In this series of articles we have discussed many different chartplotters that have the capability of repeating to a smart phone or tablet and some can even be controlled from the smart device.
But what if you want the tablet or phone to be a stand-alone chartplotter app for planning and route tracking?
This is now becoming possible through some very comprehensive chartplotter apps that are available for both Apple devices and Android from companies such as Navionics, iNavX, C-Map and a bevy of others.
There is a debate as to whether tablets and smart devices can or should replace dedicated chartplotters, but as technology and apps improve over time that line between the two is starting to blur and some are heading out on the water with just the tablet at the helm.
Built-in GPS sensors that do not need Wi-Fi or cellular signal to work are making the wide variety of apps more practical for use not just in planning but plotting, too. The prices of the apps and charts are also less than for the traditional chartplotters and cartography, making it an attractive alternative.
As always the recommendation is not to rely solely on electronic devises for navigation – backups are always prudent.
These new apps can contain, or can have added to them, raster or vector charts, the two basic types of electronics charts. Either is good for route planning and plotting.
Some will utilize raster charts that are more like the paper charts used for marine navigation that we are all familiar with, such as NOAA charts. These apps utilize scanned versions of existing paper charts with possibly some additional information added to the scan.
The other variety of chart is the vector chart. This is a computer-generated layered electronic chart with specific information placed in individual layers that can be controlled individually. For example, if you zoom in on a raster chart you are just making the existing chart bigger, but if you zoom in on a vector chart you may have new information pop up at a certain scale.
Navionics includes award-winning vector charts in its Marine&Lakes: US&Canada HD Mobile App. With this app the charts remain on the device the app is loaded on and can be used regardless of cellular or Wi-Fi connection.
Mike Dixon of Navionics tells of a unique feature his company’s apps offer. Called Community Edits this feature allows for users to edit and share the charts with local data, making them even more accurate and informative. With this information rapidly visible to the Navionics community, Dixon says this “has proven to be extremely popular – nearly 1 million users of the app now and a lot of activity in adding to the community layer.”
Soon to be added to the Mobile App and the community layer will be SonarCharts. This feature will add user data that was stored to a data card in their Navionics compatible sounder/chartplotter and can be uploaded to create custom high detail charts of areas you boat in.
Other useful features include satellite overlay, data syncing with compatible chartplotters utilizing Wi-Fi, tides and currents and data sharing on Facebook and Twitter. “Probably my favorite and most used feature – a great way to accompany your stories of best day of fishing ever and have the geo tagged photos to prove it,” says Dixon.
As time progresses and apps develop they will become more like the operating systems on chartplotters found at the helm. With companies like Navionics leading the way it is inevitable that tablets are starting to have their place not only in the planning of a voyage but are becoming an integral part of the voyage.