How I started to develop an iOS app for tracking and sharing coastal cruises
Update 2022: this is a short story about how I became interested in developing an iOS app for tracking and sharing coastal routes and races. Unfortunately (for me, at least), the app is not longer available on the AppStore because I could no longer find time to update it to the latest technology frameworks from Apple (plus it turned out to be a really huge project to migrate it from Objective-C to Swift:(). But I still have it on my phone and use it to track my sailing since I still haven’t found another app that does a similar job with the same ease of use and practicality (so modest, I know).
In the About Me page I neglected to mention that among other things I also enjoy developing iOS apps. I started learning Objective-C on a whim last year. At the beginning just a curiosity, programming gradually became my main activity, which thus evolved from mobile product management to actual product development.
Last year, while on a spring cruise in the Aegean with three other friends, I used an iPad app (Plan2Nav) for tracking our progress from one island to another. We were fortunate to have pretty rough weather for more than half of the sailing period, with winds in the Bft. 6-7 range and waves that were occasionally towering to 4 or 5 meters. Our Bavaria 39 turned out to be a very reliable sailboat which although it did not sail very well to windward (perhaps due to its shallow fin keel!?), it motored smoothly across the big undulating waves. Feeling nauseous from the constant severe movement of the boat, I let the iPad do its thing while I spent most of the time at the steering wheel. Once I got back home I noticed that the gpx tracks saved by Plan2Nav contained some errors, for a strange reason from time to time they recorded a weird point on the other side of the globe, extending our daily runs to thousands of miles. Not too bad for a sailboat!
I really wanted to share the entire route with my friends, so I started editing the gpx files. This whole process turned out to be a pain. First I tried to identify the erroneous fixes and delete them form the files. Then I imported the files in Google Earth to process them as kml / kmz. Afterwards the newly saved files were imported in Goggle Earth – only to find out that Google Earth does not accept files that have more than a few hundred points. At this point, utterly frustrated, I decided to give up and shared the gpx files through a Dropbox account.
Lesson learned, as my Objective-C skills started to become sharper, I started thinking about an app that would allow anyone to easily track and share her / his coastal trips with family and friends. After some research and some initial programming, Odyssea was born in concept with the aim of becoming the most modern and easiest to use iOS app for tracking and sharing sailing adventures.
The main goal of the app is not to replace the traditional paper-based log-keeping, but rather to add another unobtrusive technological layer to it. Therefore Odyssea‘s concept ideas have been incapsulated in its main features, allowing each user to:
1. automatically track routes
2. monitor real-time progress on a modern navigation dashboard
3. automatically share live position while sailing (similar to AIS, if Internet connection is available on board)
4. keep track of routes and favourite boats across multiple devices
5. access sailing statistics in her / his skipper profile
6. see who is following her / his sailing activity and follow other skippers for inspiration
I believe that if you love cruising, racing, exploring and sharing your adventures, Odyssea can be your perfect tool and companion!