Apps for sailing

Navigating the old fashioned way.
Navionics app on Samsung mobile.
What on earth did we do with ourselves in the days before apps came into our lives?  Can I even remember?  Let's see. We read books. We navigated by dead reckoning. We waited until landfall to call people. Now it's all immediate. I once joked with a reported who was interviewing me that I learned to scuba dive so I could go on holiday where clients couldn't reach me -- underwater.  Yet, it's a bit too true that today we are forever accessible. This cannot be good. However, even I find myself caught up in the app collection craze. When one considers that more than half of responders to a survey of blue water sailors say they have 4 or more devices with GPS on board, you can reckon that dead reckoning is indeed dead.

I don’t have an iPad.  I have a Samsung android smartphone. They all have GPS now.  Even our camera has GPS. Take a picture and you'll know your exact location. My new android is big enough to see a great deal of detail. I was considering getting a tablet but decided that this is more than enough for now.  I find myself using apps more and more on board. I also find it takes more and more time to keep up with what's available and how to use it. 

The first, and most important use, is as back up for navigation (I have the Navionics app) and for route planning (I have myCA and Active Captain loaded).  The Navionics app has the same data in it as the full chart plotter. It is brilliant. We use it for pocket navigation around the Bay here and it’s great, even for regions as remote as ours.  Integral GPS makes it more powerful than our first chart plotters ever were. I also have Google earth and can check satellite images when necessary – like searching for dinghy landing sites. Most of this of course works only in sight of a mobile transmitting tower.

WindGuru app for android
I also use my device a lot for tides and weather. I have Passage Weather, Meteo Consult Marine, Navtex, Marine Weather and WindGuru loaded, and I have UK tides and Tides near me.  I also have Marine Traffic and Vessel Finder, which are time delayed but give me back up AIS readings, which include ID of coastal lighthouse stations; in Ireland they all have AIS transponders now.  I have ISA SafeTrx but they just updated it to a new version and I can’t get it to work.

I tried apps like Drag Queen but I hate to leave the device on all night and our new anchors work so well we no longer worry as much. I’ve just installed Star Walk and Sky View. Great fun.  I haven’t done Celestial yet as we have no reason to use the sextant these days. I would buy it if we were to sail off across oceans again.  Google maps is great for finding things on shore.  iTranslate and Google Translate are useful when sailing into foreign waters.

I use Secchi Disk and Merlin Bird ID to help with citizen science projects. See & ID Dolphins and Whales from NOAA is good as is Fish Planet. .

By the way, one of things we use our smartphones for most when coastal cruising is to connect our PCs to mobile internet signal. We have a plan that has unlimited data. We usually use only one device and set it to work as a wi-fi router on board. 

An OCC member, Behan Gifford, just wrote an article about apps for SailFeed. She did a survey of cruisers and boiled it down to these apps  for marine and these for living aboard.

All I know is I don't want to be left behind because then I'll never catch up if Moore's Law stays in force. So where will we be in two year's time? I'm certain I cannot guess.

Blue Water Sailing LLC Survey

How many devices with GPS do you have onboard?
Number of
Four or more
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