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 ~~~~ /)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Transas iSailor 50 % Off Chart Sale

I recently reviewed the new Android version of the Transas iSailor app. iSailor is listed in my top 10 Best Marine Charting apps on this blog. It is a full featured marine charting app capable of helping you navigate rivers, lake and coastal waters almost anywhere in the world.  I have written many reviews of the app over the years since it was introduced in 2010.

I got an email recently from iSailor notifying me that they will be having a chart sale this coming week. That's right if you want to buy some charts for you new app you can get them 50% off starting September 1-15th. Not all charts are on sale. Only a limited number are half off so make sure your selecting the right ones to get this special deal.

The chart folios on sale are limited to Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. With each of these charts sets costing up to $24.99 each a 50% sale could save you some serious money.

To purchase charts in the iPhone or mobile Android phone version, pull up the Tools bar from the bottom of  the screen. Tap the Gear, (Settings) icon and Select the Chart Store.

If you have an iPad or Android tablet version of the app just tap the Gear icon in the lower right of the screen and then select the Chart Store.

Simply scan around the interactive map until you find the area you wish to purchase. Tap on the price button to purchase and download.

If your in the market for some new charts this would be a good time to stock up at half price.

Happy September 50% off iSailor Charts. Wahoo!!!!!

~~~ Sail On ~~~/)Mark

Saturday, August 22, 2015

i-Sailor for Android Devices

Application: Compatible Android tablets and phones
Function: Marine charting, AIS, GPS, navigation
Rating: *****
Cost: App download is free, with in app purchase for charts $4.99 to $24.99.

Transas i-Sailor is one of the leading apps in the Marine Navigation and GPS tracking area.  I have written extensively in many post about the iOS version of their i-Sailor app since it was released in 2010. Since that time may Android users have been very vocal about wanting a version they could run on their phones and tablets. Well after much pleading and outcry i-Sailor has heard you loud and clear and responded with an Android version. You can now download it on the Google Play store.

The functionality and features appears to be very similar to the iOS version. i-Sailor has evolved to be a full featured app including charts, routes, waypoints, tracking, weather, AIS, NMEA connectivity.  The navigation screen is clean and uncluttered allowing full view of the Transas's TX-97charts.

  • Internal GPS 
  • NMEA GPS over Wi-Fi (TCP connection Bluetooth NMEA GPS through the Android Location Provide or Bluetooth GPS 
  • Display of Charts and Routes
  • North Up, COG Up and Route Up chart orientations
  • Information on any vector chart objects
  • Free cursor, Point-To-Point and Own Ship referenced ERBL functionality
  • Navigational data: Position, Course (COG) and Speed Over Ground (SOG)
  • Route creation, Go To routes
  • Bearing to WP, Distance to WP, XTD
  • Time-To-Go and ETA to any selected waypoint ahead
  • Day and Night chart background colors
  • List of supported and tested devices with Android version 4.3.x (API 18) and higher:
Compatible Tablets:
  • Google Nexus 7 (2013)
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab S
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Lenovo S60
Other phones and tablets may be compatible but this is the list that i-Sailor had on their website. i-Sailor Android had GPS functionality that allows the user to select the onboard GPS of the phone or tablet. It also has the options of selecting NMEA and Bluetooth GPS options. The NMEA option is available for a $9.99 in app purchase. 

The first thing you will want to do is download some charts. i-Sailor offer a wide variety of charts for most locations in the world. 

Select the gear icon to access the Settings Menu. From there select the Purchase Charts option to access the chart store. Charts range in price from $4.99 to 24.99. I downloaded the USA Gulf Coast Florida charts for $4.99.  The full list of Caribbean charts will run you $24.99.

The main chart and navigation screens are laid out nicely. The tablet version is shown in the image on the left. Selections for track up and north up are in the upper right of the screen. Indications for position information, latitude and longitude are displayed in the upper section also.

Course over ground, (COG) and speed over ground (SOG) are two of the most important navigation features most boaters need.

Waypoints and Routes:

