Savoring the memory of a cruise can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the time we spend on our boats. For most of us, recall of the events of the cruise will depend on how devoted we were to keeping the log up to date and annotating the location at which we took each of the accompanying photos. This tedious manual log-keeping process, including photo geo-referencing, can now be replaced by using your iPhone or another GPS-powered mobile phone to automatically generate a precise, GPS-based log.
A California company called GlobalMotion Media has developed a free application called EveryTrail that is available on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile. It can also accept GPS tracks recorded on other devices and subsequently uploaded to EveryTrail.
The result of using EveryTrail on an iPhone can be seen in the first image that accompanies this article. The entire voyage was recorded automatically, including the vessel's precise track and geo-referenced notation of the images captured using the iPhone's internal camera and images taken using a standard digital camera.
Like most Apple Mac applications, using EveryTrail requires little preparation. The app can be downloaded in iTunes and then loaded into your iPhone or it can be downloaded directly into the phone by accessing the phone's "App Store" icon. On-phone downloading on a 3G network will take less than a minute (even less if the phone's Wi-Fi connection is active).
Using EveryTrail to record your next voyage is simple. (A help video is described on EveryTrail's blog.) Open the phone's "Settings" menu and under "General," set "Location Services" to "On" to enable the phone's internal GPS receiver. Set the "Auto-Lock" selection to "Never" to keep the phone on for the duration of your voyage. If your planned trip will last for more than about two hours, plan on plugging the phone into an external power source. Continuous operation with the GPS consumes quite a bit of battery power. (Inexpensive 12-volt "cigarette lighter" power cables are widely available.)
Select the "EveryTrail" icon on the phone's screen. The "Trip Record" page that appears will report that the program is determining your location, based on the information supplied by the phone's GPS receiver. Three control buttons appear across the bottom of the screen: "Record Trip," "Save Trip," and "Settings." Two selections are shown at the top of the screen: "Map" and "About." The "About" option will display a page of notes and tips for using the app. Return to the opening page for trip logging by touching "Back" at the top left of the screen.
While position-finding is under way, touch the "Settings" key at the bottom right of the screen and select the EveryTrail "Menu." Create your free account by selecting "Sign Up" and filling in the requested data: user name, password (twice), and email address. Next, select "Map" and turn on auto centering, auto zoom, and select an update rate (selectable from once a second to once every 20 seconds). Once-every-20-seconds updates are more than adequate for hiking, rollerblading, bicycling - all but the fastest boats and cars. By the time you have completed the "Settings" selections the app will have found your location and will be ready to begin to log your voyage. The initial EveryTrail "Stats" screen will display your present latitude and longitude at the top right, along with your GPS derived altitude. (The extent to which your altitude varies from 0 feet will provide a rough measure of the precision of your GPS fix, provided you are cruising on an ocean, or your true altitude if on an inland river or lake.)
Touch the on-screen "Start" button to begin logging your voyage. Three control buttons, "Photo," "Stop," and "Lock," are available once logging has commenced. Touching "Photo" activates the iPhone's 2MP camera within the EveryTrail app. Recorded photos are displayed for evaluation and can be saved, retaken, or cancelled. Press the "Lock" button to protect the logging operation from accidental interruption when not using the iPhone's camera. The "Stop" and "Resume" buttons allow for interruption of the log, for example, when stopping for lunch or fuel.
When the voyage is complete, the "Save" button opens a trip details page, which requests entry of a title for the trip and the type of activity (e.g., cruising, flying, etc.) in which you were engaged. You can write a narrative of the trip using the phone's keyboard or add that information on your computer. (Typing short messages on the iPhone is easy, but writing a book on one is not a great idea unless you need to practice one-finger typing.) The next step is to save the trip record as a draft, or if you are on the cell phone (or even better in Wi-Fi range), choose "Upload" to transfer the voyage record, complete with photos, to the EveryTrail website.
A few minutes after the upload is complete you will receive an email message from EveryTrail announcing that your trip record is now available on their website. That message contains a clickable link taking you to everytrail.com, where more than 57,000 trips have been recorded. Click that link and you'll be looking at a page dedicated to your voyage, with your route precisely displayed on a map, with a topographic, satellite, or a hybrid image that combines them. The position at which each iPhone camera image was taken is indicated by a marker on the route. The images can be viewed as a slide show in which the pictures change and the map markers move in sync. The pictures can also be viewed individually. The three viewing options listed above the initial map image ("Photos," "Stats," and "Full") provide display choices that include, in the "Stats" mode, a time-based record of speed and elevation (the latter is of primary value when logging non-marine trips, unless you are moving through locks or engaged in white-water rafting or the like).
Once you are logged onto the website you can edit the map and the photos and create a narrative of your voyage by selecting the "Edit Description" option and choosing the "Trip Story" window-your invitation to become the world's next great travel writer. (Write your description in a word processor program and paste it into the "Trip Story" window.) You can enhance the story by adding more detail to the descriptions of the individual photos. Done that way, your story line, your photos, and your position on the map all evolve together.
You can elect to share your voyage record with other EveryTrail users or make it private, and you can include tips that you believe will enhance their experience if they choose to cruise the course you have logged. You can also notify other friends and family by sending them a link like the one below, or by using the share tools on the site.
Take a look at a recent trip from the Manatee River, near Bradenton, Florida, to Pass-a-Grille, Florida, by visiting this website. This trip includes photos taken with the iPhone's internal camera and images taken using a separate digital camera and later uploaded to the EveryTrail website via Yahoo's photo sharing site, flickr.com.
For passagemakers who don't think the iPhone's camera is up to snuff, the ability to use their preferred digital camera is a must. The EveryTrail program will automatically geo-reference the digital camera's images to the spot where they were taken, using timestamps on the GPS track and on the images themselves. That's pretty slick!
If you wish to view this trip account in Google Earth (now with Google Ocean), choose the "KML File Download" option from the EveryTrail website. Once downloaded to your computer, the KML file will open in Google Earth and show the voyage in every detail, including passages over open water where the new Google Ocean views will portray available bathymetric data.
The voyage record can also be downloaded as a GPX file for use in programming a GPS receiver or chartplotter. (This is a great way to provide a friend with a precise copy of your voyage.) EveryTrail will take GPS data from any source that can produce a GPX format track file, such as your chartplotter. Upload that track file, upload your digital photos via Flickr, add your story and figure captions, and the voyage is logged. EveryTrail will match the timestamps on uploaded photos to the GPS clock and can accommodate and correct for a constant time offset. If more than one camera is used, it's important to synchronize their clocks.
Thanks to EveryTrail, you are now not only a voyaging mariner, you are a travel writer capable of producing fully annotated, illustrated accounts of your travels. Thanks to the iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile, it's never been easier to get that GPS data and your photos up to the Web. And since EveryTrail works just as well on foot, on rollerblades, on a boat, on a bicycle, in a car, or in your aircraft, you can truly cover the world.