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Yacht captain lights the way with marine app

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You are on the helm in the Atlantic Ocean and you see a white over red light with sidelights. Should you alter course? Do you even remember all of your light configurations?

To help with such a scenario or with studying, Capt. Paul Clarke offers the Flash Marine app for iPhones (and Android early next year). The downloadable app offers 12 decks of navigational information cards including lights and signals.

A sailor since he was young, Clarke said he bought his first deck of study playing cards at age 15.

“I must have bought them 10 times over, every time I lost a card,” he said. “People lose cards, but with this app you never can lose them and you can re-download them.”

The categories, so far, include lights and shapes, sound and light signals, rules of the road, and aids to navigation around the world.

“Next we’ll do signal flags, weather and Morse code,” Clarke said. “And next maybe branch out to Flash Marine 2 with advanced topics for engineers like stability.”

 

Clarke has used such information since his start as a professional sailor from Perth, Australia. He worked with programs including the Volvo Ocean Race and the America’s Cup, and said he never thought about changing careers until he was injured.

“During the Heineken Cup I saw crew at the bar,” Clarke said. “I had seen yachts, but didn’t think about it before.”

That’s when he was hired on a Perini Navi in about 2004 and he spent his first season as a bosun.

“It was a great charter season,” he said. “I knew nothing about cleaning, I just knew how to sail.”

His second job was on an 80m yacht and later he was captain of the 118-foot Heesen M/Y Lady J. He is currently captain on M/Y Redemption.

“I thought the Perini Navi was my dream job, but that changed being on the power yacht with all the toys like surf, scuba and spearfishing,” Clarke said. “Plus, my cabin’s nicer.”

Clarke worked with a business partner and developer, Amit Dharmani, and the two have invested about $20,000 into the project as equal partners. The app went online about a 18 months ago.

“I had no idea about the programming, I just drive boats,” Clarke said. “Ahmit put this together.”

Clarke remembers studying for his licenses and he uses those recollections to help students make the most of the cards. Students can test several ways: either matching a single image to multiple choice answers or multiple images to a single description.

“You can guess, then hit the little ‘i’ to see the correct answer,” he said. “And you can flag your problem cards to study later.”

Quizzes can have 10, 20, 30 or more questions at a time, and results can be kept in a “report card” to compare progress. The overall exam mode picks random questions out of all the downloaded decks. There is a timer for testing that helps with categories like International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), Clarke said.

“When you’re tested, you get something like 20 minutes,” he said. “You really need to know this to be on your mark and not to fail.”

Clarke said he spends a couple of hours a week on Flash Marine to make it even more user friendly, and occasionally redesigning for Apple changes. Would he leave yachting for the tech world?

“No, I’m not doing that, I’m a yacht captain,” Clarke said. “I love yachting, I’m not going anywhere.”

(As to those lights in the introduction? You probably need to give way to the under way vessel engaged on pilotage duty.)

For more information and to download visit www.flashmarinecards.com.

Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

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