Monday, October 8, 2018

C-Map Embark Marine Charting and Navigation

Application: iPhone, iPad, and Android devices
Function: Marine charting, navigation, weather, routing and way points
Rating: *****
Cost: Free with in app purchases

Finally, we have another new marine app introduced for our mobile devices.  Navionics, iNavX, SEAiq, i-Sailor, SeaPilot and SeaNav are the most popular apps to date. There have been many upgrades to these existing app and I have tried to cover most of them. You can see my list of Best Marine Charting Apps in the blog menus above.

I am excited to see how C-Map Embark stacks up with the existing list of apps. Embark is now available in iOS on iTunes and Android versions.

  • C-Map Charts
  • Offline Maps with in app purchase
  • Routes
  • Way points(Places)
  • Tracking
  • Real time navigation 
  • GPS tracking
  • Search feature with 1000's of marinas and points of interest
  • User POI ratings and feedback
  • Speed
  • Heading
  • GPS position
  • Weather 
  • Tides and wave forecasts $8.99/yr
  • Marine Traffic
  • Share your position with friends
  • View other Embark users
  • Backup places, way points and routes


The main display of Embark as the app opens up is a world map. The continents are shown in a tan color with a white background.  There are very few soft keys or buttons for navigation.

The menu for the different features is reached using the three horizontal lines in the left side of the search box in the upper left of the screen.

Selecting this shows a drop down of features including, Place, Routes, Tracks, Transport mode, Traffic, Weather forecasts, Offline Maps and Help and Feedback.

The Search feature is very powerful and will help you locate specific locations and services.  Tapping in the Search box will display search headings for marinas, anchoring spots, fuel and beach locations.

The chart is then updated to display the locations of your selected searches.  Some searches produced good results while others produce very few on the chart.

Using the pinch to zoom gestures you can quickly zoom into the area of  your choice.  Once zoomed in you will see more and more chart detail come into view. Lights, channel marker, depth gradients, anchorages and wrecks will show up on the chart.


The Embark app uses C-Maps marine charts. Charts are updated monthly and can be used with an Internet connection for free or purchased for offline use with an in app purchase. Charts are not yet available for worldwide coverage but most continents are covered. Charts are purchased from a list of 70 regions with the app. Purchases are only good for one year subscription.

There is a 14 day free trial of the offline charts, weather and tide information. Chart prices range from $25.99 to $65.99 dollars depending on the region you purchase. Maps colors can be adjusted for depth contours and night versions for ease of viewing.


The Places page can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page.

Places are not really way points in that they cannot be use in a route. They are more like pins of locations you may want to save to go back to.  It would be nice to have a "navigate to" option for places that you have saved.

Once you have created a place you can view the list of places and sort them with the icon in the upper right side of the screen.


The app has a Traffic feature which can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page. Enabling this feature will allow you to see nearby vessels and for them to be able to see your location on the chart.  This is not a true AIS feature in that it you will need Internet or cell service for it to work.

This feature will only show vessels with AIS targets that are picked up by land based receivers.   You can also elect to show your position to other nearby Embark users.


Weather is a premium service and is only available with a paid subscription. There is an offer of a free trial period to see if these functions are worth the price. One month of service is $8.99 and one year of service is $39.99.

This feature will only work with an Internet connection so it is of little use offshore.

Forecasts include maritime weather, water, air temperatures, tides, wave, wind speed and direction. Tides are also included with the weather data.


The app has a tracking feature which can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page. 

Select Tracks to bring up the Tracks page and the list of saved tracks.  To record a track select the red record button in the bottom right of the screen. The tracks can be sorted with the up and down arrow icon in the top right of the screen.


The app has a Route feature which can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page. 

Select Routes to bring up the Routes page and the list of saved routes. To create a route, select the purple button in the bottom right of the screen.

The routes can be sorted various ways with the up and down arrow icon in the top right of the screen.

There are some display issues on the Routes page which need correcting. You can see that the way points list on the bottom is not properly displaying the latitude and longitude.

