Smart­phone tricks to smarter boat­ing

If you’ve not yet joined the tech-savvy gen­er­a­tion by mar­ry­ing your smart­phone to your ves­sel, this overview will help you make the leap.

Boating NZ - - Practical Boating -

Just about ev­ery­one has a smart­phone, and most of us take it ev­ery­where. This sim­ple de­vice (and its big­ger cousins, tablet de­vices such as Ap­ple’s ipad) con­tains more com­put­ing and nav­i­ga­tion power than any other de­vice on your boat. It also has fea­tures that your other elec­tron­ics do not, pri­mar­ily the abil­ity to con­nect to the in­ter­net along most of New Zealand’s coast­line. So, what can your phone do for you? First, you need to un­der­stand the tech­nol­ogy built into it, and the list is quite im­pres­sive: GPS re­ceiver, com­pass, ac­celerom­e­ter (to mea­sure move­ment), in­cli­nome­ter (to mea­sure tilt an­gles), clock, light, strobe, 4G ra­dio re­ceiver, speaker, Wifi and Blue­tooth ca­pa­bil­ity.

Bat­ter­ies gen­er­ally last a full day or more, and most phones

have a bright light that can serve as an emer­gency torch. With the right soft­ware (apps), your smart­phone can repli­cate most of the func­tions pro­vided by your ded­i­cated de­vices. And with some ad­di­tional hard­ware, you could well re­place al­most ev­ery elec­tronic de­vice on your boat with a smart­phone so­lu­tion.

Of course, the fact that you can doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean you should. Ex­clud­ing the most re­cent mod­els, smart­phones are no­to­ri­ously non-wa­ter­proof and un­suit­able for ex­posed sit­u­a­tions.

Also, while mo­bile chart­plot­ter, fishfinder, en­gine man­age­ment and dig­i­tal switch­ing ap­pli­ca­tions are read­ily avail­able, these are ar­guably far too im­por­tant to rely on a sin­gle hand­held de­vice which could ac­ci­den­tally be dropped over­board. Ded­i­cated de­vices (such as en­gine gauges at the main helm sta­tion) are best sup­ple­mented by a mo­bile so­lu­tion.

And that’s one of the great ben­e­fits of a smart­phone/tablet – it can be moved around, with­out re­quir­ing ca­bles. By adding Wifi ca­pa­bil­ity to your ex­ist­ing elec­tron­ics, you can repli­cate their func­tions on your hand­held de­vice.

The lat­est mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays (chart­plot­ters and fishfind­ers) from Lowrance, Simrad, Ray­ma­rine, Garmin and Fu­runo all have Wifi con­nec­tiv­ity built in, and even with an older model you may be able to add a Wifi gate­way to your boat’s net­work.

Cus­tom apps from each of these man­u­fac­tur­ers are avail­able to repli­cate the func­tion­al­ity of the main dis­play onto your mo­bile de­vice, greatly sim­pli­fy­ing the process of adding sec­ondary dis­plays to a fly­bridge, sa­loon or cock­pit.


A smart­phone’s other im­por­tant fea­ture is its abil­ity to con­nect to the in­ter­net, and herein lies its real power. By com­bin­ing its GPS ca­pa­bil­ity with an in­ter­net con­nec­tion, you can im­ple­ment apps that pro­vide so­lu­tions which might oth­er­wise costs thou­sands of dol­lars.

Here's a sam­ple of the pos­si­bil­i­ties:

While the ma­rine fore­cast avail­able on your VHF is es­sen­tial lis­ten­ing, a vis­ual chart of the weather fore­cast is of­ten eas­ier to un­der­stand. The Met­ser­vice app is a good start, while Metvuw, Swellmap, Windguru and Buoy­weather each pro­vide dif­fer­ent views and op­tions. The Coast­guard app also pro­vides maps, fore­cast and tides for all ma­rine ar­eas.

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