England Ireland Find Havens
England Ireland Find Routes
Boat
Maintenance
Comfort
Handling
Safety
Other

About

eOceanic.com uses a ‘question and answer’ format to help transfer information quickly and efficiently. It is only fitting that we use the same approach to help us answer some questions we believe you might have about us:

What’s this all about?

We believe that every person that takes a boat out to sea should have the benefit of the best possible knowledge. That with this, sailing will be safer, offer better experiences and be more open and attractive to more people.

To accomplish this, we collect the broadest and deepest local sailing knowledge. We add structure, standardisation and bring it alive with technology to make the information beautiful, simple and a joy to use.

We then realise our vision by making this available to everyone on eOceanic.com, as a positive instrument for sailing, for the common good of all.


But how can you earn an income when you are giving away everything for free?

We have not commercialised eOceanic as of yet but we will do so in the near future. However, our objective has been, and will always remain, to provide the sea going community with the best of sailing information for free, for the common good of all. That will never change.

Users who cherish this resource can however rest completely assured the financial sustainability of eOceanic is in hand. This will come through future offerings that will in no way detract from this widely loved resource, but only serve to enhance it and the sailing experience it supports. For born digital, and with innovation in our blood, we see the world differently, and new perspectives bring about new possibilities.



How did this all come about?

eOceanic is based upon the inspiration of Michael Harpur an Irishman from rural County Wexford. In the early nineties, after having worked for a few years within England’s computer hardware business, he started to save and search for an offbeat life-defining adventure.

Largely because he had never set foot on a sailing boat, the prospect of buying one and sailing it around the world appeared to perfectly fit the brief. So, in 1996, on the day after his 31st birthday and with little or no sailing experience, he set out from Ireland on a classic yacht called Obsession in a bid to circumnavigate.

Initially founded as inyourfootsteps.com, eOceanic would come into being in 2006. Though almost precisely a decade from that earlier departure the site’s founding building block of ‘Experience’ would come almost entirely from that first point of contact with the attempted circumnavigation. So inextricably intertwined were the two, that it was a handwritten ledger from Obsession, or more appropriately the loss of it, that would directly spark the creation of the site.

For casting himself into the Atlantic in 1996, on a craft that was to the largest part foreign to him, Michael Harpur was to feel the absence and criticality of experience like few others would. Worse, he was discovering that the seagoing books he hoped would bridge the gap presented an almost impenetrable wall of sailing nomenclature.

There is no front or back to a boat, but a stem and a stern. No left or right, for port and starboard or bearings based on specific quarters of the vessel. No maps, but charts, no ropes or pulleys but countless lines that pass-through or around cleats, fairleads, blocks and sheaves. Every aspect of a sailing vessel and the seagoing environment has a specific set of names that are precise and contextually definite and they all layer upon each other to execute a procedure. When there is any confusion regarding a name within a textbook's explanation, let alone several, any meaning that one is attempting to assemble completely falls apart.

To overcome this problem Michael Harpur commenced a rigorously disciplined practice of summarising sailing text books into a simplified ‘plain English’ ledger entitled ‘Knowledge and Experience’. Through this process, sometimes utilising sketches and drawings alongside, each concept could be contained until its meaning was fully derived. Then the information could be evaluated in the context of the voyage and the practices and procedures needed aboard devised. Over time the practice of noting down of boat-handling procedures became habitual and extended to include innovations and ideas discovered and developed along the way. And as the sea miles increasingly passed under the keel, the pages of ‘plain English’ ‘Knowledge and Experience’ ledger began to fill.

One hot summer’s evening in 2006 the ‘Knowledge and Experience’ ledger would resurface in a very different context. At that time Michael Harpur was happily married and back in London working for the computer company Hewlett Packard. His toddling first son Robert was bringing about a house move and part of his preparation for the move was a garage clear-out. This was a much-needed rationalisation of life’s peripheral kilter that had washed up in the recesses of the garage. The day’s hard-and-fast rule was ‘use it, or lose it’, there could be no sentimentality about it, either an item had a definite purpose in the new home or it had to be jettisoned.

