Friday, July 27, 2012

Marine Map Navigator

Application: iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch 3rd and 4th Gen
Function: Marine Charting and Navigation
Rating: **
Cost: $9.99

Well I survived the Jimmy Buffett concert in Chicago and the 4th of July celebrations and my niece's wedding in Colorado the past few weeks. I guess it is time to get back to work and tell you about some more great, geeky apps for your mobile devices. 

More charting apps are hitting the market these days and new features are constantly being added to the apps already out there. One new app I ran across today is called Marine Map Navigator.  Many of us who have been looking at charting apps have seen many apps use the NOAA Raster Charts.  These charts look like the old paper charts and have many limitations for displaying and viewing additional data.

Marine Map Navigator has taken a new direction and is one of the few apps to use Vector charts which can be downloaded for free from NOAA ENC.  This is a collection of about 1000 charts that cover the coastal areas of the US, Puerto Rico, US Virgins Island and the Hawaiian Islands.  The app will load and display and ENC charts in the S-57 format.


  • Free NOAA ENC S-57 Vector charts
  • Paid Canadian and United Kingdom Hydrographic charts
  • International Hydrographic Organization charts
  • Multi-touch gesture navigation
  • Compass
  • GPS display of current position
  • Weather Data
  • Tides
  • AIS
  • Speed and heading
  • Waypoints and Routes
The feature list looks pretty inclusive of all the needed functions to navigate with your iPad.  The screen shots on the website don't seem to match the ones on the iTunes Store, not sure what is up with that. They may be from a previous release.

The splash screen shown at left comes up when the app is loaded. Here you can press Start to bring up the previous chart from your last session. Select Open Set if you want to select another chart. Open File will show you the recent files you have opened and allow you to select one of them. It appears to only load one chart at a time. Quilting of the charts would be a nice added feature.

Open Set will display a list of NOAA charts for you to select and manually download. Pick the chart you want and the file will be downloaded and installed automatically.

The app requires that you have access to the Internet or WiFi to download the charts to your iPhone or iPad. Once they are downloaded you can use them offline.

The first screen shot shows five tabs across the top listing Charts, Compass, Weather, Tides and AIS.  Additional buttons on the bottom of the display show Real time Position, a Measuring function, Navigation Lights, Waypoints, Routes, Layers and a menu selection. 

Selecting the Compass display will overlay the compass on the chart. The compass rose is shown with readings to 5 degrees. Speed, Heading and coordinates are shown in the bottom panel.

The Weather and Tides features require that you have an Internet or cell connection to download data. The tides and currents are from the website

The weather tab just brings up the National Weather Service  page for the area you are viewing on the chart. This is a great site for forecasts, radar, satellite images and more. This is handy feature that lets you view weather from within the app rather than bringing up another app to check the weather.

The AIS screen also uses the Internet or cell connection to bring up the website  This is not true AIS but a land based AIS site that rebroadcasts locations of vessels for you to see on the web.

The site shows it has about 29000 ships listed for viewing.  I am not sure what kind of coverage they have around the world so make sure to check your areas for coverage.

Waypoints and Routes can be created and saved under the Arrow menu key on the bottom right of the screen. To create a waypoint select Create Waypoints from the menu. Then tap the screen to create a waypoint. The keypad will then come up to allow you to name the waypoint. A color selection box will also pop up to allow you to make your waypoints different colors. After you have selected the color, save your waypoint.

Here I have created three waypoints and labeled them with different colors. A list of waypoints is shown at the bottom of the screen.

Selecting the Routes button from the bottom of the display allows you to create a route.  The waypoints that we created earlier can be selected and put into a route.  Save the route and the next time you select Open Route the new route will be displayed.

The measuring feature can be selected by tapping the second button from the left at the bottom of the screen.  With this selected you can tap on the screen and a pop up bar will show you the distance from your current location. It would be nice to have the heading to the waypoint shown also.

The next button on the bottom of the screen looks like a lighthouse. Select this and the chart will show you all the flashing beacons and lights in the area. The lights will actually flash on the chart. This is kind of a cool feature but if there are alot of lights in the area it can be distracting.

The layers button, second from the right on the bottom, allows you to turn off and on different features of the map. Once the button is selected a list of features will display. The default is that they are all on and will be shown in "Green" to turn off a layer simply tap it and it will turn "Red".

It takes some messing around with these features to understand how they work. It would be nice if the developer had a tutorial or more help online. As with most developers documentation always seems to come last.

The app appears to have some nice features. I like that it uses the NOAA vector charts and that the charts are stored on the device.  Waypoints and Routes are crucial to having a full featured navigation app. 

It is a little awkward working with the waypoints and routes at first. I did have some performance issues and the app did crash a few times while I was using it. It was very slow in responding to changes in zoom levels and in response to multi-touch gestures.  It is an early release and I can only hope the author works on improving the performance.

Has anyone purchased or used this app?  Any feedback from you readers would be appreciated.  I you are looking for an entry level app give it a spin.  There are a few bugs to be worked out so I am looking forward to future releases.

Sail On


  1. Haven't checked this but I think I'll check this now. I use Flytomap and am quite satisfied with it. Earlier used Navionics but they are quite expensive, flytomap is less than 10 bucks for full world! however you should look their to understand if the details are available in your area.

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