Transport Mode:

The app has a real time Tracking Mode feature which can be reached from the main drop down menu in the search box in the upper left of the main chart page.

Selecting this brings up your current GPS position and chart of the area. On top of the display you will see your speed (COG course over ground) and you heading.  The current GPS location is also listed.

This display is pretty basic and only shows minimal data of speed and heading for real time navigation.

There were some display formatting issues which can be seen on the knots and heading display.  This error showed up in the landscape and portrait displays. Hopefully this will be addressed by the developer. I was using a 5 generation iPad to take these screen shots.

Cruising Guide:

The Cruising Guide contains information about places added by boaters and is made available to the entire boating community. Users created posts with marinas, fishing spots, anchorages, beaches, restaurants, services, pictures and reviews.  A search feature allows quick look up of various locations in these groups. Simply type in a location to find it on the charts.

The app is pretty basic in its features and functionality. If you are in need of some free charts and only do coastal cruising this app is a good free choice.  If you are in need of advanced charting features and more functionality, I would suggest some others apps like Navionics, SEAiq or iNavX.

What charting app do you use? What features do you look for in a charting app? Comment below!

~~~ Sail On ~~~/)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Digital Yacht iAIS with Navionics Charts

Application: iPad, iPhone
Function: Mobile device AIS display on charts
Cost: The iAISs app is free but a $9.99 in app purchase for Navionics chart display.

I am constantly looking for apps that provide value and unique features to share with the boating world. Many of you are familiar with AIS, Automatic Identification Systems.  This system allows boaters to identify others yachts around them and get valuable information like speed and course data. This data can then be use to determine if you and the boats around you are on a collision course. Many recreational boats now have AIS B receivers and transponders to add this level of safety.

Digital Yacht is one company that provides AIS systems along with various other marine electronics.  I do not work for Digital Yachts and I do not have any affiliation with them.  I do like many of the innovative products and apps that they produce.

In their latest news release they have teamed up with Navionics to allow you to use the charts you have already purchased to display AIS data in their iAIS app. No other app that I know of has this capability.

Digital Yacht had developed the iAIS app several years ago which displays AIS data from many of their AIS products on mobile devices.

They recently teamed up with Navionics to allow users who have already purchased Navionics electronic marine charts to use that subscription on other apps.  The Digital Yacht iAIS app is free to download and with an in app purchase of $9.99 a user can then display AIS targets in the app on their Navionics marine charts. You simply log into the iAIS app with your Navionics account and you then have access to your Navionics charts in the iAIS app.

  • Requires a WiFi enabled AIS system already installed on your boat
  • Real Time AIS position and target display
  • Pan and zoom around the chart
  • Tap AIS targets for detailed information
  • TCP/IP or UDP protocol
  • Simple AIS plotter and NMEA data instrument display
  • Used with WiFi AIS receivers and transponders
  • SOG, Speed over Ground
  • GSA, Position Type
  • ALT, Altimeter
  • HDG, Heading
  • HPE, Horizontal Position Error
  • LAT, Latitude
  • LON, Longitude
  • TCT, Target count
  • AWS, Apparent Wind speed
  • AWA, Apparent Wind angle
  • TWS, True Wind speed
  • TWA, True Wind angle
  • AWD, Apparent Wind direction
  • TWD, True Wind Direction
  • GSV, Satellites in view
  • FIX, Position mode
  • CON, Connection type
  • Destination
  • Boat type
  • Length
  • GPS and Wind instrument data display
  • In app purchase for use of your existing Navionics charts
  • Share your boats position, speed, course over free Internet based AIS apps and websites

The iAIS app has four main pages, Plotter, Targets, Instruments and Settings.

The Plotter page is where the AIS targets are displayed relative to your position. The targets can then be selected to display more information about their identity, speed and course. This data can then be used to determine if your yacht is on a collision course.

Other soft keys at the bottom of the Plotter page include Targets and Instruments. Each of these pages have Settings pages to adjust the values associated with them.

The Settings gear icon in the upper right lets you select display modes, icons position, vector sizes and scales.

