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Best marine GPS navigation software for iPhone

Best marine GPS – GPS navigation software installed on the small boat sailor’s iPhone might make all the difference between a safe return to port or a distress call for assistance.

Best marine GPS navigation software for iPhone

Entering a dense fog-bank brings doubt and consternation to the crew as the far-off coastline quickly fades away, and soon nearby buoys and beacons marking dangerous offshore shoals are swallowed up too.

It’s time for the skipper to pull out the iPhone from the waterproof bag to access best marine GPS navigation software for help with a safe return to home port.

Best Marine GPS Navigation Software and the iPhone

“Navigation was always a difficult art, though with only one ship and one bell.” (Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark)

The iPhone comes with two built-in essentials, which was used in combination, make it a serious tool for offshore and coastal navigation if plotting is done on official nautical charts. Those two essentials are:

The built-in GPS receiver itself

A magnetometer compass believed to be much improved on the iPhone 4G, with a claimed (though not proven) accuracy of up to two degrees provided certain user guidance is followed).

GPS Navigation Software – Electronic Chart Systems for the iPhone

“He had bought a large map representing the sea, without the least vestige of land.” (The Hunting of the Snark)

Most small boat owners will probably find the best marine GPS software more convenient to download an electronic chart system (ECS) rather than attempt manual position plotting in cramped working conditions on board.

One of the most user-friendly yet feature-laden GPS navigation software Apps for the iPhone and iPad is provided by Navionics, whose electronic chart systems can be purchased separately according to the desired region, and downloaded at Apple’s iTunes Store. These charts have world-wide coverage, and once installed are available for off-line reference.

Best marine GPS

Another supplier offering iPhone access to best marine GPS navigation software, all in one complete App, is iNavX which is also available at the iTunes Store and its inclusive price may appeal, although world coverage is not quite as wide.

According to MarineLink.com, iNavX is able to access Navionics charts too (as long as they have been installed) by those who require its coverage, perhaps of some specific area, and who don’t mind the expense.

Both these Apps require just the internal GPS in order to show the user’s position on its electronic charts, but of course the iPhone may also use additional signals from WiFi and/or cellular if they are available.

Electronic Chart Systems – Basic Features

Zooming and panning to reveal detail on the chart
Current GPS position at the centre of display
‘Course Up’ indication with the 3GS iPhone
Heading vector displays direction of heading (if speed greater than 5 kts)
Search facility for POI, marinas, tides and currents
Tide or current stations in vicinity listed with height of tide, times of sunset and sunrise
Tracks followed can be saved and shared with friends by Email or Facebook
‘Waypoint’ voyage planning function
Range and bearing from the user’s GPS position to some other point

Best handheld marine GPS Navigation Software and the iPhone – Cautionary Words

Such remarkable ‘bells and whistles’ may lead one to believe that these vest-pocket wizards have taken over the marine field of play from authorized government charts, and publications including the important Notices to Mariners, but that is not the case.
The wise user will regard the iPhone laden with GPS navigation software simply as an aid to navigation and will assess the information it presents with due caution, remembering always that the sea can be a hard taskmaster.

Sailing Safety Essentials – Liferaft Types and SOLAS Regulations

As anyone who has watched the movie blockbuster Titanic will know, one of the most important sailing safety essentials is liferafts, which must be suitable to hold everyone on board and regularly checked to ensure they are in good working order. A puncture repair kit should also be stored on board, in case emergency repairs are required.

Sailing Safety Essentials – Types of Liferafts

best handheld marine gps

The main purpose of a liferaft is to keep all onboard safe in case of emergency, should evacuation of the boat be necessary. It is important for all skippers and crew members to have taken a personal survival course, such as the RYA Sea Survival Course, particularly when intending to be out at sea for lengthy periods where weather can be treacherous at times.

In The Sea Survival Manual, Howarth & Howarth (2005) highlight that there are three main types of liferafts, which include:

Inshore liferafts – simple rescue platform or rescue pod
Coastal liferafts – one tube with reduced ballast, not rigorously tested
Offshore liferafts – high specifications, stacked flotation chambers, plenty ballast.

The best types of liferafts are those which have been identified as SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) approved and thus meet key requirements. Before purchasing a liferaft always check that the device meets SOLAS regulations and is suitable to fit the maximum number of crew likely to be onboard on any voyage.

SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) Liferaft Regulations

Anyone who has purchased a yachting, cruising or motoring vessel would benefit from understanding the SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) regulations set for liferafts. While vessels measuring between 45-70 ft do not require liferafts with either an insulated floor or rainwater collection device, Howarth & Howarth (2005) identify that vessels larger than 70 ft require SOLAS-approved liferafts to include the following safety standards:

Capable of withstanding 30+ days exposure
Highly visible colour (helps detection)
Capable to withstand repeated jumps from 15 ft height
Automatic canopy, sufficient headroom for seated occupants
At least one viewing point, quickly opened/closed entrance
Two separate buoyancy compartments
Waterproof insulated floor
Painter – not less than 50 ft
Boarding ramp/ladder
Easy to right
Minimum water ballast of 220 litres
Rainwater collecting device
Lifelines inside/outside liferaft
Manually controlled lights
Survival pack (SOLAS A or B)
Packed in buoyancy container.

Liferaft training and equipment are essential for survival at sea and are typically included in personal survival courses for skippers and crew. Liferafts should ideally be SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea) approved and include survival packs, buoyancy compartments and be highly visible, making them easily detectable.