When it comes to your desert island essentials, your favourite nautical app might not be at the top of your list - but it could save your life, if you ever find yourself lost at sea. While sailing just seems like good fun to an outsider, open water sailors take their passion very seriously - and have, historically, relied very heavily upon weather reports, maps, plotting charts and bulky navigation equipment in order to ensure their safe passage.
It comes as no surprise that sailing (alongside everything else) has moved into the digital age, with the need for a pen and paper reducing every day. Today, we’re bringing you a handpicked selection of the five best nautical apps around - and whether you’re circumnavigating the globe on a 60ft yacht or just fancy taking the dinghy down to the beach, there’s something for everyone.
One of the most popular marine navigation apps around, Navionics HD has won multiple awards and is trusted by sailors and fishermen around the world. This GPS plotting app comes with detailed offline nautical and sonar charts - allowing you to explore your planned route without a data connection. The dock-to-dock autorouting feature is a huge time saver, too, automatically plotting the best route between two points - and it even works in narrow waterways and tricky channels.
Available for iOS and Android, Navionics HD offers a basic free version - however, location-specific add-ons can be bought and vary in price, depending on the region required.
The Flight Radar of the seas, Ship Finder uses AIS shipping feeds used by passenger ships and marine craft over 300 tons in weight to track shipping movements, but more and more yachts and pleasure boats are using this technology, too - making it incredibly useful when it comes to identifying boats in the area and avoiding collisions during poor visibility. Users can view live movements of ships all over the world, and the augmented reality feature allows you to use your phone or tablet’s camera to identify ships on the horizon. The app requires a data connection, so it will only work in coastal areas - unless you have a marine satellite Wi-Fi connection.
Available for free on iOS or £1.99 on Android.
Marine Rules & Signals
Whether you’re a seasoned sailor who wants to brush up on best practices or a newbie looking to learn the ropes, the rules and regulations of the marine world can be hard to get your head around. This handy quick-reference guide is perfect for anyone into watersports or sailing, helping you to ensure you’re sticking to harbour rules and giving way to other boats on the water. From learning which way a ship is travelling at night from the colour of its navigation lights, to learning the correct distress signals and what all those different buoys mean, it’s an essential at sea.
Available for £4.49 on iOS. Alternatives available for Android.
Windfinder is the go-to weather app for sailors around the world. In a sport ruled by the elements, weather reports are the single most important safety factor in open water. This handy app provides real-time weather updates for 40,000 locations around the world - allowing you to check the latest reports before you set off. Its usefulness isn’t just limited to serious sailors, either. Its parameters include wind speed, direction, temperature, precipitation, and wave height (and period), as well as tidal information - making it ideal for watersports enthusiasts and surfers looking to catch the best conditions.
Available for free on iOS and Android with a Pro version available from £1.49.
SAS Survival Guide
The digitised version of the famous SAS Survival Guide, this handy app contains over 400 pages of helpful tips and advice for surviving in any situation - from being stranded at sea to facing a dilemma in the desert. It includes essential sections helping you to identify edible food, clean water and even different types of marine life. Supplemented with downloadable videos, the guide can be used offline - making it an essential for any adventurer.
Available for £4.49 on iOS and £4.78 on Android.
There you have it - 5 essential apps for hitting the high seas. Hoist the sails, pop a waterproof case on your mobile device and head for the marina!
Author: Adam Hope is a travel blogger for Pegasus Marine Finance, providing boat finance deals to suit all budgets.