There are many apps developed to make your sailing holidays easier, more enjoyable and stress-free. The sheer number of iPhone and Android apps that have emerged in recent years makes it easier than ever to navigate a sailboat using a tablet or smartphone.
There are many quality apps available for every aspect of navigation and they do an excellent job replacing traditional chart plotters and paper charts. Free apps typically offer basic chart plotting functions, while paid ones include advanced route and waypoint management features, as well as maps and guides for various points of interest at any given destination.
When choosing the best app to facilitate your sailing trip, the decision will ultimately depend on the specific features that are important to you and the interface that feels the most intuitive to use. The apps mentioned below are well established and recommended by sailors worldwide, but they are far from being the only ones that offer a wide range of features for navigation, wind and weather forecasts, tides and marine traffic.
Navionics Boating is one of the most popular navigation apps around. Available both for iOS and Android devices, the app combines the quality Navionics Gold vector charts with an easy-to-use interface that allows you to pan, zoom, and tap on the chart to get information about weather and tides, currents, wind and Sun and Moon phases. The app makes it simple to create and edit sailing routes and allows you to share tracks via social media or email. It offers a Plotter Sync feature that allows sailors to wirelessly send waypoints and routes from the app to a plotter. It also comes with a social feature, as it integrates with Navionics Community, providing you with access to a group of over 1.5 million users who share local information on yacht services, restaurants and other travel information. The app is free, but chart regions must be bought separately. Additional, more advanced navigation features, including Nav Module and AutoRouting, are available for purchase as in-app enhancements.
Transas iSailor for iPhone and iPad offers an impressive user interface and a large chart library that covers the most popular sailing areas around the world. The award-winning app is free, but sailing regions are sold separately, with prices ranging from $4.99 to $24.99, depending on the size of the area. The app is perfect for amateur sailors and offers a clutter-free presentation of all the relevant navigation information and charts. It supports route and track views, and allows you to import and export waypoints and routes via GPX and to add objects to the charts that you have downloaded. It does not, however, offer community-generated guides and markers.
Marine Traffic is an app that can be extremely helpful in popular sailing areas and congested marinas. Available for iPhone and Android, the app connects to automatic identification systems (AIS) in major harbours around the world and gives you the real-time positions of other boats, as well as their speed and course. You can use the app to track your own course and gauge your proximity to other boats in the vicinity in order to avoid collisions and close encounters.
Marine Traffic also lets you report your own position even if you do not have the expensive AIS radio transponders on your sailboat to allow other boats using the app to see you. The app has strong coverage, with over 1,000 AIS receiving stations used worldwide.
SailFlow for iPhone and Android is a popular marine weather app that pulls data from more than 50,000 weather stations around the world to give you accurate wind and weather forecasts for your sailing trip and help you make sure that conditions are safe before you set off to a new destination.
The app delivers live data and provides a detailed forecast, precipitation map and information on tides. It even alerts you to favourable wind conditions so that you do not miss a perfect day on the sea. It offers Wind List, a quick reference tool that tells you what the most trusted weather stations are in the area for any search. Additionally, it delivers onsite reports from seafarers around the world, a clouds map, sea surface temperatures, and nautical charts. The Pro version offers proprietary forecasts from the exclusive SailFlow PRO Weather Stations.
Information about tides and currents is critical, especially if you are sailing close to the shore. Tides Planner is a full-featured app that delivers tidal data, coefficients, curves, tables, Sun/Moon phases and rise/set times for more than 8,000 ports around the world. All you need to do is scroll through the list of destinations to find the tidal height at different times. A zoomable world map that shows flow direction is also available for download. The app is only available for iPhone and iPad.
Android users can download Tides Near Me instead. The app is not quite as extensive as Tides Planner or the popular AyeTides, but focuses on more than 5,500 tidal stations worldwide and provides a suitable alternative.
In addition to apps that help with the technical aspects of sailing, there are many that can make long cruises and onshore stays more rewarding and fun. The web-based app TasteAtlas offers a continuously growing database of about 10,000 dishes and ingredients specific to various countries and regions, displayed in a zoomable World Food Atlas. The app is an excellent tool for finding traditional recipes, local ingredients, drinks and restaurants serving high quality authentic food at any given destination. It is particularly well suited to sailors looking to explore the tastes and aromas of the Mediterranean countries or the Caribbean islands.
Sky Guide is a stargazing app that can make long nights on the open sea more interesting, both for adults and kids. The app lets you automatically find constellations, stars, planets and deep sky objects by simply holding your iPhone or iPad up. The app automatically aligns itself to the night sky above you and lets you zoom to find any interesting deep sky objects in any given direction. Paired with binoculars, it can make nighttime sailing an adventure in its own right.
To turn a Caribbean cruise into a proper educational experience, there are several popular apps that can help you identify the various exotic animals and plants you encounter on your travels. Merlin Bird ID is a fast, simple tool for identifying various bird species. The app uses data from the eBird citizen science project to come up with a list of possible species, with photos and sounds, based on answers to five simple questions.
iNaturalist, a popular nature app, helps you identify the plants and animals you come across and puts you in touch with a community of more than 400,000 scientists and naturalists who can offer additional information about the natural environments of the places on your sailing itinerary. The recently released Seek app uses image recognition to help you identify the animals and plants in your photos using the wildlife observations on iNaturalist.
Photos are an essential part of any sailing adventure. To make sure they truly stand out in your Instagram or Facebook feed, you can use a variety of photo editing apps to really make them pop. Snapseed for iOS and Android offers 29 tools and filters and allows you to edit raw files to fix any exposure errors, adjust the colour automatically or manually, bring out details in images, remove unwanted objects and tweak all styles with fine control. FaceTune, also available both for iOS and Android devices, is the perfect app for selfie junkies, as it can airbrush any imperfections, give you a perfect smile and smooth skin, emphasize your good features, and even add make up to your face. For timelapse enthusiasts, Hyperlapse lets you speed up or slow down videos to up to 12 times the normal speed and removes any shaky frames using outstanding image stabilization to create perfectly smooth videos.