Secret of GPS chart-plotter discovered

Single-handing today I had a west wind which meant go south out of the Wood Islands  Harbour if you want to come back on the same wind. All well and good except a rising tide in Northumberland Strait gives a 2-3 Kt current to the west. Running a broad reach…crosswise to the wind…meant the tide carried me to the west even though the sailboat pointed south. 

After an hour I reversed direction…I could tack through the 180 degrees because the boat speed was high enough…about 5 Kts. Now, heading back toward the harbour, I noticed that when the boat pointed toward the lighthouse the little arrow on the GPS display pointed more to the west. OF COURSE, the GPS isn’t interested in the direction of the boat…just the net direction it finds the sensor going relative to the earth. You don’t need a course in vector math to recognize that the tide was moving me west as I sailed north. So I adjusted the autopilot setting until the GPS arrow was pointed toward where I wanted to go. Even though the boat pointed quite a bit east, the net direction was north! I’ve always known you could calculate the direction to point when in a cross current, but the GPS unit makes it even easier. My discovery for the day!

VHF radio progress

I have ‘bitten the bullet’ and ordered a new marine radio…the old one which has been in use for about 7 years seems to only work on a few channels (thankfully including channel 16) but I have never been able to test the DSC (Digital Selective Calling) emergency function to see if my GPS connection is working. The advice from a technician is that, if only some channels work it is most likely not the antenna or cable.

So I have ordered a new radio…in this case a Standard Horizon Eclipse 1150 for about $130…coming from Canada (Halifax) so it avoids the ‘agent fees’ which are highway robbery. Courtesy of US government regulations, all radios are now type D, which means that they will continue to monitor channel 16 when you are on any other channel…a distress call will interrupt whatever you are doing. Another feature is the display of the GPS coordinates...if I have correctly coupled my GPS to the radio…and the GPS is on…I will see the current coordinates on the radio display. That does wonders for my confidence about the setup.

As best I can tell, the only loss is the ‘loud hailer’ function on the previous radio which allowed me to put speakers on the mast and be able to shout at someone nearby. Not really necessary, I suppose.

So progress marches on even when you aren’t watching.

Progress with E-books

Since I’ve decided to ‘test the waters’ with E-books before finishing the print versions of my sailing and scripture books, I have been digging into ways to get to a suitable format. Unfortunately I have not tagged everything I’ve read so I can’t give you many links, but here are some discoveries:

  1. The best E-book candidates are ones with lots of text that can re-flow when the reader chooses a different font size, orientation, or even a different device. Books with lots of pictures, tables, and diagrams are not the best candidates fro E-book formats. 
  2. Microsoft WORD is the word processor of choice in preparing documents. Smashwords takes the .doc file directly while kindle takes the HTML conversion that WORD can make. I am gratified to read that my usage of WORD based on styles is the preferred way to go…no extra lines between paragraphs, no multiple spaces or tabs for the paragraph indents, and so on. Aside from inserted italics or bolding, the text should let the style determining everything.
  3. The table of contents is important for jumping to a specific place in the book…especially for non-fiction books where the reader can click to get right to the section of interest. WORD can easily create a multi-level table of contents in the document if the section heads use heading1, heading2, and heading3 styles. The only difference from doing it for print is to click the box to omit page numbers…the HTML version then inserts links to the specific places.
  4. The cover is still uncertain…there must be one. I can easily prepare a cover with Photoshop Elements (I often do that for the print books I publish with Lightning Source) and I have tried to put it at the front of the text file. It then appears there just fine but the goto for it…and the table of contents…are grayed out. Recent reading of Building Your Book for Kindle (a free E-book) seems to suggest that the key is to add bookmarks…a previously unused WORD feature…before converting to HTML.
  5. I am fighting against having to work in HTML. There MUST be a seamless way to get from WORD to the finished files…be they MOBI or EPUB. As long as you ‘go with the flow’ in terms of what you require of your E-book, I think the technology is there.
  6. There is presently a sharp split between Amazon (Kindle) and the rest of the world…especially EPUB (Kobe, Apple, and various others). I am leaning toward Amazon at the moment despite…or because of…their market dominance being in the USA.
  7. Proofing tools are important for testing your files before releasing them to the world. Kindle has a free previewer which (I think) includes (or at least automatically makes use of their file converter, kindlegen. The previewer lets you compile your HTML output from WORD and immediately test the way your E-book will look on the various supported devices…and then repeat the process until the final result is satisfactory.
  8. Money: all the tools, including the competing Smashwords, are free to use or download. The financial terms are typically around 70% to the author with the typical price to buy a download of an E-book being $2.99. High prices are about $9.99 and low prices are $0.99…although free is used for a short time to build interest and obtain reviews.

So there you have my present state of knowledge. The process, once you have a well-formatted WORD document, is quite simple…not the fearful HTML cutting and pasting I thought might be required. Now I have to get busy and finish the books.