The state of Washington has built a strong foundation for a boating app identifying marine parks, marinas and other cruising destinations, but it needs help getting it finished.
The app now displays scores of boating sites in the state and offers some general information about what they offer–moorage and pump-out service, for example – but a lot of useful details are missing because the data is not easily or inexpensively available.
How do state officials plan to gather additional data? They’re going to try crowdsourcing.
That function is not yet in service, but soon boaters will be able to describe services offered by marinas and features of state marine parks and add photos and critical reviews.
The app is free and available for both Apple and Android devices. It’s also available on the web for personal computers.
Preliminary crowdsourcing occurred at the Seattle Boat Show in January as boaters gave some sites star ratings. “When we turn crowdsourcing on later people will be able to affect the star ratings,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the state’s recreation and conservation office.
The app was developed by SmartMine, a technology development team of GeoEngineers. The work was financed with a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and supported by three state agencies, Fish and Wildlife, State Parks and the Recreation and Conservation office.
Boaters can customize screen views by choosing between aerial photographs, street maps and navigation charts. The chart view so strongly resembles NOAA charts that some might be tempted to use them for navigation. Don’t do it. There is no latitude-longitude information and you won’t find the convenient mile marks on the edge of the app chart, or depth information or aids to navigation.
Symbols do indicate marina and marine park locations and indicate generally features they offer. But right now you won’t find details or phone numbers for marinas, for example, nor will you learn how many mooring buoys or docks spaces are available in marine parks.
I checked the app for Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes, where I live and the site of PassageMaker’s TrawlerFest programs. The marina earned a star from the January reviewers and the app indicates moorage is available but offers no marina contact information, either by phone or VHF. Blanks earmarked for fuel, marina amenities, shopping opportunities and pump-out service either remain blank or offer one word: “no.”
That does mean the amenity isn’t there, Cottingham said. “We just don’t have data for it.”
The state parks agency manages 40-plus marine parks in Western Washington marine waters, and others on rivers and lakes across the state. Keeping them safe and useful is difficult because the agency has lost nearly 80 percent of its tax support in recent years.
App buyers should travel with one or more cruising guides for the region. Some of the information not available on the app likely can be found in those printed publications.