Amidst the sorting process a dusty old box of boating pieces emerged. Stacked within, between many worn books, was the long shape of his familiar old ledger. He could not help but pause to leaf through the handwritten summaries and sketches. With the vestiges of Obsession’s scent still clinging to its pages, he could picture where he was when he wrote each page and every page. Suddenly, returning for the revere, he realised that he had been leafing through the ledger for at least thirty minutes when his purpose was to specifically get past this type of sentimentality. Reluctantly he saw that all it contained was entirely superfluous to his life and he forced himself to discarded the ledger and return to the purpose in hand.

It was a decision that would not sit well with him in the following weeks. A sense of remorse, tinctured by wasteful guilt, began to occupy a place in the back of his mind. Several months later, when taking the hand and foot imprints of his son Robert, this would take a new direction. Looking at the dried small red paint hand and foot imprints on the paper, it occurred to him that he may not need the information that the ledger contained, but what about the next generation, what about them? Reaching for a pen before the thought escaped him he noted down what about those who follow in your footsteps beside an imprint.

The following month he took clients out for a friendly pre-Christmas lunch to celebrate a major installation. The lunch extending well into the evening and in high spirits, within technology circles, he found himself vocalising the possibility of creating a ‘.com’. One where personal sailing experience would not be wasted but could be made freely available to all who needed it for the common good. Whilst travelling home by train that night, still in the heat of the moment, he searched to see if ‘inyourfootsteps.com’ was available. Finding it was, he purchased it there and then and in the following weeks, the original red paint imprints of Robert’s feet were scanned, and when ‘for those who follow inyourfootsteps’ was added beneath, inyourfootsteps.com had its first logo.

So inyourfootsteps.com was born as a hobby, solely for the purpose of sharing sailing ‘Experience’. At the beginning, it was a flat website that he designed and programmed himself. His Hewlett Packard role centred around introducing complex new technologies and he found the most effective way to convey information was to re-author product presentations around themes of ‘what, why, how’. Having found this to be the most effective approach to communicate the utility of technologies to clients he used the same layout for sailing experience.

The ‘Knowledge and Experience’ ledger was gone but he could still recall most of the experience and innovations he had noted, but drawings and images were a limitation. At this time his father-in-law, Tony Gibson, had just retired from his building company and he was soon he co-opted into the project for his technical drawing skills. Over the years Tony began taking on different and more challenging aspects growing to become a solid backbone to project progress.

By 2007, increasingly curious and intensely innovative, Michael Harpur found his desired site functionality had quickly stepped ahead of his amateur programming capabilities. A chance conversation with the son of his next-door neighbour had him mention a programmer school friend. This was Michael Sheldon who lived within a couple of miles and was, at the time, studying for his Doctorate at Aberystwyth University Wales. The two soon met and Michael Sheldon took on the short task of taking the site’s flat flat ‘Experience’ layout and turning it into a dynamic site.

What was to follow was an unending flow of innovation, functional and design development from Michael Harpur that would continually press, but never surpass Michael Sheldon’s capabilities to bring it to life. Michael Sheldon proved to be a world class developer who never failed to implement a requested technical enhancement. But he brought more than coding skills to the project. He brought with him the core values of Computing's ‘Open Source’ movement and instilled it deep within the project’s DNA and ethos. A year after Michael Sheldon’s arrival, a fledgeling new category called ‘Havens’, appeared on the inyourfootsteps.com.

‘Havens’ was also born out of the early days of the attempted circumnavigation. It was founded in a salutary tale heard during the first months of the voyage during a stay in the age-old Portuguese trading port of Porto. The story was the account an English yacht caught out in rough weather off the local coastal area. Seeking sanctuary for his family, the skipper ran for the safety that the large capital port of Lisbon would surely offer. But ports built on river estuaries, such as Porto and Lisbon, are subject to ‘bars’ deposited outside their entrances. In heavy onshore conditions, seas tend to break over these elevated bars rendering these ports completely inaccessible. In the event, the English yacht came up on the bar and was destroyed amidst its breakers. The entire family lost their lives.

