The Top iPhone Apps for Sailing

Apple's iPhone is an amazing piece of technology—it’s a full computer in a small package. As a recent convert to the iPhone, I've been exploring the world of apps to discover which ones provide something truly useful. When I searched for "sailing" in the App Store, over 150 programs popped up. Out of those, here are the three that I'd most want with me while cruising or racing.
Author:
Publish date:

Apple's iPhone is an amazing piece of technology—it’s a full computer in a small package. As a recent convert to the iPhone, I've been exploring the world of apps to discover which ones provide something truly useful. When I searched for "sailing" in the App Store, over 150 programs popped up. Out of those, here are the three that I'd most want with me while cruising or racing.

MotionX GPS, version 10.0 $2.99

MotionX

My initial experience with this app had me saying out loud, “Wow!" Not only is it packed with useful features and functions for racing and cruising, but the ease of use, quick response and clear display of information put it at the top of my list.

Features include SOG, VMG, ETA, Waypoints (time to waypoint, waypoint tracking, waypoint import via email), Record Track of Trip and Import of Maps.

An unfortunate shortcoming is the app’s lack of marine charts. There are, however, indications from Full Power Technologies Inc., the creator of Motion X GPS, that marine charts will be available with coming releases. Full Power is also planning an optimized, “HD,” version of MotionX-GPS, to be released for the iPad 3G/GPS. If this includes charts, it should qualify as a true “killer app” for sailors.

My Grade: A-

Navionics 3.2, $9.99-$49.99 depending on region

navoionics3.2

Of the two navigation apps I explored, (this and iNavX), I preferred the vector charts of Navionics. Vector charts are data-defined charts, contrasted with the traditional bit-map (graphical) versions of paper charts. The advantage of vector graphics is that they include additional information, such as tide tables and marina information.

As I moved along the coast of southern New Jersey, my local sailing area, I was impressed with the ease of use in this app. I could zoom in for closer views of inlets, which was faster than flipping large paper charts. I could also select symbols on the map to display real-time data, such as tidal flow and direction, tidal information, sunrise and sunset times, and lunar phases. Way cool!

Downloaded Navionics maps are stored in the iPhone and take up relatively little memory. The ability to add marks or waypoints makes this handy app an accessible and ready assistant to plan and execute a track or route.

My Grade: B+

Buoy Data Version 3.02, $2.99

buoy_data

NOAA has made buoy data accessible via the web for a few years now, providing sailors with up-to-date information of what it's like out there right now. Buoy Data packages this information in a pleasing and easy to read format. The “Favorites” lets you pre-select sites in your usual sailing areas, which are then displayed on a Google Map in satellite, map and hybrid versions. There’s also a handy “Find Buoys” feature, which lets you see which buoys are nearby, based on your current location.

Unfortunately, Buoy Data is limited by the data from each buoy itself and not all NOAA Buoys have all the information I’d like. Still, I managed to find a few buoys in my local area that gave me an accurate picture of what the offshore conditions were, including air and water temp, wind direction, speed and gusts, wave height and period.

My Grade: B+

Conclusion

It's important to remember that the iPhone is not waterproof, or even splash resistant, and that it might not survive bouncing around the cockpit at your crew’s feet. Last fall, one of my students at the Fair Wind Sailing School had an iPhone out of commission for several days after it spent a few hours in his pocket during a rain storm, even though he was wearing full foul weather gear. A possible solution for wet and bumpy cockpit use is a rugged enclosure, such as the 2600 Series PDA case, from ($49.95, Otter Box ). The April edition of Practical Sailor found good results when they subjected this case to a float test and a shoulder-height drop.

As you read this, the Apple iPad is being released. While the device is still not environmentally suited for cockpit use, I’m excited to try these three apps on the iPad’s large screen at my nav station.

mark_smith




Captain Mark W. Smith has been as ASA instructor since 1991. He holds a USCG captain's license and sails and teaches for Fair Wind Sailing School (http://www.fairwindsailing.com). He sails a Bavaria 38, iLean Windward from Longport, NJ. When he’s not out on the high seas, he is a software architect and engineer.

Related

Mail Call FILLER

Digital Mail Call Offshore

If you’re cruising for a few weeks or longer, how do you deal with your mail? Aboard our boat we’ve discovered a service called USPS “Informed Delivery” that lets us check mail daily right from the comfort of our cockpit.Basically, this free electronic service gives you the ...read more

7261ab1f-6891-424f-a22f-14c946c08ba8

Gear: Fusion Panel-Stereo

Plug & Play StereoIt can be a real pain to install a marine stereo inside a boat, what with the tiresome business of running cables through cramped spaces and finding somewhere sensible to locate the speakers. The audiophiles at Fusion thought about this and came up with the ...read more

00-2019BestBoatsPromo-04

Best Boats 2019

Some years ago, the book Aak to Zumbra catalogued—and celebrated—the incredible diversity of watercraft that has evolved over the centuries, a diversity that remains evident to this day in the 11 winners comprising the “Class of 2019” in SAIL’s Best Boats contest. Indeed, it ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comGuaranteed result What you see on the end of this halyard isn’t a beautiful Flemish Eye worked by a rigger, but it will make a big difference when you have to “mouse” a line through the mast. If the ...read more

dometicadler-700x

How to: Upgrading Your Icebox

The time has come when the prospect of cold drinks and long-term food storage has you thinking about upgrading your icebox to DC-powered refrigeration. Duncan Kent has been there and done that, and has some adviceFresh food must be kept at a refrigerated temperature of 40 degrees ...read more

Jet-in-Belize

Cruising: Evolution of a Dream

There’s a time to go cruising and a time to stop. As Chris DiCroce found, you don’t always get to choose those timesAlbert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, ...read more