Nautical Apps for the Apple iPad

What is the best marine navigation app for the iPad?

(Editor’s note — Christine Kling is an accomplished sailor and mystery author and she has spent a great deal of time actually using the iPad on the water for navigation and related tasks.  While your mileage may vary, I would put a lot of stock in Christine’s evaluation of these apps.  I’ve included here the first few sentences of her article today on the subject of iPad nav apps.  Be sure to check out the full article at the link below.)

Sample of Garmin BlueChart app with route placed onto chart with ActiveCaptain data.  Image courtesy of Christine Kling

Sample of Garmin BlueChart app with route placed onto chart with ActiveCaptain data. Image courtesy of Christine Kling

by Christine Kling

“This is another question I am often asked, especially since Garmin released their new iPad app BlueChart Mobile (app is free and in-app purchase of charts ranges from $29.99 for US Coast to $44.99 for US and Caribbean). Previously, in my travels, I have always used iNavX ($49.99 for app alone and another $49.99 for US and Northern Bahamas) and I’ve been wondering if Garmin’s new offering was going to sway me from my go-to app.”

Link to full story.

Copyright © 2013 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, Technology

Maybe You Don’t Need 3G on Your iPad 2?

iPad 2 3G Version -- Photo: Verizon Wireless

iPad 2 3G Version -- Photo: Verizon Wireless

Brian Chen, at Wired, has a piece today that suggests a clever way to avoid having to pay the extra money for a 3G version of the iPad 2 just to get GPS and phone data network capability.  The solution basically involves using your current Smartphone as a wireless hotspot. 

Here’s an excerpt of his piece:

GPS transplant

The Wi-Fi iPad doesn’t have built-in GPS, but if you want to use that beautiful Maps app for navigation, you still don’t need a 3G iPad, so long as you have an iPhone. It turns out that if you hotspot with an iPhone, the connection transfers the GPS to the iPad.

Just connect the iPad to the iPhone’s hotspot, then launch the Maps app, and you’ll see the blue dot tracking your location.

(We’re not sure if this works when hotspotting with an Android phone — if you can confirm, let us know in the comments.)

For the complete article, visit the Wired article here.

There are some questions still.  For example, if the GPS data is being imported by the tethered iPad, can it be used by other nav programs instead of the Maps app?  I’m betting so, but I need to hear from somebody with the gear who is willing to experiment with it.  My best sources for iPad info are Jeff Siegel at ActiveCaptain, Christine Kling at Write on the Water (an amazing writer/sailor/geek), and my friend Ben Ellison at Panbo.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, seamanship, Technology
Navimatics Charts & Tides App Now Lets iPad, iPhone Update ActiveCaptain Data

Navimatics Charts & Tides App Now Lets iPad, iPhone Update ActiveCaptain Data

Image of the Navimatics Charts & Tides App Via Navimatics Website

Image of the Navimatics Charts & Tides App Via Navimatics Website

Apple has just approved the latest update of the Navimatics Charts & Tides app so that iPhone and iPad users can update ActiveCaptain data from their devices.  The update allows markets to be edited and reviews and comments to be added.  The single license works on both an iPHone and IPad at the same time, so there’s no need to buy it twice.  ActiveCaptain said this week that if you currently own Charts & Tides, it’s a free update with all new and current charts.  The big plus here is that you can update that relocated market you just discovered immediately, as long as you’re within 3G range.  Could even be a safety enhancement if you get that marker updated quickly enough that nobody else misses it.

ActiveCaptain said that Navimatics is the first developer to release an updated product with support for ActiveCaptain’s update APIs, but that other companies will be doing so with their software as well.

