Saturday, November 21, 2015

Navionics Autorouting

Application: iPad, iPhone iOS 6.0 or later, Android devices
Function: Marine navigation, charting, POI
Rating: *****
Cost: The app is Free with in app purchases

I have reviewed the Navionics apps in many previous blog entries.  They have continued to improve their apps over the years to include many useful features. Not only do they provide the latest up to date marine charts, they have provided additional features including the Navigation Module, Sonar Charts, Plotter Synch, Advance Map Options and most recently Auto Routing. These can all be purchased within the app for an additional charge.

Navionics Boating app recently added an amazing new feature that greatly improves the routing function, it is called Auto Routing. It does exactly what it sounds like.

This is not the old routing function where you have to manually add way point after way point to create a route.  Routing can now be one with a few touches of the screen on your mobile device.

The improved automatic routing algorithm now takes into account depths, shoals, hazards and your boats draft to determine the safest and fastest route from point A to point B.


  • Nautical charts
  • Sonar charts
  • Community Edits
  • Advanced map options
  • Navigation Module
  • Dock to Dock auto routing
  • POI
  • Tracks 
  • Routes 
  • Measure distance and bearing
  • Satellite map options
  • Sych tracks
  • Free NOAA US raster charts
  • Magazines and Guides
  • Plotter Synch to your Raymarine chart plotter

To get started you are going to need the free Navionics Boating app. Download it from the AppStore and fire it up.  Next you are going to have to purchase some charts.  The Auto Routing feature is included with the purchase of any Navionics+Chart set.  So make sure to download a chart set for your area in that format.

The Auto Routing feature is going to need to know some basic details about your boat, so select the Menu button and then go to Settings and Boat Settings.

 Here you can fill in the draft, cruising speed, fuel consumption and sonar sensor depth of your vessel. This data helps the routing algorithm determine the safest route for your vessel in shallow areas.

Major Disclaimer: All boaters should not rely solely on the Auto Routing feature to create their routes.  Please review the route to make sure it does not take you across any shallow areas or onto any wrecks, rocks, shoals or obstructions. Do not rely solely on the auto routing feature for your navigation.

To create an automatic route, tap the Route button and then select Automatic Route.  You will then be prompted to select a start point and end point for your route.

The app will automatically begin calculating the safest route. If the route cannot safely be done the route line will show a red line with caution markers showing the areas that are too shallow for your yacht.

If the route line is all blue the route has been successfully calculated and created. Again, please review the route before blindly following the route with your vessel.

Route trip information is displayed across the top of the iPhone display showing latitude and longitude for the two points. Trip distance, trip time and fuel usage are calculated using the information you provided about your yacht.

I tried to create some routes in some pretty difficult inter coastal waterway areas.  The auto routing functioned worked fairly well in calculating the route.

As you can see in the image of the Fort Myers Florida area it calculated the route out of the inter coastal waterway to the ocean correctly.

Note that the start of the route was shown with some shallow areas with the color red. Take note and zoom in to check these areas to make sure you have enough depth for your vessel.

I wondered if the auto routing feature would work while not connected to an Internet connection. I turned off my WiFi and cellular connections and tried the auto routing feature, I was surprised that it did work. So, you can use it while out of cell range.

I also wondered if it could be used to auto route long passages. I tried one from Fort Myers to Key West and it took a while to calculate but it did plot a nice route entering the channel from the north into Key West.

I tried a even longer route from Fort Lauderdale to the Virgin Islands and was surprised to find that the app would auto route a trip that long. The longer the route the longer it takes to calculate the route.  On my iPhone 6Plus it did take about fifteen minutes to calculate the route.

The route had a distance of 951 nautical miles. The trip time only showed 9 hours and 46 minutes and using only 9.8 gallons of fuel which are wrong. This did not seem right compared to the cruising speed of 4 knots and fuel consumption of 1 gallon per hour that I entered in the Boat Settings section.

In reviewing the route there were several questionable areas through the Bahamas where I would change the route, but otherwise it did a decent job.

I am not sure exactly what the distance limitations of the app are.  I will continue to play with several long routes to determine if there is a limit. The app does require that you have the charts downloaded for the area that you will be auto routing in or through.

