A few valuable boating apps, and what’s your favorite?

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of Panbo.com, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, 100-ton USCG master.

24 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I find TimeZero iBoat to be a wonderfully fast and elegant charting app. I especially like using it with NOAA raster charts overlaid with the same very high-resolution photo maps that are available in Nobeltec TZ PC and on Furuno TZ MFDs (and that “fuse” in some shallow water hazards).

    iBoat also nicely supports worldwide C-Map vector charts and it can integrate well with onboard AIS/GPS/etc data over WiFi. Route sharing with the cloud and other TZ products has long been in the works and I’m hoping it will be complete next season.


  2. For me a key other component is the tablet and case. For my use the best I’ve found is a big 12″ iPad in a Lifeproof Nuud case. The newer iPads are much brighter and almost as daylight viewable as MFDs, and the Nuud case, whilst immersion proof, does not have a cover over the screen greatly improving sunlight view-ability.

    A few apps I like:

    iSailor – a good charting/nav package that integrates well with the boat’s instrument system by WiFi. Worldwide charting based on Transas data.

    Tides Planner – tide prediction, with curves, and access to UKHO harmonic data and UKHO and SHOM (French) tidal stream atlas data. Very useful off the UK coast, but worldwide coverage.

    Microsoft Remote Desktop works well to bring the Nav Station laptop running Expedition on deck.

    WatchMate – used mainly as an anchor monitor with my Vesper XB8000.

    NMEARemote – configurable display of NMEA wifi data, with extra support for Expedition.

    iPolar – Basic polar prediction.

    iRegatta – Some relatively sophisticated race orientated software with NMEA wifi data support.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      I second Tom’s appreciation for the Vesper Watchmate app, which I’ve used it a lot for anchor drag monitoring and also for AIS collision avoidance. I think it’s particularly notable because it makes great use of an iPad while also protecting the user from the iPad’s weaknesses. What I mean are the audible alarms that you can set up on the iPad but which are completely independent of it because they are activated by the XB8000. Many times the alarm has been valuable to me even though the iPad was dead or doing something else.

      Also, thank you Tom for the tip on Microsoft Remote Desktop. It’s not obvious that there’s a companion iOS app, plus it’s all free and has a pretty good reputation. It might be just the thing to give me a portable second screen for TimeZero PC (and other PC charting programs), which will be valuable because TX iBoat will not include the Furuno NXT radar and sonar I’ll have networked with TZ PC.

    • Ted Arisaka says:

      I like the Microsoft Remote Desktop tip for the same reasons Ben lists… Thanks Tom!

    • The apps I forgot are the weather ones:

      Ventusky – free, great global visualisations.

      Predictwind – subscription data but quite good information with their own models.

      Squid – excellent Grib viewer with subscription access to some great models including the French Arome HD 1km resolution European wind model.

      In truth I mainly use the predict wind and Squid data inside Expedition on the PC, rather than through the Apps when on board. I do use the apps in the run up to a trip to watch the forecasts.

  3. Fred Murphy says:

    I use INavX with a ShipModul WiFi multiplexer that gives me the ability to have it in my lap on my iPad when short handed. I can easily buy a six pack of iPads with what a standalone chart plotter costs. I can take the iPad home update it, make routes , upload, download routes and waypoints. I can see AIS in real-time
    Navionics has the most detailed maps, but it comes with a price. No Magnetic coursing. It get you in trouble if you forget that. Awful for route unles you use autoroute. I choose to use INavX primarily, then switch to Navionics when coursing tight spots inshore . I’m against the 80$/yr they want for charts for INavX so I just use the Marine Boating App for their charts

  4. Hugo says:

    Our crew have been using the ‘Watch Leader’ app this summer,
    it streams data from any Navico product (B&G, Lowarance, Simrad) to any Apple device including the apple watch. Its amazingly simple to set up and intuitive to use. Definitely worthwhile for anyone who likes having all the instrument data on their Ipad or watch.

  5. Max says:

    As we are cruising full with a family of five often in remote areas we rarely have internet access especially on passage. Our main weather app is Predictwind Offshore as it integrate well with the Iridium Go. As the areas we go to often lack reliable chart data we often use Ovital Maps as a way to use offline satellite imagery.