Our recent guest author, Christine Kling, wrote about using Navimatics Charts & Tides on her iPad in this piece.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, Technology

Here’s Why You Need an iPad on the Boat

by Christine Kling

 
 

The Apple iPad Loaded with Marine Apps - Photo Courtesy of Christine Kling

The Apple iPad Loaded with Marine Apps - Photo Courtesy of Christine Kling

(Editor’s Note — Chris Kling is a sailor with with more than 30 years of experience on the oceans of the world. She’s also an English professor at Broward College, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the published author of the Seychelle Sullivan series of mysteries, including SURFACE TENSION (2002), CROSS CURRENT (2004), BITTER END (2005, and WRECKERS’ KEY (2007). You can and should buy them at this Amazon page. They’re great page-turners and the protagonist is a female tug captain and salvor through whom I could easily live vicariously (you know, except for the requisite sex-change operation of course). Chris recently got an iPad and has wasted no time collecting and testing marine apps for the sleek new tablet. You can visit her at her main website here or at her new blog, co-hosted with fellow writer Mike Jastrzebski, Write on the Water.)

I have wanted to share this list of some of my favorite boating apps for the iPad.  Some people have looked at the iPad and the high price for the device and they have said they just don’t get it.  Why would someone pay so much for that.  I can only report on my own experience — and this little computer has changed the way I interact with technology.  I find myself using my laptop less and less.  The iPad is so fast, so intuitive and does so many things that I could no more imagine living without one than I could imagine living without a computer.  Today, I will cover boating apps and in a later post, I will discuss writing apps.

To begin with, there is the problem with the screen outdoors.  I have found though, that if I change the setting from auto-brightness to manual and crank it all the way up, it is very easy to see and use for navigation outdoors.  Most of us wear Polaroid lenses when we are out on the water, and the iPad screen goes black when viewed in portrait mode with Polaroids on, but just turn it to landscape and the image reappears.

Navigation:

First, I need to mention that it is necessary to have the iPad 3G to get the real GPS chip in the unit for navigation purposes.  The non-3G units require wifi, which, of course, is not going to work at sea. Some have questioned whether the iPad GPS would work outside the range of the 3G connection, and I can attest that as long as you have already downloaded your charts, your GPS will work fine offshore.  Mine worked continuously on the passage three weeks ago from the Abacos to Charleston, North Carolina when I had absolutely no 3G connection.

iNavX Screen Capture on the iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

iNavX Screen Capture on the iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

iNavX – $49.99  I started using the Mac version of this software about four years ago and I love it.  There are other cheaper apps for marine navigation now, but I like using the same software on my laptop, iPhone and iPad.  This one app is universal, meaning it works with both the iPhone and the iPad with full versions for each device.  With many of the other apps listed here you would have to buy separate versions for the iPhone and the iPad.  Yes, it is a lot of money, but it is absolutely worth it to to get this full featured complete navigation system that can interface via wifi with your boat’s instruments.  The program comes with free access to all the NOAA charts, but you can purchase additional charts through X-Traverse. This service allows you to save, retrieve and move data on and off the iPad.  I bought the US and Bahamas Navionics Gold charts for the iPad for $49.99 which do show some marinas and other land features.

Charts & Tides Screen Capture on iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

Charts & Tides Screen Capture on iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

Navimatics Charts & Tides/ East Coast – $19.99 You might ask yourself what do I need another navigation program for.  Good question.  This app is by Navimatics and the app does show another type of cartography, but the navigation features do not work as well and are not as extensive as iNavX.  However, what this program does have is Active Captain, the Interactive Cruising Guidebook.   It was well worth the twenty bucks to get this feature that drops dots onto the charts where marinas, boatyards and various points of interest are located.  When you click on the dots you get a ton of info including cost of slip rental, phone numbers, reviews, laundry and grocery info, etc.  This is a sort of Wiki type thing for boaters and once you have your membership to the Active Captain website (free) and you input your info on the iPad, you can click a synch button and you’ll get the most up to date info available. When we were in Deltaville, VA, I saw a review that had been written one week earlier.  This is far better than a print cruising guide.  Yes, the info is available on the laptop if I am on the Internet, but with my iPad and my 3G account, when cruising here in the US, it’s available almost everywhere.

