Top ways to use your tablet or iPad on board your boat

As iPads and other tablets become a part of the arsenal of electronics on board, their versatility, from slave displays and back-up navigation to streaming movies and storing photos, makes them invaluable for a great many sailors. And as apps proliferate and prices of tablets have fallen, the scope is widening. In this feature we look at the best ways of making a tablet or iPad on board work for you at sea. Low-cost, portable navigation is one of the prime reasons to own a tablet. One of the most popular navigation apps is Navionics’ chart plotting app. Originally produced for the iPad, this app has been instrumental in convincing us there is another, simpler and often more convenient way to use electronics at sea – hardly surprising when you consider the wide coverage and quality of charts available, often for under £30 a region. There are other vector and raster chart alternatives – for a full review of these, see our online guide here. But where is the tablet revolution going? How are people using them and which are the most popular apps? To find out we talked to a selection of people, from bluewater cruisers to offshore solo racers and industry professionals, to get an idea of how tablets are being used afloat. This is not a comprehensive study of all the apps and tablets available, but a snapshot of the marine scene today gleaned from the experience of those out on the water. Although Apple still have the greatest range of apps in the wider world ashore, the market for marine software and the way you might use it is starting to change so we also look at which tablet to choose. A world cruising tool Behan Gifford and her family are cruising round the world, and use their iPads for all kinds of purposes. ‘For navigation we use iNavx (with Navionics charts). This isn’t our primary navigation system; we rely first on OpenCPN, with CM93 charts, running on a computer down below. But iNavx is more than just a nice back-up. ‘Sometimes we’d rather have eyes on the charts from the cockpit, instead of ducking below decks. Other times we’ll find discrepancies in the charts: having two sources is handy; one is not consistently better than the other. ‘For example, we routinely had very, very different-looking interpretations of the same area in Papua New Guinea and eastern Indonesia. Google Earth was sometimes too fuzzy in those areas to be a useful supplement. ‘iNavx connects to the NMEA 2000 network on board, the better to display AIS data and uses our ship’s GPS and weather station data. Google Earth has been extremely valuable for us for atoll navigation this year, and often had more useful navigation data than what was on our charts. Scoping out an anchorage ‘For real-time navigation I prefer to overlay it in OpenCPN, but the app is still useful to scope out anchorage or snorkelling spots or watch our live progress through an … Continue reading Top ways to use your tablet or iPad on board your boat