Singularly accountable for the vessel and its crew this account had an enormous impact. He had, upon reaching Porto, experiencing some short spells of rough oceanic conditions and was deeply empathetic to the plight of the family. He knew it all too well, the feeling of complete exhaustion, the underlying nausea, the total incapacitation of many hands, the endless and remorseless hurtling about, the lure of a safe haven to make it all stop, the single most important rule of the sea going vessel, 'the land is the danger', so easily overlooked. A dozen years later, whilst inspired by the possibilities that inyourfootsteps.com enabled, the deep impression that the Porto tale had left was to be perceived again.

It was summer 2008 and at the time Michael Harpur had returned to his County Wexford homestead for the traditional holidays. By chance, he was looking at his old leisure sailing guide for the county that he had used before setting off in 1996. Looking at it anew, in the light of the subsequent seagoing experience, something occurred to him that he had never noticed before. The pan European pilot could only feature a few county Wexford locations, two of which catered for visiting yachts and offered complete protection. But, like Lisbon and Porto, both would endanger a vessel running for their protection in strong onshore conditions.

So Havens came into being and began by reaching out to local county Wexford boatmen and trapping their local knowledge. The first havens were each written in the vernacular of the seagoing people engaged. With the focus and breath the site offered, Wexford was found not to have as few as three havens, but more than twenty.

But in time Havens started to spread beyond Wexford, and as it grew it started to mature and develop its own voice. It quickly took on the ‘what, why, how’ theme but also an extreme focus on consistency so that once a user familiarised themselves with one Haven they could rely upon all others being laid up exactly the same. Most of all, the language was open, non-elitist and jargon free. Each haven’s discussion would be put across in such a way that it could communicate to the novice as well the seasoned sailor. Likewise, through an extensive focus on imagery and the telling background stories, it sought to communicate to the non-sailing community and invite them to enjoy the joys of the coastline.

As Haven’s voice and structure began to develop, curiosity turned to how this information could be melded with the technical capability offered by the online environment. A constant stream of technical innovations was to follow so that dynamic data seamlessly flowed and fused with the individual variables of each haven. A self-monitoring, alerting and reporting system was embedded within the site to flag existing situations but also easily overlooked developing situations that could make for an unsafe approach or stay in the coming days. All combine, to make it easy to find true sanctuaries, in both good and unsettled conditions. By the time the majority of Ireland was complete, not only had it made the country freely available to the sailing community, but it had by degrees of technical innovation, redefined how sailing information should be conveyed.

As Havens grew to embrace the national coastline, the sites third and final category of ‘Routes’ came into being. Routes was initially added to provide a clean hand-off between coastal approaches and the heavens themselves. It first appeared as a set of national ‘Coastal Descriptions’ which provided detailed guidance to support inshore navigation and safe approaches to its Havens. But once developed, it was found to present the perfect vehicle for the collection and sharing of coastal cuts and tidal strategies that support intelligent and efficient passage making. Soon, like Havens, the natural process of technical innovation took place to enable Routes to make efficient passage planning a joy.

With the final addition of Routes inyourfootsteps.com had found its final natural structure, creating and fulfilling its own brief as it grew. Armed with a seaworthy vessel, plus a good set of charts, like nothing else before it, inyourfootsteps.com completely empowered all sailors to approach and enjoy the areas it addressed.

In 2014 Michael Harpur bought sailing yacht Whistler to do just that. During all this time his son Robert, then accompanied by younger brother Giles and sister Lauren, had grown old enough to steer the vessel. Being just a couple of years younger, it was decided that inyourfootsteps.com had also lost its baby feet. The sites original red feet logo was then replaced by the present image of the family Whistler sailing close-hauled.

