6 Best Marine Navigation & GPS Apps for Boaters

navionics

For almost everything you do today, there’s an app that will support, enhance or complement that activity. Recreational boating is no exception, and there are dozens of boating apps to help you enjoy time on the water.

Arguably, marine navigation apps are some of the most common—and the most useful—available to boaters today. Some boat GPS apps, for example, use NOAA raster charts, which are basically paper charts that have been scanned into their systems; while others feature vector charts that are true electronic charts that let you scroll and zoom in for more detail. And because they download to your iPhone, Android or tablet, you can carry them with you from boat to boat.

Here are our top choices for boat navigation apps:

  1. Navionics
  2. iNavX
  3. C-Map
  4. SeaPilot
  5. iSail GPS
  6. KnowWake

1. Navionics

navionics boating app

A perennial favorite is Navionics because it’s easy to use and comprehensive in scope. Navionics mimics a standard chartplotter experience and in some cases can connect to an onboard plotter via WiFi. Creating waypoints and routes, measuring distances and understanding depth contours and aids to navigation is pretty straight forward with this app.

Once downloaded, the charts stay on your device and can be used offline which is great when you’re cruising in areas with little coverage. Bonus functionality includes weather and tide information and dock-to-dock routing that helps you set a viable course based on your vessel’s parameters like draft.

2. iNavX

iNavX marine navigation

Easy to confuse with Navionics (especially when downloading the app), iNavX is a whole different animal. There’s a $5 charge to download the app, and then you can download NOAA raster charts for free and vector charts (powered by Navionics and C-MAP) for a fee.

Beyond navigation, details on marinas, fuel docks and other facilities are also available. Weather data overlays and additional features like engine data and AIS collision avoidance information can also be viewed, but the app can get technical in a hurry and may take longer to learn.

3. C-MAP

c-map boat gps app

C-MAP is the primary other choice besides Navionics for the underlying charting information that many apps use with their own user interface. The new C-MAP Embark was designed to be intuitive so after a few minutes, you won’t really be looking for the manual to manage the basics like waypoints, routes and nav aids.

A funky feature includes the app changing color based on your environment, so the charts are always easy to read regardless of the surrounding light. The basics include a free download, but chart additions and weather data will be in-app purchases.

4. SeaPilot

seapilot app

SeaPilot sets an ambitious agenda for itself: it’s a basic navigation app (which has a free three-day trial) but it ramps up from there. You’ll need to upgrade to the premium version so you can add various chart areas, weather forecasting and routing capabilities. Beyond that, you can connect to Facebook to find nearby boating friends.

For sailors, there’s a database of polar diagrams which are graphs of the theoretical top speeds attainable by over 300 kinds of sailboats.

5. i Sail GPS:NOAA USA Charts

i sail gps boat app

For barebones basics, iSail is a great choice because it’s inexpensive and you can skip sign-ups and pop-ups. Measure distances to your waypoint, upload waypoints and routes and get quick ETAs to your next intermediate or final point.

iSail uses NOAA raster charts which are downloaded to the device so they can be used without Wi-Fi or out of cell range. There are few advanced features, but this app gets the job done when you need the basics. It’s for iOS only.

6. KnowWake

knowwake boating app

The best way to describe KnowWake is to compare it to a road-based app you’re probably already familiar with–Waze. Like Waze, KnowWake is crowd-source and will provide information on congested waterfront locations–coastal and on 350 inland waterways.

On a bustling weekend, you can see how busy marinas, restaurants, boat ramps, fuel docks, and dive and snorkel sites are. You can use it in North America, on the Great Loop and in Canada as well as in parts of the Caribbean. The app uses real-time updates and it has location-sharing between users so you can find friends.

All the boating apps above vary in price, complexity and focus, and although some are free, advanced features generally come at a price. Some take a bit of time to learn, but they’ll all put some peace-of-mind in your pocket the next time you slip the dock lines.

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boatsetter apps

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