The CAPN, good home found


I know a lot of salts, some of them geeks too, who’ve been using The CAPN for years, and don’t want to switch. I’ll bet they’ll be pleased to learn that this venerable charting software package will now be managed and developed by new owner Star Technologies, as announced here. I had a long chat with principals Bob Strunce and Witt Wittmaack today, and was impressed with what a good home this looks to be. For one thing, Star Technologies really is about rocket science, better yet the software side of it, and has been for some 30 years. For another, Strunce is a serious boater who’s been using The CAPN since 1993, and Wittmaack is Naval Academy graduate with time on submarines. Here’s what they have in mind for The CAPN:

* First class customer service and technical support. (They say the phone is already busy as word gets around that the software is back to being a focus product, instead of being lost in Maptech’s software jungle).

* Update The CAPN so it’s built on modern tools like Net Framework, but not so that the familiar interface changes radically.

* Look into partners who could provide marine computers, monitors, and, yes, radar scanners to package with future versions of the software.

Strunce and Wittmaack are also looking for update suggestions from current CAPN users (feel free below), and they’ll be at the Annapolis Sail show with long-time dealer SeaTech Systems. And apparently Dennis Mills—the Mainer who first developed the program, and came up with Computerized American Practical Navigator name—is headed to Virginia to give the new team his two cents. I look forward to a revived CAPN, but also recall that it has some pretty cool features right now, like the best AIS CPA/TCPA presentation I know of, and a history of working well for commercial users, even in odd niches. For instance, I took the picture below in the Camden Harbor Master’s office last week. He’s used The CAPN to mark hundreds of moorings in the outer harbor and then a huge printer in the Code Enforcement Office to print them out (and the location data will apparently integrate easily with a municipal harbor management program that the town just bought).


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

9 Responses

  1. Brian Lane says:

    I hope they listen to Dennis, he really knows what he’s talking about!
    I would suggest that they don’t jump the gun on ‘upgrading’ to .NET framework — I imagine that a large part of their user base is on machines that can’t support it.

  2. Dan (b393capt) says:

    Here is a suggestion … design the next version of the software so that it supports
    – support remote clients, and parter with a vendor that could make small generic instrument displays that can display any of the information CAPN has, as configured at the computer running CAPN. Such a display rcving data via bluetooth, WiFi, and maybe a wired connection. I envision such a display would have buttons/soft keys a user can select options from at the client, e.g. change display pages, etc.
    – similarly support remote clients that can run on PDA’s and notebook computers.
    – emulation/proxy support for wireless applications that exist today and in the future, in a way that the apps run under CAPN on the PC or any of it’s connect clients in a way that the apps have no idea they are not running on a PDA or cell phone. Benefit: Get all the nifty functionality from marine wireless apps right thru the PC and multiple fixed displays in the cockpit rather than having to dedicate a PDA to your boat that could be lost to the sea.
    – create an open interface on the PC so that users could create programs to send/rcv data to CAPN. For example, make it simple for someone to create an application that returns to CAPN a target boat speed, from data it rcvd from CAPN (e.g. true wind direction & speed). Make it so the interface can receive either XML formatted data, or a graphical response. (e.g. a connected application might take as input engine temp and other information, and return a bar graph or other GUI object that is easy for a user to interpret specific to their goals … like Russ posted on another thread.)

  3. metrail says:

    Congrats Bob and Witt!
    It is with great joy to see The Capn lives on.
    I have had the honor and enjoyed using The Capn on U.S. Coast Guard Patrol vessels, Recreational and Pleasure vessels including working with navigators aboard U.S. Naval nuclear subs. Even without a recent upgrade, The Capn is so far ahead of its time, it blows the competitors out of the water. Captain Dennis Mills (the original Chief Developer) strived to keep the GUI simple so the weekend recreational mariner could be safely navigating without reading the help files. He also kept it powerful enough so the Master Unlimited mariner could use special features designed for the U.S. Coast Guard and state of the art situational awareness features the competitors don’t even know about!
    No Smoke and Mirrors — Long Live The Capn!!
    Dennis, please give me a call so I can get you the lobsters I owe you. 🙂
    Steve Pixley — Outstanding job using the custom “MARK” size feature we worked on!
    Ben, thanks for your great work in keeping the boating public informed!!
    Very respectfully,
    Kevin from Otter Creek Maine

  4. Capt. John Savoie says:

    I saw something about the Coast Guard patrol well we would like to use it for the same thing but receive mmsi numbers to get the location of the boat on patrol. Is this somthing that can be done?
    We’re trying to setup such a system and we don’t know what program to use. I own the Cap’n and like it very much.
    Thanks for any help.