The option to the Navionics Chart Add-on is also shown here.  For $9.99 the in app purchase will allow current Navionics chart owners to use them in the iAIS app to overlay and display the AIS data.

This screen shot shows the Navionics charts with an AIS targets displayed. Selecting the target, in this case the yacht Vantage, shows all the information from that yacht.

The iAIS app can still be used to display AIS targets even if you don't have any Navionics charts. I have purchased Navionics charts for my Navionics Boating app so those charts are available to use with the iAIS app.

The next page is the AIS Targets page, this shows a list of all the AIS targets in the area near your yacht. The range of the AIS targets can be up to 20 miles away in good conditions.

Any of these targets can be selected to show additional information about the other yachts. Data such as course, heading, speed, bearing, call sign, MMSI type of yacht, destination and position.

All of this data can then be used to determine if these targets may be on a collision course with your yacht. Having this data adds a level of safety that has never been possible before AIS.

The third page in the iAIS app is the Instrument display page.  The app will display a variety of instrument data if your yachts instruments are connected to a WiFi enabled router.

A wide variety of up to 20 different instrument data types can be displayed including location, wind speed and direction, satellite data, course, speed and position data.

Select the gear icon in the upper right of the display to enable the different instrument and data displays.

WiFi connectivity can be set up using the TCP/IP icon in the upper left of the Instrument display setup.

The TCP/IP connection will need an IP address and port number of the WiFi router.  The UDP connection will need just a port number.

Once you are all set up the instrument data from you yacht will be available on your iPhone or iPad.  This will allow you to access and view your ships data from anywhere on your yacht, from your helm, chart table, the head or in the comfort of your berth.

Digital Yacht continues to provide innovative and useful hardware and software application for the geeky connected boater.  Let me know what your experience is if you are using the app.  Do you find AIS useful as an added safety feature?

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Digital Yachts Nomad Portable Class B AIS Transponder

Application: iPad, iPhone, PC and Android Devices
Function: AIS Class B receiving and transmitting
Rating: *****
Cost: Nomad AIS Unit $699 US, compatible with many PC and mobile devices.

Image compliments of Digital Yacht
Digital Yacht is a leading edge marine electronics company. They are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to improve marine electronics and connect our mobile devices to yacht electronics. You may be familiar with some of their AIS, wind, GPS, multiplexer, signal K and wireless products.

Digital Yacht's latest Nomad AIS product is in the area of AIS.  AIS is the Automatic Identification System used by commercial and other yachts to identify each other at sea.  All commercial ships over 300 tons are required to have a AIS Class A system. Non commercial yachts use the Class B system. The system uses VHF frequencies and has a range of about 15-20 miles.  Early systems only allowed receiving AIS data from other ships. The new transponders can now not only receive other ships position data but also transmit data.  Many of these class B transponders range from $500 to $2000 dollars.

The advantage of having an AIS system is that it provides data about other ships which can improve your safety by knowing if other ships are on a collision course with your yacht.  Other ships can also see your course, speed and position data which improves safety and prevents collisions.

Digital Yachts new Namad  AIS system is portable and costs $699. It is designed for recreational users who want a low cost portable solution.  It has a wireless connectivity for computers and tablets and is USB powered all in a compact portable package.

The Nomad device was built to be mobile so it would appeal to charter captains and pilots who want this AIS capability on any yacht they step onto. 


  • Class B AIS transponder
  • Compact antenna receives AIS 10-12 nautical miles and transmit 5 nautical miles.
  • Mast mounted antenna receives and sends AIS signals 20 nautical miles at 2 watts.
  • Opens up new “portable navigation” market with the 1st portable Class B AIS transponder
  • Applications include charter and delivery skippers, pilots, tenders and back up for main systems
  • Can be utilized as AIS/GPS receive only
  • Powered via USB – connect to PC, USB outlet or USB battery pack for power
  • Wireless interface for iPad, tablet or PC/MAC
  • Built in high performance GPS
  • Supplied with portable VHF antenna with sucker cup mount
