If the iPad 2 is any use as a navigation gadget, it's a no-brainer for boats big and small

At Yachting World we use Apple Macs and have done since the prehistoric, digital cave painting days of the 1990s Mac Classic. That’s not a choice we made, it’s an IPC Media decision: all magazine editorial departments have Apple Macs; everyone else is on PCs.

The reason, I think, is because Apple provided the ideal platform for publishing. So software developers came along to make products that are the gold standard in the media world for photo manipulation, illustration, graphic design and page layout.

This preamble is a bit of an apologia. One of the most irritating things about being an Apple user is the disdain of people who think you only have a Mac because you’re a poser. Look, we can say, we were given them; we have to use them.

But, in fact, Macs are just so much better designed and nicer to use, something you quickly find out if you are truly operation system ‘ambidextrous’. A visit to the Apple kingdom is usually a one-way trip.

The Mac changed the design of laptops and the look and feel of the software. Apple revolutionised the portable MP3, which started life as a chunky device with big buttons and would probably have remained that way without the ideas of designer Jonathan Ive. Apple has done the same for mobile phones, and I suspect it’s about to change the way we view and use computers and navigation equipment on board.

Mr Jobs and his pals have a powerful brand and most of us Apple users end up arming ourselves with an arsenal of their products.

But until recently I just couldn’t see the point of an iPad. It was the only Apple product, ever, that I didn’t covet. Why would I want one when it won’t do everything the iPhone 4 does, and manages considerably less, less well than a MacBook Air?

Now, I’m not so sure. If the Navionics charting software works adequately on its 11 inch screen, the iPad 2 is actually a no-brainer as a portable do-everything device on board.

The cheapest iPad2 is £399 and for a mere £37.99 you can get all the Navionics charts in HD for the UK and Holland. You can get all the European charts for £29.99. That’s a bargain for a back-up chartplotter, or for use on charters or days afloat.

They claim the iPad holds its charge for 10 hours and you can plug it in to a 12v socket to recharge. That could make it the perfect gadget to get your email, play music, watch videos, go online, get forecasts etc, etc, etc. And it will do all those other things so slickly and well that I can see it, or the next generation of flash drive tablets, becoming the norm on boats big and small as a separate communication/entertainment /nav back-up device.

It’s quite commonplace to come across larger cruising boats with a separate laptop for communications (often a Mac), and I think the iPad and subsequent devices could make this just as commonplace on smaller boats.

Before I’d part with the cash, though, I have some concerns. I’m not sure how good the iPad 2 is for daylight viewing. It’s obviously not waterproof, so if you wanted to use it on deck I guess you’d need an Otterbox or similar. And I’m not sure how strong the iPad Navionics charts are on waypoints and course information – the iPhone version is pretty basic.

Nonetheless, I’m seriously tempted. Has anyone out there tried charts on the iPad 2 and if you have what are its pros and cons? Should I buy one to use on a little weekender?