Navionics – $19.99  I have not purchased this, but Navionics has their own nav program which like the one above, includes the nave. program with the charts and for this price you get the East Coast.  You would pay again for the West Coast and again for the Great Lakes.  You can only use their charts.  With iNavX all the NOAA charts are included for free, and then you can add other charts if you want to buy them.  However, I’d like to hear from others who might use this to know how they think it compares to iNavX.

MotionX-GPS $2.99 has recently added marine charts.  I have not gone this route or explored it, but I would love to hear in the comments if anyone else has done so.  As soon as I have the time I intend to explore this — I mean, for three bucks — why not??

AyeTides Screen Capture on iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

AyeTides Screen Capture on iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

Tides:

AyeTides XL — $9.99  This tide program is fully integrated with iNavX so that you can click on a tides button in the nav program and get your info.  The program has just released this iPad version (August 2), and it is beautiful.  And it still has more tide stations and information than the tide program included with Charts & Tides.

Marine Day Tides — free   Actually, there are two versions of this program and I use the free one which gives the most tides info I’ve seen, but it will only give you the info for today — not for the future.  The planner version of the program is $9.99 and it is great, but I get enough info to suit me with the Ayetides and it interfaces with my navigation program.

Weather:

I have tried a few marine weather apps for the iPad, but I haven’t found anything yet that I particularly like.  I would be very interested to hear from others what they like best.

Wundermap —free   This great app comes from the folks at WeatherUnderground.  This includes various types of radar and infrared screens which require an Internet connection.  It uses the GPS to determine your location and gives you a satellite map with an information overlay.  Now I just wish they would make a version that includes Marine Weather forecasts.

Weatherbug Elite for iPad — free   This little app has tons of great info on a very tight screen.  I like their wind direction compass rose.

Miscellaneous:

Boater‘s Pocket Reference — $4.99  1,800 pages of boating information including Rules of the Road, aides to navigation, illustrations, photos, buoys, signal flags, etc.  A great on-hand resource.

Shipfinder Screen Capture on the iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

Shipfinder Screen Capture on the iPad - Image Courtesy of Christine Kling

ShipFinder HD — $7.99  This app shows the AIS feed of ships in your area.  It is broadcast over the Internet so it will only be good as long as you have an Internet connection either via wifi or through a 3G account.  When coastwise cruising, however, it’s wonderful to see the name, course and speed of that ship in the distance. Yesterday, sailing from Fishing Bay to Solomons, we passed a strange gray ship off Point Lookout, and I was able to look it up with Shipfinder and discover it was a Naval High Speed Craft called SEAFIGHTER and she was at anchor.

Nautical Terms for iPad — $0.99 This is a great replacement for the old dog-eared nautical dictionary I had and the numerous bookmarks that I could never find for online dictionaries.

Knot Guide HD — $2.99 This includes 91 knots in 17 categories.  What more could you ask for?

Pocket First Aid and CPR — $3.99 From the American Heart Association, this guide appears to be one of the most complete for emergency situations as it includes illustrations and videos.

Air Display – $9.99 – This turns your iPad into a second display for your laptop.  Currently this only works with Mac OS but they are working on a Windows version. You could run your laptop nav program on your iPad using it as a slave screen and avoid having to buy the costly iPad apps.

Another boating plus is that you can load all your PDF manuals into Goodreads or now into iBooks, and they will be there ready to load in a hurry.

As for waterproof cases for the iPad, I have found the simple for $19.99 that looks like a glorified Ziplock bag to this fancy one from Germany for 280 Euros.  There are also various mounts here and others here that one can get to make your iPad function more like a helm chart plotter, but I am waiting for the swing away arm.

The iPad has become much more than just an eReader for me, and though many of these things I could do on a laptop, I couldn’t do any of them as fast or as easily as I can on the iPad.

Fair winds!

Christine

Original article Copyright © 2010 by Christine Kling. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, Environment & Weather, Gear & Apparel, megayachts, Powerboats, Sailboats, Sailing Gear & Apparel, Technology