OCEANTRACKING | YOTREPS | Frequently asked questions

Q. My friends are on passage but I don't see their boat listed or plotted. Why?
A. To be plotted on the YOTREPS chart, they need to be submitting regular reports. See Taking Part
Q. Okay, but they told me they'd be sending in reports, and I know their gear is good, but I still don't see them listed. Why?
A. There can be heaps of reasons for this. Unlike the telephone, long distance HF-radio links only work when ionospheric conditions are favourable. Sometimes other higher priority jobs (e.g. sail changing, or getting some sleep) mean that radio schedules are missed. A smashed keyboard or dash of salt water can put computers out of action. Power to run the radio is limited and may be needed for navigation lights or other equipment. If you do not see a boat listed, under no circumstances is this sufficient to conclude that they are in any difficulties.
Q. My friend's boat is plotted out wrongly. Why?
A. Boat positions are only recorded to the nearest minute of latitude and longitude. This amounts to about a mile of uncertainty which is of little significance while on passage but in harbour could locate them ashore. Note also that lines showing their track are formed by joining previous reported positions. If they are navigating close to an indented coast or within island groups these lines may well pass over land.

If the plotting error is large, it is most likely that the data received was wrong. Wrongly naming the latitude or longitude is a common cause. Before requesting technical support please be sure that:

    1. The data sent was correct.
    2. The site you are looking at is the YOTREPS parent site and has pangolin.co.nz as domain name. However the report format is often used by other boat plotters on the web though not all have the same ability for elimating errors. In these cases you will need to contact their respective site managers.
Q. I know the boat name but not the call sign of our boat, how can I find this out an look them up on the tracker?
A. To use the tracker, you need to know how the boat is identified in the data base. Call signs are good because each is unique. Boat names are easier to recognise though often lead to confusion if there are several with the same name. YOTREPS reports can use either boat names or call signs though they are restricted to a maximum of 9 characters and should consist only of letters A to Z or numbers 0 to 9 with no punctuation or spaces characters. The choice is at the discretion of the skipper or net manager if the report is passed through a radio net.

The list of reporting boats provides a cross reference of identifiers and boat names though only boats whose details are included in the members section data base are listed.

Q. Can you relay a message for me?
A. Only in an emergency and even then delivery is not assured and may not be speedy. The system is not intended for this use and the wish of some boat crews to remain anonymous is respected.
Q. How do I print the web tracker screen?
A. Your browser's 'Print' button is the obvious first thing to try, but if you're using a PC and MS Windows, there is a general purpose procedure you can use for capturing any screen image. Begin by getting the image that you want on screen and press your keyboard's 'Print Scrn' button. Nothing appears to happen but in fact, the screen image is saved in memory. Next open up MS Paint (menu path: Start->Programs->Accessories->Paint) and with the cursor in an empty document click the left mouse button. Press the ALT and V buttons together and you may see a dialog box appear asking if you want to enlarge the images space. Choose 'Yes' and tracker screen image reappears ready for you to edit, print and save as you wish.

For Reporting boats

Q. Should I use a boat name or radio call sign to identify my reports?
A. The identifier field can accept a maximum of 9 alpha-numeric characters with no spaces or puctuation and within this restriction you can use what you like. Using a call sign is a marine band or amateur radio call sign is a good choice as it's unlikely that another vessel will be using the same identifier. However, you want friends or relatives to be able to be able to pick you out from YOTREPS listings you will need to tell them what you are using. If you wish to use your boat name, that will also work though there is possibility of confusion if another boat of the same name is also submitting reports.

If you wish to remain anonymous, that's fine too and does not affect the value of your position/weather reports. Simply use and anonymous identifier but don't change it, at least not during the duration of a voyage.

While on this point, if you check in with a radio net such as the Pacific Seafarer's net where the net forwards reports on behalf of check-in stations, and then at some later stage in your travels begin sending them yourself, make sure you use the same ID or continuity of your reports will be lost.

Q. How can I get my boat's name to appear alongside of my entry on the Boat Reports Page?
A. Enter your vessel details in the YOTREPS Members section form.
Q. How often should I send in YOTREPS Reports?
A. The US National Weather Service (NWS) would like to encourage marine observers to collect weather observations at the synoptic times of 0000, 0600, 1200, and 1800UTC and to forward these reports within 1 hour of the observation time and no later that 3 hours. Observations at the intermediate synoptic times of 0300, 0900, 1500 and 2100 UTC and at any other time are also of benefit.

Reports are forwarded to the NWS as they are received however to preserve storage space and access speed, no more than one report per boat per day will be stored and displayed in the YOTREPS data base and tracker.

