Thursday, July 24, 2008

iPhone becomes part of my cockpit

Those who know him (most of my readers) know that the owner of Safe/Sea likes to stay cutting edge. If there is a new computer out, he's gotta have one. So of course, all the Safe/Sea captains and full-time staff just had to have iPhones. I mean, all you could do on those old Nextel phones was talk to someone. How pedestrian!

I'm a big fan of technology if it actually improves something, or makes my job easier. Buying the latest gadget just because it's new or cool is a waste of money, IMO.

The iPhone has a number of very useful applications for towers, and today I was very glad to have it along as this very nasty thunderstorm passed over Block Island.

Note: this photo was taken with the iPhone. While the built in camera has practically no options (no zoom, no flash), it takes beautiful pictures.

Ok, the camera is fine, but as the storm approached, I was able to bring up Wunderground's iPhone weather page on the phone's web browser, and watch the Nexrad radar image to see exactly where the storm was. Here is an image I took (with another camera) of the iPhone's screen. The little shape in the middle is Block Island, with a big red cell approaching from the south. Turning on "animated radar" shows the movement of the storm, and the images are only a few minutes old. (click on photo to see larger image)

Sure, you can get weather radar overlapped on your GPS plotter with an XM radio subscription, but can you carry that in your pocket? Or, you can see rain on your ship's radar; I was able to monitor this storm while standing in line for coffee and walking around the docks. I watched this front approach for over an hour, and I knew when it would get here and how big it was. I was able to anticipate the wind direction based on the storm's movement, and once it started pouring rain on the pond, I could see how long the storm would last.

That kind of information is more than just a gimmick. The iPhone allowed me to stay informed about an approaching weather system without being tied to a desk or TV or radio.

A few nights ago, I neighboring tower called me at 2300 and warned me about a large thunderstorm that had just passed over his harbor and was heading my direction. With my head still on my pillow, I pulled up the radar on the iPhone, and I could see that the storm would pass north of me. I turned out the light and went back to sleep.

More about the iPhone next week.