inyourfootsteps.com uses a ‘question and answer format’ to help transfer information quickly and efficiently. We are delighted to use the same approach to let you know about us. Media companies may freely copy, reuse or republish any of our ‘about us’ text.
What does this do?
As individuals we all journey on different paths, sometimes ahead on our paths, sometimes behind. Imagine creating a sailing insight sharing flow between different points in our paths? This is what inyourfootsteps.com does for the common good of all.
Not alone does it collect and share the sailing experience, but it simplifies, adds structure and consistency to convey understanding more quickly, easily and reliably than any other. To this it adds layers of real time sailing information, visuals and selection tools, all operating within an intelligent safety harness of alerting tools to minimise unnecessary dangers.
This we make available to all as a web application, and on mobiles phones, where the collective wealth of insight may be freely, permanently and safely made available to all.
Why we do this?
We believe the greatest achievements are created by the power of what we do together. That the most precious thing we bring to a collective is our individual human insight. This is our passion and intellectual imperative. For with human insight, the more we share, the more we have and the more we advance together.
Sometimes you have to be what you want to see in the world. That’s why we created inyourfootsteps.com and made it freely available to all.
How did this all come about?
In the early nineties a thirty year old Irish man called Michael Harpur was looking for an adventure. The prospect of buying a boat and sailing it around the world appealed. He had no sailing experience but this was not a discouraging factor; rather it added to the challenge of the exploit. When set alongside the unique and interesting promise the adventure held, he elected to do it. In 1995 he set off from Ireland in a yacht called ‘Obsession’. Although inyourfootsteps.com was to appear more than a decade later, its founding keystone of ‘Experience’ was to come directly from the first weeks of this circumnavigation.
Upon launch, and for the first time completely committed to a sailing craft, it was sailing nomenclature that was to prove the unexpected primary obstacle. Needing to get everything from books, and quickly, the ancient language of the sea presented an almost impenetrable foreign language. To overcome this he resorted to transcribing key sections of sailing books into plain English. This process provided the focus and mechanism required to break down maritime knowledge and simplify it. Through this simplification he could then draw-out and decide upon the key practices and procedures to implement aboard his vessel. From this beginning a key hallmark of his circumnavigation was established and in time the plain English notebook began to include innovations and ideas that were developed and discovered along the way. A decade late, and long after circumnavigation was completed, it was this notebook, or more precisely the loss of this notebook, that was to be the catalyst for inyourfootsteps.com.
At this time Michael was working in Hewlett Packard’s ‘UK Server Strategy’ team and his toddling first son Robert was bringing about a home move. To lessen the removal van load a garage clear-out was required and the rule was; either an item had a definite purpose in the new home or it was to be jettisoned. Amidst this the old circumnavigation notebook resurfaced from a dusty box of boating equipment. Pausing to leaf through his familiar well-worn handwritten pages and schematics, he wavered indecisively. Then, in the haste of the moment, adhered to the rule, discarded it and returned to the garage clear out. In the following weeks this was something that did not sit well in the back of his mind. A sense of inexplicit wastefulness and remorse began to colour his reflections upon throwing the notebook away. When established in his new home a month or so later this unsettled thought made an unexpected connection.
At the time he was making paint hand and foot imprints on paper with Robert. When surveying the small hand and foot prints the background regret finally articulated itself. He may not have any need of the content of that notebook, but what about the next generation, what about them? Reaching for a pen he noted down ‘what about those who follow in your footsteps’ and started to consider it from that perspective. A few weeks later, he took clients out for a long and very friendly Christmas lunch that was extending well into the evening. In seasonal spirits, and within technology circles, he found himself discussing making the sailing experience available via a dot com. Traveling home via train connected to the web Michael searched for the URL inyourfootsteps.com. It was not taken and in the heat of the moment he purchased it there and then.
At the beginning inyourfootsteps.com was a flat website that he designed and programmed himself. His circumnavigation notebook was gone but he could recall many of the innovations he had discovered and implemented. He documented these in a simplified and consistent ‘what is it’, ‘why do it’ and ‘how to’ format so that the information could be clearly communicated to the inexperienced. Soon he co-opted his father-in-law Tony Gibson into the project. Tony had just retired from his building company and his drafting technical drawing skill could be applied to the schematics required for ‘Experience’. Over the years Tony began taking on different and more challenging aspects growing to become a solid backbone to project progress.
By 2007, intensely innovative and increasingly anchored in the project, Michael found the desired functionality he required quickly stepped out beyond his own programming capabilities. A chance conversation with the son of his next door neighbour had him mention a programming 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 a short task of taking the first flat ‘Experience’ site and make it dynamic. This quickly turned into an unending code chase; Michael Harpur continually inventing and reinventing user interface features, functions, visuals and design; Michael Sheldon chasing to implement the back end capabilities within the system. Michael Sheldon turned out to be an exceptional programmer that never failed to implement a requested technical requirement. But he brought more than code 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. One year after Michael’s arrival a fledgling new category called ‘Harbours’, that was to be subsequently renamed ‘Havens’, appeared on the inyourfootsteps.com task bar.
