Because of the tremendous number of variables involved, it’s much harder for software algorithms to create a safe, sensible route on a chart than it is on a road map. However, the new Navionics Dock-to-dock Autorouting engine represents a significant leap forward in its ability to figure out the best way to go, even in complicated areas like the ledge-strewn coast of Maine. For example, it not only finds the shortest path that stays in water deep enough for your boat’s specified draft, but honors navigation buoys, usually even when a shortcut makes “sense” depthwise. It also handles narrow complex passages with aplomb and highlights uncertainties so you can modify the path as needed. Bridge heights are still not accounted for, and Dock-to-dock routes absolutely must be double checked, but the system still represents a very real step forward at the same time it neatly groups relevant point-of-interest information for your destination. As an added note, Raymarine is planning to soon support Dock-to-dock Autorouting (with a Navionics+ chart card) on its current multifunction display series as well.
From $10 for the iPhone version with U.S. charts. Navionics, navionics.com
Overall Winner Judges: Nigel Calder (systems expert and author), Tom Burden (author of the West Marine “advisor” series of articles), Gerry Douglas (chief designer and vice-president of Catalina Yachts)