  6. Jan Hoffmann says:

    On our classic 1965 longkeel 30ft sailboat the cockpit under the sprayhood is quite small,
    I tend to use small displays, a bunch of old iphones come in very handy.
    4 x Iphones 4/4s/5s/6s in lifeproof fre housings on two suction mounts.
    Usually its two phones under the sprayhood ( take just a second to unmount them and use it fully handheld ) and a third one down in the cabin @ nav station.

    iNavX & NVcharts app with raster charts on it
    ( usually set to two different zoom ratios ),
    IMHO the key feature when using such small displays is to be 100% identical with the papercharts I combine it with, I find this this combo to be fast and reliable and I don’t miss iPad size screens or MFD’s too much.
    AISdata via Wifi from EasyTRX2S transponder.
    Other apps with lots of usage:
    Windfinder Pro
    Weather Pro
    Sea Weather ( german app to repeat official weather reports and Navtex reports and gale warnings )
    EasyTRX app to handle the settings of the AIS transponder & CPA and anchor alarms.
    2 x anemometer apps, Vaavud and Weather Flow.

    I find the brightness of the old displays sufficient and ok to handle, but sure it would be nicer to have 1200nits with this size of displays, absolutely.
    Temperature issues in bright sunlight I solve with simply switching the display off in between, both nav apps are ok with the speed picking up the signal after coming back on, could be faster but its ok to use.

    What I’m really dreaming of is an update of the Furuno Wifi Radar ( or by Ray ) to solid state and maybe even with doppler function,
    yes it would really cannibalize their sales of expensive MFD’s, but hey…find a heart for budget yachties, me and quite a few other peeps are quite reluctant to spend 4-6K on a radar setup.
    ( and I do miss space even for a 7″ MFD )…. just a few coding sessions away 🙂

    Berlin, Germany

  7. Lance Berc Lance Berc says:

    Many of my friends have iNavX but I prefer SEAiq which also costs $5 for US waters (http://seaiq.com). It integrates with many chart sources, hooks up to WiFi-enabled local nav data (including AIS), and accesses remote a remote AIS database when in cell range. The electronic bearing lines and range rings have been very useful. I’m just now starting to use it to record NMEA data for off-line processing.

    I’ve used the PredictWind/Iridium Go combo which worked pretty well – putting the antenna on a transom-mounted pole to keep it clear of the carbon fiber mainsail was a great idea from our installer. Tried and true saildocs (www.saildocs.com) still works for free weather grib download and has a decent set of models to choose from.

    I use LuckGrib (https://luckgrib.com) to view the weather on Apple devices – it’s a bit more complete than any of the nav apps or Predict Wind.

    Still looking for a tide app I like. Instead I usually go to NOAA’s site directly, though I’ll occasionally use SEAiq’s integration with NOAA’s model. You can find the tide in your area at https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/

    • Fred Murphy says:

      Thanks Lance. Sea1q seems like a very good product. I presently have INax and it doesn’t support NOAA ENC charts, doesn’t have chart quilting or great AIS presentation like Seaiq.
      INavx does have good NMEA support for input and output.

  8. Xavier says:

    TZ Timezero (MaxSea) on my iPad. Raster charts from the official national hydrographic offices. Cheap.

    From Nova Scotia to Israel, from Tunisia to Scotland, this has been a major safety item for us.

    When Navionics (which we also carry) failed to display that bridge clearance on the Guadalquivir, or misled on the Mar Menor, or plainly faked the bottom on Ithaca, or misplaced those rocks in Islay (Scotland), those paper-like TZ charts delivered,

  9. Xavier says:

    But TZ TimeZero for iPad does not offer their wonderful raster charts for Norway.

    Weather4D does. So when we went there we got the whole set of official NHS paper-like charts from Weather4D, which is a nice French-made app, all in English of course, that provides routing, weather, charts, and instrument integration with the boat.

    Weather4D has a bit of a learning curve, but once you have it properly set up, it is the most comprehensive iPad tool around, down to displaying its data on your Apple Watch.

  10. Dan Corcoran Dan Corcoran says:

    Crew Manager – http://crew-mgr.com/

    This application is great for managing everything around commitments of crew to racing events and having a web-site for my boat. See mine at Strider.crew-mgr.com

  11. Bruce Ellison says:

    We have used ISailor on an older iPad for a few years. Recently added a second iPad and AIS thru WiFi from quark electronics. So far, install was super easy with absolutely no issue (and integrates with iSailor fine). This past summer while cruising around the Great Lakes, we had several days of leaving early in the morning in fog, in the dark, with numerous fishing boats and commercial traffic lanes around us. So we just purchased a furuno drs4w WiFi radar and and are anxious to abuse this new tech. This setup seems to be a good fit for a sailor on a tight budget, not sure if I’d use it on the ocean, it seems ok for the Great Lakes. One more thought, we have an HDMI interface cable plugged into an iPhone we use for Netflix to our tv, with this option, and the apps running on the iPad, and iPhone, it gives us a ton more ways to view and monitor while under way.

