How to use BoatCoach


1. Dashboard

The main screen (the BoatCoach dashboard) can be customized to use black text on a white background or white text on a black background. If the dashboard is in "normal layout" mode (see the settings page to adjust) it displays the following data using the phone's built-in sensors (no old-fashioned wires required):



Three indicators tell you how well your sensors are performing...

Start Piece Button

BoatCoach has two modes for starting pieces: manual mode and automatic mode.

Autostart dialog box

Other features include

Screen Layout

The dashboard supports three screen layout modes. The layout mode can be changed on the settings page.

  1. "Normal layout" shows all measurements (stroke rate, stroke count, Clock, time, distance, average speed, last 10 stroke speed, and heart rate)
  2. "Race layout" shows only the essential information needed for racing (stroke rate, time, distance, and speed) in larger fonts
  3. "Stroke rate only layout" shows only the stroke rate in an enormous font size


The menu button allows you to select other pages to visit...

2. Map

BoatCoach's unique map feature shows your location and that of all rowers currently using the BoatCoach app. Here are some things you can do with the map...

Each boat on the map shows basic information about the nickname and club of the rower. If you click on the boat then you get additional information about speed, distance, stroke rate, and elapsed time.

Boats are color coded by type (e.g. 8+ vs. 1x) to make it easier to find what you're looking for.

There are three on-screen buttons allow you to...

Encourage your club mates to all get on BoatCoach for the races!

3. Graph Workout

After you've done your workout, but *before* you leave the BoatCoach app, you can graph your workout on your phone.

On the graph's x-axis choose between distance and time. On the y-axis choose between speed, stroke rate, and heart rate (the other two y-axis variables will also be shown, but they will be scaled).

You can pinch and zoom within the graph to see details (requires Android 2.2 or later).

You can also do a regression analysis and plot speed vs. stroke rate. This plot gives you an idea of how effectively you increase your speed for each extra increase in stroke rate.

On the Graph Settings page you can change maximum and minimum limits for the y-axis variables so as to optimize the screen space. For example, you could choose not to show stroke rates less than 15 (on the paddle) or more than 40 (half stroke warmups).

"Speed smoothing" allows you to reduce error due to GPS noise. A medium setting is suggested.

When you're happy with what you have on the screen, you can email yourself screen shots.

If you're playing around with BoatCoach for the first time, there's a menu option to display a "demo graph".

4. Workout History

The history page gives a summary of the date, time, elapsed time, and distance traveled for each workout. Workouts are automatically stored if they exceed 10 strokes.

If you click on a workout you will have the option of either viewing the details or deleting it.

The details page shows details of each individual piece of a workout, including elapsed time, distance traveled, speed, stroke rate, and heart rate. There is also a total for the workout that adds up both pieces & paddling.

The data is stored in whatever format you were using that day. If you were viewing distanced in km and speed in minutes/500m, that is how the data will be stored.

The menu at the bottom has the option of emailing all the workouts to you or someone else in .CSV format, which is readable by most spreadsheet applications.

All your workout data is stored on your phone until you delete it.

If you use your PC to view your workout history, but your row in a place with no cell phone reception then you may have to click on the "manually upload history to Internet" button in the menu after each row, once you get to a place with good reception.

5. Settings

The settings page allows you to change the following parameters...

Enter Your Information

Your BoatCoach User ID

Enable Sensors

Measurement Units

Stroke Settings

Dashboard Settings

Other Settings

6. Heart Rate Sensor

The BoatCoach heart rate sensor is designed to work with the Zephyr HxM Bluetooth heart rate monitor for Android. You can save $5 if purchase your Zephyr sensor here and use promotion code BoatCoach1.

Sorry, no support for Polar heart rate monitors since they refuse to make their programming interface available.

7. Stroke Analysis

The stroke analysis page graphs acceleration vs. time for your last few strokes. The strokes are overlaid on top of each other so as to allow you to compare them easily against each other.

If you want to pause and examine the graphs more closely, click on the pause/resume button at the bottom. You can also email (or DropBox) the graph data in .CSV format to yourself.

The "inefficiency" display gives some idea of the efficiency of your recovery. Lower numbers are better. This measurement is in beta, so physics majors, math majors, and boat engineers... your feedback on how to best calculate efficiency/inefficiency in a boat is welcome.

8. Raw Data Capture

The Raw Data Capture feature allows the rower to collect and analyze detailed information about their speed, stroke rate, stroke count, heart rate, distance, and GPS location. This information is then emailed (or DropBoxed) to the rower in a .CSV and/or .GPX file to allow them to do post-workout analysis

The frequency of data capture can be varied from once/second to once/30 seconds.

To use the raw data capture feature...

  1. On the settings page enter your email address.
  2. under "collect raw workout data" enter the desired frequency of data capture. I typically use 5 second intervals.
  3. Choose whether you want to capture data in .CSV and/or .GPX formats.
    • .CSV is great if you want to analyze the data in Excel or other spreadsheet programs. It's more human readable that .GPX.
    • .GPX is great if you want to import the data into other workout programs like Garmin or Endomondo. This format is also easiest for viewing your workout on a map.
  4. Do your workout.
  5. When you exit BoatCoach the app will email (or DropBox) you a file containing the data.
  6. If you created a .CSV file then import it into Excel or another spreadsheet program and analyze or graph the data. I typically like to graph distance vs. speed, stroke rate, and heart rate using a scatter plot. If you created a .GPX file then import it into your favorite GPX viewer or other workout program like Endomondo.
  7. If the email of your workout fails for some reason you can still find your workout data on the phone's sdcard in the /sdcard/boatcoach folder.

Boat Acceleration Capture

There's an option to capture boat acceleration data at a frequency of 30 times/second to do detailed plots of boat acceleration during drive and recovery. Up to 15 minutes of .CSV data can be stored and will be emailed to you when you exit the BoatCoach app. You must be in ".CSV" and not ".CSV and .GPX" mode for this feature to work.

Note that it can take 1-2 minutes *after* you exit BoatCoach for the email dialog to come up, given the size of the file that BoatCoach needs to create to email you.

Further Reading

To learn more about how to evaluate boat acceleration plots, take a look at these studies...

9. Attaching to the Boat

Your phone can easily be attached to the foot stretchers of most boats.

You should buy an inexpensive waterproof case for your phone. This $10 case from Amazon ( is a great example. It's waterproof to 100 feet, the phone's touch screen works fine in the case, and the lanyard string ties the case to the boat so that it can't fall overboard.

Another option is to buy a "waterproof" phone like the inexpensive Motorola Defy.

You can Velcro, clip, or tape the case to your foot stretchers.

In the photo on this page the case is attached to the foot stretchers with a big paper binder clip. In other boats, sticking the case to the foot stretchers with a piece of Velcro tape or a strong rubber band is a fast, simple, and easy to remove solution.

10. Privacy

Boatcoach doesn't steal your email or contact lists, plant cookies on your phone, or do anything else that you wouldn't expect a rowing app to do.

If you are using BoatCoach and have the GPS setting turned on, BoatCoach will share your nickname, club, boat, last position, stroke rate, time, distance, and speed with other rowers or rowing fans who are viewing the BoatCoach map.

Boatcoach will also record your rowing workout history for you to review at a later time.