Monday, 12 August 2013

Where are we now? Help is at hand, thanks to Antares.

Above is one of the classic Clyde Cruising Club sketch charts that many of us depended on for our lives, sometimes  literally, forty or so years ago. They are still an awful lot better than the proverbial AA road map beloved of many former navigators (and would have helped the commander of HMS Astute, as I wrote a couple of years back, here: Aground in Kyle in Style).

At the other extreme are the ferociously expensive charts produced by the Admiralty and a number of major suppliers, all of which lack the level of detail required by those of us who enjoy our voyaging at a micro level, exploring narrow channels, shallow bays and little remote anchorages that nobody but us knows about.

Now help has arrived in the form of a fascinating project run by Bob Bradfield with assistance from a growing band of enthusiasts. News about Antares Charts is spreading rapidly by word of mouth, which is how I heard about it a few week ago,  but the project deserves a good push forward from scottishboating, so here is Bob’s guest post .
"Antares Charts – Bob Bradfield
As an avid reader of Classic Boat magazine I am full of admiration for people who design, build and navigate traditional craft. I therefore thoroughly enjoyed Ewan Kennedy’s blog account of his recent exploits in an Iain Oughtred designed skiff. Not only was it an exciting adventure but one that took him to some places I know intimately, as I have created modern, very large scale electronic charts of them: the narrow channel between Luing and Torsa, linking the bottom end of the Cuan Sound with Ardinamir Bay, being an example.

I used to own a classic boat – ‘Antares’ carried a gaff schooner rig on an oak-on-oak hull – but my recreation now involves hydrographic surveying and cartography or, put simply, making very large scale charts that can be used in an iPad, or similar device, with its internal GPS. It always struck me as crazy that GPS enables our cars to tell us when to turn left or right, farmers to plough their fields to centimetre accuracy and yet as sailors we also know precisely where we are but lack the charts to make full use of that knowledge. So, five years ago, I decided to try to do something about it with the result that we have now published 134 charts of areas on the West Coast of Scotland that we think might interest users of recreational boats of all kinds: and for next season there will be at least 180 charts. Being electronic they don’t have a scale in the conventional sense but if you think 10 times the scale of the best UKHO chart for an area you will get the picture…
The charts are made available through our website for a nominal charge and are now regularly used by several hundred people: we have had a lot of fantastic feedback. Our primary focus is the owners of cruising sailing yachts with draughts of about 2m but some of our charts are very definitely for people with much smaller craft. And modern electronics means there is now no bar to using them in open boats: an iPad (3G version with GPS – not the WiFi version) or other tablet, or even a mobile phone in an inexpensive waterproof case will run the charts and typically give you your position on them to better than 10 metres. Battery life is fantastic and can be extended by only checking your position occasionally, when you most need it. We are big fans of Memory Map software and apps, which enable our charts to run seamlessly with UKHO charts, all for well under £100.
The motivation for making the charts is that it gives us a great excuse to spend time in some delightful places. It is most definitely not a money making operation! And for this reason we try to pick out not only the places we know people will go to but also those that we think are interesting or exciting. We have quite a list but always want more ideas, particularly for places that people can get to without a month’s voyage but which are challenging without a good chart. So please do email ideas to me: bob[at]" 


1 comment:

  1. What a great idea, encouraging people to explore more out of the way and challenging places with a greater degree of confidence. When we visited the Gambia we were given a hand drawn map of the river with depths and bearings, we used it successfully to navigate about 100 miles upriver, same principle very different technology


The Wherrymen

The Wherrymen
Two old friends on the water