Boating apps are proliferating like those cute, fuzzy Tribbles in the old Star Trek series: every time you look up, there are more of them everywhere!
That’s not to say these apps aren’t useful. Most boating apps fit into one of these general categories: weather tracking (always good to know if a front is approaching when one is out to sea), creating and storing a float plan (which will tell people where you intend to go in case they have to find you), navigating (using GPS to plot your trip),
destination information (booking a mooring or finding a place for lunch) and community integration (sharing info with other boaters).
Here are some of the most popular applications in these categories:
My Radar NOAA Weather Radar. More than 17 million downloads tells you that this weather forecasting app does its job. Normal mode tells you wind conditions and direction and the forecast. There’s a NWS Warning mode to keep you alerted to any dangerous weather coming your way. This app is offered for both Apple and Android platforms.
Fishweather. Being aware of current weather conditions is vital, both for safety and for the comfort of your passengers. This handy app calls on its proprietary weather forecasting services around the world to provide accurate wind and weather forecasts, including hourly updates. You’ll like the real-time updates on wind, waves, and what’s coming. Free downloads from Apple store and Google Play, with premium service for an additional charge.
Navionics Boating. Time and time again, when we speak to boaters and ask them what GPS app they’re using, Navionics Boating is the answer. Navionics is free to download and offers in-app purchases for charts and other upgrades, such as autorouting. Navionics Boating is available for both Apple and Android devices.
U.S. Coast Guard Mobile App. Why not connect with the Coast Guard? This app provides lots of safety information, including a safety equipment checklist for your vessel, and you can request a USCG safety check. If you’re going on an extended cruise, file a float plan that can be shared with family and friends. Use the app to report any navigation hazards you encounter at sea. Get weather updates from the intelligent NOAA weather buoys. And if you’re in trouble, one touch will send out a MayDay. Free downloads are available from the Apple store and Google Play.
Skipper. Overall, this is an excellent navigation app. Download all NOAA raster charts, set waypoints, create routes, and adjust those routes and waypoints by dragging and dropping them around on the screen. The trip monitor bar at the bottom of the screen can be customized to display a variety of essential navigation data, such as course, heading, speed, current speed, ETA, position, and more. Users are able to download for free from the Apple store, with $9.99 annual subscription.
Marine Ways–Free Nautical Charts. As the name implies, this app provides free nautical charts as well as route planning tools, buoy reports, hazards such as submerged rocks and vessels, and marine map overlays. The marine map overlay is a really comprehensive feature as it allows you to toggle data (such as wind speeds, wave heights and water surface temperature) right onto the map for an up-to-date look at boating conditions. Free downloads are available for Android and Apple users.
Dockwa. This app will help boaters find a nearby marina, request a slip or mooring, and handle reservations and payment. Plus, you’ll get helpful information about what’s ashore where you’re going. Available for Android and Apple users.
Knowwake. KnowWake is a fully loaded app guide to the waterways. Posted wake zones and boat accessible destinations are easily located on iOS and Android charts. KnowWake also includes shared information from other users in real time for an even better experience. The app is available for free on both Android and Apple device, with additional chart modules for specific locations at an extra charge.
Fishing Scout. This is a great resource and social app for anglers. The app allows you to upload photos of your latest catch, describe the conditions of how you caught it, study other locations where fish were caught, add friends, view their photos, and more. Available for free on both Apple and Android devices.
BoatUS. More than 600,000 captains have installed this app. In addition to weather, tides, and marine conditions, you can find discounts at marinas, share info with other captains, and get 24/7 towing assistance. Available for Android and Apple.