FAQ – SailTimer Air Link 4™

What is the easiest way to set up NMEA 2000 cabling between my Air Link and GPS chartplotter?

If you don’t have NMEA 2000 cables connecting devices already, don’t worry it is pretty easy. Just get a NMEA 2000 starter kit (e.g. from a source like Amazon). The main cable is called the backbone, which has a resistor on each end. Then you can add T-connectors for a power wire, and to go to each device such as your chartplotter and Air Link. The basic pieces are shown in this diagram. (Alternately, NMEA 0183 just uses standard automotive-type wires, and does not require purchasing a special cable.)

What link for the Air Link app in the App Store on Android/iOS?

You can download the Air Link app from your app store to set up the Air Link. After setting up the Air Link, you can close the app and you should rarely need to use it again. The Air Link will reconnect automatically when it is turned on again.

Android app store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sailtimer.airlinkapp

iOS app store: https://apps.apple.com/ca/app/air-link/id6469375299

Red error (ERR) light is blinking fast when I power on the Air Link?

This fast blink (3 times per second) indicates that your Air Link is getting new features with an Over-The-Air (OTA) Update. When completed in a few minutes, the LED will stop blinking. Don’t turn off the Air Link during this process. The new 4th generation of the Air Link was developed and shipped as soon as possible, but there are other features that we want to provide for you. For example, many people want the Air Link to send NMEA wired data on wifi to mobile apps — that is the kind of additional feature that we can add with an Over-The-Air Update. The Air Link checks online each time it is powered up, to see if new features are available.

Should I give the Air Link internet access in my marina or when on?

Yes. As new features become available, your Air Link can get Over-The-Air Updates the same as a mobile app, to add new capabilities. When it is turned on, if it has wifi access to the internet, it will automatically check if there is a new update available. The red LED would then blink for about 3 minutes, while it downloads and installs the update. Internet access also allows you to crowdsource your wind data, for better weather maps for all. If the Air Link does not have internet access, it can store wind data on the SD card, and then crowdsource that wind data when wifi becomes available.

What is the easiest way to give the Air Link internet access in my marina or when on?

If your boat has a wifi router with internet (e.g. at the marina or via satellite), the Air Link can just join that network. Or your Air Link could join your marina wifi. Or if poor signal strength for the marina wifi, it would also be possible for the Air Link to have internet via your phone hotspot.

How can the 2.4 GHz Air Link connect to my 5 GHz wifi router?

Many routers allow connections on both 5 and 2.4 GHz (as explained here). This may happen automatically, but router settings can often be adjusted in a web browser to allow both, if necessary.

Does the Air Link 4 require GPS?

Yes, GPS data must be available from NMEA wiring (2000 or 0183), e.g. from your GPS chartplotter or a lower-cost GPS mushroom antenna. The Air Link uses GPS data for calculations such as from Apparent to True wind speed/direction/angle. It also uses GPS data to convert from wind direction in Magnetic North to True North.

For GPS data to the Air Link, what NMEA 0183 sentences can it receive?

For GPS data, the Air Link 4 currently receives the NMEA 0183 sentences RMC, HDT and HDM.

What is the Air Link app for, on Android and iOS?

The Air Link has LEDs for wifi, Bluetooth, NMEA 2000 and 0183, to provide feedback on processing and connections. But since it does not have a display screen, the free Air Link app on Android and iOS lets you easily configure functions like your connection to wifi and the internet, or connect the Air Link to your Wind Instrument.

Is there a tutorial showing how to use the Air Link app to configure my Air Link 4?

Yes, there is a 2-minute YouTube tutorial at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er_rDp_C3Xo

After configuring the Air Link with the app, do I need to keep the app running on my phone/tablet?

No, you can close the app or even shut off the phone/tablet. The app is only needed briefly to configure your Air Link 4 with wifi or with a Wind Instrument on Bluetooth.

What connector is on the underside of the circuit board, in case I want to remove (or connect) the included NMEA 0183 wire bundle?

On this photo, you can see the green screw terminals for NMEA 0183 and 2000. Although it is fine to open the case and remove the NMEA 0183 wires, the wiring bundle could also simply be cut off where it enters the case. The 0183 wires are dead anyways if not connected to anything. That keeps the hole blocked, to keep moist air out.

Note that the color code for the NMEA 0183 wires is printed on the outside of the Air Link case, in case you need to reconnect them in future.

Why is crowdsourced weather better than the usual weather forecast?

Crowdsourced data is based on actual measurements, unlike satellite weather imaging. This gives much higher resolution than standard marine weather forecasts. With crowdsourced wind maps, we archive data in coastal areas to know exactly how the wind flows around a headland or funnels into a harbor when the wind on the open water is e.g. from the West. Then if the wind will be from the West in a new forecast, you can navigate knowing e.g. that it actually changes to a different direction entering the harbor. This crowdsourced data can have resolution in 10-meter cells, which is unheard of for estimates from satellites.

In traditional navigation, you can only get precise wind data from your wind sensor. No-one would ever set their sails based on the weather forecast. But with crowdsourced data, your wind sensor can tell you the wind around your boat, and the crowdsourced wind map can tell you what the wind is doing up ahead or around the next point.

Are there privacy issues when crowdsourcing marine weather?

No, you can register with a boat name or any identifier you want when registering to use the SailTimer Air Link and app. There are no credit card numbers, private data or demographics involved; actual measurements of marine weather are sent anonynmously to our server, to improve navigation for everyone. This may also give you the option to check weather conditions at your boat when you are at home, or for viewing races from shore, or for safety if you want someone on shore to know where you are.

When sharing weather data from the Air Link, there are no privacy violations and no attempt to gather other information about you for advertising. You should simply expect that data is shared to improve and validate weather maps. A public service that you can feel good about contributing to. No agency ever has enough weather stations — but crowdsourcing solves this problem. Even in areas with few users, they move around a waterway or coastline all season long documenting how the wind flows and validating weather forecasts.

The Air Link 4 is designed to be low-cost, so that lots of people can use it, which provides better weather maps for the entire boating community. It is possible to turn the crowdsourcing off in the Air Link app, but there is really no benefit to that. The data is just a few numbers in text format that are very low bandwidth. So we encourage you to leave it turned on for the public good.

What is the normal Air Link operating temperature, as shown in the Air Link app?

In the Air Link app, the Device Info panel shows you the temperature on the circuit board in the Air Link app. The temperatures are color-coded Green, Orange and Red to give you feedback in case you are in a hot climate and the Air Link is running in an enclosed space. The ranges are:

  1. 0 to 45 degrees Celsius → Green
  2. 45 to 65 degrees Celsius → Orange
  3. Above 65 degrees Celsius → Red

Operating in the green or orange zone is normal, for electronics in a sealed box. But if the temperature is in the red zone, that is a warning indicator. You should provide more ventilation to the Air Link and monitor to see that the temperature goes down. The most sensitive electronics on the Air Link may not tolerate temperatures above 65 degrees Celsius.

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