I am impressed with the new auto routing feature and just how easy it is to select two points and let the app do the rest.

I plan to always review the route to make sure it does not take me into any areas that may put by boat in danger.

This is a another new and innovative feature that is a first for the marine app industry. I can't wait to see what will come next.

What other features would you want automated in your boating and cruising life?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

SeaPilot 3.85 Weather Routing

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android versions also
Function: Chart Plotter, Routes, Marks, GPS, AIS, Instrument dataRating: *****
Cost: App is free, in app purchases for all features.

I reviewed the previous version of SeaPilot back in November of 2014. Since then their programmers have been busy adding features including a weather routing option.

The new version 3.85 of SeaPilot released in September 2015 has some new features that sailors will enjoy. Weather routing is a very important tool to have when your crossing oceans or a major body of water.  The routing feature will provide you the optimal route to take with the forecasted wind conditions.  SeaPilot uses the wind and current weather related GRIB files and the polar diagrams of your particular boat to provide the best route.  This routing will save you time and get you to your destination sooner.

GRIB files are a gridded binary files that can be downloaded from several weather related sources on the Internet.

These files include a grid display of current and wind strengths and direction. The GRIB forecast data can then be stepped through to see the varying conditions over the next 6 to 12 hours.

Updated forecasts are provided regularly by several weather services around the world so they are readily available. An Internet or satellite connection will be needed to download the most up to date files.

To GRIB files provide the forecast of the wind but the app also needs to know the polar diagram data for your specific vessel to provide the routing information. Polars are a representation of the sailing yachts performance and velocity made good at various sailing angles to the wind. Your sailboat manufacturer should be able to provide this data to you. If not find a boat similar to yours and use that polar data.

There is also an app to calculate your polar diagram data if you can't find a boat similar to yours.  It is called iPolar which I reviewed back in December of 2012 on this blog. This app will help you develop a custom polar diagram for your yacht.

The app requires inputs for your boats length, displacement, length at water line, main, jib and spinnaker sail area. Once those values are in the wind speed can be selected.  The tabular data is listed under the values page. This is the data that the SeaPilot app will need to do your weather routing.

The SeaPilot app weather routing simply provides the fastest route between two points regardless of water depth and shoals. So pay particular attention to depths along the optimized route to make sure the depth is adequate for your vessel.

The routing feature can be acquired with an in-app purchases of $59.70. See all the in app purchases listed on the SeaPilot website.  The weather routing feature also requires that you purchase the Marks, Routes and Past Tracks module for an additional $10 USD. US chart sets will cost you about $10 per set also to track your position and display the routes on NOAA vector charts.

The addition of weather routing to SeaPilot is welcomed but it falls short of the weather routing offered in the Weather 4D Pro and Predict Wind apps.  These apps both provide multiple weather models and multiple routing options. If your serious about looking into weather routing for your yacht, I would check those apps out for sure.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

ActiveCaptain Locations Version 1.2

I reviewed Jeff Siegel's Locations app back in June of this year. I would have though he would have taken the summer off  to enjoy some of that great Maine weather. Instead, he has been busy adding some great new features to his Locations app.

To get started you will need to get an ActiveCaptain account which you can then use to login to your eBoatCards account.  Not sure why they require two accounts, it would be much easier if there was only one log in and account required. The account is free so just sign up once to register.

New Features:
  • Session Mode selection of Send and Receive or Receive only 
  • Layered base map overlays
  • Group layers
  • Signal K support
  • Menu selections for Settings, Layers, Messages and Help
  • Scrollbars setting for desktop version
  • Dot Icon for member location data older than 24 hours
  • Graphic display of boats current course in the Search(magnifying glass icon)
  • Bing, OpenStreet, Satellite, NOAA charts and Aqua Maps base map layer options
The Locations app is not only available for you mobile device but is also able to run on PC, iOS and Androind devices.

The first thing you will notice new about the app when you start it up is the selection of a session mode. At this point you can choose to Send and Receive locations or just Receive Locations of friends and not upload your position.  This is just another level of security that was added to the app.  You can always change this mode by going to the Settings menu and selecting Session Mode to change it later.

Your GPS location is shown on the map as an arrow icon. If no GPS location is being received the icon will display red.

