Sailing with my iPad & Navionics

This is one use for my iPad that I definitely did not for see when I purchased it last year: Navigating my sailboat with it!  Compared to using a paper map, navigating with my iPad is a joy. I still take a paper map with me of course, just in case, but my iPad is my navigation tool of choice.  Last week I participated in the Swiftsure Race, which typically take about 16 hours to complete. This year because of light winds and adverse currents we crossed the finish line almost 30 hours after we started.

I had my iPad running the Navionics charting software the whole time, and I was able to keep track of where we were for the whole race on a single charge.  I turned the screen on and off as needed, but was still amazed at the battery life I saw during the race. The only problems I had with Navionics is that the program rebooted spontaneously three times during the voyage. I was able to quickly restart the program, but it typically “lost” some of the route that it had been tracking for me.

The water off Victoria where I sail as part of the Oak Bay Sailing Club, is very interesting and challenging (here is a day sail route from May 2011). Sometimes it can be difficult figuring out where you are given all the little islands and navigation buoys, but Navionics makes it much less stressful to navigate. There is also an iPhone version that I purchased. It works well, but the iPad’s larger screen is much nicer to view, and the battery life on the iPad is much better. I also purchased a water proof case to keep my iPad nice and dry.

If you want to use mapping software for sailing or driving, make sure you get the “3G” version of the iPad, as the wi-fi iPad does not come with a built in GPS. The price difference is about $100 between the two devices, but it is well worth the extra money if you end up using your iPad for navigation. The US & Canada version of Navionics for the iPad costs $50.

Pros: Easy to use. Relatively inexpensive. Excellent battery life. Great for day sails or longer cruises.

Cons: Software sometimes reboots after several hours of use. This is not a saftey concern, but did cause me to loose parts of the track from the 30 hour race I was in.


  1. I have been using Marine Instrument Display WiFi for iPad for few weeks now and I would definitely add it to the useful iPad apps list.

    It has many features that are not available even in the more expensive devices (heeling, vpp, simultaneous true/app wind, wind variation).

    There is also a free evaluation version available on the App Store.

  2. I would like to purchase the app for my husband, however, I am trying to figure out which one to buy. One is $14.99 and the other is HD for $54.99. We have an iPad with 3G but will the $14.99 app work as well on the iPad (ie. clarity, etc.)
    His birthday is tomorrow so if you have any answers soon, this would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

  3. Judy, for the iPad, you really need to get the more expensive HD version. The $15 app will work, but I don’t think you’d be happy with it. Best of luck!

  4. When using this app with the 3G version of the iPad, do u need to have a service contract with some kind of service provider for the GPS to work?

    • Hey Rich!

      Great article, what version of the Ipad is needed? Do all of them work? Ie 1,2,3,4 and even 5 now?

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