The app has the ability to create routes with waypoints for more in depth navigation options. To create a route go to the Route icon in the Tools section. Select New Route, you will note that a waypoint box pops up on your screen. Place your finger on the waypoint and move it to the desired location. The latitude and longitude are displayed as you move the waypoint.  Select the Green + when you have it at the location you want. Tap the screen again to create another waypoint in your route. Continue doing this until the route is complete.

Navigating a route is one feature that not all marine charting apps have. i-Sailor provides this functionality and show Bearing to waypoint (BTW)and Distance to waypoint (DTW) along with Cross track error (XTR). Other navigation features include estimate time of arrival (ETA).

NMEA Options:

One of the most powerful features of i-Sailor Android is its ability to connect wirelessly through WiFi or Bluetooth to onboard instruments and external GPS devices. NMEA GPS can be accessed with an in app purchase of $9.99. This will unlock compatibility to receive GPS over WiFi connections through TCP and UDP protocols for the GGA, RMC, GLL and VTG sentences.

NMEA Compass rotation, Wind Sensor and Echo sounders can also be purchased for $4.99, and $8.99 each.  This level of connectivity with your onboard instruments give the app the information it needs to be a full fledged navigation chartplotter.

Wi-Fi Connection to an external AIS sensor is also provided with an in app purchase. This will allow the display of ships in your area on your mobile device. You will need to have a AIS receiver unit onboard capable of broadcasting the AIS data over WiFi to be able to receive this data.  

The Android version of the i-Sailor app is a welcome addition to the Google Play Store. I know the release of this version has made many Android users happy to finally have this app available to them. Please comment and let me know if you are using the app and how its working for you!

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)


Friday, July 10, 2015

GPS Nautical i-Boating

Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Function: Mobile Marine Navigation and Charting app
Price: App is free, $14.99 US version

There are no shortage of marine charting apps out on the market. I have reviewed many over the years and I can tell within a few minute of using them if they are worthy of making my Top 10 ListGPS Nautical i-Boating is a solid marine charting app using NOAA vector charts and USACE inland rivers. It has many of the basics features needed to be a decent app including Waypoints, Routes, Tracks, GPS Tracking, Tides, Currents and sharing of routes, tracks and markers.  Although this is a nice list of features there are many competing apps with similar features.

One unique thing about GPS Nautical i- Boating is that it is available on many platforms. Versions are available for the iPhone or iPad, Android phone or tablet, Windows 8 phone, laptop or tablet, and Blackberry phone or tablet.  I know of no other marine app that is available over so many platforms. You should be able to find a version that works on your phone, tablet or laptop.

It is getting harder for may apps to compete with the "Big Boys" like Garmin and Navionics who provide free apps with many built in features. These apps also require in app purchases for charts and additional features.

  • GPU accelerated vector charts 
  • Query the details of Marine object Buoy, Lights, Obstruction.
  • Customizable depth(Ft/Fathom/Meter) and distance units (km/mi/NM)
  • Customizable Shallow Depth.
  • Record tracks, Autofollow with real-time track overlay and predicted path vector
  • Voice Prompts for marine navigation (requires GPS
  • 1ft / 3ft depth contour maps for anglers for selected lake maps.
  • Supports GPX/KML for boating route editing/import
  • Tide & Currents prediction
  • Seamless chart quilting of marine charts
  • Enter or import Waypoints
  • NOAA vector charts, USACE inland rivers and lakes
  • Create New Route/Edit Existing Routes
  • Move Points
  • Add points to an existing route leg
  • Delete / Rename points
  • Import GPX, KML & KMZ files
  • Plot/Edit Routes
  • Enter Waypoints
  • Share/Export Routes, Tracks & Markers
  • Reverse Routes
  • GPS Auto Follow
  • Real Time Track Overlay
  • Predicted Path Vector
  • Course Up (Text stays upright)
  • Speed & Heading
  • Route Assistance With Voice Prompts
  • Prompts when approaching a boating route marker
  • Continous distance and ETA updates
  • Alerts when sailing/boating off route
  • Alerts when boating in wrong direction
  • Record Tracks
  • Tide and Currents for US, Canada, UK, Germany & New Zealand
  • High/Low Tides
  • Tidal Current Prediction
