NOAA Charts

Navionics Boating App Updated With U.S. Govt. Charts, New Features

Navionics Boating App Updated With U.S. Govt. Charts, New Features

The "About" screen of Navionics newly released Navionics Boating app, showing version 7.0.

The “About” screen of Navionics newly released Navionics Boating app, showing version 7.0.

Do you have an iPad (with GPS) or iPhone on the boat with you?  Okay, then, no excuses:  Download the latest Navionics Boating app update from the App Store, now standard with access to the free U.S. electronic navigation charts (ENC) from NOAA.  There.  You’re not lost anymore.  You’re welcome (from Navionics, anyway).

Now, a little more objectively. . .Navionics today released the latest version (7.0) of its free app, Navionics Boating, which now includes integration with free U.S. government-produced charts for U.S. coastal and navigable waterways, plus additional shorelines of major lakes and rivers from other public sources.

NOAA ENC Charts Included

This means that the Navionics Boating app is immediately suitable for direct navigation in these waters.  NOAA ENCs are vector charts, which means they scale up and down in a completely readable way, and they conform to the International Hydrographic Office (IHO) S-57 standard for electronic charts.

Navionics Boating app showing a NOAA ENC chart for Long Island Sound.

Navionics Boating app showing a NOAA ENC chart for Long Island Sound.

They include all the primary navigation data you need — depths, buoys, beacons, harzards, channel markers and more.  Of course, you can also purchase full-featured Navionics charts with enhanced detail and features such as newly improved dynamic tide and current information and displays.  The chart on the right here of the north shore of Long Island is a NOAA ENC.

You can see the little blue circle at the lower left labeled “GOVT” which means I’m using a NOAA chart.  If you click on that you can opt for a Navionics chart instead, or load one of the cool, crowd-sourced SonarCharts.  Also visible in that screen capture is the classic “navigate” button at lowest left, camera and search buttons to upper left, zoom buttons at upper right and a distance measuring tool at bottom right.

Enhanced Features

The updated app includes several enhanced features:

  • Tracking — The Navionics Boating app uses GPS to measure and record performance data.  Speed, Trip Time, Course Over Ground, Distance and more are all displayed in a new Tracking Console.  Boaters can pause, playback and review a track, and share details with others.
  • Expanded Routing — Planning and route creation are also free with the Navionics Boating app.  Boaters can measure distances, mark waypoints, create simple routes and save data across mobile devices.  The company says wind forecasts include 3-day projections, as well.  The app includes a free trial version of a Nav Module ($4.99) that includes Estimated Time of Arrival, Distance to Arrival and more.
  • Sharing — App users can share memories of their trips with family and friends via Facebook, Twitter and email.  Using a camera function within the app, photos and videos are automatically geo-tagged while recording a trip.  Other images, such as tracking screens and stats can be shared, too.
The Navionics Boating app showing one of the menu options with the various in-app purchases available.

The Navionics Boating app showing one of the menu options with the various in-app purchases available.

Integration with On-board Electronics

As of the most previous update, v6.0, early this year, Navionics Boating includes Plotter Sync, a new feature that allows on-board electronics to connect to Navionics servers on the Internet for uploading data and downloading new charts or updates.

The company says owners of Raymarine Wi-Fi-enabled plotters — just the first of Navionics’ manufacturer partners compatible with this technology — can now use Navionics Boating as a bridge for this connection, eliminating the need to remove a memory card from the plotter to update it.  The App will sync with the chartplotter and provide the update directly.

This is especially cool when users upload and share with Navionics their fishfinder’s recorded sonar tracks, allowing the company to verify and integrate the information in to SonarCharts™ — a new high-definition bathymetry maps that reflects the ever-changing conditions boaters experience in the real world.

Updating Advice

I checked out the new version on my iPad and it’s a big change.  The inclusion of NOAA ENCs makes a HUGE difference in out-of-the-box usability.  If you’re in need of the more detailed and feature-laden Navionics charts, by all means buy them.  They’re not that expensive for most areas (at least compared to what we used to spend for charts and updates) and you won’t regret the purchase.  But for starters, the NOAA ENCs will get you going and keep you safe.  When I fired up my iPad, it didn’t offer me the app update when I went to the App Store, so I deleted the version I had (6.0.3 – the April update) and then downloaded the app again and it was the 7.0 version.  I imagine the updating will be automatic and more smooth over the next couple of days (it could also conceivably have been my own iPad’s sometimes flaky relationship with my router).  If your older version doesn’t seem to be updating, just delete it and download it anew from the App Store (assuming you don’t have any data saved that you need).

