Until recently sailing was a relatively tech-free job. With the exception of old-fashioned equipment such as compasses and binoculars, concentration and stamina was all that a seasoned seaman needed to brave the waves.
Fortunately or not, these days are long gone. Today’s sailors are equipped with all sorts of high-tech equipment that allows them to have a clue at real time about the tides and winds ahead. Particularly the advent of the smartphone has made everything easier, offering a plethora of sailing apps to make a sailing trip safer. So here is our selection of the best sailing apps out there.
Especially for sailboats, a good wind forecast is essential to plan ahead and keep out of harm’s way when sailing in regions where the weather can be harsh, such as the Aegean Sea in Greece. We are big fans of PredictWind, an app using its own global weather forecasting model. The software provides 50km resolution with a detailed map indicating wind speeds and directions, including 1-8km resolution forecasts for popular boating destinations. Crucially, the data is updated on an hourly basis. Another option to keep abreast of the latest weather forecasts around the world is Buoyweather (available on Apple and Android devices), which offers you a 16-day wind and wave forecast. On top of that you can create your own list of favourite locations for quick access to tailored forecasts. Finally, there is Windy, an app widely used by the surfing and kiteboarding community for the value for money it offers: accurate wind forecast for free.
Tide Forecasting Apps
A tide forecast to give you a head’s up about low and high tide times is a must for seamen who prefer sailboats. There are many relevant apps, but AyeTides and Tides & Currents for Apple and Android devices respectively are our favourite ones. They are widely popular on both sides of the Atlantic for their user-friendly interface and accuracy of information they provide.
Charting apps are an essential tool to find your way when you are sailing on the seven seas. For Apple aficionados, i-Boating, an app based on raster charts, would be an ideal option, as well as the user-friendly and always up-to-date Motion X GPS. Android users on the other hand may prefer Memory-Map or MX Mariner, equally trustworthy. However, one app that stands out in the US market is iNavX, a user-friendly chartplotter covering the most popular boating destinations in North America. The app uses NOAA RNC raster charts.
As avid boaters already know, being aware whether there is space in the marina to dock you boat can save you time and money. For US sailors Dockwa is probably the best option among docking apps, while European ones may want to try Marine Guides. For something more specific, we would recommend My Anchor Watch, which lets you know if your anchor is dragging, using your smartphone’s GPS data to keep track of the boat’s position when it’s windy.
Automatic Idetification System (AIS) apps are quite useful to avoid accidents, particularly collision with other vessels. AIS is a radio-based system that indicates the position of other ships close to you, as well as other data including their speed and current course. There are many apps in this category, but two stand out: Marine Traffic and Boat Beacon. The former is a free app that provides users with all sorts of info, including the dimensions and gross tonnage of vessels, as well as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number. As for Boat Beacon, available on both Android and Apple devices, it is equally informative and offers cool extra features such as ‘Man Overboard tracking’ and ‘Ship to Ship instant messaging – chat with other Boat Beacon boats’ (currently only for ioS users).
Bonus Sailing Apps
As a bonus app, we suggest the Safe Skipper – Safety Afloat app, providing amateur sailors with all the information they need for a safe trip, including valuable to-do tips for emergencies. And of course, don’t forget Click&Boat’s own app, helping you rent a boat anywhere in the world with a few clicks.
The above list includes some our favourite sailing apps, but this does not mean that it’s an exhaustive one. There are thousands of apps out there for the tech-savvy boating fan who is willing to go the extra mile. And don’t forget, no technology can replace good old thinking-on-your -feet when you are on a boat!