Lighting 5M 300 LEDs Waterproof Ribbon Lamps Multi-colored LED Tape Lights - $18.99 x 3 -- These strips have true RGB + Warm White. This results in double the LEDs per strip (300 vs. 150) and twice the power consumption, but if you only run one of the two at a time, you still keep the power draw to a minimum and it gives you more flexibility overall. Having both on gives a lot of light, whereas just one or the other is very much accent lighting.


LEDENET® 12V 24V PIR Sensor LED Dimmer Switch Motion Timer Function Sign Control PIR8 Cotroller LED Strips Lighting - $10.95 -- Motion detector to sense when the door opens and turn on the lights. Simply cut the connector off the next strip and wire this motion sensor between the LEDs and your power source.

LEDMO 12V 5050 LED Strip Light, Warm White, Super Bright 150 Units SMD 5050 LEDs, Waterproof, 5050 LED Ribbon Light/ LED Tape Light, Pack of 16.4ft/5m - $11.19 -- I didn't need RGB color in the closet, so I opted for the less power intensive warm white only strip here.

Misc parts

ESUMIC® 5M Extension Cable Wire With 5Pin Plug for LED 5050 RGBW Strip Ribbon - $8.99 x 2

ESUMIC® 2.5M Extension Cable Wire With 5Pin Plug for LED 5050 RGBW Strip Ribbon - $6.99 x 3

LEDENET® 5pin Female Connector Wire Cable For Flexible 5050 RGBW RGBWW LED Ribbon Lamp (5-pack) - $9.48

Blue Sea Systems 12 Circuit 30A Terminal Block - $12.86

Blue Sea Systems Terminal Block Jumper for 30A Terminal Blocks, Pack of 5 - $4.36

The 8 best sailing apps you need to download right now.

When we bought the Scallywag just over two years ago, it was pretty bare bones as far as electronics go. An old Autohelm autopilot and fading tridata instrument was about all it had on board. And with that, there was no wind transducer and the knot meter only worked occasionally, so basically the only digital information that we had was a dubious course head and questionable depth.

We wanted to upgrade, but of course, we needed to do it on a budget. So I did what anyone else on the cusp of still being labeled a millennial would do: turned to the App Store on my iPhone.

Is that a lighthouse? Yup, app says it’s a light house.

While we have since upgraded a few pieces of equipment (installed the Raymarine Wind, Depth, Speed pack this year), we still have a set of go-to, cant-live-without apps. This is ever-changing, of course, but here is our current list that has made it from trial to keeper:


Garmin’s Blue Chart Mobile: While we hope to get an actual chartplotter installed at the helm soon, this app kills it in terms of making your phone or iPad serve the same purpose. The app is easy to use, dead-on accurate, and fully replaces a chart plotter as long as you can easily plug your phone in as the battery slowly drains. We wouldn’t get anywhere without it.

App Store

Vesper Marine’s Watchmate: This app connects specifically to our Vesper Marine XB-800 via a local onboard WiFi network to show AIS data for nearby transmitting ships. AIS is an incredibly important redundant system for monitoring for potential collisions, but also just a super fun way to view information on the boats around you. In fact, we turned off the AIS alarm while navigating the East River through Hell Gate recently and almost got overtaken by a container ship while not paying attention! Keep the alarms on, people!

Watchmate is also extremely useful for getting your SoG (speed over ground) when your speed transducer is fouled up and not recording data. We ended up relying on this app for nearly two weeks recently, while sailing around the Long Island Sound.

App Store | Google Play

SailFlow: This app is a bit hit or miss to me, but one of the essential apps for getting at least a basic sense for what the weather will be. A couple of pro tips: 1) You don't need the Pro / Gold membership to access a weather station’s forecast -- only for observed data. 2) When you are viewing a weather station’s Forecast, be sure to click the settings cog and try switching the forecast “Model” so that you can make an educated guess on the weather based on multiple different data sets. They can be surprisingly different. 

App Store | Google Play

PredictWind: This is a newcomer to our weather arsenal, but I do like that the weather forecast table automatically compares data from the Global Forecasting System and the Canadian Met Centre to give you a quick reference. You can quickly see if the two are comparable or if there are large discrepancies between the forecasts. The really promising thing about this app, however, is that it offers automatic Weather Routing and Departure Planning tools. The first will give you the best route for a sail based on a specific time and weather outlook, while the second tool will let you compare how your sail will differ if you leave in increments of 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours later. Both tools provide detailed summaries of your trip including percentage of time heading downwind, upwind or reaching, which could be incredibly useful.

The downside right now for me with this tool is entirely user interface-based. It is designed more for the pro sailor than the amateur, and needs to be a bit more user-friendly. While I think this app is working toward being the exact tool I wish I had, I currently have two issues with it: First,it is hard for me to translate the results into a simple course of sail, and second, it doesn’t appear to connect to any of our realtime onboard systems for automatic data input and corrections.  I’m definitely keeping it installed though, and excited to follow updates.

What I still want is Google Maps for sailing – input the time of departure / location and, boom, a course heading that you can follow and automatically updates with real-time updating, leveraging data from your onboard systems. <cough> Google, meet Predict Wind. Predict Wind, meet Google.</cough>

App Store | Google Play

TidesNearMe: This app is also new for my toolkit, but absolutely indispensable to have alongside my Eldridges now that we have started learning about the impact of currents and tides on the correlated ease of our sail. Being day sailors on the west coast, we virtually never needed to think about anything beyond “Is the sun out?” Now that we’ve started navigating our way around the Long Island Sound, keeping a close eye on the tides and currents is absolutely essential. This app allows you to easily find nearby data points and keeps a running list of recently viewed stations.

App Store | Google Play

OutCast: Weather for boaters. This app is pretty awesome. It gives you a pretty good 12-hour and weeklong at-a-glance forecast on the opening screen that is tied each time you open it to your current location. You can then take a deeper dive into the day-by-day and location as required. Within the menu, you can also get directly to the NOAA marine forecasts and save frequently viewed NOAA regions, as well as buoy, tide and observations stations into a customizable Favorites menu.

App Store | Google Play

KnotGuide: A simple reference for all your knotting needs. I’ve finally got my Bowline and hitch knots down, but this still comes in handy all the time!

App Store

Coast Guard: The official app of the US Coast Guard that lets you call for emergency assistance with the push of a button, as well as file float plans, review your boating basics, and request safety checks. Haven’t used it much, but seems like something important to have when needed. Much like epirbs, life lines, etc.

App Store | Google Play

Again, while this list is what we use today, we are always on the lookout for new apps and happy to try out anything that is recommended to us. Know a good app not on this list?  Let us know!

Author's Disclosure: Vesper Marine provided us with a demo XB-800 unit, but their app is free to download. Predict Wind provided us with a complimentary pro membership for testing purposes. Both did so with the expectation that we provide honest reviews.