Then, when you start it up, after you acknowledge the EULA and settle on a chart area, you can download the NOAA ENC for that area for free.  I downloaded the chart for New England and it was about 68 MB, which downloaded over my Wi-Fi in about 1 minute.  Beautiful and ready to navigate.  You can see “me” in the screen capture up above, standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking Long Island Sound.  I will actually need to board the boat to navigate from here, but the readers come first!

Android Version Coming Soon

Navionics says an Android version of the updated app will be out soon, with features similar to those in the iOS version rolling out throughout the year.  You will find that version in the Google Play store; we’ll advise when it’s released.

Copyright © 2014 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.


Posted by Tom in Electronics, GPS, Marine Electronics, Navigation, seamanship, Sonar, Technology
Review: Fugawi Marine ENC Navigation Software

Review: Fugawi Marine ENC Navigation Software

Krogen 58' Delivery Route from Florida to North Carolina -- Screenshot from Fugawi Marine ENC 4.5

Krogen 58' Delivery Route from Florida to North Carolina -- Screenshot from Fugawi Marine ENC 4.5

During a recent offshore delivery of a new Krogen 58′, I had the opportunity to check out Northport System Inc.’s Fugawi Marine ENC charting and navigation software. It loaded painlessly on a new Windows 7 laptop, ran flawlessly for 3 days nonstop, and had an easy learning curve. If you’re looking for something to run on a laptop to backup your dedicated chartplotter, or for the main navigation software to run on a dedicated PC, you should consider Marine ENC for the price, competent features and ease-of-use, especially for chart management using the company’s (subscription-based) X-Traverse system.

Overview of the Software

Northport Systems’ president, Robin Martel, loaned me a copy of the latest version of Marine ENC, Version 4.5.50.* The company has a transparent and easy-to-understand process for updates and upgrades.  Whole numbers of versions are considered the “basic” product and updates all the way to the next whole number are free. Fugawi constantly releases minor updates, typically taking care of bug fixes and compatibility issues, but sometimes including feature enhancements. So, if I owned this copy of version 4.5, I would be entitled to free updates until version 5.0 came out. 

The program has a price of $279.95 directly from the company’s website, which is fairly inexpensive for this type of program. That price seems to be the norm for the other sales outlets I checked. And while you can buy Navionics charts for the program, typically for $189 per Platinum+ area, you can also use free RNC and ENC charts from NOAA. You can pick either raster or vector format for the NOAA charts and you’ll get them with all the latest information, which is a big advantage.  I downloaded a full set of East Coast (U.S.) NOAA ENCs for my test. They were easy to find and quick to download. 

Using the Program

For my evaluation, I brought Fugawi Marine ENC with me on an offshore delivery, which might not be the most difficult task for navigation software (think about running in and out of all the passes, island channels and obstructions of the San Juan Islands in the Pacific NorthWest). Nonetheless, we had some Intracoastal Waterway to navigate leaving Florida and a couple of waypoints along the offshore route to try to keep us in the core of the Gulf Stream while headed north. As we approached our destination in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, there was quite a bit of navigating to do getting in at Cape Fear and then moving over to the ICW to get to the marina.

Screen Shot of Fugawi Marine ENC Track of Fort Pierce, Florida Departure

Screen Shot of Fugawi Marine ENC Track of Fort Pierce, Florida Departure

When you first start the program, you tell it what folder your charts are stored in and the program will go and import them. In my case, it was quick and trouble-free.  I downloaded several collections of ENC charts from NOAA.  Electronic charts for U.S. waters are available from NOAA in both raster and vector format and have the advantage of always being up-to-date when you download them.  Marine ENC also supports Navionics charts, at several levels and if you use Fugawi’s X-Traverse chart subscription service you can be sure you will always have the latest available. We’ll take a more detailed look at X-Traverse in another article here on OceanLines.

Fugawi Marine ENC Supports Many GRIB (weather) File Formats

Fugawi Marine ENC Supports Many GRIB (weather) File Formats

Marine ENC is mostly intuitive to learn and use. There are the familiar text-based pulldown menus at the top of the screen, as well as a customizable series of task-based icons running along the left edge of the screen. Most common tasks can be quickly initiated by clicking on the appropriate icon. You can easily start a route track, set some new waypoints and navigate around the charts. Since I wasn’t using the software to actually navigate our Krogen 58′, I set up the program to track our route. I used a new USB-connected GPS to feed position data to the program, which recognized the device instantly. No messing with ports or USB-to-serial port translations. Had I wanted to, I could have easily fed the autopilot with steering inputs. In fact, the Marine ENC software/GPS combination I was using was more accurate than the other laptop-based system we were using for actual navigation. Nice to know.