During this entire period, the focus of the site had been on development, innovation, the art of the possible and the joy of creating something novel. It was a side hobby whilst Michael Harpur earned his living from working in Hewlett Packard. But the scale of the site had grown extensively and become a hugely demanding project. Likewise, and although it had taken its final form, it required singular mission like focus to bring it together cohesively and seamlessly. To do this Michael Harpur resigned his post in Hewlett Packard in 2015 and dedicate himself to entirely to this purpose.

The south coast of England was then opened up county by county as he was ably assisted by Michael Sheldon to add the further waves of development needed. These including a new responsive design, that allows the information to be optimally viewed on a wider range of devices, more enhance data integrations and cleaner lines amongst countless small enhancements.

Finally, after many English sailors suggested that ‘in your wake’ would surely be the more appropriate sailing name, and having to explain that this would most likely have negative connotations in Ireland, it was decided inyourfootsteps.com had also outgrown its fledgeling footsteps. In May 2017 inyourfootsteps was was reborn as eOceanic.com being equal parts Oceanic, meaning all things pertaining to the Ocean, and the technical ‘e’ electronic. In the late summer of that year, thanks to the ability to give the site the dedicated focus it required, eOceanic.com Version 1.00 was finally declared.

This is how eOceanic.com has come to be. But it is only part of the story of this great resource. Throughout its development, it has been enthusiastically supported by and had information provided to it by countless sailors and harbour masters. The site would not be fractionally as informative and enjoyable without the keen eye for the beauty of the coastline that has been generously shared by thousands of individuals who licence their imagery via Creative Commons. With particular respect to Ireland, the site is deeply indebted to the images provided by Tourism Ireland that has enabled us to show the world the beauty of the Irish coastline.

It is impossible to single any one individual out, but equally impossible not to mention the deeply experienced Wexford aviator and sailor Burke Corbett. Introduced when Wexford’s fledgeling Havens were being first set down, Burke went on to be a major knowledge contributor, evangelist and mentor who has shaped and guided the project throughout its growth like no other. But this is not to lessen all who have contributed to eOceanic.com and we specifically celebrate all our contributors where we can on the appropriate page. We would like to thank all those who have left something of their experience as a gift to those who follow in their footsteps on eOceanic.com.

But this data is already available elsewhere?

Yes there is a wide selection of sailing publications available; technical books, cruising guides, voyage accounts not to mention a host of excellent sailing magazines.

Few are available to anyone who have web or mobile web access; right here, right now. Few are defined by category in a normalised, straight-to-the point easily understood format. Few allow the user to comment, enhance or correct data with immediacy. Few, if any, are free. None interweave and fuse technology like we do to make the data come alive. When eOceanic.com focuses, for example in Ireland or the south coast of England, nothing compares with the breadth and depth of information available. This is what we do and why we are unique.

But it is more than that; it is what stands behind what we do that defines us most. Our vision, focus on safety and knowledge sharing, the innovation that is in our blood, our recipe of people, process and technology. All combine to make eOceanic.com very unique.


What we are doing now?

We are currently focusing on finishing the Irish coastline whilst extending out our coverage of England. Through Havens and Routes, we are striving to make the following statement true: No one need pass the shores we cover for the want of shelter in a storm, the knowledge of its resources, or somewhere to bring up in a place of natural beauty.

All of Ireland’s coastline is covered by eOceanic.com and we are continuing to deepen and broaden our data on the coast. If you would like to help please contact us (above) or click the ‘share’ button above for details. We would also be delighted to hear of proven cruising routes or shortcuts along the coastline.

Finally, have you discovered optimisations on your boat or solved problems? Let’s share them. Nothing is too small or too large to help. Again please click the ‘share’ button and you will be guided through an immediate contribution. All will be of enormous help to the next boatman who will be following in your eOceanic.

Foot and hand prints with thanks to Robert, Giles and Lauren Harpur.