‘Havens’ was born out of a tragic story Michael Harpur chanced upon early in his circumnavigation. It was during a stay in the age old trading port of Porto when he came across the account of an English leisure yacht wrecked whilst approaching Lisbon. Caught out in a storm the skipper, seeking sanctuary for his family, ran for the safety of the capital’s commercial port. However ports built on river estuary’s, such as Porto and Lisbon, are subject to river deposited ‘bars’ building outside their entrances. In heavy onshore conditions the seas break upon these elevated bars rendering this type of port completely inaccessible. In the event the vessel was destroyed on the bar seaway and the entire family lost their lives. The story illustrated fully the dangers of accessing ports in rough conditions. It also pointed to an age old sea truism that ‘novice sailors rejoice at the sight of land, where seasoned sailors brace themselves knowing the most dangerous part of the passage is drawing near. Coming across this tragic tale very early in his endeavour, plus deeply empathetic to the families’ situation at the time, this sad story made a deep and lasting impression.
More than a decade later, and innovating within the possibilities that inyourfootsteps.com enabled, that impression was to resurface again. It was 2008 and at the time Michael Harpur was holidaying in his home county of Wexford, Ireland. He was looking at the most widely used harbour guide and specifically County Wexford. It was the same leisure sailing guide he had used as a novice. But looking at it in the new light of his seagoing experience he was taken aback by what he saw. It only featured three locations for the countries’ key SE corner-county. Only two of these catered for yachts and they offered complete protection. Both he saw would wreck a vessel running for their safety in strong easterly conditions. By its nature the most popular sailing guide was creating a funnelling effect that could create a very dangerous situation for inexperienced sailors that relied upon it most. Considering this in the context of inyourfootsteps.com, ‘Havens’ was the result.
It began by reaching out to Wexford boatmen and trapping their local knowledge. The first havens were each written in the vernacular of the seagoing people engaged. It was found that Wexford had not three sailing havens, but more than twenty. The rest had simply never been made available before. In time ‘Havens’ started to spread beyond Wexford, and as it extended it developed its own voice. This voice became more confident, assured and professional and steered clear of jargon. Rather it focused on simplicity plus consistency to effectively and efficiently transfer understanding. It was a voice designed for the novice and the seasoned sailor, plus anyone who wanted to enjoy the Irish coastline.
By 2010 ‘Havens’ had begun to introduce external weather feeds that were specifically optimised for sailing. A year later local tidal data calculations were added. By 2013 all of this was overlaid by an innovative self-monitoring, alerting and reporting layer. The reporting systems provided users with intelligent decision making tools that optimal selected locations and suggested routes. These made it easy to find true sanctuaries, in both good and unsettled conditions. Alongside this an alerting systems continually monitored and flagged location dangers. It not alone warned people of existing situations, but also developing situations that could be overlooked and make for an unsafe approach or stay. By the time Ireland was complete, not alone had it made the country freely available to boatmen, but it had, by the degree of own innovation, redefined how sailing information should be conveyed.
When ‘Havens’ grew out from County Wexford, to embrace the national coastline, another new category was also added to the taskbar. This was called ‘Routes’ and it was set in place to provide a collective sharing point for local routes. Such path and directions included convenient short cuts plus tidal strategies that made for intelligent and efficient passage making. In 2011, when ‘Havens’ had grown to cover two thirds of the Irish coastline, ‘Coastal Descriptions’ were added to ‘Routes’. These descriptions were designed to provide offshore passage planning information. This data enables vessels to safely move between the extending list of ‘Havens’ and in and around the Irish coastline.
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, and as long as they had access to an Internet connection, like nothing else before it, inyourfootsteps.com completely empowered all sailors to approach and enjoy the areas it addressed. Being for the common good and freely available, it also had the advantage that they could share data with other people or even share their own data by adding to the content. But access was not just reserved to computers. As far back as 2008 an alternative mobile phone or 'Lite' view of the content was provided at Liyfs.com. Liyfs, the initials for Lite In Your Footsteps, is a lean and efficient mobile optimised view available alongside the web orientated inyourfootsteps.com version. It was set in place to fulfil the promise that anybody who goes down to the sea can have the resources of inyourfootsteps.com information in their pocket, available to them anytime, from anywhere.
This is how inyourfootsteps.com came to be. But it is only part of the story of this great resource. Throughout its development, it has been supported by and shared the information provided by countless sailors, harbourmasters plus imagery of photographers with a keen eye for the beauty of the coast. It is impossible to single any one individual out, but equally impossible not to mention the deeply experienced Wexford aviator and sailor Burke Corbett. First introduced when Wexford’s fledgling ‘Havens’ were being set down, Burke went on to be a major knowledge contributor, evangelist and mentor who has shaped and guided the project throughout its growth. But this is not to lessen all who have contributed to inyourfootsteps.com and we name all our contributors on each page. We would like to thank all those who have left something of their experience and knowledge for those who follow in your footsteps.
But this is already done and 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 freely 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. Plus when inyourfootsteps.com focuses, such as in Ireland, nothing compares with the breadth and depth of information we make 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 inyourfootsteps.com very unique.
What we are doing now?
We are currently focusing the site’s capabilities upon the Irish coastline. Through ‘Havens’ and ‘Routes’ we are striving to make the following statement true: ‘No boatman need pass Irish shores for the want of shelter in a storm, the knowledge of its resources, or a berthing place to enjoy in a place of natural beauty’.
All of Ireland’s coastline is covered by inyourfootsteps.com and we are continuing to deepen and broaden our data on the coast. If you would like to help please click the ‘share’ button above for details. There is a list of locations at ‘help us’ that we need more information on and your help will be greatly appreciated. We would also be delighted to hear of proven cruising routes or short cuts along this 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 footsteps.