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Apps for Sailors: Spyglass

Traditionally, sailors have used a hand-bearing compass or rangefinder binoculars to take bearings on a mark, check the angle of an approaching boat to avoid a collision, determine their distance offshore, and monitor their anchor position.

Traditionally, sailors have used a hand-bearing compass or rangefinder binoculars to take bearings on a mark, check the angle of an approaching boat to avoid a collision, determine their distance offshore, and monitor their anchor position. Spyglass, from Happymagenta, Ltd., combines the best features of a hand-bearing compass and rangefinder binoculars with digital zoom, map overlays, date and time, GPS position, elevation angle and astronomical data.

When held flat, Spyglass shows a compass rose displayed over a satellite, hybrid or terrain map from Google, Apple, Open Street, Open Cycle or USGS. The traditional compass rose is shown, along with the range finder, elevation angle and other information. When held vertically, the compass is overlaid on live camera view with up to 32x zoom capability.

Along with the compass, Spyglass shows the GPS position, date and time, azimuth and magnetic declination, vertical speed, and altitude. Within the compass rose are shown the bearing arrow, elevation, selected bearing(s), and a small rangefinder (based on the average person’s height) that allows you to quickly measure distance. Along the bottom are buttons for the camera, range/distance calculators, zoom in/out, tracking destinations, settings and help.

What sets Spyglass apart is the degree to which you can customize the on-screen display. In addition to the map or augmented reality views, there are several display settings performed by various swipe actions on the screen. Swiping horizontally changes the color of the compass rose and text items. Swiping vertically adds a colored background filter over the display. Swiping diagonally changes the style of the compass rose. Personalizing these settings is very helpful when using the compass in bright sunlight or low light conditions.

Setting target destinations allows you to manage and track one or more bearings, which are set based on a map location, your current location (for your return) or your current bearing. The bearing is displayed on the screen for easy reference. As your direction changes, the bearing display moves within the compass rose to indicate which way to turn. When sailing, this is useful for sailing a fixed course or tracking the bearing angle of an approaching ship. Destinations can be saved, edited, deleted or shared.

The ability to calculate the distance to an object (e.g., a lighthouse) based on its height is a useful coastal navigation skill. Spyglass supports this beautifully and calculates distance based on the measured angle. Another feature that will interest mariners is that the location of celestial objects, including the Sun, Moon, Polaris and a built-in catalog of the brightest stars, is displayed. This is useful when planning celestial navigation sights and helps locate these objects in the sky.

Spyglass is the most full-featured compass app available. I give it 5 stars for its full set of features and implemented functionality. s

Name: Spyglass, Happymagenta, Ltd. (happymagenta.com)

Available on: iTunes App Store

Price: $3.99

Score: (5 out of 5 stars)

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