Inquiring Minds Want to Know – What Do You Use for Navigation Software and Charts?

Within some of our posts we’ve included a screen shot of our navigational charts. This leads some to the natural question, “what do you use to navigate?” Well, here’s what we are using thus far and have been happy with the following products.

For a brief background, Brian and I both agree that knowing how to navigate on paper is extremely important in the event that all our newfangled gadgets fail. So prior to cruising we both completed courses offered by our local Portsmouth, NH branch of the United States Power Squadron. We gained a wealth of knowledge from fellow boaters who dedicated their time to boating education. We’d strongly recommend that you seek out these informative, affordable courses in your own local area. While much of the coursework was review for Brian, and he even taught a section of Advanced Piloting, I would have been lost at sea without having completed America’s Boating Course, Piloting, Advanced Piloting, and Weather courses. We have paper charts and navigational tools aboard for all the places we intend to visit. We’ve used them! And it’s certainly best to be prepared!

Our Equipment – Rode Trip came to us equipped with a Navman chartplotter and Autohelm radar. Both are quite outdated but in good working order. We’ve not purchased any additional charts for the chartplotter (in fact we haven’t turned it on since Maine); this device is on hand as a back-up GPS. We do use the radar often, particularly during overnight sailing when we want to determine the distance between us and a spotted ship. We also turn it on sometimes during rough weather at anchor to monitor whether any boats are dragging nearer to us. Our fellow 30-something cruisers are baffled that we’re using a grey scale radar and we can’t overlay our course lines or call up ships by reading their names on AIS. But this works for us…for now.

We’ve added an iPad to our equipment. This handy gadget is remarkable! I’m sure many of you use an iPad or an iPhone in your daily lives for communicating and working. We rely on the iPad for our GPS and chart plotting to stay safe while on the water. We encased the iPad in a somewhat indestructible case to keep it safe from accidental drops and not forecasted rain showers. We’ve found oodles of boat savvy apps, and of course keep in contact with emails, Facebook, and blogging all on the iPad whenever we have wifi or cell service.

Our Charts – We’ve equipped the iPad with the iNavX app and have thus far been pleased with it for navigating while underway and for pre-planning. During our time in the Bahamas, we used NV charts. We found NV charts to be spot-on in the Bahamas, even when compared to the favored Explorer charts. The best feature about NV was that we were able to buy a complete package which covered the entire Bahamas and Turks & Caicos and that the package included paper charts, anchorages guide book, and all the charts downloaded onto our iNavX app.

Now that we’ve moved outside of the Bahamas, we are using Navionics charts for the western Carribbean which have also been downloaded onto our iNavX app. We do NOT recommend Navionics for the Bahamas, but they seem to be accurate thus far beyond Bahamian waters and other cruisers concur. We have also acquired Bellingham Chart Printers paper charts for the western Carribbean.

We know fellow cruisers who are very pleased with the Garmin Blue Chart app and the accuracy of Garmin charts. We’ve recently downloaded this app and may transition to this in the near future.

Additionally, we have OpenCPN charts for our laptop. We have a GPS Navigation Receiver BU-353 to be connected to the laptop which will allow us to overlay our exact location onto the OpenCPN charts. We have not yet used any of this…but just in case.

I hope this is helpful. As is clearly evident, Brian and I are minimalists and what we have now works for us but may not be the best option for your cruising and/or safety style. I’m sure we are also missing the boat on bigger, better, newer, faster technology…but we do get great tips and info from other cruisers along the way and of course from our good ‘ol friend, Google. We’ll be writing more to share some of those other useful apps we’ve found. I really appreciate the questions and interest! Fair winds and flawless upgrades to everyone!

3 thoughts on “Inquiring Minds Want to Know – What Do You Use for Navigation Software and Charts?

  1. Good post and funny timing. I have a draft post that is fairly similar. We had been going back and forth with the same decision. The Raymarine system that came with our boat is older and gray scale. We would have to buy chips for each area we would be sailing and they are not cheap. For the last two years we have just been using our Garmin 76 Cx handheld and paper charts. We only use the Raymarine system for the radar. We’ve also done the U.S. Power Squadron courses.

    We ended up deciding to go with the iPad setup. We order a iPad 4 with cellular last week. It will be here Thursday. I was planning to go with the Navionics app, but now I might rethink the iNavX instead or both.

    What case did you go with for the iPad? We ended up with the Lifeproof case.

    Thanks for the post.

    Fair winds,

    Jesse

  2. Pingback: iPad Navigation and Other Boat Uses | s/v Smitty

  3. Cool! Good luck getting acclimated to the iPad…we can give you some tips on apps that we use for sailing. Technology is amazing! Good question about our iPad case…I actually don’t know the name of our case. We found it one day in Target while not looking for iPad cases and it was on sale for $60. It was in army camouflage packaging. It’s totally sealed and we’ve been very happy with it.

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