  12. Ben says:

    Do we have a useable (out of mobile signal range) way to use google earth overlay on a mapping program yet? Where I live the google earth image of a reef is often amazingly detailed compared to any chart. Any dowloadable google earth image set usable offline and integrated with navionics or similar would be wonderful!

  13. Xavier says:

    We have been using OvitalMap for years. It kind of gives me the jillybillies because it is made by some Chinese guy, so I always make sure to shut it down after we finish using it. Plus, it is only installed in one of the three onboard iPads, just to be safe.

    Anyway, here’s what it does: it automatically downloads marine GoogleMaps to your iPad. Islands, shoals, piers, it is all shown in there. As is your current position, constantly updated by GPS. It downloads the google map tiles at whatever zoom level you wish; if you wish to have maximum detail, you must zoom in… and then it automagically saves that level of detail.

    The downloaded material is kept forever on your iPad, unless you assign it too small of a memory quota in its own preferences, in which case it will either start deleting old stuff or ask you to delete it yourself. We’ve never had to delete anything because I think I’ve given it up to 10GB.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Xavier, i did find that app but hoping by now it would be integrated in a MFD easy to see in the daylight as the ipad struggles…. Have heard the newer ones are brighter though.

  15. Mike says:

    With the advent of the departure of NOAA/US Govt raster charts and if you still wanted to consult those charts, what’s the best mobile app for viewing/using raster charts?

  16. Mic says:

    Has anyone seen an independent app that more-or-less replicates B&G’s SailSteer display? I have all new Raymarine instruments and all NMEA2000 info is transmitted out via the Vesper XB800’s wifi to my Ipad & iPhone. I much prefer B&G’s SailSteer display over Raymarine’s Sailing display, though. Any ideas?

  17. xavier says:


    The safest way to keep digital U.S. raster charts for a decade or two would be to put them on a laptop and to be sure and either never update said laptop again or to be positively sure the updates won’t break your charting program before you install any such updates.

    Unlike in the Mac/PC world, in the iPad world you can never be quite sure of what will happen to your data as time goes by. I have had non-marine apps which permanently ceased to work after an iPad update, and have had paid-for apps that will not download to new iPads because the original seller no longer makes them available.

    Having said this, my experience with raster charts on iPad is as follows:

    (1) My Canada raster charts I bought in 2014 still re-download on MaxSea TZ iBoat now in 2020 and are still available for re-download on any new iPads I purchase as long as I keep using my same Apple iTunes/App Store account, even though MaxSea completely replaced the old app on which I bought them, which used to be MaxSea TimeZero.

    (2) My USA raster charts I bought in 2014 still load on (and fully up-date to the current NOAA version!) on iNavX for iPad, even though I have not had any sort of update to my iNavX account (if I ever had one) since 2014.

    (3) On TimeZero TZ iBoat you purchase a “subscription” which you can cancel before renewal, but MaxSea will let you keep and re-download the old charts you bought even under an expired subscription, “forever”. But remember “forever” is not forever.

    (4) For navigational research, iNavX is superior because it literally downloads individual NOAA charts as issued. So you can look at all the annotations, margins, disclosures, etc.

    (5) For actual navigation and day to day use, MaxSea TimeZero TZ iBoat is far superior because it quilts or tiles the individual charts to automagically make one giant chart that can even be worldwide. In this sense it works like a vector chart: infinite zoom from planetary view to maximum zoom, seamlessly. iNavX requires you to know “in which chart or chart inset you are” and will display your current position only if you are in the correct one. iNavX will happily let you sail out of the currently open chart, like in a real paper chart, and you can only have one open.

    (6) MaxSea TimeZero TZ iBoat offers almost worldwide charts, and its raster charts are strictly from national hydrographic bodies, such as NOAA. So you can sail from Portugal to Israel, for example, and MaxSea Time Zero will always seamlessly display the correct charts for Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, etc., always at whatever zoom level you wish, up to maximum available from the issuer.

  1. November 11, 2019

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