  • Can be used as AIS receiver only (if no MMSI programmed) or if silent mode selected
  • Programmable via PC, Mac and app
  • Choose your favourite charting and AIS app!
  • Wireless connectivity through TCP/IP and UDP for up to 7 devices
Image compliment of Digital Yacht
Any AIS compatible software can be use to create a virtual com port. The unit is compatible with many PC charting and navigation software packages like MaxSea, Nobletech, Expedition, SeaPro and OpenCPN. Connecting it to your PC with the USB cable will power the unit and send data AIS and GPS data to your PC.

For tablets and iPads the wireless WiFi interface is used. Up to 7 devices can be connected using TCP/IP or UDP protocols. Simply go to your setting page and select the Nomad WiFi connection. Once connected the AIS and GPS data can be used by many iPad and Android devices. 

The only downside I see for the Nomad is the cost. If you don't need a mobile solution there are other cheaper options out there for Class B transponders. A did a quick Google of AIS class B transponders and it showed a Milltech model for $499, Garmin AIS 300 for $406 and Vesper's XB-6000 for $555.

Has anyone use the Nomad, if so, please share your experience.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

iNavX Marine Charting for Android Devices

Application: Android Smartphones and Tablets
Function: Marine Charting and Navigation
Rating: *****
Price: Free, with in App purchases for additional features

iNavX has been working for over a year to bring you their Android version of their very popular marine charting and navigation app.

 The iOS version has been around for years, but not until now have Android users been able to use this awesome app. The app is now available in the Google Play store.

I have used the iOS version for years and appreciate the vast number of features in the app. All of these features are now available in the Android version. Over the years I have written numerous articles and tutorials about iNavX iOS for a good reason.

It is still ranked #1 on my list of Best Marine Charting apps. The new owners and developers of iNavX have finally delivered an Android version that many boaters have been looking for. The MacSailing message board for iNavX iOS is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn all they can about the iOS version of the app and it's capabilities. Hopefully this blog post will reveal some of the features of the Android version.

Advanced Navigation Features:
  • Create waypoints and plan routes and navigate between them 
  • Plot your position in real time using devices GPS 
  • Pan, zoom and rotate charts 
  • Electronic Compass 
  • North Up/Course up 
  • Multiple chart vendors 
  • Marine vector and rater charts 
  • Quickly measure bearing/distance between points 
  • Track log allows you to record your actual route 
  • Import/Export data in KML (Google Earth) or GPX format 
Advanced Instrumentation: 

  • Acts as a repeater for popular marine navigation software MacENC 
  • Supports NMEA data over TCP/IP using WiFi 
  • Integrates with external GPS, AIS receivers and transponders 
  • Connects to onboard instruments, depth, speed, wind, engine batteries etc. 
Other Features: 

  • GRIB Weather Forecasts, wind speed, direction, pressure 
  • Tide/Currents 
  • Anchor Alarm 
  • AIS Alarm 
  • Port and navaid search 
  • Tracking Log History 
  • Import and Export waypoints, routes with popular GPX and KML formats

Onscreen Navigation:

All of the Android screen and button functions are incorporated into the app. The app has five soft keys at the bottom of the main Chart screen.  The keys from left to right are, Chart, Waypoints, Routes, Track and Settings

The soft key menu can be toggled off and on by using the big black + plus sign on the chart.

On top of the Chart screen you can see an active compass and instrument display of heading, latitude, longitude, course over ground and speed over ground, altitude, connection, location error and time. Each of these can be tapped for a full screen view.


The new Android version of iNavX is available for free for Android mobile devices and includes a basic world map and location services. iNavX Pro can be purchased for $19.99 per year and provides premiums service such as enhanced navigational features, setting waypoints, routes and tracking. This feature is free to all users until the Miami Boat Show ends on February 15th.

Charts can be purchased with in-app purchases directly in the app. This is easier than using the xTraverse site that the iOS app has to use. Purchased charts are good for up to two devices. 

Navionics Android Tablet charts can be purchased from $69.00-$89.00 per region. Navionics Charts for your Android smartphone will cost $29.00 to $59.00 per region. Other chart types from Explorer, Delius Klasing, Fugawi, Canadian CHS, Blue Latitude, NV Charts, Theyr Weather, Waterway Guides, Trak Maps and Solteknik can also be purchased.

