Position Reporting
and How We Do It

On our way to Mexico under Spinnaker on the 2004 Baja Haha Return to HomepageBill Finkelstein and Mary Mack - Click to Contact Us

    While we're underway, we file position reports whenever we move locations.

    When on multi-day passages, we file position updates at least once a day.

    Our latest position is shown on the map below as the blue balloon. The green balloons are previous reports. When you put your mouse over the balloons, you should get a popup that shows the date and time of that position report in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time, formerly know as Greenwich Mean Time). Also, be sure to try the "+" and "-" zoom and satellite view buttons.

    More Information:

    We use Bill’s Amateur Radio Call "WB6JAO" to identify our reports as they are filed by radio call sign and not boat name.

    The technology we use is called "Automated Position Reporting" or APRS. APRS is really simpler than it seems. All we do is send an email with our current position and other information (course, speed, comments, weather, etc.) in a fixed format to special collection mailboxes set up by volunteer organizations.

    The major volunteer organizations are FindU and Yotreps. The email information is then filed in a database on the organization’s server. Websites have been setup to provide access to this information – see the links below.

    You can see either the latest position report or a history – a track – of recent reports. You can also see the information plotted on maps and satellite photos.

    Emailing while underway is a challenge in itself. There’s no fast, inexpensive connectivity at sea! The best compromise of cost, capability and speed that we’ve found is to use "radio email".

    Our radio email utilizes our High Frequency (2 to 30 MHz) Marine/Ham Radio (ICOM M710 RT) and our Radio Modem (SCS PTC-IIpro) to send and receive text only slow speed emails via the Winlink and/or Sailmail services.

    Winlink is an amateur radio (ham) service run by volunteers for non-commercial use only. Anyone with a ham license can use it at no charge.

    Sailmail is run by a "co-op" and charges $250 per year for about 10 emails a day. It requires a Marine Rsdio license to use.

    These services are much less expensive than satellite services that start at $1.00/minute for pretty slow service. None of these services are reasonable for web surfing – so we only do text only emails unless we have WiFi Internet where we are!

    When we’re hundreds or thousands of miles from the nearest Winlink or Sailmail station, we have to plan carefully to be able to bounce our radio signals off the ionosphere to get through.

    Our current position information comes from one of our Global Positioning Receivers (GPS) and is formatted by our email program (Airmail 2000).

    You can find Raptor Dance's current location at these reporting sites (under WB6JAO):

    Here is the Technology We Use:

    If you use Airmail 2000 and want to set yourself up to do position reporting, do the following:

    1. Do you have an Amateur Radio (ham) license? If so, you can use both Winlink (FindU) and YOTREPS. If you only have a Marine Radio License, you can only use YOTREPS.

    2. In Airmail, go into the menus "Tools", "Options", select the "Modules" tab, then check "Position Reports" and "Show in Taskbar" then click "apply" and "OK".

    3. Register with YOTREPs, to do this go to http://www.pangolin.co.nz/pacseanet/new_registration.php and enter your ship information, including the call sign you will use.

    Now, to file a position report:

    1. Go into the menu for "Modules" and select the "Position Reports" module (if it's not in the menu, you didn't do 2 above!).

    2. In the popup window you can enter all your information manually or you can enable NMEA input if your GPS and/or other instruments are connected to your computer.

    3. In the "Position Report" window, click the "Enabled" box in "Data Input" and another popup will appear.

    4. In this "Airmail Data Input" window, select the COM port that your GPS and/or instruments are connected to on the line "GPS/NMEA Port Enabled" and select the check box next to it.

    5. Then watch for a few seconds as the data updates.

    6. Then uncheck the port enabled box and close the window.

    7. Fill in the rest of the information you want to file in the Position Report window (be sure to clear out any information you don't want to file) - There's information under the "Weather" tab too, so be sure to check, erase or update that.

    8. When done, click the "Send Now" buttons for Winlink-2000 (if you have a ham license) and YOTREPs. This will put messages in your outbox - one for each service.

    9. Then have Airmail connect to Winlink (for ham) or Sailmail to send these messages.

    A few things to remember: If you use a charting program (e.g. Nobeltec, etc.) it's probably using the COM port with your data on it - so you either need a program like Virtual Plex (see "Products" from Shipmodul http://www.shipmodul.com) to allow multiple programs to see the same data or you need to tell your charting program to stop using the COM port while you file your position report.

    If you have any questions about how this stuff, drop Bill an email. Just click on our picture at the top of the page to go to our "Contact Us" page.