The icon will display dark blue if your device is receiving GPS and sending your location.

The icon will display white if your device is receiving a GPS signal but not sending your location.  The option to send your location or not can be set up with the session modes.

The Magnifying Glass icon in the lower left side of the main screen activates the new find feature and options.

This is used to find other eBoatCard users and your boating friends. Options can be selected to show your friends, groups, nearby boats and stationary boaters.

Nearby members that are within a 5 mile radius will be shown with as a light blue icon with a white boarder. Group boater icons will be shown as white with a dark blue border. Friends will be shown as dark blue bordered by white.

Tapping any of the icons will show the latest information received from that member. Tapping the bolded boat name will open up their eBoatCards data in a separate web browser.

The Search bar will help you quickly locate boaters by simply typing in their name.

Your list of friends will be listed in the lower section and can be sorted by name, distance and data age. As you can see I just have one friends so far. Jeff was nice enough to accept my friend request.  Requesting Friends is done in the eBoatCards application and is much like requesting friends on FaceBook.

The new menu button now shows selections for Settings, Layers, Messages and Help.

The Settings section provided selections to change some of the display options, sounds, units and GPS data. The display options include selections of large, medium or small user interfaces. This is great for many of us old boaters who need larger text. The Keep On options lets the app remain on and not go into sleep mode. This will constantly display the screen so make sure your device is plugged and charging to prevent your battery from running down.

The + and - zoom buttons can be togged on or off. If your are familiar with the pinch to zoom feature these are really not needed.

The Follow mode has options for Course up, Heading up and North up. These change the orientation of the icon to the map or displayed chart.

Sounds can be toggled on or off to alert you when friends, groups or nearby boats are located.

There are options to select metric or English units for distance, depth, height and location.

The app allows the use of your devices internal GPS or options to select NMEA 0183 or Signal K over WiFi. Locations has the ability to show your location using the DeLorme and SPOT satellite location devices. These are set up in the eBoatCards website.


Locations provides several new maps and charts options. There are options to view OpenStreet 1 or 2, Bing Map, Satellite, NOAA raster charts and Aqua maps.  NOAA raster charts are copies of the old NOAA paper charts which are a powerful navigation aid.

The Aqua Maps are a vector representation of the marine charts used by the Aqua Maps app I reviewed some time ago. With all these options it should be easy to locate other boaters and help aid you with some basic navigation.

Other custom base maps can be added with the setup of the Base map name and the tile server list.

More new features have been promised in the very near future.  The ActiveCaptain messaging system will be integrated with the eBoatCards system and the functionality to send, receive and archive will be made available in the Locations app.

Many of you are familiar with the DragQueen anchor alarm app. This functionality will be moved into the Locations app along with remote monitoring capabilities.

All the great ActiveCaptain crowd sourced points of interest will also be integrated into the Locations app at some point. This data will be able to be used offline in case you lose your Internet connection or are way from WiFi.

