Ahoy, boaters! Your may use your iPhone for everything from checking in with friends to paying for plane tickets, but it's also your friend when you're heading out on the water. If there's something you need for boating, there's probably an app for it.
Want to save money on fuel? Try the free Cheap Gas! app. Embarrassed because you can't ever seem to tie proper knots, especially if somebody at the marina is watching? Invest $1.99 in ProKnot, and you'll have help when you need it. Want to be able to sail by the stars -- or at least impress others with your knowledge? For $3.99, you can have GoSkyWatch Planetarium. Point your phone at the sky, and the app will tell you what you're seeing. Worried about a breakdown far from shore? Install the free BoatUS app. You can call for an on-water towing service, and the service can find you. Apps can help you find boat ramps, big fish and ships that might be in your path.
A word of caution: iPhone apps are great to have when you need them, but don't depend too heavily on them. After all, you never know when your phone might failor go overboard. Have conventional boating tools at the ready.
Keep reading for a look at five especially useful apps.
Lights are essential if you're ever out on a boat after the sun goes down. Sure, you have flashlights aboard. But what if you need one in a hurry and someone's misplaced it? Worse, what if the batteries are shot once you find it? Install a flashlight app, and whenever you have your iPhone, you'll also have a good flashlight -- as long as you don't misplace it. Among several free apps available, one of the best is myLite Flashlight and Strobe. It provides a strong LED beam as well as a variety of lighting effects on the screen. One of those special effects is an SOS signal, just in case you ever need it.
And just in case you ever sail into a dockside rock concert, the rock concert effect looks like a flaming cigarette lighter for you to raise.
But lights aren't all you need on that boat. Read on for more useful apps.
Knowing the daily tides (the depth of the water at any given place) and currents (the speed and direction of the water's movement) can be essential for a boating excursion. AyeTides provides this important information for nearly 10,000 locations worldwide in tables and interactive graphs. You can check what will be going on today or well into the future. AyeTides also tells you when the sun and moon will rise, and how the moon affects the tides.
The app costs $9.99 to download, but once you have it, you're good to go. The information is contained within the app, meaning you don't have to worry about downloading data for certain regions. Nor do you need a network connection to use it. You can access AyeTides wherever you go.
The moon and tides are somewhat predictable. But weather is less so, and changes in the weather can have immediate effects on your boating excursion.
Sailors will argue about which weather app is best, but MyWeather gets high marks from most. It's free and easy to use; it provides forecasts as well as information about current weather conditions. You can see predictions for dinner tonight or as far as ahead as 10 days. If you have a MyWeather.com account, you can sync it with your iPhone app.
MyWeather is boater-friendly. You can adjust its radar images to show expected wind speeds. It will give you weather information for exact map coordinates rather than just cities and towns. It's easy to switch between the location where you are and the one where you're heading so you'll know what to expect.
Of course, boating doesn't begin and end on the water. Keep reading to learn about an app that can help you keep all the details shipshape.
Boating enthusiasts know that owning a boat can become nearly a full-time job. If you're not careful, you can spend so much time and money maintaining the boat that there's hardly enough of either left to enjoy the boat. The other alternative can be just as bad – if you don't pay enough attention to maintenance, you can find yourself in big trouble.
Boating Suite, a $4.99 app, won't pay the bills for you, but it will make it a lot easier to keep track of what you do with and to your boat, and how much you spend.
Really several apps in one, Boating Suite provides a digital logbook for recording all your voyages. Five other sections let you keep track of maintenance, fuel use and expenses, as well as make lists of what you need to buy and what you need to do. There's also a "reports" feature, enabling custom reports on such information as how much it cost you to own and operate your boat over a set time period.
Boating Suite is backed up automatically by iCloud, so that you know your information is safe online. Information also can by synced on various devices.
Navionics was a pioneer in providing digital marine charts for boaters, and now it's also a leader in providing navigational information apps that provide those charts along with other useful information and features. It offers iPhone apps for various regions, including oceans and lakes, around the world. The most popular is Marine&Lakes: USA, available for $9.99.
Once loaded, the charts are available for use even if you're beyond the reach of wi-fi or phone signal. Marine&Lakes: USA gives you charts to map out your trip, as well as information on tides, currents, winds, the sun and the moon. You can edit your charts to add information about such details as rocks, lights and buoys. The app also tells you where to find marinas, repair shops and restaurants, among other things, and you can edit that information as well.
The app even provides free downloads of articles from leading marine magazines.
Want to share your seafaring adventures with family and friends? This app lets you create a virtual travelogue and send it by e-mail or post it on Facebook.
Are you ready to set sail? Keep reading for lots more information.
Are you glued to your phone chasing down a MewTwo? HowStuffWorks Now investigates how Niantic is selecting all those in-game locations.
This article was fun to work on because I had just acquired a new iPhone. I started out a little skeptical, thinking the apps would be mostly gimmicks – like the one to put bikini-clad babes as a screen saver.
But I quickly realized that there are a number of apps that would be invaluable tools for a boater. It's amazing how much information and how many useful functions can be packed into apps, turning your phone into a powerful resource.
- AyeTides.com. "AyeTides & AyeTides XL." (July 24, 2012) http://ayetides.com/
- Boatbookings.com. "iPad and iPhone Sailing, Boating and Yachting Apps." (July 22, 2012) http://www.boatbookings.com/yachting_content/iphone_yachting_sailing_apps.php
- BoatU.S. "Towing Services App." (July 22, 2012) http://www.boatus.com/towing/app.asp
- Discover Boating. "Special Offers: iPhone and iPod Boating Apps." (July 22, 2012) http://www.discoverboating.com/appsandtools.aspx?c=681
- Furchgott, Roy. "An iPhone Case Ready for a Dunking." The New York Times, April 9, 2012. (July 24, 2012) http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/an-iphone-case-ready-for-a-dunking/
- Laptop Magazine. "Navionics Marine: Best Boating App." (July 22, 2012) http://www.laptopmag.com/review/software/most-useful-iphone-apps-gps.aspx?pid=3
- Rudow, Lenny. "Can Marine Apps And A Smartphone Make You a Better Boater?" Boat U.S. Magazine. (July 23, 2012) http://www.boatus.com/magazine/2011/april/apps.asp
- Seidman, David. "Boating Apps for Apple's iPhone." Boating Magazine. (July 23, 2012) http://www.boatingmag.com/boating-apps-apples-iphone
- Starr, Jim H. "Navigation in Your Pocket!" Cape Lookout Sail & Power Squadron. (July 23, 2012) http://www.clsps.org/articles/pocket_navigation.html
- Tedeschi, Bob. "Boating Apps Help Sailors Get There and Back Again." The New York Times, July 6, 2011. (July 23, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/technology/personaltech/boating-apps-help-sailors-get-there-and-back-again.html
- TheMarineGuide.com. "Top 10 Boating Apps." (July 23, 2012) http://themarineguide.com/tmg-features/top-10-boating-apps/
- U.S. Power Squadrons Educational Department. "Apps for Boaters." (July 22, 2012) http://www.usps.org/eddept/misc/apps.htm