The iPad WiFi, iPad2 3G and iPad3 4G(new iPad) can all be used for navigation purposes. Some models have limitations so make sure you understand which model you have.
Apple has put so much technology into these devices so they are well suited for use on your yacht. GPS, Locational services, WiFi, compass, accelerometer, Bluetooth, rotating screen, mult-touch gestures, multitasking and retina display. All of these features make it one of the most popular and versatile pieces of electronics ever built.
If you have a 3G or new 4G model of the iPad your are in luck. The device has an onboard GPS that will work with locational services to provide any GPS app the data it needs to find your latitude and longitude anywhere in the world. Apple refers to their GPS as assisted GPS. WiFi and a cell connection are not required to get the GPS to work but if they are available the GPS will pick up a signal quicker and the accuracy will be improved using cellular triangulation. I recently had a question from a lady wanting to know if the GPS would work without WiFi and a cell data plan. Yes it will, you do not need either of them to use the GPS on your iPad 3G or 4G versions.
At this point we are now ready to look at navigation apps. There are many apps in the AppStore available for marine navigation. The reason I started this blog was that I had trouble deciding myself which apps would be best to use. After looking and all the possibilities I figured others might be having the same problem. I have looked at hundreds of apps and have narrowed down the Best Marine Charting Apps for you. This is a list of my top 10 charting apps.
You will find that charting apps will have a wide variety of features. The more features generally, the more you will have to pay. High end apps will cost you $49.00 and low end can cost you as little at $5.00.
Features that you should consider when looking at apps are chart type, waypoints, routes, tracking, instrument data integration, charts overlays, satellite views, AIS, anchor alarm, compass, weather, GRIB files, tides, points of interest and social networking.
Charts are a big consideration. Many apps use the raster charts from NOAA. The raster charts are scanned versions of the old paper charts many of us are familiar with. These charts will cover most of the coastal US, the Great Lakes region, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These are free to download from NOAA, so most app developers don't have that expense of charts. Vector charts, which I prefer, have many advantages over their raster predecessor. Vector charts can imbed more information and colors which can be revealed as you zoom in to a specific area. I wrote at length about the Perfect Marine App is this post. There are many apps, with many price ranges and many levels of users out there. I can make recommendations to you but you will have to decide what charting features are important to you.
On the high end, iNavX and Navionics HD will cost you about $49.00. I give the edge to iNavX here for their incorporation of TCP/IP connectivity for your onboard instruments. Both apps use high resolution vector charts. iNavX can use either the free NOAA raster charts or a variety of vector charts sets.
Medium priced apps like Navimatics and EarthNC use NOAA charts. Navimatics Charts and Tides gets the nod here. It has the Active Captain database and all charts reside on the device. Earth NC requires a cell connection for some of their overlays and features to work.
Low priced apps Transas iSailor and SEAiq are in the range of $5.00-10.00. SEAiq uses vector charts and does a better job with waypoints, routes and tracks. iSailor also has vector charts but does not handle waypoints very well. Mark Hayden is passionate about his app SEAiq and is a big believer that vector charts are better.
Garmin is working on their marine version of an app that is suppose to be out this summer. I am sure it will give some of the high end apps a run for their money. The price of the apps are all fairly cheap. I find that I use several of them depending on what I am doing on the water.
Now that we have the iPad set up with your charting app we need to find some way to mount it. We want the iPad secure so it will not be thrown around the boat when your rolling down that 30 foot wave in the southern ocean. I have been in search of the perfect mounting system. Here are a few that I have found.
MudulR case and mounting system has several mounting options that may work for the iPad on your yacht. The one drawback it that none appear to protect your iPad at the same time. Most of their mounts are for flat surfaces and would be good for mounting on a bulk head.
Ram Mounts are very popular and provide a strong base and many mounting options. They have suction cup mounts and bases that can be secured to your console or helm. They all use the ball mount system which gives you flexibility to swivel it in any direction. They do have a model called Tab Tite with a spring loaded cradle that will allow you to mount the iPad in a protective case.
I talked about the Makayama movie mount in a recent post. You can buy it off their website for $69.00. Not sure why Amazon has it listed for $99.00. It not only works great on a tripod but you can use it at the helm too. You will need a 1/4 inch handle bar camera mount to secure it to your helm station bar. Pick one up at Amazon for about $8.00
Ok, you have your iPad connected to GPS you have selected a great charting app and found a way to mount it to your yacht. There is nothing left to do now but go sailing!