Navigation Apps

Friendmapper

Friend mapper app icon

This one will come in handy for yacht club cruises, caravans, poker runs, and fishing friends that make trips en masse. This nifty little app lets you and up to 23 of your buddies tracks each other (as long as you have an activated phone, of course). Everyone in the crew appears on each other's maps, with each position updated every 15 seconds. You can hide your position if you like (to keep that hot spot all to yourself, or to spare yourself the embarrassment of a grounding, for example), and can one-touch dial any of the friends appearing on your phone's map. 100% permission based. Available on the App Store or Google Play. $1.99 | friendmapper.co

GoSkyWatch

GoSkyWatch app icon

Do any sort of boating at night and you may wonder what all those stars are. Can't tell the Mars from the Venus? There's an app for that, and it's called GoSkyWatch. To be honest this app is best used on the iPad as the screen on smaller devices doesn't cover such a large area of the sky. The app is easy and very intuitive to use — just point it up at the sky and it identifies visible stars and planets. Although fun to use it's also a great tool for students of celestial navigation who can verify that they are actually looking at the correct heavenly body before taking their sights. Available on the App Store. Free | gosoftworks.com

GPS Tracking

GPS Tracking app icon

This is an app that can come in handy and provide peace of mind for the parents of young boaters. When the kids are ready to take out a boat on their own, make sure they arm their phone with GPS Tracker and you can keep tabs on their whereabouts at all times. In fact, you can track up to six users at one time and display their whereabouts on your phone's maps or Google Maps. There are actually a number of apps (for both iOS and Android) that can turn a GPS-equipped cell phone into a tracking device, but we like this one because it's free. You can also opt for an upgraded version that has unlimited users, eliminates ads, and includes messaging, Facebook, and Twitter functions. Available on the App Store. Free

iNAVX

iNavx app icon

This relatively advanced nav-app takes advantage of NOAA raster cartography, but can also expand your charting options with the X-Traverse service ($10/year, fugawi.com), which allows you to wirelessly transfer charting data from your PC or Mac to your phone, and vice-versa. It's compatible with Navionics Gold, HotMaps, and Fish'N'Chip charts, plus topography maps for the US and Canada. X-Traverse also brings social networking to boaters, as it enables you to upload or share data points and locations with Facebook updates. iNavX is for the icrowd only, at least for now, working on iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPad's. It essentially turns your smartphone into a smart chartplotter, supports a multitude of real-time chartplotting functions (including speed, course, and bearing data, anchor alarm, track logging, etc.), gives you the ability to import and export waypoints and routes with Google Earth, and includes tides and currents data and GRIB weather forecasting. Available on the App Store. $49.99 | inavx.com

Mazu

mazu app

Bluewater cruisers can stay connected far offshore with email, texts, weather forecasts, location tracking, SOS notification, and basic navigation data with this Iridium satellite-based app system. NOAA charts can be downloaded, but given their size, they need to be downloaded while connected to the internet via Wi-Fi. Available on the App Store. Free download; plans start at $9.95 | mazu-marine.com

Navionics

Navionics app icon

The recent addition of SonarChart Live functionality makes this old favorite an even more powerful tool. If your sounder has Wi-Fi, you can stream data from the sounder to your phone or tablet and add your own, personal, and up-to-date HD bottom contours on your chart saved to your device, so it's accessible the next time. The download is free, and with charts stored on the device, so you can use the phone or tablet to navigate without a cell or Wi-Fi signal. For additional detailed charts and cartography features, there is a charge, but the free version is still impressive. Available on the App Store or Google Play. Free | navionics.com

Seapilot

Seapilot app icon

An easy and intuitive interface makes Seapilot easy to get to grips with. At its base level it's a charting and navigation program which uses vectored charts of one of three areas defined by where you cruise — east coast, west coast, or great lakes. But what makes Seapilot unique is that it's the first navigation app to feature AIS tracking and built-in weather forecasts. In fact we found the app so well equipped it could easily be used in place of built-in chartplotter or multi-function display. Available on the App Store or Google Play. Free for 36 hour trial period then yearly subscription, prices vary | seapilot.com

ShipfinderHD

ShipfinderHD app icon

All commercial vessels longer than 65 feet are required to have an automatic identification system transceiver installed. AIS is a VHF system that continuously transmits the vessel's name, course, speed, MMSI number, and other information. While it's not as good as having a dedicated AIS transceiver on your boat, this app comes pretty close at a fraction of the cost. Providing you're in cell range, you can track AIS-equipped vessels in real time, so if you have to call that big car carrier in the distance over the radio, you'll have its information. Available on the App Store or Google Play. $3.99 | marinetraffic.com

Speed

Speed app icon

Sometimes all you want to know is how fast you are going. This app does one thing, and one thing only, tell you your speed. Make a sail adjustment or set the trim tabs slightly differently and they can have a negative impact on your speed. With this app you can instantly see at a glance what happens to your speed as you make those adjustments. This satisfyingly simple application turns your iPhone or iPad into a speedometer, with large digits and no additional distracting information, making it incredibly easy to use. Available on the App Store. $3.99 | highcaffeinecontent.com/speed

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