Q. How quickly should reports be sent?
A. Ideally, reports should be submitted no later than 4 hours beyond their validity time. Beyond this, their value to forecasters is reduced.
Q. Should I use my local date and time for reports?
A. No. Use only Coordinated Universal Time (UTC or GMT) for all dates and times. Reports that are more than 24 hours old or have future dates are rejected.
Q. How long does it take before reports appear on the plotter?
A. Much can depend on how long it takes for your e-mail to appear at the YOTREPS web server. With some HF e-mail systems delays of several hours are not uncommon. Once at the server, they're normally processed within 10 minutes.
Q. My reports are not appearing on the plotter. Why is this?
A. Assuming that your are addressing them correctly, this is most likely to be because the report is badly formatted. Read the section Submitting Reports and send a test report to yourself so that you can check it's format. Some common reasons for rejections are:
  • Line Wrapping - Report lines are 73 characters in length. Check that your e-mailer is not sending reports with a shorter line length.
  • The word YOTREPS is not the first line of the report or it has extra leading or trailing spaces.
  • The date is not in the second line of the report. Check that it has no extra leading or trailing spaces and is formatted as: dd/mm/yyyy (ie NOT in the usual US format with the month appearing first)
  • Your report was not a plain text email. This is a common error and it is important to understand what is meant by 'plain text'. Plain text messages contain just alphabetic and numeric characters, punctuation and spaces. They do not include format characters that allow the use of different fonts, bold, coloured italic or underlined type. Most email programs have configuration options that allow users to use either formatted (eg HTML or RTF) or plain text. You will need to dig into the help documentation to find out how your particular emailer manages these choices.
  • The report contains no weather observations. Some blank fields are ok but reports where all weather fields are blank are deleted after 1 month.

Where ever possible, try to use the Reporter program which is designed to produce correctly formatted reports. If you're using 'Airmail' as your e-mail program, a good alternative is to use it's own YOTREPS position report form which also ensures correct formating (see the Airmail help file for details).

When reports with errors are received, the error is recorded. You can see a copy of your error log by sending an e-mail to the List Server (see below)words "LOG ID" in the text body where ID is your YOTREPS identifier

Q. If I stop sending reports while I'm on passage, are the Coastguard notified or is any other action taken?
A. No. The YOTREPS scheme does not assume these responsibilities. However, if reports are submitted by a radio net (eg Pacific Seafarer's Net), the net will have its own policy for handling these situations.
Q. Can I send reports while in port or at anchor?
A. Yes, but please omit the weather observations. Weather conditions in ports or anchorages tend to be less severe that conditions in open sea which after all, is one of the reasons why we use them for shelter. Ports and marinas are often located close to official reporting stations with instruments of known calibration quality, so forecasters are less likely to be interest in data provided by visiting yachts on an occasional basis.
Reports without weather observations are stored (for 1 month) and plotted though not distributed to forcasters.
Q. I've just noticed that the report I've just sent contains an error. What can I do?
A. Try not to do it again. Like sending an e-mail; once a report has gone it can't be unsent. The server software carries out extensive checks on incoming reports looking for non sensical and obviously erroneous data. When these are detected the details are logged and can be inspected on request. See the List Manager Help section for instructions on how to do this.
Q. I just want to let my friends/family know where I am so why do I need to include weather observations?
A. By including weather observations you help keep forecasters informed on the weather you actually experience rather then what they expect. This in turn helps to provide better forecasts and by contributing to the offshore weather data base, your observations make a useful contribution to an analysis of trends in ocean cruising.
Q. Is there a URL that I can use in my own web site to show a plot of my position reports?

Yes. Use the syntax as follows:


(Here, 'YOUR_ID' is the identifier you use in your reports.)

Q. How can I use YOTTREPS to plot and track courses, speeds and wind conditions experienced by other boats on my route?
A. See the E-mail services page for details on how to receive the Daily 0000 UTC Summary e-mail. The e-mail is a plain text review of all reports received over the past 24 hours and is in a format that loads directly into the Reporter program for instant plotting.
Q. How can I add a Post card note to my position track?
A. For Winlink reporters, simply complete the comments section of your report form. The maximum length allowed is 80 characters. For all others (and for Winlink reporters wanting to add more lengthy notes) see the E-mail services Help section for instructions on how to do this.
Q. Can I add old reports from a previous voyage so that they can be seen on the tracker page?
A. No. A primary purpose of YOTREPS is to provide marine forecasters with current observations of offshore weather conditions. These are used to improve the quality of forecasts and so benefit the wider marine community. For this purpose time is of the essence. Ideally reports should be submitted immediatedly after the observations have been made. Reports more than 4 hour old have little value and the system rejects any that are more than 24 hours old or have future dates or times.

General details

Q. How long will reports remain on the web data base?
A. Usually 5 years or more for passage reports with weather observations and at least a month for shoreside reports and those without weather. After that, in the interest keeping the site running quickly and web space rentals within reasonable limits, older passage reports are transferred to an offline archive.
Q. How are the boat reports used?
A. Apart from the display of boat tracks on the Boat Tracker web page, report data is distributed to marine forecast agencies in several countries where it is used as a reality check against atmospheric model predictions. Countries include France, New Zealand, Fiji and the US National Weather Service's MAROB Scheme.

Reports are also stored on an archive data base for long term analysis of trends in ocean cruising routes and weather conditions.

YOTREPS e-mail list server questions

Q. How do I get on the server list to receive boat reports or weather information?
A. Details are given on the E-mail services page.
Q. I've sent a request to the List Server address but got no reply. What's wrong?
A. Firstly check out the request message you actually sent. List server command request words such as "HELP", need to be sent in a plain text e-mail. Because they insert other words and codes, sending them in HTML or rich text formats may not work. Command words should be on a line on their own and since they are read by machine, do not tidy the message by adding spaces or courtesies such as "Please send Help file". Finally, a very few e-mail services add their own additional header lines to the text body. You can check this out by addressing a message to your self and see if you receive more message lines than you sent. If there are it is possible that you will not be able to use the service to control YOTREPS List Server postings