by Christine Kling
This is another question I am often asked, especially since Garmin released their new iPad app BlueChart Mobile (app is free and in-app purchase of charts ranges from $29.99 for US Coast to $44.99 for US and Caribbean). Previously, in my travels, I have always used iNavX ($49.99 for app alone and another $49.99 for US and Northern Bahamas) and I’ve been wondering if Garmin’s new offering was going to sway me from my go-to app.
It didn’t happen.
Let me give you some background first. See, the thing is in some respects I’m old-fashioned – even as techie as I am. I mean, I still carry a sextant on my boat. And my main mode of electronic navigation is via my laptop. When did it happen that everyone had to have a chart plotter at their helm or they weren’t real sailors? Frankly, I can’t afford one and I suspect I’m not the only sailor out there who can’t.
So all of these navigational apps boot up with a warning that they are not to be used as real navigational programs. And most of the bloggers say that they would never, ever use an iPad as other than a planning tool.
So here’s my thing. My laptop is down below on my little chart table and my iPad is right there at the helm. The iPad started out just being a planning device, but after a while, I realized that I, singlehander that I am, didn’t have to keep dashing below to look at the laptop. So over time, I have come to rely more and more on the iPad as my primary electronic navigational device – and of course, I have paper charts spread out on the cockpit seats as well.
So, for me, like lots of cash-strapped small boat sailors the question is which navigational app works best as a real chart plotter.
Both Garmin and iNavX can create waypoints and routes and all that is great for planning what you are going to do. They can both import and overlay tide and weather information. Garmin has some outstanding charts for certain parts of the world, but when I was in Thailand and the Philippines recently, they didn’t cover that area. iNavX allows one to buy charts from different vendors and covers more of the world. I was able to buy charts for my SE Asia trip from them. The list of charts available for iNavX is vast – especially when compared to Garmin. However, Garmin uses the Explorer chart data for the Bahamas which is considered to be the best there is, and overall the Garmin cost for app and charts is cheaper than iNavX. In addition, Garmin has partnered with Active Captain and users can choose to import that data while iNavX does not permit this.
But as far as I can see, there is only one app that lets me perform a GOTO or NAVIGATE TO function and that is iNavX. I like being able to look at my instrument readings and be able to see the BTW (bearing to waypoint), DTW (distance to waypoint), ETA (estimated time of arrival), and TTG (time to go) without having to calculate these on my own. At present, the Garmin BlueChart Mobile app doesn’t do this and while some in the tech industry have called this a “silly complaint,” I think having the ability to navigate to a waypoint is at the heart of what I want a navigation program to do. I readily admit that other peoples’ needs might differ.
I dream of the day when I will be able to get some of the other information I have swirling around my boat integrated into my laptop and iPad navigation. With a Raymarine radar and a Standard Horizon Matrix AIS radio on board my boat, only iNavX gives me hope of possibly getting my NMEA network onto wifi and getting some of my info onto my iPad. If I wanted to get such a system working with the Garmin BlueChart app, I would have to re-outfit my entire system with Garmin’s newest equipment. I sure don’t have the dollars for that. For those interested in trying to put together such a Garmin system, there’s a good long 10-page discussion about the Garmin app on the Tugnuts site here, and another on BoaterEd here.
In the past, I have always used Navimatics Charts and Tides app (each region charts and app for $19.99) for the Active Captain data and I have liked keeping my navigational charts free of all that stuff that I normally associate with a cruising guide. And I must admit, I am happy I own all these apps and I am able to switch between them and get the best information that each of them is able to offer. There is no chart plotter on the market that will let you check out the cartography of several different vendors. Today, our cruising guides (aka Active Captain, the Wikipedia of the Sea) are displayed on a chart, and I prefer that to be one or several different charting apps than the one I am using to navigate. Now I will have a choice to use either Garmin BlueChart or Charts and Tides, but for me, the best marine navigation app remains iNavX.
ChristineShare on Facebook