Sailing Apps We Love
Are you looking for some apps to help you with your sailing? Here we list eight apps that we find very useful. Not all are sailing-specific. Some of them are general (for example the 7 Minute Workout, Evernote and TransferWise). We simply use on a regular basis and would like to recommend to other sailors. We have focussed on iPhone Apps but most are also available on Android.
Our favourite navigation app. For the price of one paper chart you can purchase Navionics for an entire region. We are based in the Caribbean so have the Caribbean and South America app. This covers an enormous area. We literally use this app every time we go out. Should you rely on it? No. Is it useful anyway? Absolutely.
The crew at Navionics just keep surprising with their updates. When you are worried about the survey in any particular area you can choose "Sonar Charts" which will give you a second opinion on the bottom, gained through integrating the sonar logs of individual users. Dock-to-Dock Autorouting lives up to its promise.
You can play around with their service without downloading the app. Head here to check it out.
Two important tips to get the most out of Navionics:
a) once you download the app, you need to go into the app and download the relevant area.
b) you may have the option to purchase add-ons for a few extra dollars. Do it. This gives you updates and other features like Dock-to-dock Autorouting.
Some apps need to be rewarded for their incredible user interface. MarineTraffic is one such app. It uses your phone signal to find AIS information in your area. If you haven't heard, AIS stands for Automatic Identification System - a system used to supplement radar information for collision avoidance.
They have an augmented reality mode, where a ship's information is overlaid on your camera. SO handy when the fog rolls in and you're stuck in a channel (esp. for boats in San Francisco and west of Athens).
They have a "freemium" model, where the basic version (ie. the one your writer uses) is free, and they sell more features for a modest monthly fee. Head here to check their site and be steered to the relevant download area.
You need a phone signal for this to work. If you are from the US travelling internationally you might want to look at T-Mobile's International Plan. This is a $25/month add-on.
Although historically pretty patchy in the US, T-Mobile offers a global roaming plan that automatically switches you to a network in most countries and gives you slow but basically free data.
It's perfect for sailors hopping from country to country. BTW we're not sponsored in any way to write any of this. We use the service and can recommend it.
There are several weather apps out there. We find PredictWind to be one of the most useful (WeatherTrack and PocketGRIB being two others, or SailGRIB if you're on Android).
PredictWind uses GRIB data from various sources. You can choose your source if you like (eg. if you have a preference for US or European weather models).
The presentation is user friendly. With PredictWind and WeatherTrack you can overlay your chosen route and find out what the predicted weather conditions will be at your predicted location. Excellent stuff.
There are various add-ons and like most decent apps, they are worth getting. One of the most useful is the routing feature, where you can create your route, put in a departure time and speed, and it will tell you what the conditions are predicted to be depending on where you are during your journey.
One other newer weather service well worth considering is FastSeas. It is overlaid on the beautiful animations of the WindyTV platform.
4. Tides Planner
If you are in a tidal area this app from Imray provides all the information you require. It is free to download but the add-ons (such as subscription to the Hydrographic Office) adds $5-10 here and there. If you need fast, accurate tidal predictions, this is good value.
It isn't as intuitive as other apps out there but as far as tidal predictions go it is the best we have found. Having said that, if you get stuck you can do a certain amount of tidal calculations from within Navionics itself.
We are based in the Caribbean, where on a big day the tidal range is about a foot. Therefore we rarely use any tidal prediction apps. However when sailing in the Solent, NE coast of North America, or in fact most areas in the world, accurate tidal prediction is a must.
5. Google Earth
If you ever sail in an area with a questionable bottom, it can be very handy to have a bird's-eye view. Charts will tell you one thing. But sometimes you want a second opinion. Google Earth can be invaluable in this regard. Navionics can overlay some satellite data but from time to time we find Google Earth itself is worthwhile.
The above is a Google Earth short of the Saba Rock (bottom left small island), on the island of Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands. The reef above it is rarely sailed through but in fact is perfectly navigable with the right information and in the right conditions.
Three non-sailing-specific apps
The following three are personal favourites of the author. Every sailor who has learned about these three apps have been grateful so they are included here.
Evernote stores all of your important documents securely in the cloud. Drivers License, Passport, Captain's License, STCW Certificates, you name it, you can put it all in Evernote.
The app itself doesn't get great reviews on the App Store but we disagree. I use it all the time and it has saved me on more than one occasion.
Looking for that random certificate you forgot all about but is now critically important? A ten second search on Evernote will find it. The trick is to put every document you own in Evernote. Then no matter where you are, if you can get to a browser you can download and print the relevant document. SO handy.
This app is a game-changer. Sailors tend to travel a lot. What happens when your client is based in Europe but you are an Australian working in the British Virgin Islands? How to get paid? In which currency?
PayPal is one method but it can be very frustrating if you're not American. TransferWise is excellent at transferring money between currencies an efficient, low-cost way.
TransferWise was started by Skype's first employee and his business partner, and has received funding from Richard Branson (among others). We love it.
8. Seven Minute Workout
Sailing can be very physical, yet there are days when it is not. The 7 Minute Workout app is based on a bunch of research in exercise science to give you a pretty decent workout in a short period. Is it as good as an hour-long workout? Probably not. Is it better than nothing? Yes.
There are several versions of the same concept available in the app store. I use the one shown in the photograph and am perfectly happy with it. Here is a link to another one which receives a higher rating on the App Store. The key is to do the 7 Minute Workout every day, in the morning if possible.
Some of us sail in order to get away from our devices. We get that. Yet when you need to create a route quickly at night, the right app can really help you - as a backup if nothing else.
These are general apps. There are apps specific for racing such as iRegatta and iTacTic. We have just kept to the more general apps for the purposes of this blog.
Regarding more general apps we have included apps that help us with storing documents (Evernote), keeping fit (7 Minute Workout) and paying across currencies (TransferWise). We hope you find some value in the apps we list in this post.
Sailing Virgins is based in Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands. We run 7 day fast-track liveaboard sailing courses. Let us know if you have any questions about sail training or sailing in the BVI. Enjoy!