Saturday, October 5, 2013

GPS Nautical Charts USA

Application: iPhone, iPad
Function: Marine navigation, charting, routing and tracking
Cost: $14.99

About a year ago I reviewed GPS Nautical Charts for Android app, and was pleasantly surprised.  It was a welcomed addition to the Android charting family of apps.  Recently the iPhone and iPad versions were released so I thought it was worth another look to see what the iOS version had to offer.

The app uses NOAA raster charts.  These are the scanned versions of the paper charts that are used by many of the iPhone and iPad apps. The app displays the charts nicely with several zoom levels.

It does however only let you view one chart at a time. The features list says that the charts are quilted, however I was not able to go from one chart to another seamlessly.

The main navigation around the app is by a menu system at the bottom of the display. Various tabs can be selected to create and display waypoints, routes, list nearby charts, record tracks and view points of interest.

Other controls on the main page include the My Charts button in the upper left and a GPS position icon in the upper right.  The My Charts icon lets you select and download the charts for viewing.  The GPS position icon in the upper right of the chart screen moves the chart to your current position.

  • Voice Prompts for marine navigation (requires GPS )
  • 1ft / 3ft depth contour maps for anglers for selected lake maps
  • Supports GPX/KML route editing/import
  • Displays Tide & Currents prediction
  • Seamless chart quilting of marine charts
  • Enter way points
  • Record tracks, Auto follow with real time track overlay
  • Search POIs, buoy, lights, harbor facilities, Obstr. etc)
  • Voice Prompts for marine navigation
  • Route Editing/Creation
  • Offline NOAA charts
  • Tide & Currents
  • Distance Bearing tool
  • Create custom way points
  • POI layer for marine charts
  • Pan/Zoom/My Location
  • Record and view GPS tracks
  • Live track animation
  • Track analytics/stats
  • Export GPX tracks to share
  • Auto Follow Mode (Course up)

The USA version include access to the NOAA coastal charts, the Great Lakes, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, USACE inland lakes, some freshwater lake in various US states.  All of these charts provide a very extensive coverage of the US water.  Other versions are available for the Caribbean, Croatia, Canada, Iceland, Oman, Malta, Estonia, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium.

Charts can be selected for download in several different ways. From the Map display, select the My Charts icon in the top left of the display.  Next select Add Charts+. The handy Search Charts option allow a text search of a specific area or region. The Chart Catalog lists the charts by State, Region, Coast Guard District and US Army Corp Of Engineers Inland Rivers. Finally the Visual Download/Select Area shown above, lets you define a region of a map and then download all the charts in that region.


Waypoints can be created with the New Waypoint selection located in the on screen menu at the bottom of the chart display.  Selecting this option provides three ways to create a new waypoint. Selecting Current Location via GPS creates a waypoint at your current GPS location. Simply provide a name for the point and hit the locate button in the lower left of the screen to automatically fill in the latitude, longitude and altitude.

The app also lets you create a waypoint by selecting the Enter Lat and Lon Manually option.  Simply fill in the name, latitude and longitude coordinates of the waypoint and select Save.  The third way to create a waypoint is by placing the crosshairs of the map display on the point where you want the waypoint. The latitude and longitude are filled in automatically. Simply provide a name for the waypoint and select Save at the bottom of the screen.

Waypoints can then be displayed by selecting the View Waypoints selection from the menu.  Waypoint show up at small black circles with a white center.  All waypoints are displayed but only the selected waypoint's name is shown.  Select the Clear menu option to clear all the waypoints from the screen.


Routing is a key feature of a functional marine app. Routes are created by selecting the New Route icon in the main menu at the bottom of the screen. 

The Route menu will then be displayed at the top of the screen.  Select the center route creation icon and tap the blue New Point at the desired location to create the next point in your route.

Select the floppy disc icon to save and name the route.

The Route Manager provides options to Play, View, Follow, Export and view Statistics of your route.  Export of a Routes is done through email in a .gpx format.

Points of Interest

The app provides a extensive list of points of interest data listed on the charts. They include Lights, beacons, bridges, cables, coast guard stations, caution areas, land marks, rivers, piles, wrecks etc.

POIs can be found by the Search POIs or the View POIs menu options. The POIs are however limited to the chart data so it won't help you find restaurants, bars, stores or other marine services.

POIs can be displayed on the chart by selecting one from the list.  To stop display of the POIs data simply select the Clear menu option.

Auto Follow and Record

The Auto Follow feature will display your current GPS position on the chart as you move. The boats GPS heading and speed over ground are displayed on the bottom left of the display for reference.  Selecting the Rec, record button on the menu starts recording the boats track. Tap these menu options again to stop the recording and following features.

Distance and Bearing

A distance and bearing feature is also provided in the main menu.  Tapping this feature displays a range and bearing display on the chart.  This feature can quickly provide navigation data to a light or harbor entrance.  The center of the range is taken from the crosshairs maker on the chart.

The distance and bearing measurement data are shown at the top of the chart display. These can be set to display in kilometers, miles or nautical miles in the options menu. Select Clear to remove the range and bearing marker.

Tides & Currents

Tidal and current data is important information to have if your in a region with extreme fluctuations in sea level. The GPS Nautical app only provides a basic tabular display for data in the US, United Kingdom, the Pacific, Caribbean and Germany.  It allows you to save any of the stations as a favorite for quick retrieval.

Voice prompts

I have reviewed many marine apps but have never heard of any with voice prompts.  GPS Nautical has incorporated voice prompts and warnings for such things as alerts if your boat is off course, going the wrong direction or when your approaching a route marker.

Continuous distance and estimate time of arrival updates also keep the boater up to date on their progress while navigating.

The iOS version of GPS Nautical is equally impressive.  It has many features that make it a very usable marine navigation app.  The main menu allows you to access many of the features on the chart screen.  I found myself having to use the Back button many time to get back out of some of the menu settings and options. This was a little annoying and could be improved on. 

Navigating around the charts was easy and incorporated many of the iOS gestures and controls. Compared to other apps with similar features, the price might be a little high at $14.99. If your looking for a basic NOAA chart viewer with some GPS tracking, waypoint and routing features this is worth a look.. 

~~~ Sail ON ~~~ /)


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