  5. Kerry Deare says:

    I wonder if your initial approval of this transaction is still as high as it was when you wrote this article. I am a long term user of The Capn (starting with a DOS version in 1993. I know Dennis Mills quite well, have sailed with him, and have benefitted from his knowledge over the years. As far as I am able to tell, he did not in fact join with Star Tech in support of the latest versions. Additionally since acquiring the most recent version of Capn Voyager, I have had a few issues that should have been easily resolved.
    In particular, registering my copy on an additional laptop was like visiting the dentist. I finally mamanged it, although I had been advised earlier by Star Tech that this routine procedure was to be available online (it is not). In addition, contacting Star Tech for routine customer tech service is difficult at best. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I try via e-mail, telephone, bulletin board, etc. Frankly I am not yet convinced that Star Tech is enthusiatic about The Capn and the responsibilities that ownership of the software entail.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I heard plenty of promises from Star Tech at the 2008 Annapolis show, but have yet to see any of them. Witt is trying his best to keep up with the tech support issues, and I gather Fred has a geat many ideas on updates, but I gather the project has been “shelved” for the last year (though curiously showing as a “coming soon” on the site). I have been writing software since the early 80’s, and considered updating my VB6 projects to “Dot net” until I heard of how much of a mess that really is. My VB6 versions still run just fine in Vista. I think they should focus on the ergonomics and communications issues, and if it aint broke… get it into Linix before it does.

  7. Pneumatos says:

    Stay the course; The Capn is alive and well, and new releases etc. are on the way. As for the scuttlebutt, Maptech Nav is NOT taking The Capn back, and a release to fix some nagging issues is forthcoming. Watch for winds to freshen in the next few months. Microsoft has demonstrated the chaos hasty updates and changes can bring. Be thankful updates to The Capn are being carefully (and actively) planned.

  8. John Hallinan says:

    Don�t know if anyone is still looking at this string –
    The goals listed on September 15, 2008 (above) were great � but the truth is, no one puts as much into a system as the original architects, the people who lived it and breathed it and shrink wrapped it for initial release. The Captain Voyager designers were ahead of their time.
    I began using the Captain back in the early days, when you could get excited technically competent people on the phone � but then it got sold, and sold again.
    On September 9, 2009, �Anonymous� (above) noted that things just aren�t happening � that was followed shortly by �Pneumatos� saying �Be thankful updates to The Capn are being carefully (and actively) planned.�
    Today, six months after Pneumatos� post and a year and a half since the sale, nothing visible has happened.
    I�m a creature of habit, familiar with the Capn and very reluctant to give it up. But we spend considerable time offshore � the thought of suddenly having to shoot the sun, moon & stars from a pitching deck in the middle of a passage is downright disconcerting. (Actually, we have three GPS�s aboard). So we have always carried two computers with identical software including the Captain aboard. But last week the inevitable happened. One of the computers died. Since we won�t venture offshore without redundancy, we are at a decision point. The computer purchase will be comparatively simple �
    The hard reality is that the posts over the last 18 months, above, and review of posts at are pretty compelling. The lesson here, for me anyway, is that organizations that do only one or two things, and are enthusiastically marketing a product they originated are the ones to invest in and purchase from. This will be the first time I�ve had to learn a new system.
    But I�ll keep the Capn loaded on my still operating computer just because I like it.

  9. s/v Kerry Deare of Barnegat says:

    Since Jone Hallinan asked, the answer is that I for one am still following this thread, and still checking from time to time to see if The Capn is even breathing. My conclusion is that this project is, at best, on life support.
    I suppose John said it all when he described his system. I also carry a “navigationally identical” pair of laptops, each equipped with all charts for relevant areas, and each loaded with 6 or so navigation packages. I have mentioned earlier in this thread that we started with Dennis Mills in 1993, and as we all know from high school one’s first love is the hardest to forget. However when one eases on into middle age (and in my case a bit beyond) one reevaluates. Unfortunately The Capn is a long lost love. My major complaint, aside from the obvious software deficiencies, is that the new owners at Startech simply have not accurately reported their situation. There is absolutely no evident development, but there is certainly no lack of promises, all made and not kept.

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