  • Active Current Stations
  • Share tracks/routes/markers on Facebook & Twitter
  • Export tracks/routes/markers as compressed GPX files.
Multiple chart regions are supported and must be purchases separately. Coverage is fairly wide spread.
The app has a main navigation screen with several icons to help with setup and viewing of your position or course. The free app does not come with any charts. You will have to purchase charts for your regions. These range form $14.99 to 25.99 depending which area you need.

Once you have purchased charts you will be able to download the portion of the chart you need for navigation. In the upper left of the screen is the Chart Download icon. Tap this and you will be shown a tiled map overlay of the charts to download.

The green colored tiles show the ones I had previously downloaded. I tapped the tile to the right and it turned purple.  Simply press the Press to Download bar on the top to download your chart tiles to your device. More than one tile can be selected and downloaded at a time. The charts can then be used offline while out cell range.

Other icons  are displayed across the bottom of the screen. On the bottom left of the screen is the Record Track, Follow, Route, Measuring Tool and Menu icons. The Tracking feature is nice to have to see where you have travelled. Tracks are automatically saved and can be found under the Route icon.

The Follow feature icon is second from the left and is used to engage the follow mode. In follow mode the app will keep your position centered on the chart as you move. Additional details including speed and course are shown in the lower left of the screen.

The next icon is the Route Manager which allows the creation of new routes and viewing of saved routes, waypoints and recorded tracks. Importing of GPX and KML route files can also be done through this display.

Routes and Waypoints can also be renamed, deleted or edited from the Route Manger.

Select Create New Route to enter route creation mode. Several icons in the route manager are displayed across the top of the screen. The Hand icon allow you to pan around the display, the Pin icon allows placing a marker for a favorite fishing spot or a hazard.

The Route icon is selected to create a new route. Simply set the cross hairs to the location to make your first waypoint and tap the New Point box, pan to the next location and tap it again. Continue tapping to create all your waypoints within a route.  Next select the Save Icon to name and save your route for retrieval later.

As you create a route your can delete the last point if you make a mistake. Select the grey box "Delete Last".

It would be handier to have a Waypoint icon on the bottom menu to easily create and edit waypoints like the Route icon. To create or view waypoints the Menu icon has to be first selected. Under the New Waypoints selection you can use the current GPS location, enter the latitude and longitude or use the cursor crosshairs to make a waypoint. One unique feature is being able to Geo tag a photo at a waypoint.

The last icon in the lower right of the screen is the Menu icon. Menu features include Route Assistance, New Route, Settings, New Waypoint, View Waypoints, Tides and Currents, Search charts, Purchase Charts and Help features.

The Tides and Currents selection allows making favorites of your tide and current stations. The data is listed in tabular form. Once you save a favorite they all go into one list. It would be nice to have separate favorites lists or a way to differentiate so you can identify which ones are tidal and which one are for currents.

Voice prompts can be enabled within the Menu/Settings selections. Voice prompts can be set up to notify that you have reached a marker or waypoint. Notifications for ETA and distance are continuously updated. It will even alert you when you are off course or going the wrong direction.

GPS Nautical has done a great job with the basics and I am impressed with the presentation of the NOAA ENC vector charts. They are very bright and easy to read and contain many useful navigational aids.

Some features that I would like to see are some points of interest. Active Captain is used by many app developers and it is provided to them for free.  Very basic instrument data is displayed. Incorporation of NMEA 0183 instrument data over WiFi would be a nice feature also. With WiFi you could also add AIS to display nearby ships for collision avoidance. Some form of weather and display options for satellite maps would be a bonus also.

If your looking for a solid entry level app with great charts i-Boating just may be for you. Check it out in the app store and let me know what you think!

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)