Rigid Inflatable Boats : RIBS and Inflatables
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iPad & iPhone Apps
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Imray Chart Navigator
on iPad


Imray Chart Navigator
on iPhone


Tides Planner on iPhone
from Tucabo


Marine Tools
on iPhone


Apps to Rule the Waves

Software developers for iPad & iPhone and other tablet and smartphone apps are now tackling marine navigation a lot more seriously. A question to be asked now is why spend hundreds of pounds and sometimes more than £1,000 for a chart plotter and chartlet cards when an inexpensive mobile device and its apps can provide some serious reassurance you are on the correct course?

Paper charts are essential onboard, but even these are becoming something of a chore as often they are outdated, day to day, as the green energy movement takes over the seaways with wind farms, gas and oil exploration. Applying chart corrections has now become a bit of a nightmare! Consequently they are becoming used more as a reference document and not always as a first choice navigation and route planning tool, largely because the whole process is quite time consuming. I'm expecting a rebuke from the purists here, but that's what is happening in the marine leisure world and hey.. I can take it.

Sometime in the future perhaps during fog and in particular heavy foul weather the collision of a commercial vessel, hopefully with no loss of life and hopefully not an oil tanker, will start to make governments think. Just look at the lucky break of the 'River Dance' in which she ended up on the beach at Blackpool. Rant finished...!

Most electronic devices suffer from exactly the same issues as their displays rely on the very same paper charts that are outdated the day they are printed. iSailor do however provide electronic charts covering the States that are updated on a 7 day cycle. These electronic devices also require a power charge, which is time limited, and a constant source of GPS signals. Quite clearly they come with the warning NOT TO BE USED FOR NAVIGATION, but then again that could apply to the printed chart. Common sense must prevail and due caution applied to whatever form of navigation and seamanship is being adopted.

Some very useful marine navigation and planning tools are now becoming available especially on the iPad & iPhone. Properly protected against the elements these everyday communications kits are using their GPS and computing capabilities to provide accurate, on the deck, positional information when offshore. Apps from the likes of Imray with vector and iSailor with raster charts look to be leading the way. Large portfolios of small craft charts well under £50 provide displays on the iPad at a good size. And on larger screens too than many a small craft plotter. If you run both an iPad and iPhone for the one price of an app you get to use them on both devices. Marine navigation in your pocket!

Inexpensive tidal apps (less than a handful of pounds) are 'boys own stuff'. At the press of a keypad you can obtain tidal heights, range, springs, neaps, sunrise and sunset and tidal streams for virtually anywhere in the world. One of the most valuable features is the secondary port data that saves so much time in tedious calculation with pencil and paper. Likely more accurate too after a long and tiring passage.

Ever done the complex calculation as to what is the best time to make an offshore passage, say across the channel, or Irish Sea? These calculations, at the end of the day, are best estimates but can save you valuable time and fuel and often a better passage going with the flow rather than against it. A new app titled Marine Tool from JJC Consult, takes out some of the mental strain. Marine Tool is currently only made for iPhone/iPad, but versions for Android and also the Mac computer are planned, expected to be launched within the next few months, in time for summer.

This new convertor, calculator and planner app has the following features:

• Nav Station with GPS and compass information. Current position and speed over ground in knots, kilometres , miles and metres. Course over ground from compass, magnetic and true north are shown. Accuracy information, distance between GPS fixes and altitude, (just to make sure you keep at sea level eh!).

• Course correction. To map from compass and from compass to map. Magnetic
variation. Magnetic deviation. Leeway/wind effect. Tidal current effect. Speed of advance estimated through a calculation that takes into account your speed and direction comparing it to your course.

• Distance between two GPS locations. Distance in knots, kilometres and
miles. Initial and final compass bearing. Midpoint coordinates.

• Wind conversion. Supports m/sec, knot, mph, km/h and Beaufort scale. With each wind condition comes a description; the expected wave height, sea and land conditions.

• Time, distance and speed planner. Plan your route from the expected boat
speed, target distance or time availability.

• Distance calculator to say a lighthouse, horizon or other object in the distance. Support for feet/metre and knot, miles and kilometres. How far away is the horizon when you are on deck ?

• Convert speed. Supports knots, kilometres per hour and miles per hour.

• Convert distance. Supports nautical miles, kilometres and miles.

All these brain boggling calculations for the princely sum of £1.49. Simply remarkable, simply unmissable.

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March 2013

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Rigid Inflatable Boats : RIBS and Inflatables