Screen Capture of Fugawi Marine ENC Track of Arrival at Cape Fear, North Carolina

Screen Capture of Fugawi Marine ENC Track of Arrival at Cape Fear, North Carolina

Tracks, waypoints and other data are easily imported and exported and an experimental feature on my version was able to use a Google Maps overlay for yet another view of things. In fact, you could use this software for planning even if you use a dedicated chartplotter for navigation. Marine ENC will move waypoints via card or cable (as required) between Raymarine, Furuno, Simrad, Garmin and Magellan units. The first image in this story, above, is a screenshot taken of the wide-view track record of the delivery trip. It shows the dogleg we took to stay in the middle of the Gulf Stream. The program seamlessly switches charts when you cross a coverage border.


If you’re just getting into PC-based chartplotting, Fugawi’s Marine ENC would be a good bet, especially with a number of enhancements coming in the near future. Northport Systems’ Martel says the company is working on some major capabilities for the program, including more support for multiple manufacturers’ products aboard the boat — other radars, AIS, etc.  And although I had no trouble with the software running on a recent load of Windows 7, Martel says the next major upgrade will take better advantage of Win 7 capabilities. You are likely to see more complementary mobile apps, for systems like Symbian and Windows Mobile, in addition to the iNavX app already available for the iPhone and iPad. I think you’ll also find some interesting integration ahead with destination and local knowledge services like ActiveCaptain, although the company isn’t discussing that yet. At this price point, about half what you would have to pay for Nobeltec software, you’re not going to be disappointed with Fugawi Marine ENC. Take the free 10-day preview for a test-ride.

* (full disclosure – Fugawi is an advertiser here on OceanLines. We have an editorial policy that prohibits the practice of “trading” editorial coverage for advertising support and we are in no way obligated to positively review any Northport Systems product)

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Electronics, Technology

ActiveCaptain Launches Major Website Upgrade

ActiveCaptain X Screen Shot Showing Marina Details in Damariscotta, Maine

ActiveCaptain X Screen Shot Showing Marina Details in Damariscotta, Maine

Jeffrey Siegel said this week that the ActiveCaptain “X” beta website, under development for the past year, is now fully launched and live, providing everything from a new user interface to NOAA charts and Microsoft Virtual Earth cartography.  The website benefits greatly from having been available in beta form for the last several months and many of the final features were suggested or enhanced through user feedback.

Here’s a rundown on the updated features, provided by Jeff Siegel:

– New interface. We have redesigned the interface to make it easier and faster for you to find information and make updates. The interface is based on a deck of cards to allow for expansion of ActiveCaptain features.

– NOAA charts. The ActiveCaptain website can now display markers on NOAA US charts making it easier to evaluate that anchorage or judge an approach.

– Microsoft cartography. ActiveCaptain now uses Microsoft Virtual Earth for the map and satellite images. We find that these images load faster and are higher quality.

– Expanded location search. A dedicated card now lets you find rivers, harbors, canals, islands – anything with a location name.

– ICW interpolation. You’re no longer limited to selecting ICW locations by NOAA’s 5-mile increments. Selecting ICW interpolation will approximate the location of any mile marker (435.6, 1072, etc).

– In-place detail updates. When you update a detail item, the data is edited right in the detail window. Submitting updates shows them right in the edited section so you know they are pending. This makes it much easier and quicker to update the data.

– Marker filtering. There’s now more control over which markers are displayed. Choose to limit your marina display to ones carrying gas, diesel, or pump out services. Turn on only certain types of local knowledge markers.

– Optional sorting. You can also choose to have fuel or slip pricing displayed with the marina list items and sort the markers based on pricing.

– Marker move/delete. Changing the location of a marker or deleting obsolete markers is now simpler. Select the More link in the marker balloon and a popup menu appears to guide you.

– Adding a new marker. It’s faster and simpler. Press and hold the mouse at the position for the new marker, select the marker type, and fill in the form.

– Permanent link. Quickly create a direct link to a location or marker in ActiveCaptain. Select More in the marker balloon, or press and hold your mouse at a location, and select Permanent link from the popup menu.
It’s easy to include the link in blogs, emails, forums, or websites.

– Hazard markers. One of the most significant additions is the new hazard marker. You can easily find problems areas, find out what cruisers are experiencing, and let others know what you’ve found.
This is especially nice for ICW migration in the Spring and Fall to alert you to the changing ICW conditions.

Siegel says ActiveCaptain gets more than 1,000 updates a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from its participants. In my opinion, there is no better place to get detailed, reliable information on everything from marina dock rates, to fuel prices, to local market knowledge.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC. All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Destinations, Industry News, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, seamanship, Technology