Are you about to embark on a new sailing adventure and questioning your own navigation skills? We’re being asked this question all the time. Don’t worry; marine navigation apps are here to help you. Because getting lost at sea can be scary and not something you want to experience during your sailing holiday.
When you are going to rent a boat, especially a sailing yacht, it does not always equip a reliable navigation system. Luckily for you, you also don’t have to use a sextant anymore as people did in the early 1900s. While today, anybody can become a skilled navigator with the use of marine navigation apps. As the number of apps can be somewhat overwhelming, we tested and compiled a list with the best ones, especially for you!
1. Navionics – Boating Marine & Lakes
The Navionics app has been a beacon of trustworthiness for many sailors, one of the most popular navigation apps at sea to navigate your trip or sailing holiday. In their new update, they have increased your connectivity on the water. Making it easier to share your live location with friends and family. You can then export your route in a GPX format to share your accomplishments.
The app’s real power lies in their large community, which continuously updates and improves Navionics nautical charts and information. They have gathered this community through their elaborate functions and practicality with the user in mind.
Navionics offers multiple chart layers adapting your needs and personal preferences. Therefore, we love that you can edit and customize your own charts in a way that works for you—for example, sonar charts. Permitting you access to their HD bathymetry map, which provides a detailed rendering of the bottom of lakes and unshallow waters. Ideal for scouting the best spot for fishing and knowing exact depth levels. All of the functions on this app are extensive and work fantastic. Functions such as a Wi-fi AIS receiver, weather and tides forecasts, and many more to complete your sailing holiday. For more info, see the following article: The Navionics App.
2. Savvy Navvy – Marine Navigation
The savvy navvy app is an innovative boating app that provides essential marine information and sailing tips in one place. The app shows chart, tide, weather, routing, marina, and anchorage information at the touch of a button, on any device. Designed to have a clean interface and with usability in mind, savvy navvy makes marine navigation easier and more accessible.
For instance, you can use great features such as GPS active tracking to see exactly where you are and what features are near you. What makes this particular app so great is that the app will plot the entire route for you in just a few seconds! By making use of high-quality data from hydrographic offices around the globe. It will adapt your route along the way to the different tidal streams, your departure times, weather, wind strengths/ directions, and even boat data.
Being able to integrate your route planning with wind direction is simply a fantastic feature for sailors. Apart from Orca, none of the other apps are able to adapt the route automatically as you sail with the conditions you face. Making it a very reliable companion to accompany you on your sailing trip. If you are not convinced yet, try the app free for 14 days.
3. C-MAP – Marine Charts. GPS navigation for Boating
C-MAP is an excellent app for navigating the seas on your sailing boat. It offers high-quality nautical charts backed by data from official hydrographic offices, continually updated to ensure the clearest maps possible. A great benefit is that these maps cover both inland and coastal waters worldwide. So, regardless of where you are, you can access your charts and reach your end destination.
Similar to the other navigation apps, you can save routes, waypoints, tracks, and see the weather forecast. Including waves and tides. It also has useful information about marinas, harbors, beaches and even some shops. What separates this app from others is its simplicity in design. It’s easy to use, making navigating a joyful experience without much hassle. Even for somebody who has never sailed before.
To download and use the app offline, you have to update to the premium version. For this premium version, there is a free trial of 14 days.
4. iNavX Marine Chartplotter
The app iNavX is an advanced chartplotter for recreational and professional sailors. First of all, it is the only one out of the five apps mentioned that combines 8 chart providers together in one app. Such as Navionics. Giving you the freedom to purchase the ones you like according to your own preference. The app is also capable of using your phone’s GPS to plot your position in real-time. Become a skilled navigator by plotting your own route, setting and storing waypoints enables you to switch between platforms without losing your waypoints.
It doesn’t stop there; additional advanced features might take a bit more time to master. Such as an anchor alarm to keep you from drifting away in the night. In addition, weather and tides forecasts and an Automatic Information System alarm are included. With this system, the app can provide useful information about your engine, speed, depth, and wind by connecting to the boat’s nautical instruments. All in all, a very smart navigation app that makes use of multiple chart providers, so you always have a map for your desired sailing area. The only disadvantage that we found was that the Android app doesn’t perform as well as the Apple version. Therefore, we’d recommend using the app on an iPad/iPhone for the best experience.
5. Orca – The marine co-pilot app
We’ve placed Orca at number five because it hasn’t been released yet. Making it difficult to give our trusted opinion. However, we can tell that the first impressions look very promising. Orca will provide you with weather and tide forecasts used by the pro-active “co-pilot” that guides you through your sailing route with accurate nautical charts. Moreover, their smart system will also learn from your boat and display fuel capacity, battery status, engine, and other boat details. Good to know is that this app only comes in combination with one of their hardware products (Orca Core or full Orca system). Which truly has the ability to replace traditional chartplotters, in our opinion.
A fantastic solution for lost connections at sea is the Orca Core, which creates a wireless extension by connecting to your onboard NMEA 2000 network. This small device comes with a built-in GPS and compass. Furthermore, it can connect to your boat sensors and engine data to determine, for example, your ideal cruising speed. The Orca Core will enrich your navigation experience on all of your devices.
As you probably know, seas can get quite rough at times. Orca thought about this when they created their waterproof tablet. Which is a display option that is being mounted on your boat, built to endure all kinds of weather, especially at sea. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use your own tablet to use and navigate with Orca.
For those interested in the hopeful options and possibilities that Orca will provide, join the waiting list to pre-order your navigation system in February 2021. Orca is expecting the entire system to launch before the coming boating season.
App functions comparison
|Between €20 – €60 per chart||Essential €40,-Explore €65,- |
|Premium €60,-||Between €10 – €200 per chart||To be announced|
|Weather & windforecasts||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Offline usage||✔||Only on Android devices||✔||✔||✔|
|Real-time AIS||✔||✔||✔||Can be bought extra||✔|
|GPX import/ export to share with friends||GPX or via activecaptain app||GPX||Via text message or email||GPX + KML (Google Earth)||X|
|Additional info about marinas etc.||✔||✔||✔||X||X|
All of these navigation apps have their own specialty, which makes them unique. Some are more extensive than others. Therefore, you need to ask yourself how many of these functionalities am I actually going to use? Because all apps mentioned in this list are of excellent quality, but the prices do vary. It’s worth noting that all digital nautical charts cannot fully replace paper nautical charts when navigating. As a sailor, you are responsible for having accurate and up-to-date nautical charts.
We all love sailing and exploring new areas. It does, however, require some skills. Let new technology improve and ease your sailing holiday, so you get to relax. For more information, you can always reach out to the Tubber team.