As you can see, the ActiveCaptain crew is hard at work providing all these amazing apps and features to you absolutely free.  So there is no reason not to download the app an get started today.

~~~ Sail On ~~~~/) Mark

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Swell Avantage Boating Location App

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, iOS 8.0 or later
Function:Marine GPS tracking and location
Cost: Free

Swell Advantage is a brand new app just released this summer in July of 2015. It was developed by the Novia Scotia based Canadian group called Swell Advantage, ahh!  Co-founders Iaian Archibald and Craig Sheppard wanted to develop a different kind of app to bring boaters together on the water.

I was recently contacted by Mike Hardy from Swell Advantage. He was excited about the new app and wanted me to check it out and review it if possible. I am always looking for new apps to review so I said, heck yah!  So, lets lift the hood and see what this app has to offer.

The iOS version is out now and an Android version will be available soon.  SwellAdvantage is a new and different kind of boating app at first look!  It is meant for all levels of boater to use in marine navigation and to improve the social and safety aspect of boating.

Have you every asked the question, have our friends left the dock yet? Where are they now? Are the kids jet skiing with the neighbors? Where is the raft up party? SwellAdvantage helps answer these questions for you and helps guide you to your boating friends.

The main screen at left shows your present location with the arrow and range marker. The view can be changed from North up to Course up by tapping the arrow icon in the lower left of the screen.

The Menu is accessed with the icon in the lower right of the screen.  A list of your Friends is accessed with the icon in the top right of the screen.

The app provides functionality to easily notify you when your friends are out on the water and then it provides the tools to interact and locate them if you wish. This is not just another navigation app but a tool that enables socializing with other boaters.

SwellAdvantage allows you to share your position and other data including speed and heading so you can see your friends and they can see you on the water. Boating is a social sporting activity. Many boaters, sailors, paddle boarders or kayakers like to rendezvous with each other to raft up, share stories or have an impromptu race.

I have two kids who are always on the water. This app would be a great way to keep track of them when they are out boating, sailing, jet skiing, kayaking or paddle boarding.

The app not only provides notifications locally but you can also track your friends around the world when they go boating.

The app provides the option to share your location or not. A simple flip of the switch in the Friends menu will turn location sharing off. Your location is only shared while you are on the water and it is blocked when you are on land.  This will prevent your friends from tracking you when your not boating. The app must have some locational software that determines when you are on a lake, river, pond or ocean or land.


  • Viewable Maps, Satellite and Bathymetric displays
  • Display Course, speed and drift
  • Imperial or metric settings
  • Entering water notification
  • Custom boat data
  • Invite and add friends through your Facebook contacts
  • Visually locate your friends’ locations, distances, and headings on the water
  • Receive notifications when friends and family get on their boat
  • Location tracking is automatically disabled when you're on land
  • Users can manually disable On-Water location tracking
  • Your course due to drift, speed, and heading is visually shown on the screen
  • Unique interface that puts the user at the center of their boating experience
The app is pretty basic so far.  There are hints that the authors will be adding more marine navigation and charting features to future versions of the app.  I like what they have done so far and will be patiently waiting for the next update and the addition of more functionality.

What features would you like  to see added to the app? I personally would like to see NOAA charts, tracking, waypoints and routes to start with.

There are other apps similar to SwellAdvantage in the iTune Store. Many of the big name apps have AIS locational information through NMEA WiFi or through land based AIS systems that rebroadcast position data over the Internet.

ActiveCaptain recently came out with the Locations app which I reviewed recently.  ActiveCaptain is best know for their crowd sourced points of interest website and the many charting app that have embraced their POI database. They have a bigger vision in mind which will also connect boaters much like SwellAdvantage is trying to do.

So download the app now and start building your very own social boating network of family and friends! I bet it will even work this winter when those Canadian lakes freeze over and everyone goes ice fishing. 

~~~ Sail On ! ~~~ /)


Monday, September 7, 2015

iNavX Version 4.7.0 Brings New Changes and New Ownership

If you have updated your iNavX app recently you might have notice the new logo.  The logo is not the only thing that has changed. The creator of iNavX, Richard Ray has reportedly sold his iNavX, MacENC and GPSNavX applications to NavX Studios LLC.

You can check out their new website  for a list of all the features and support links.  It is cool to see if you click on the Tutorials tab on their website it takes you to my blog, i-Marine Apps site.  All the tutorials that I did for iNavX can be accessed there.

Over the years I have written numerous articles and tutorials about iNavX for a good reason.  It is still ranked #1 on my list of Best Marine Charting apps. I hope the new owners and developers will be as engaged at Richard was with the boating community.  The MacSailing message board for iNavX is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn all they can about the app and it's capabilities.

In the past there were only iPhone and iPad versions of the iNavX. MacENC and GPSNavX were programs for iOS computers.  I am sure there are many users out there that would love to see an Android version of the industry leading iNavX app. Maybe the new owners can work on that.

Over the years I have made many suggestion for improvements to the app. One of the main things I do hope the new owners address is the xTraverse website.  It would be so much easier to download charts if the app allowed in app purchases.  The whole process of paying for the xTraverse yearly membership and then purchasing charts through the site is a bit cumbersome and frankly more complicated that is has to be. I am not sure why is set up this way but in app purchases would be a great improvement.

I will keep an eye on the new iNavX team and report any new developments. Stay Tuned!!

~~~ Sail On ~~~~ /)