I download the app on my Samsung Galaxy tablet with no problem. I am not sure if there is a list of compatible devices. The Google Play store should tell you if it is compatible with your device. 

Chart updates are free for one year then the charts must be purchased again for continued updates. If you download them all to your device you can maintain that copy. The chart purchases include one free month of iNavX Pro. All charts can then be activated and downloaded to the iNavX app on your device for offline viewing.


Waypoints are the building blocks of navigation and the routing function within the app. In iNavX there are two ways to create waypoints.

The first is to simply tap the chart screen once where you want to place a waypoint. A banner at the bottom of the screen will open up with options of New Route, Add Route ad GoTo. On the upper right corner of the banner you will see a pencil icon. Tap this to pen up the edit the waypoint's name and icon or color.  

If you want to move a waypoint simply tap the waypoint icon on the map and move it around around to where you want it.  I found the waypoint icons too small and very hard to tap and move around to where I wanted. Bigger waypoint icons would be a plus.

The second way to create a waypoint is with the Waypoint menu selection on the bottom of the screen. Tapping this brings up your list of waypoints. Tap the blue + plus sign in the lower right to add a new waypoint. You can then edit the name, coordinates, icon color and the description of the waypoint. Swipe left on any waypoint to Hide, Go To and Delete.


A route is simply a collection of waypoints that make up the path to your destination. To create a route select the Routes soft key at the bottom of the main Chart display. 

On the route display you will see a blue + sign in the bottom right hand corner. Selecting this will add a route and take you into the route creation and editing page. The new route will be given an name like Route 0. 

You can change the name of your route by tapping the pencil icon in the upper right corner to rename the route. The three vertical dots will allow Go To, Scroll To, Duplicate, Invert, Open With and Delete.

Once a route is selected waypoints can then be added with the blue icon in the lower right corner. This requires that you created waypoints in the previous waypoints section.


Tracks are simply a digital recording of the path that your vessel has taken as it travels through the water over time.
The iOS version of iNavX keeps track records for up to the last 500 miles traveled. I am not sure what the limitation is for the Android version. 

To start Tracking select the Track soft key at the bottom of the main navigation display. Start tracking by tapping the red icon in the lower right corner of the display. The app will record your distance, average speed, and elapse time while tracking is enabled. Track points are recorded every 20 seconds. The Settings (gear icon) with the tracking function allows track back and 3 levels of tracking precision.

With a Track selected, selecting the export icon (three connected dots) allows download of your tracks to your X-Traverse account in a GPX or KML file formats. To remove your track logs simply swipe to the left on any of the recorded tracks.

Another neat feature is the Background Recording. Even with with the iNavX app suspended it will continue to record track information. Make sure to have your device plugged into power, if not, it will drain your battery rather quickly. This feature will only work with the devices Location services.

The last icon on the bottom of the screen will bring up selections for Account, Instruments, Tool & Forecasts, Settings and Help. Logging into your xTraverse account will allow you to store all of your waypoints, routes and tracks. You can upload these for storage and download them for use on other devices.

Instruments are a very powerful part of the iNavX app. Selecting this displays course over ground (COG), speed over ground (SOG), heading (HDG), rotation (ROT), altitude, connection type, location error, latitude, longitude and system time. If the app is connected with WiFi to your ships instruments additional data will be available.

Once navigating to a waypoint additional data including bearing to waypoint (BTW), distance to waypoint (DTW), velocity made good (VMG), anchor drift (AAD) and cross track error (XTE). Tapping on any of these instruments creates a full scree display of the value in digital form.

After working with the app for a while it seems to have pretty much all the functionality that the iOS version has.  The iOS version had TCP/IP connectivity which I was not able to find on this Android version. The Google Play store says it is available with an in app purchase but I was not able to locate where to make the purchase.  If anyone know, please let me know.  I will keep looking. It may not be available until some charts are downloaded.  

