A man from Patricia Bay is tracking the progress of the new Island-Class ferry bound for Campbell River as it makes its way through the Mediterranean, across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal and up the west coast of North America before arriving in Victoria.
There’s a lot to explore on Jay Ranson’s website. While the position of the new ferry is interesting to people from Campbell River, people spending more than a few minutes on http://patbaywebcam.com can get lost in things like the rate of ice melt in Greenland, live lightning strikes in B.C., COVID-19 cases, freighters that are anchored in the Southern Gulf Islands, historical earth quakes and how to make sourdough bread in a day.
“When they were doing the blue bridge down in Victoria, I tracked all the ships that were supplying the steel for that. I’ve tracked cars racing across Mongolia, anything that somebody… once you get a response from people, they really appreciate knowing where their friends are and where their family is,” Ranson said. “We did one back just last year when the Coast Guard ship Jacques Cartier went from Victoria to Nova Scotia. I started exchanging emails with the captain and the family sitting there in Nova Scotia following the tracking, and it is just fun.
“Once you set up the templates and everything, it’s not such a big deal,” he added. “I can’t resist programming.”
To track vessels, Ranson uses data from public ship tracking websites. However, his subscription allows him to get more in depth than other people, which allows him to keep track of where the ships have been and to track them once they leave inshore areas. He also accesses live cameras of the Panama Canal when the vessel arrives in order to make a time-lapse video of the vessel as it passes from Atlantic to Pacific.
“You always get… opportunities on the passages to get some good time lapse videos. Of course that all depends on the weather, the conditions and the time of the day, which channel you go through. It’s kind of hit or miss,” he said. “I do a lot of post processing to try and get the best I can. Sometimes it’s just sort of a glimpse. People are happy with that. Otherwise they’d never see it.”
The data is archived on the site for future reference.
Ranson started the site around 20 years ago after a friend asked him where Coast Guard vessels go after they leave the port near his home.
“I said ‘what the heck, we’ll just track em,’” he said.
Over the past few decades, he has amassed quite a following of people who want his data for some reason or another.
“Then the windsurfers, kite surfers, pilots, it’s just unbelievable the number of people who have some reason to be interested in what’s going on out here,” he said. “I like to share it.”
Live tracking of the Island 3 vessel is available at http://patbaywebcam.com/island3.php.