Sailing with Pebble Time and Ventoo

I love my Pebble Time watch. That whole transition we all did where we went from wearing watches to having pocket watches again was dumb. I always feel better when I can look down at my wrist and catch the time. Just at a glance. No muss, no fuss. The Time’s “color” e-ink screen is perfect for that. Its always on. Its also really easy to see in direct sunlight. Or indoors. Or when its dark. Suffice it to say, its a good watch.

What I’ve always thought it would be really good for is being the speedometer on the boat. The club tends to have boats that either have no instruments, or non-functioning instruments. In order to figure out how fast we’re going, we’re always having to pull our our phones and fire up Saildroid. That’s fine, but there are some drawbacks.

  1. I don’t always like to get my phone out on the boat. Sometimes its wet out there. I mean, its a boat right? My phone (even if it is water resistant) is not waterproof. Plus, I probably need that sucker to get home, so I need it to work.
  1. Phone screens are less than awesome. They suck power, meaning the phone needs to be plugged in if its going to be on for a long time. They’re also hard to read in direct sunlight or with polarized sunglasses at particular angles. Again, not ideal.

We had tried integration between a smartwatch and the phone before. We tried iRegatta years ago, and found the experience somewhat wanting.

Last week, we tried out Ventoo (formerly Pebble Bike). I’d used Pebble Bike with my ebike before, but since their name change, I realized that they had added a knots feature. So now we can set the display to tell us knots! How cool is that?

How did it work? It worked pretty well. The only real downside is that it relies upon your phone. So if your phone sucks like my MotoG3 does, then you’re going to have some problems. For instance, Ventoo tracks and saves the GPS track as a .gpx file, perfect for putting into OpenCPN later when you get home. Unfortunately, the track quit about 3 tacks before we actually ended the day. I don’t think that was the software though, I think it was my POS phone. More testing will be required.

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I also like that you can manipulate all the relevant display information without futzing with the phone. You can even start the program, start the GPS, pause the GPS, and such on the watch. You can view the track on the watch, but it doesn’t have a map behind it so there are limits to how useful that is. We liked that feature because you could see the angles you were making on tacks upwind.

Ventoo didn’t have as many features as iRegatta in terms of sailing, so its not as good for racing. But as a simple speed display and gps tracker, it worked pretty well. Ventoo and the Pebble Time made a good combination that kept my phone safe, made the display visible, and would be weather proof if needed. You can swim with the Time. Verdict? I’ll use the setup again next time. And the price was right!

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