Give me some feedback on what you think of this version. I think it is a big win for iNavX and all of the Android user out there. 

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Garmin Buys Navionics, What is Next

Very BIG news in the marine industry last week when we learned that Garmin acquired the Navionics Corporation. On October 27th Garmin issued a press release stating that they acquired the privately held Navionics company popular for their marine charts and mobile marine apps.

This comes on the heals of Garmin's purchase of the ActiveCaptain's crowd sourced marine database in May and the purchase earlier this year of Delorme which is known for their popular inReach two way satellite tracking and messaging device.

Wow, this bring up numerous questions and concerns as Garmin continues to gobble up the competition.  The purchase of these companies and their technology should give Garmin a real advantage over other chartplotter and app providers on the market.
  • With Garmin purchasing Navionics, will they continue to provide charts to other manufacturers such as Raymarine, Simrad, B&G and others? 
  • Will they continue to support the Navionics and BlueChart Mobile apps?
  • Will Garmin continue to support the Navionics charts?
  • Will they continue to provide the Navionics app features such as auto routing and crowd sourced sonar charts?
  • Will they continue to provide the cost effective charts for app?
I am first excited because Garmin will hopefully bring all of this new technology into their main chart plotter products and continue to interface them with apps on mobile devices. This will spawn new features on their main line of products and make them the leader in the industry.

On the other hand I am more concerned that by gobbling up the competition the popular Navionics app will be no longer be available.  I have never been a big fan of the the Garmin BlueChart Mobile app.  It had a clunker interface and lacks many features we all wanted in a stand alone chart plotter app.  Garmin's BlueChart Mobile app was never build to be a stand alone marine app because Garmin did not want to cannibalize their chart plotter business.  They would rather have you spend $1000 on a chart plotter than $50 for an app.

As an avid Navionics app user I would hate to see the Navionics app disappear. Millions of sailors around the world use the Navionics apps on their mobile devices and to lose them would be a step back in time. I guess we have to wait and see what Garmin does with these new products.

Recent chatter on Facebook and other social media has already discovered that the Garmin's BlueChart Mobile app is not longer available in the iTunes Store.  This has many people upset since this app had a large following of users.  I can only guess that Garmin is working on a new iOS mobile app to replace it or will rely on the Navionics iOS apps going forward.  If you have the BlueChart Mobile app on your phone or tablet is should still continue to work. It will fail at some point when Apple upgrades the iOS software or Garmin no longer supports it. The BlueChart Mobile apps was popular because it supported the ActiveCaptain points of interest database.

There are a host of other apps that incorporate the ActiveCaptain crowd sourced data. Pick one of them to continue accessing the database and making reviews. SEAiq, Navimatics Charts and Tide, Skipper, Aqua Maps, Sailtimer and Plan2Nav are a few that support ActiveCapatain.

A new Garmin ActiveCaptain app for Android devices is available in the Google store. Looking at some of the reviews, people are having issues logging into ActiveCaptain and the price of charts is now $319.  I am not sure why the charts are so expensive.  Hopefully if you purchase the charts they would be available on all your devices including your chart plotter. No one is going to pay $319 for chart for just a mobile device. Maybe this is how Garmin plans to kill the mobile device charting apps.

Update November 11, the iOS version of the Garmin Active Captain app came this week also download it from the app store. I will do a full review of that in the near future.

The Navionics Apps appear to still be functional and available on the iTunes Store. I would expect some changes to these in the future as Garmin decides what to do with them. I would urge them to continue to support these apps due to the large number of active users worldwide.

With all of these acquisitions Garmin is strategically aligning itself to be a leader in the marine industry. My hope is that it will continue to support the already great mobile device apps out there instead of shelving them to spur on their chart plotter business. If they do not continue to support the Navionics apps I will be one upset sailor along with many others who use them everyday!

~~~ Sail On ~~~/)