Coastal Explorer app for iPads & iPhones

Many of us have been happily beta testing the iOS version of Coastal Explorer for quite a while, but Rose Point Navigation has a long history of not releasing new products until they feel really good about them (and sometimes not at all). So it’s wonderful news that the Coastal Explorer app is now official, with many excellent features free to anyone, and the entire navigation package available to owners of CE for Windows until the $50 annual subscription is instituted.

So rather than a full review, I’ll just share some personal CE iPad highlights, hoping that interested and able boaters give the app a try themselves. For instance, I find that the iPad interface feels remarkably close to the CE I’ve long appreciated on a PC, with nearly all features included. But what’s it like on an iPhone, or to a navigator with no previous Coastal Explorer experience?

CE Conditions view includes tides, currents, weather buoys, NOAA text forecasts & NEXRAD
CE Conditions view includes tides, currents, weather buoys, NOAA text forecasts & NEXRAD

I’ve been particularly pleased to have the familiar CE “Conditions” info on my iPad because the display mode — which comes up when you tap the sun/cloud main menu icon at left — includes pretty much all the tidal/weather data and forecasts I like to use frequently. True, the small NEXRAD presentation (not shown above) is quite minimal, but I’ve got the Storm Radar app for that. And I love how the NOAA text forecasts and the nearest weather buoy list change as I pan/zoom the chart to see what’s going where the weather is coming from (or where I’m headed).

Note though that Conditions info currently seems only available for the USA, and similarly, the CE app can only display NOAA raster and vector charts at this point (with Canadian charts purportedly on the way). Plus even some Yankee boaters prefer gridded weather data presentations like what you’ll find very nicely done in TZ iBoat v2 (which Fred Khedouri reviewed here).

CE's Places view includes full ActiveCaptain info and US Coast Pilots
CE’s Places view includes full ActiveCaptain info plus US Coast Pilots

The Windows version of Coastal Explorer has offered tight integration with ActiveCaptain crowdsourced points-of-interest info almost since AC began, and that too is very handy to have on an iPad. And again it’s a viewing mode like Conditions, but called Places (the POI main menu icon), which means that when you’re not looking at Places, the various AC marina, anchorage, etc. icons are not cluttering up your chart view.

You can also write AC reviews right in the CE app, and in addition to all the crowdsourced info, Rose Point has geolocated a great deal of official US Coast Pilot information that can also be consulted. And get this: All the Conditions and Places data is fully available in the CE app without a subscription, which is to say FREE. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the CE app becomes a popular way to access ActiveCaptain — much covered on Panbo — and I’m hoping that it will encourage more skippers to write reviews.

The CE app has good routes/marks import and help functions
The CE app has good routes/marks import and help functions

Unlimited route and waypoint creation does not require a subscription either, but I don’t see a way to export them, and using the app’s excellent underway navigation features does require the $50-per-year subscription. On the other hand, that’s a reasonable fee if you use the app much, and I also think that all the excellent nav apps available these days are a good justification for an 11- or 13-inch iPad pro. Moreover, iOS CE’s import functions work quite well with both Rose Point’s native .nob format and standard GPX files (even ones created using the Navionics Boating app’s superb auto-routing).

Another area where the Coastal Explorer app excels is when you interface it with NMEA 0183 and 2000 boat data coming to your iThing over WiFi. It’s the only nav app I know of that lets you set up and name multiple interfaces (iNavX excepted), which was great last summer when I was using beta versions on both Junior and Gizmo, and is also nice on a boat with multiple WiFi data sources. It’s also the only nav app I know that clearly describes the data it’s getting, and even lets you prioritize sensors. And I can only imagine how much more this interface can do when the WiFi source is Rose Point’s own Nemo gateway, which impressed me even in its early days.

Of course there’s lots more to the CE app than I’ve covered here, and probably not all good for some users. For instance, I’m still having trouble touchscreen manipulating route waypoints, especially on the vector charts where a finger tap might get cartographic detail instead. And unfortunately, NOAA raster charts can not be downloaded for use without an internet connection because the Rose Point developers couldn’t get the process up to their speed standards during the beta testing (I’m hoping they’ll try again eventually).

So, if you have an iPad or iPhone, I encourage you to check out the new Coastal Explorer app, and hope you’ll share your experience here.

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

13 Responses

  1. David Pendleton says:

    Nice-looking app, but not particularly useful to inland boaters like myself.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Hi, David. I saw on the Rose Point support forums — which are good — that they “hope to add US Inland and Canadian {chart} options soon” but that means USACE river charts…

      If you’re looking for lake maps, no federal agency maintains those, or even any state I know of. But lots have been made by various commercial shops like Navionics and C-Map, so their apps are the best place to find them.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Would be helpful to mention that the downloaded app allows NO actions without creating an account and logging in. That’s before the user gets a chance to even consider a subscription.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, Anon. I had not realized that Rose Point insists on a minimal user ID for the free version, but it’s not surprising these days when even many websites do the same before sharing free content. Also, I missed it largely because CE hasn’t made me sign in for ages, as best I can recall, and even during the beta testing via TestFlight, and use on two iPads, and three PCs. Just works.

  3. Mark Rinkel says:

    Great write-up with an excellent description list of what is great and what still needs work. I’ve used CE for Windows on my previous boats and because I primarily use tablets now, I’ve watched the tablet version beta with great interest. The product is very promising, and I look forward to additional development.

  4. Keith Pleas says:

    I’ve been testing it on my boat iPad, my iPhone, and my home iPad. While on my boat it’s connected to my Nemo so I can have (mostly) the same data pages I have on my laptop. My preference would be to have common settings across ALL devices but I’m happy with the current functionality.

  5. Ray says:

    I’m still on the hunt for a good iPad navigation app that integrates well with our B&G system (wireless NMEA).

    Currently using Timezero as that’s what we have on a laptop but I really would love the ability to wirelessly upload routes to the Zeus MFD and view the radar on the iPad.

    Sadly, the B&G apps are horrible. With TZ being connected to Foruno, I doubt I’ll see it from them but maaaaaybe CE. Fingers crossed.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Ray, I got the CE iPad app working fine with direct WiFi output from a Simrad GO5, but can’t remember if that worked via my boat router. Same is true of TZ iBoat. It’s mainly a matter of finding the MFD IP address in the Simrad (or B&G) Settings menus.

      • Ray says:

        Yeah, it connects just great but it only receives sensor data. I won’t send routes to the MFD or receive radar.

        • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

          Aha! You probably know that iBoat slickly shares routes and other data with TZ PC programs, Furuno MFDs, and the cloud. But it will only integrate with the Furuno WiFi radar, which doesn’t really compare to all the other Furuno radars.

          Rose Point will probably develop great synchronization between the new app and CE PC, but the only way I know of to get good boat radar on an iPad is with the manufacturer’s screen mirror app, and it’s often a bit laggy and/or harder to control.

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