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Update as of August 2016:
The Good Anchorage website, www.goodanchorage.com, is no longer online.
Update posted on www.goodanchorage.com in April 2016:
“The pilot version has been a major success and your fellow mariners thank those who have contributed data and provided feedback on additional features.
Good Anchorage is a free crowd-sourced data platform so operating and development costs are minimized to ensure all member mariners benefit. The pilot version is no longer supported as all resources are focused on launching v2.”
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Capt. Todd Rapley ran an 80-foot Nordhavn in Vanuatu’s rocky waters several years ago but he lacked confidence in the charts. To be safe, he overlaid radar onto the yacht’s electronics and followed a small sailing catamaran into harbor, marking the hazards for reference.
That trip was a challenge because much of the Pacific islands’ hydrographic information has not been updated in decades, Rapley said. But he did realize that a solution was right in front of him: other boaters’ data.
Once anchored on that trip, the catamaran sailor Capt. Dietmar Petutschnig and Rapley met on the beach to talk over a glass of wine. Their conversation led to an idea for a Web site for mariners to share anchorages.
“We discussed that thousands of boaters have information in their logbooks and on their computers, while there are thousands that could use the information,” Rapley said. “The idea grew until we were shaking hands on the project.”
With more than 10 years on yachts and 20 years of scuba diving around the world, Rapley brought his experience with cartography and megayachts to the concept. Petutschnig had business knowledge, but not technical expertise, and no superyacht background, Rapley said. With their combined skills, they pitched their idea to an Internet expert who researched the concept’s viability.
“About a year and a half ago, the guy came onboard with us to see the actual application and he said it would work,” Rapley said.
The crowd-sourced site, Good Anchorage, went live this spring.
Increasingly, yacht owners and charter guests want to visit more remote regions of the world. Because of their size and requirements, yachts are limited in travel to these poorly mapped areas, Rapley said. But not so with smaller boats.
“Superyachts go to proven places,” he said. “Cruisers are explorers and will try new spots.”
For that reason, the site is especially useful for yachts seeking adventure, Rapley said.
Cartography in much of the world is insufficient, according to the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the group that ensures that the world’s seas, oceans and navigable waters are surveyed and charted. IHO’s C-55, an assessment of the state of surveying and charting, reports that there are large gaps in the data worldwide including the Caribbean, Western Pacific Ocean, Africa, Australasia, Oceania, Antarctic, Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and more.
“For example, charts in the Bahamas are 1 percent correct,” Rapley said.
The IHO’s assessment describes the Bahamas like this: “Offshore waters and approaches to the two principal ports are covered by metric charts, but the source data is mainly old. The charts covering the majority of the banks date from the nineteenth or mid-twentieth century.”
Tonga’s waters are another example of deficient data according to the report. It states that numerous shoals, hazards, inter-island routes, islands and harbours are inadequately charted. The areas require surveying to modern standards to even enable charting and many islands are charted on an undetermined datum.
“Previously governments were only ones compiling the data, but there have been budget cuts,” Rapley said. “Yachting has no new data, but our industry is worth billions.”
The plan for Good Anchorage is to have 50,000 anchorages in five years. These sites are quality-controlled by local experts and are updated by mariners who verify data and add new information. The site has comments and feedback to maintain unbiased data.
“We just want facts,” he said. “For example, a cruiser says its rolly, but a yacht says, ‘I don’t care about that, that’s not a problem, we have stabilizers’.”
The site keeps bandwidth requirements low and current links leave the site, so mariners can load only what they need while in remote areas.
Good Anchorage launched and premiered at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in late October with 3,000 anchorages and more than 1,000 users. It is growing faster than Rapley expected and he now spends more time on expansion and promotion.
But Rapley and his wife, Maree, a chef and stew, also plan to continue running megayachts and pushing their limits. The couple likes to challenge themselves and loves to explore, including new anchorages in remote regions. They recently trekked to Machu Picchu and the Mount Everest Base Camp.
“We were heading in to see volcano with steam coming out of it,” Rapley said of their visit to the harbor in Vanuatu that started the Web project. “You can’t do that in a First World country. It was amazing, we just walked up, there were no barriers.”
Good Anchorage is free and available by logging in at www.goodanchorage.com.
Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.